Equestrian Blog

News and thoughts from around the equestrian community

Show Season - Preparation

It is well and truly show time, our horses and ponies are being preened and polished, and stress levels are at an all time high. You spend all day before the show cleaning tack, boots, stables, and horse. You try to cover every square inch of your horse so he stays clean overnight, especially if he's grey, only to get to the yard in the morning to find a huge stable stain on his face or his coat all ruffled and refusing to lie flat. If by chance your horse has stayed clean you can be sure that the weather is now appalling, so all your hard work and effort is totally wasted as he will be filthy again as soon as he steps out of the horse box. How do you get your horse clean for a show and then keep him that way? My advice after competing with a grey pony and then a horse with four white stockings is start early, and be prepared to finish late! However long you estimate your preparations will take, they always end up at least double that amount of time! Try to ride and then turn out your horse in the morning so he is worked and then had some relaxation time after. There's nothing worse than fighting with an anxious horse thats been stabled all day, keep your riding relaxed and just go through the basics of making sure he responds to your aids and is obedient. Any other schooling will make you both tense especially as you are thinking of the show, you can't make any massive improvements in your horse on the day before the show. Whilst your horse is turned out do all your usual stable work, and have a bit of a general spring clean of any equipment you intend to take with you. Make sure you take a break and have something to eat yourself so you don't get over tired and hungry. Remember that you have to keep yourself calm in order for your horse to behave in the same way. Once you have everything ready, bring your horse in from the field and give him a good groom. This will remove any surface dirt from his coat and make bathing easier. Don't forget to thoroughly pick his feet out, there's no point having a spotless lame horse because of a stone in his foot. If you're intending to plait up and you've time, wash your horse's mane a day earlier as this will avoid it being too slippy. Otherwise wash his mane before anything else as this will give it a little extra time to dry before you need to plait it. Try adding a little hair gel to your horse's mane whilst still damp as it will help to keep it tidier. If you're leaving your horse's mane and tail natural add a little Cowboy Magic Detangler, it helps keep the most unruly hair tangle free and shiny. Next wash your horse all over using a good quality horse shampoo, Gallop shampoos come in a range specially designed to enhance your horse's natural colour. Always saturate your horse's coat thoroughly before applying shampoo, this ensures the shampoo penetrates the surface of your horse's coat and gets all the scurf and dirt out. Remove all traces of shampoo completely using plenty of water, there should never been any bubbles left in your horse's coat after rinsing as this can irritate your horse's skin and make him itchy. Remove as much water as possible using a sweat scraper; the hard plastic side is ideal for fleshy parts of your horse, whereas the softer rubber section can be used on legs and more sensitive parts. Once you've removed any excess water, spray your horse with coat gloss but be careful to avoid the saddle area if you will be riding as it may make your saddle slip. This initial coverage of show shine will help to keep your horse's coat soft and smooth, it will also make grooming easier on the morning of the show as dirt won't stick to your horse's coat as easily.
If your horse has any white on his legs use a shampoo designed specifically for white horses, take care to follow the user instructions though as they can irritate your horse's skin or cause staining of your hands if used incorrectly. Rinse thoroughly, then dry his legs using a towel, whilst the hair is still damp use a chalk block generously on all white parts of his leg. Immediately cover as much of your horse's lower leg as possible. Stable boots are a quick and easy way to do this, alternatively you can use leg pads and stable bandages but you need to be sure that you apply them correctly, as incorrect use can cause injury. They can also leave unsightly creases on your horse's legs which are almost impossible to get rid of before a show.
Finally, I would always advise to rug your horse before a show, not only to keep him clean but also because his coat will have lost some of its natural oils after bathing so he won't be able to keep himself as warm as usual. Make sure your rug is clean and dry though otherwise any dirt will be transferred back onto your horse. I always keep a rug specially for show nights which I can easily wash after each use so I can be sure my horse stays as clean as possible. Although these tips will help you to get your horse clean, there is no way of guaranteeing he will stay that way overnight! Horses seem to have an inbuilt desire to get stable stains only on their white parts and often only on the night before a show. Remember that you're not alone in your struggle to get your horse clean and the way your horse behaves is much more important. Keep calm on the morning of a show, as a worked up rider will result in a badly behaved horse who will never win a class no matter how clean he is.

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