Show- Time Count­down

Show-Time Make the most of the horse-show “hurry-up-and-wait” with these com­pe­ti­tion-tested do’s and don’ts.

Horse & Rider - - Contents - By Brad Jewett, With Abi­gail Boatwright

These do’s and don’ts will max­i­mize your ‘hurry- up-and-wait’ down­time at horse shows.

sea­soned veter­ans and new­bie novices share one horse-show chal­lenge: jug­gling down­time. Horse shows in­her­ently pos­sess a “hurry-up-and-wait” sce­nario, but you don’t have to twid­dle your thumbs with anx­i­ety as you wait for hours, pick­ing at your horse and ar­riv­ing at the in-gate keyed up. You also don’t want to mis­judge the tim­ing of the classes be­fore yours and rush to the pen stressed and un­pre­pared— or worse, miss your class.

I’ve worked with my youth and am­a­teur clients to de­velop rou­tines and rhythms to help my ex­hibitors en­ter the show pen calm and ready to com­pete. Here’s my list of do’s and don’ts to help you de­vise your own pro­gram to man­age your show down time to your ad­van­tage.

Do fuel your body. I ad­mit: I used to ne­glect the im­por­tance of a rider keep­ing her body fu­eled through­out the day. I credit my wife for show­ing me that rid­ers (and train­ers/coaches!) need to eat and drink to keep go­ing dur­ing the long day. You never know when you’ll have time to eat—or when you think you will but don’t—so nu­tri­tion and hy­dra­tion are very im­por­tant.

Choose healthy food to fuel your body. Pack good sources of pro­tein that you can keep in a cooler, such as grilled chicken, beef, or fish. I add a pro­tein shake as well. Drink plenty of water, and don’t for­get healthy carbs such as veg­gies, fruits, and legumes. Avoid pro­cessed snacks, candy, and soda—typ­i­cal con­ces­sion-stand fare—that might pro­vide a quick pick-me-up but in­evitably lead to an en­ergy crash.

Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. Dur­ing down­time, make ex­tra-sure you know your pat­tern. Go over it in your head and walk it out on foot. Plan how you’re go­ing to ex­e­cute the pat­tern or your class. Map out when you’re go­ing to get ready for your class—will it be dur­ing the class that’s two classes be­fore yours? Will it be dur­ing the rail work or the pat­tern? How long will it take you to get your horse ready? Is he more tired to­day or less? Will your horse need more work to be ready to­day? There are so many fac­tors that build into your prepa­ra­tion work, so take all of that into con­sid­er­a­tion.

Don’t miss a feed­ing. Fuel is just as im­por­tant for your horse as it is for you. And a happy horse— one that’s not hun­gry—wants to per­form for you and will show his in­ter­est in com­pe­ti­tion.

If, as you’re get­ting ready, it’s get­ting close to feed­ing time, go ahead and feed your horse a lit­tle early. If you wait un­til af­ter you prac­tice or warm up, those rou­tines could run longer than you ex­pected and put you past feed­ing time and closer to the time you’ll show. Err on the side of early to keep your horse fed and happy. →

Don’t over­prac­tice the pat­tern. Just be­cause you find your­self with an ex­tra 20 min­utes doesn’t mean you should spend ev­ery se­cond drilling your pat­tern on your horse. It’ll burn out your horse and lead to an­tic­i­pa­tion. Prac­tic­ing on foot is fine; but over-prac­tic­ing in the sad­dle leads to trou­ble.

I rec­om­mend prac­tic­ing in­di­vid­ual ma­neu­vers, es­pe­cially if the pat­tern con­tains some­thing that’s more dif­fi­cult. Test your most chal­leng­ing ma­neu­vers a few times. Once you get it, there’s no sense ham­mer­ing on your horse and wear­ing him out be­cause you want to prac­tice the pat­tern 50 times. If you’re wor­ried and you ex­haust (and an­noy) your horse about it, that can cre­ate is­sues that go well past that show. Have enough con­fi­dence to step up and do the ma­neu­ver in the show pen the way you would do it ev­ery day.

Tune with his mood for the day and keep

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