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Getting Ready for the Big Event!

Bob Jeffreys & Suzanne Sheppard

Bob Jeffreys & Suzanne Sheppard

This is a great time to be a horse lover! Between shows, clinics, expos, competitive trail rides, endurance rides, gymkhanas and breed competitions there are more special events to go to now than ever! If you want to get ion on the fun, choose an adventure you’d love to share with your horse, then get ready and go! Special events require special preparation, and sometimes it’s easy to get overwhelmed. To get the most fun out of the experience just follow these simple guidelines.
We believe that every horse should be trained to load, travel and unload in a trailer calmly and safely (in case of a medical emergency), but that’s just the first step. Let’s say you’ve decided to participate in a class or competition at an equine expo; good for you for getting off the sidelines and participating! What should you do next?
1. Make Your Reservations
Register and get confirmation that you’ve been selected (a video of you and your horse may be required; check out the registration info provided on the website about this, and also any fees). If you’ll be staying at a hotel make your reservations early to get the rates and location you want.
2. Prep for Transport
Once confirmed, be sure that your mode of transportation is ready. If going with someone else who is trailering to the same event, be sure to discuss in advance how you’ll contribute to the costs/ pay a fee. Etc. Owning a trailer is a big expense and many trailer owners are happy to help other out, as long as they chip in! If you’re hauling, be sure that your trailer is road worthy well before the event. Is the registration current? Are the tires filled properly? Do you have a spare that fits and the tools you’d need to change a flat? Do the lights and brakes work?
1. Be Sure Your Horse is Ready!
Riding in front of a crowd is a whole new level of stimulation and distraction for many horses. If you’ve only ridden your horse in familiar surroundings, prepare him/her by going to different places before the event. Local horse show grounds (even if there is no show going on!), friends’ barns, new equine facilities for a lesson or just to ride in a n new arena (call and check on hourly arena rates in advance), out on a different trail, etc.
2. Get Your Equipment Ready!
Check and clean your bridles, halters, leads, saddles and girths for wear and tear: replace anything that looks worn or rusted. If using an English saddle, check the flocking to be sure it is even and in good shape. Some events require specific types of tack and others don’t, but no matter what event you’re riding in, be sure that your tack fits! Finally ,resist the urge to use brand new tack at the event”¦ because unfamiliar things will be all around him, your horse needs to be comfortable with the “clothes” he wears in order to do his best for you.
3. Make Sure You’re Ready!
It’s normal to get the jitters right before riding at a big event. To reduce pre-show/clinic/competition worries, prepare yourself! Practice, practice, practice the skills you’ll need. Sometimes this means getting a lesson or two, but usually it just means that you have to make the time to do your homework; get out there, have a plan and ride it! The more correct practice you and your horse have accomplished together, the more likely it is that you’ll succeed together. The muscle memory that comes from accurate repetition by both of you will allow you to do your best naturally. With all of the excitement, noise and energy at these events, this type of preparation is an absolute must! So don’t procrastinate; sit down, write up a schedule including when you’ll ride, how long, and the goals you’ll work towards for each session; then go out and do it!
Final tips:
“¢ Bring riding attire that you feel comfortable and look good in; this will boost your confidence!
“¢ Think only positive thoughts, focusing on the quality of ride you want, rather than the worst case scenario that haunts your dreams. For example, clearly visualize a calm, forward, fluid ride over the course in great detail (instead of replaying over and over your fears of your horse freaking out and getting you both disqualified).
“¢ Make sure you have all of the necessary paperwork for your horse, including a Current negative Coggins/Rabies (and a health certificate if traveling out of state), directions to and from home and the event, as well as to and from the event and your hotel.
“¢ Bring extra grain and hay, just in case
“¢ Bring buckets and shavings/bedding, or confirm availability with event coordinator
“¢ A rolling muck bucket and pitchfork will be worth their weight in gold!
“¢ Arrange for a tack stall in advance, if possible; store your feed/hay/tack, etc. bring a sheet to cover the front of the stall so you can have a private changing room, too!
“¢ Because concession lines can be long, bring bottled water and snacks so you won’t be delayed for your class by waiting on line for that hotdog!
“¢ Show your horse around the grounds. If there is an exercise ring, use it. If not, inquire as to whether the arenas are available to ride in before or after the event opens and closes to the public each day. At the very least, hand walk your horse so he can get out and about.
“¢ Have some kind of cover up (a slicker will do, or even old sweatshirts and pants) so that you can get dressed up and then cover up to stay clean as you dress up your horse!
“¢ Allow more time than you need to groom and tack up.
Finally, have fun and enjoy your adventures with your horse! Good horsemanship takes time and is something to be proud of, so get ready and get out there to strut your stuff with your horse.
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