In order to get the best performance out of them, our horses need the very best care to ensure they are happy and healthy whilst out competing on the busy competition circuit.
Whatever discipline you ride in, there are some general care routines that can be adapted to meet the specific demands of the sport.
Grooming and Bathing
Going to a show and looking your best is a must and hours can be spent behind the scenes clipping, trimming, bathing and pampering your horse. Ensuring your horse is washed and clean allows you to check your horse top to toe and make sure he hasn’t picked up any knocks or scrapes whilst training or in the field.
It’s not just about impeccable turnout though, a good grooming routine can also help stimulate and massage your horse’s muscles before riding and competing. As well as the good old brush, rubber curry comb and a bit of elbow grease there are now many different handheld massage systems or rugs which can help further relax and loosen up your horse’s muscles.
From travel boots, bandages and leg wraps to brushing boots, tendon boots, overreach boots and fetlock boots. There are boots for every occasion and they are not always needed but having adequate support can help improve performance and prevent any injuries especially in more intense activities such as cross-country.
Warming Up and Cooling off
Before you start any training or competition you need to warm your horse up to prevent any injuries, choosing specific movements and activities that suit what you are going to be doing.
Lunging before you get on can help if your horse tends to be a bit fresh but can also get his muscles warmed up and encourage him to carry himself.
After competition cooling your horse off is advisable to prevent any injuries or strains. A suitable cool down routine and walking them off is ideal before a nice cooling wash to prevent the build-up of sweat.
In disciplines such as show jumping and eventing where the stress on the horses legs are the highest, using cool boots or ice wraps can help cool the legs and tendons and aid a quicker recovery once they are back at the horsebox.
Feeding and Water
As with any animal, horses like routine and if you can stick to their feeding routines whilst away at competitions it will be better for them and less stressful. Remember though you shouldn’t feed directly before or after hard work, leaving at least an hour if feeding hard feeds.
Being a trickle feeder, horses should have access to forage. A small holed haynet, full of either hay or haylage, can help occupy them whilst travelling and prevent boredom whilst waiting at the show.
Horses should also have access to fresh water and so at a show you need to make sure you have plenty of water with you and plenty of buckets for drinking from as well as for washing them off. Remember to keep offering them a drink between rounds and after competing before you head home.