I’m always amazed how these incredibly kind animals walk straight up the truck ramp, park themselves for what might be a six hour drive, live in a tiny yard for 3 days and are still somehow keen to perform for us. Let’s face it, best case scenario for us we get a bit of prize money and a pretty ribbon, best case scenario for them is an extra feed and some carrots! We should be eternally grateful for their willingness to participate in competitions with us, and we should be all over their every need to survive the show in the best possible condition.
Step one: Change as little as possible, keep feed times and any other routine things you do as close to normal as you can.
Step two: Hydration and Electrolytes. Water is a given, they must have access to lots of clean water to drink. I dose my horses with electrolytes before they travel and then intermittently throughout the show, don’t wait for them to be sweaty to give them electrolytes, just keep dosing them and you’ll find their energy levels stay good plus they keep drinking. With regards to drinking it is a good idea to have some sachets of drink up or similar in case they turn their nose up to the local water. I heard a great tip from a friend who rode endurance, that they take a bit of home soil with them to make the water taste like home!
Step three: Feed - try to keep feed times/quantities/brand as close to normal as possible and also have ad lib hay at all times. Don’t underestimate walking and grazing time, especially if your horse is used to being on grass 24/7 in the paddock. Take them for a brisk 30 minute walk followed by a 30 minute graze (where they pull your arm out of the socket looking for the best grass) at least twice a day. If required, there are some fantastic supplements available to give your horse a little boost, or a little chill, or help dealing with hard ground
Step four: Pamper: After jumping I will hose them off and apply TuffRock Poultice liberally to all four limbs. Plus Equissage is my favourite show helper, I’ll usually put it on every horse twice per day at a show. Learn how to wrap correctly so that your horses limbs don’t swell up over night in the small space, and be careful that they are happy wrapped up - I have one that will spend hours trying to kick wraps off her hinds (not particularly restful for her).
There are no hard and fast rules about how to manage your horse at a show, a lot of it is about knowing your horse and what they’re used to and what makes them feel good. You know your horse/s better than anyone so go out of your way to make sure they are happy at shows, it's a really big ask and they are often away from their favourite paddock mates and look to you to feel safe.
There are loads of fantastic products available, here are a few of my favourites:
https://healthyasahorse.co.nz/products/dynavyte-tenderfoot for when your horse is really feeling the hard ground.
https://healthyasahorse.co.nz/products/quicklyte for a super fast dose of electrolytes.
https://healthyasahorse.co.nz/products/tuffrock-non-medicated-poultice for removing inflammation.
I'm always happy to hear about what works for you, or if you have any questions :)