Horse Show Preparation Part I: The Framework
By Ashley Fant
I love horses and I love to compete. I love working, trying my hardest, and being surrounded by others doing the same. I appreciate the horse show community and the energy. I relish in the opportunities to learn from riding different courses at diverse venues and from watching other trainers and lots of horses doing their jobs. For me, horse shows are like think tanks, so I strive to be available to absorb all I can.
Whether you compete regularly, or are preparing to compete for the first time, you would be well served to organize your horse and yourself so you can be mentally and physically capable of delivering your best performances and taking advantage of the learning opportunities a horse show has to offer.
The more aspects of your horsemanship you can organize, the fewer variables you will leave to chance and the more prepared you will be to handle them. As you train, care for your horse, buy supplies and choose supplements, when you schedule the farrier, vaccinations, or chiropractic work, you or your trainer should be doing those things with your competition schedule in mind. You and your horse will be well served if you adopt the practice of consistency in all the aforementioned departments, so that in a basic sense, you are always prepared. For example, if you have a grey horse and you don’t groom it deeply on a regular basis, its coat will not look bright and shiny when you go to a show. If you don’t keep a regular schedule with your farrier, your horse’s hooves will not be in their best condition when you ride and show. If you don’t practice regularly, you will be more likely to make simple mistakes that will likely cause bigger mistakes in the show ring. Some things simply cannot be rectified overnight, and the best horsemen know the consistency of their efforts in all departments is what delivers the best results. In short, being a good horseman and a dedicated rider all weeks of the year will yield your best performances during show weeks, whether they happen twenty-five times a year or two times a year.
In addition to practicing consistently diligent horsemanship and training, maintaining consistent personal practices and routines will help you be mentally available to tackle the challenges of the competition day and deliver your best performances. This part requires some personal reflection, as each individual has particular needs. Develop a routine that makes you feel present and confident. Do you start the day with coffee and a walk? Do you read the newspaper? How many hours of sleep do you need? With a little planning, you can implement your personal routine into your show day.
Mental availability is often influenced by physical comfort. Horse show attire is instrumental to a rider’s capability to perform without unnecessary distraction. There are a multitude of options at all price points when it comes to riding clothes. Choose clothing for shows and training sessions at home that fit you well and make you feel your best. From lightweight shirts and jackets made of perforated fabric to technical undergarments, there are options for all seasons and body types, and there is no reason to step into the ring wearing something that makes you feel anything less than stellar. The more similar the fit and feel of your show clothes to your regular riding clothes, the more familiar your body will feel on show day, butterflies and all.
The more you can minimize variables in your and your horse’s care, the more you will be able to handle the variables we cannot predict or prevent. Competitions themselves present variables from venue to time to climate and everything in-between. Having routines in place and organizing yourself to feel comfortable and confident provides a framework that allows you to be mentally able to respond to these variables intelligently and with as few complications as possible. Beyond that basic function, the more you make yourself mentally and physically capable, the more you will learn from your personal competition experiences, as well as from the riding and training taking place around you. The more you learn, the better you get, and the better you get, the more you succeed as a rider, as a horseman, and as a competitor.
Owner and Head Trainer at Ashley Fant Show Stables
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