You’re So Lucky!

This weekend I attended my 3rd Awards banquet for the 2014 show Region 14 Arabian Sport HOrse Rider Handler of the Yearseason. My horse and I completed the season earning state, regional and national championships. Considering that I am 60 years old and have been working with this horse for the past 4 years, I am very proud of our accomplishments. A friend told me we are just “So lucky to win all those awards”. I feel we are blessed to have earned these honors but it is more than luck. I look at the equation like a balanced triangle.

I like to start with the horse. So first I make sure I have the right horse for the job. I purchased my horse Rhinestone Cowboy AF as a potential horse I could show in trail class on the Arabian circuit.

At a local show, a nationally recognized Arabian judge commented he was very correct and would do well as a Sport horse. We watched a few Sport Horses classes and other friends encouraged us to enter the division. They were right and he has proven to be an outstanding Sport Horse Hunter under Saddle. I adjusted my goals for my horse with his development and athletic ability. It was a learning curve for me, and a lot of great people in the Sport Horse industry encouraged us to compete. So having the right horse for the job is important.

Next let’s look at the training aspect. You would not think of sending your child to school and telling the teacher you want the child to read at 6th grade level in 60 days, yet people expect miracles from their trainers. It takes time, patience and more time to properly train and school a horse. It is not within my budget to send my horse out for training, so he is home schooled. That does not stop me from seeking advice, attending clinics or watching trainers work horses. So many of our industry’s professionals are more than willing to help an amateur solve a problem or evaluate a situation, if you just reach out to them, but respect time and professionalism.

The third side to the triangle is diet. You would not train to run the Boston Marathon on a diet of fast food, why would you expect your horse to be any different. I start our program with the best quality hay I can find. I then feed my horse 2% of his body weight per day in hay. I balance the diet with a quality performance horse feed that provides chelated minerals, pre and pro biotics and is formulated at a safe NSC level. My personal choice is Pro Force fuel by Nutrena.

I only attended 3 shows last season one each month during June, July and August. I want the experience to be enjoyable for my horse as well as myself. I realize judging horses is like judging living art work and it is one person’s opinion. If my horse worked a good class, that is what matters to me. It is a hobby and we are there to have fun. We have worked hard to prepare for the show, and we are there to show what we can accomplish. My horse will have good days and bad days, and I need to know when he has reached his limit both physically and emotionally.

As I look at the triangle I feel confident I have the right horse for the job, worked to obtain realistic goals, and provided my horse with a balanced diet. We were blessed with an outstanding year and lucky to have so many great people in the industry encourage us!

Managing Feeding Programs on the Road for Show Horses

The show season is in full swing and horses are subjected to the stress of going down the road on a regular basis. This travel schedule imposes additional requirements for managing the feeding program. Horses like consistency. Changes can cause emotional and physical stress. The more we can keep the routines the same, the easier it is for the horses to cope with the challenges of travel and competition. The following are some suggestions that may be useful to help maintain the body condition, appearance and performance that is required to maintain the competitive status of the horse.

First and foremost, it is critical to maintain water intake while traveling and while stabled away from home. The water may taste different at different locations. Horses should have fresh clean water available at all times when stabled at shows and should be offered water as needed between classes.

  • When traveling, horses should be offered water on a regular basis. I recommend offering water every 2 hours while hauling and others may have different schedules that work for them.
  • If horses are reluctant to drink water that smells different due to chlorination or water source, it may be useful to flavor the water at home with something like wintergreen or vanilla so that you can do the same when traveling.
  • You need to make certain that whatever you use does NOT contain caffeine or anything that will trigger a positive drug test!
  • If you are going to flavor the water, do it well in advance of travel so that the water at home smells and tastes like the water while traveling.
  • If horses get dehydrated during a show, the risk of impaction colic may increase, particularly during hot weather. The horses may also not perform up to expectations, particularly in multiple day or multiple event competitions.
  • As a judge and as an announcer, I can see the difference in some horses from day 1 to day 3 of an event.

Second, maintain your feeding schedule as close as possible to routine followed at home. You may have to adjust slightly to accommodate classes.

Third, monitor body condition carefully and adjust feeding rates to avoid excess weight loss while traveling. A horse can tuck up badly if it goes off feed and water.

Fourth, select a horse feed that will help reduce the risk of metabolic issues and will help maintain intake to maintain body condition and bloom. Added fat, controlled starch & sugar products with balanced amino acids and added key vitamins work well for virtually all classes of show horses.

Pre-season preparation involves achieving desired body condition, coat condition, hoof condition and the required training. Managing the horse during competition is essential to maintain the competitive edge!