Show days are chaotic and it is easy to get lost in the shuffle. Check out these eight tips to help you make it through that stressful show day and put your best foot forward every time you walk into the ring, presented by Draper Therapies.
1. Sleep is Your Friend
Seriously, as simple as it sounds, a good night’s rest can go a long way. In the world of late nights and early mornings, it is not uncommon to see riders dragging themselves around the barn aisle or chugging coffee like there is no tomorrow. Lack of sleep or overdosing on caffeine isn’t always the healthiest of practices, however.
Try and dedicate a full night’s sleep the night before a show. Turn the TV off, put the phone down, and call it a night early. If show ring jitters tend to keep you up at night, try a warm shower before bed or indulging in a cup of mint tea to help you wind down. You will be amazed how good you can feel when that 5 AM alarm goes off after a solid night of sleep.
2. Cut the Junk Food
Horse shows are not always known for their super healthy meal options. Consider packing some fruit for in between classes and trade in that energy drink for a water or electrolyte-filled sports drink. Junk food weighs you down and makes you feel like… well, manure. So stop scarfing down Twinkies between classes and pack appropriate meals ahead of time. Your stomach and wallet will thank you.
3. Dedicate Some Time for “Me Time”
Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the horse show, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself. Whether you are a nervous Nelly or someone who doesn’t know what butterflies in their tummy feels like, it is important to find five minutes in your day to just relax and enjoy the moment.
So go relax by the ring and observe a class or two or listen to your pre-show playlist to get yourself pumped up. There are plenty of studies that validate that positive thinking prior to entering a competition sets you up for success. And in the (not so accurate) words of Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, “horses make you happy, and happy people don’t just go out and murder their course.”
4. Clean Tack= Happy Horses and Riders
Not only should you polish every square inch of your tack because it looks nice, but it helps you make sure everything is in working order. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a tack malfunction mid-course that could have been prevented by a simple once-over while tacking up. Common oops areas include saddle billets, bridle pieces, and stirrup leathers. Monitor and maintain your tack to lengthen its life span and make any needed repairs before an accident occurs.
5. Show Your Appreciation
A little appreciation goes a long way and there is no negative to being on the good side of the horse show employees. Keep in mind that even though we are booking some long hours on the show grounds, the staff are often putting in double what we are. A simple thank you can completely change the environment of the show. So don’t forget to thank the folks at the in-gate, have a smile when you enter the show office, and consider supporting riders from rival barns. Equestrians need all the good juju they can get. Besides, if the show staff are going to remember you by name, make sure it’s because of good reasons and not bad ones.
6. Have a Plan
Winging it doesn’t work in horse showing. Have a structured plan set ahead for your day and back up plans for when those original plans inevitably go wrong. Know your course ahead of time, know the strides you want to take, the corners you may want to cut, and the areas where you can show your horse off. Know when your class falls in the order of go and warm up in ample time. Arrive at the barn early enough to get all your morning chores done without being rushed for your class.
Having a plan takes some of the stress of the environment off of your shoulders. The last thing we need to stress about is if we have enough time in the day to get everything done before our class.
7. Know Your Limits
Horse shows are an opportunity to show off your skills, but they are never the place to push yourself beyond your means. I am a big believer in schooling bigger fences at home than you are jumping at the show, so that when you get in the nerve-inducing environment of the show grounds you are 100% confident that you can tackle the task at hand.
That isn’t to say that you shouldn’t push yourself out of your comfort zone now and then. Just make sure that if you are moving up a level that you have successfully schooled that level at home and are confident in that decision. Don’t rush the process and put yourself or your horse in a potentially tricky situation. You want to feel brave when you enter the ring, so if you get to the show and just aren’t feeling it don’t be afraid to go down a level for a good experience. No ribbon is worth sacrificing your confidence.
8. Keep it Simple, Keep it Fun
At my last horse show, my trainer kept repeating the phrase “keep it simple.” Our world can be filled with so many complications and procedures that it is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the details. For the most of us, we show horses because it is fun to us. Don’t suck the fun out of the situation by drowning yourself in thoughts or processes that aren’t necessary. Keep it simple. Keep it fun. Smile when you go around on course. Pat your pony. Recall the first time you sat on a horse and go into the ring with happy vibes. Even if you are trying to make a career out of showing horses, you should never forget how the love of horses is what drew you to the sport.