First Horse Show: Prepare Your Young Horse for Success

Up close shot of a young horse, First Horse ShowFirst Horse Show: Prepare Your Young Horse for Success. If you’ve competed at lots of horse shows, the drill is pretty routine. You know what will happen at the show, whom you will probably see there, and how long you’ll be gone. Assuming your horse is a show veteran also, there shouldn’t be many surprises. However, at the first few shows with your young, inexperienced horse, EVERYTHING is a surprise that can stress your equine partner.

To make sure your young horse’s show career gets off to a good start, consider preparing him with these steps.

  • Young horses should be accustomed to standing quietly. For example, for grooming, bathing, braiding, clipping, and hoof care. Yes, before there is any thought of showing. This isn’t something owners necessarily train for specifically. Whenever you work with your young horse, keep obedience in mind and reinforce his good behavior. Stay home if he isn’t dependable about standing quietly to be handled.
  • Think about all the preparations you must make just before a show. For example, pulling or trimming your horse’s mane, having his hooves trimmed and/or shoes reset, getting fetlocks tidied up and fluffy ears tamed. The day before the show should not be the first time these things have been done to the young horse. Three or four weeks ahead of time, familiarize the horse with each of these procedures, preferably more than once. A certain amount of preparation has to be done at the last minute. If he’s experienced some of the steps one at a time, it will keep stress at a lower level.
  • Your show outfit probably looks, smells, and even sounds different than schooling apparel. Will you be wearing special clothes, hats, boots, or spurs at the show? Introduce these to the young horse several times before the big day. Include both ridden and ground time while you are wearing your show outfit. He probably won’t stand up very well for the showmanship judge, if your horse is spooked by a big hat and sparkly sequins that he’s never seen before.
    The horse’s clothes need to be familiar also. Handle and ride the young horse in these several times in the weeks leading up to the show. Especially if you use a special halter, bridle, saddle pad, or other tack just for showing
  • If your horse will show with a braided mane, do some practice braiding and leave the braids in while you ride. Braids annoy some horses. If your horse stiffens his neck or tosses his head when he’s braided, you need to know that and accustom the horse gradually to tolerating the strange feeling.
  • If you use shipping boots or bandages, don’t forget to put them on your horse several times before show day. Start with one or two boots and be ready for some antics when you lead him out the first time. Let your horse wear his shipping boots in the stall for an hour or two just to get used to the feel. Has the horse ever heard Velcro being ripped apart? Introduce this sound before you have to get the boots off.
  • Think about simulating show conditions before you leave home. Practice riding at different times of the day. In addition, riding more than once a day, and riding with other horses moving with him or in the opposite direction in the ring. If possible, ride with a show number attached to the bridle. Try to come up with flower boxes, banners, people sitting in chairs near the ring, and something that sounds like a loudspeaker, complete with squealing feedback noise. The more commonplace these sights and sounds are, the more relaxed your horse will be.
  • Most importantly, allow plenty of time on show day for loading,trailering, and walking the horse around the grounds after you arrive. Some people leave protective boots on the horse and use a chain shank (or a bit) for leading until it is clear that the horse is calm. You may want to longe the horse, with or without tack, before getting on.
  • There is no disgrace in scratching out of your classes if the warm-up isn’t going well. Simply let your horse experience the new sights and sounds. Remember that your goal is to bring home a calmer horse in the evening than he was in the morning, if this is the case. Your next show will probably go better if you haven’t forced the issue the first time out.

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Article Source: Kentucky Equine Research




October 2023
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