The season has had a rather soggy start, hasn’t it? We have had a couple of shows cancelled which is such a shame for everyone concerned when you consider all the hard work that goes into organising an event.
I promised you part 2 of my “How to avoid common mistakes” and this time I have focused on show day.
If your horse doesn’t like loading or traveling, then keep practicing at home until it becomes second nature. We keep the lorry ramps down and keep walking them in and out. We put hay nets in and give them a little feed on the lorry to get them used to it. In addition, we also take them for a little ride around or a small show just to get them confident with the whole experience. They are often better with company so if you can, borrow another horse who is a good traveller to accompany them.
If for some reason on show day, your horse did not load or travel well and has arrived at the other end fizzed up, read the situation, and decide what the issue was and whether will you compete that day. Most of the time it doesn’t mean they don’t want to go to the show. It is usually that something has upset them so it is better to go off and do something when you arrive so they can forget about it for a while. It may be that they travelled with a horse they didn’t get on with, or they were loaded next to the living quarters and felt they didn’t have enough room to spread their legs out – so you can change the position on the way home.
We don’t travel our horses with hay nets but maybe a net would help it relax. If your horse is traveling on its own and moving around too much trying closing it in or vice versa. It is trial and error but if they have always been good in the past and suddenly become difficult something has changed so you need to try different things.
It could be as simple as the horse next to it is pulling faces so as we have multiple horses onboard, we just swap positions going home.
If something is difficult to load, we don’t put it on at the little space at the back where it has to do a quick turn, we load 1 or 2 horses first and then pop it on, so it has just a little bit more room.
If we have anything we suspect is going to be wound up or is going to a show for the first time we are lucky because we have the facility to give it a spin in the floodlit lunge pen before we leave the yard.
We also do some work the day before and might even leave them out the night before and catch them early in the morning. This helps them stay more relaxed.
We might also plait a horse at the show if it is a little stressy because if you plait them in the early morning, they get a little bit wound up because they know something is going on.
So, if you know you have a slightly highly-strung horse the first couple of times keep everything low-key, calm, and not rushed or they pick up on it.
The collecting ring:
The collecting ring can be quite stressful, particularly with a young horse that hasn’t done many shows, and especially if there are big horses thundering around.
Some horses don’t like others coming towards them in the confines of a collecting ring. If you learn that the hard way… get out and stay out until it is time to get into the show ring where invariably you are all going around the same way, have more space and it is a much less volatile situation.
Don’t put yourself into a position whereby you might upset your horse. If there is only one small collecting ring you are better off wandering around outside until it is time to go into the show ring.
We have all been there! Your horse usually stands beautifully still in the ring but for some unknown reason, won’t settle.
The less you react the less likely they are to make a big deal of it. Don’t forget to apologise to whoever you are standing next to but remember most people have been in the same situation and are very understanding.
Don’t be tempted to start giving your horse hundreds of treats or grass to bribe them into behaving – you are making a rod for your own back. They will think you are rewarding them for bad behaviour and become more demanding. It is tempting because you want to try anything to get the situation under control. Generally, a steward will kindly come and help.
Keep calm and talk to the horse, quietly give it a pat and scratch its withers and that is often enough to settle them.
If you keep taking the horse out of the line-up and walking them around, although this is allowed, be aware that you are bringing attention to the fact that your horse isn’t standing still, and it isn’t fair to keep disrupting your fellow competitors.
Use your discretion about how long to stay in the ring if your horse is really getting upset. If you do need to leave the ring you must excuse yourself, apologise and ask to take the horse out. Nobody will mind if you excuse yourself, but they will mind if you just walk out without saying anything. Ask the steward and/or the judge.
What to do when something does go wrong:
If anything goes wrong on competition day you have to make the most of it. Luckily, everybody gets on well and if anything gets left behind or broken invariably you can beg or borrow from a fellow competitor. We are always happy to be approached and carry spares of everything! I have a bag full of girths, numnahs, stirrup leathers, and irons… for just in case situations!
If a horse goes lame, goes wrong or you fall off – just don’t overreact because there is nothing you can do about it. It is out of your control, and nobody does anything wrong on purpose.
To avoid making errors read your schedule very carefully, and ensure you are entered into the correct class because that can go wrong. You don’t want to find you are expecting to be in the LW Hunters and that you have been entered into the Shire Horse Class!
Read your rules so you don’t arrive with a bridle or a bit you can’t use. The rules change so keep up to date!
Check everything twice, know your timings, and allow plenty of time. If you have left no stone unturned and something does go wrong is just one of those things. You will live to “show” another day!