Competitions can be stressful and often nerve raking for first timers and their horses. From our experience, take a deep breath and enjoy it! You ride every day at home so a show shouldn't be any different.
Follow this simple guide and you and your horse will be able to enjoy your day out, maybe bring home a ribbon but most importantly have a good time!
The most important thing when planning for a show is preparation, preparation, preparation! You can never be to prepared. Plan ahead and then when the unexpected occurs you'll be prepared!
- Pack the night before: pack as much as you can the night before the show, that way you'll have one less thing to do on the morning of your competition.
- Feed early before travelling: this is crucial for your horse. Transport is often stressful for horses so it's very important that they are feed and then given time for the food to process before loading them up and driving off. You should allow a minimum of an hour between feeding and transport (but the longer the better). So if your class is at 08:00am and you have a half an hour drive, need 30 minutes to warm up, plus time to tack up, load, plus a little extra time on the side, you need to be feeding your horse as early as 05:00am.
- Allow enough time to plait without stress: are you a slow plater? Nothing wrong with that, but make sure you allow enough time for your horse to eat in peace, plus you to plait them and groom them. Have a practice in the days before the show to get an idea of how long you need.
- Is your horse difficult to load? If the answer is yes, make sure you take this into account when planning your time schedule. Do a few rehearsals in the week leading up to the show. Not only will this give you an idea how long you need, it will also let your horse realise that nothing bad will happen when they are loaded.
- Allow for traffic: if the competition you're going to requires driving on roads where traffic is often built up, make sure you allow a bit of extra travel time to ensure you're not to late arriving. Plan to arrive at the venue an hour before your class begins.
- On arrival: find a place to park where you're hopefully not going to be to far away, and if a summers day, if possible, find a park where there's some shade for you and your horse. Head over the the secretaries office and find out any information you need before your class. Check which arena your class or test is in and make sure you take a look at where the warm up arena is in comparison to your arena. Be sure to look at the ground condition. Is it wet and slippery? Does your horse need studs? Is it to hard? These are all things we as the rider need to consider. If the ground is not suited to your horse, then it's often best to take them for a walk, have a cup of tea and head home. There's always another competition. It's not worth risking you or your horse for the sake of one event.
- The warm up: At home you should practice how long you need to get your horse warmed up. If your jumping how long do you need to warm up on the flat for? How many jumps do you want to jump before you need to jump your course? If you're riding a dressage test, how many minutes before your test do you need to be on? These are things you need to think about at home before you head to the show. Practice in the week leading up to your show so you have an idea of how much time you'll need to be on your horse before the class.
- It's show time: when it comes to your turn make sure you stay as relaxed as possible, remember to breath and see it as a fun experience. If it's your first show enjoy it! You'll only ever have one first show.
At the end of the day as long as you and your horse have had a good day, the rest doesn't matter. There is always next weekend to bring home a ribbon or aim for a higher level class. Take it one step at a time and most importantly, have FUN!!