How to insure your horse is safe and comfortable when at the show
If you think the show ring is stressful then you haven’t had the opportunity to settle your horse into a strange stall at a strange showgrounds. Many veteran exhibitors can attest to the fact that how well your horse settles into his weekend abode can make or break your chance at a ribbon at best but at worst can be the reason for a full blown catastrophe.
Listed below is a step by step accounting of some procedures that need to be adhered to if you’re to give to your horse a safe and enjoyable experience at his next show.
Let’s start at the beginning assuming you’re organized and your departure wasn’t too stressful.
Step 1. The Stall Before you put your horse into it you must scrutinize every inch of it checking for nails, loose boards, splinters, any thing that may pose a threat. Check the ground. Are there rocks, nails, glass, and any thing that can pose a hazard? Remember if there’s even the slightest thing that a horse can get hurt on believe me he will find it. If there’s something that isn’t appropriate, a tough door to open or close an electrical wire close by or anything dangerous within your horse’s reach don’t hesitate to consult with whoever’s in charge and ask for a new stall. You have every right to and they want you to feel secure so often they’ll work hard to get you what you need.
Next, check to see what angle the sun moves at. Will it cause your stall to overheat? During summer months it is typical for owners to place fans and even misting systems above their horse’s stall to keep them cool. Just as mentioned earlier though be careful to not have any electric cord or nail or string where your horse can get to.
Be sure to secure your horse’s water bucket so he cannot turn it over or spill it out and be careful it’s hung at just the right height. For an average horse you should have two buckets, one always with fresh water and one with electrolytes. The water should always be kept full because dehydration is one of the most typical ailments at shows. Besides dehydration if a horse doesn’t drink enough water to process his food he could end up colicking which will bring a quick end to your weekend and perhaps even to your horse.
Always properly bed your stall. This is not the time to skimp on bedding. Use enough to keep your horse from meeting the ground under his body when lying down and be sure to bank the shavings up alone the walls. Most show stalls are a bit cramped and you want to bank your bedding far up the sides to prevent your horse from getting cast.
Step 2. The Feed Be sure to feed your horse at the show the same kind of hay he would eat at home. If you can you should even bring the feed from your home to keep your horse from eating hay from a different region which can cause him to colic or have allergic reactions.
It’s good to have something in front of him at all times. Horses relax when they chew so consider some kind of “grazing” feed to keep him busy and help him to unwind. Something really tasty like a nice Timothy or Orchard Grass will tempt him to focus more on what’s in front of him then the Stallion across the barn aisle.
Be careful not to feed too many treats. It’s great to reward your horse especially when he’s being really good but be careful not to overdo anything in the way of nutrition at the show. A too rich diet can wreck havoc on a horse’s system when they’re under the stress of new surroundings.
Step 3. The Horse As mentioned before the horse stalls at shows are usually quite small so be sure to get your horse out as often as possible for a walk especially if he’s been in a lot of classes that day. After working so hard he will likely get stiff and sore if he’s not allowed to keep moving besides it gives you a chance to check in with all your friends down the barn aisle to see how they faired in their classes.
Keep your horse well groomed to keep him from getting itchy and prevent rolling. Granted at some point your horse will want to lay down and perhaps even roll but the risk of getting cast is ever present so the more you can reduce his chances of him rolling the more you can reduce the chance of him getting cast.
You may want to consider keeping your horse’s legs bandaged if they stock up from being in a small stall but do not, I repeat, do not bandage your horse’s legs unless you are an expert or have access to one that will do it for you because you can do more damage than good putting a bandage on your horse the wrong way. Putting a bandage properly on a horse is almost an art form and takes a lot of experience to master.
So there you have a basic list of things that are mostly necessary. Properly settling your horse is lot of work and a lot of things to be aware of but it’s something that must be done right to avert disaster and enable your horse to compete at his best. If your horse isn’t comfortable I can assure you your show will be an unsuccessful endeavor in one form or another.
If you’re going to all the expense of showing, the time put into your training and all the sweat equity in general then you want to be sure you will have your best chance of winning and it starts with the comfort and safety of your horse, your partner and your friend.
Now Pay Close Attention —
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