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Give me suggestions - horse is great at home, struggles to perform at shows

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  • Give me suggestions - horse is great at home, struggles to perform at shows

    The basics:
    - Adult ammy rider, baroque-style half-arabian mare in her teens, showing 1st level at USDF, & 2nd level at GMO shows
    - horse is worked 4-6x week (mix of riding, lungeing/longlining, hacking)
    - longtime relationship with great coach, currently in a 3x/week lessons/training program

    I've owned the horse for over a decade - early in her career we did open/county fair type rail class shows, played around with training level GMO dressage in 2011-2012, she had a few years off as a complete pasture puff, and then I brought her back to work in early 2016 and we've been building from there.

    I'm struggling with a pattern I've observed at multi-day shows. I'm hoping COTH has some ideas.
    We typically show at venues that are a 1-3 hr commute from home. We'll arrive on Friday afternoon, unload and setup, and do a schooling session on the show grounds to get the horses used to everything and let them stretch. Usually I do 1 or 2 tests on Saturday, and 1 test on Sunday.

    Mare always feels great during Friday schooling and I can do 90-95% of what we can do at home. She's a great traveler - not hot or spooky in new settings.
    By our test on Saturday, she's starting to fade. I can usually only get 60-70% of the engagement I feel at home. By Sunday, she is physically and sometimes mentally 'over it' and I really struggle to keep her forward and on my aids.

    One big example of how this manifests is at home we have a lovely adjustable canter with clear distinctions between collected, working, and lengthened.
    On Friday's school, we still have our "at home" canter. By Saturday, it's difficult to find the collected canter. By Sunday, our lengthen is gone and it's getting lateral.

    I'm trying to pinpoint the cause/solution for this and I think it's a complicated mix of management, mare's fatigue from travel, being in an unfamiliar situation, unfamilar footing etc, and her limitations as a horse that's not naturally gifted at dressage.

    At home she lives out 24/7 except in inclement weather. This works well for her mental and physical soundness. She's fine in a stall at shows behavior-wise, but I can tell that the lack of movement is hard on her physically. I bed the stall deep, keep her in standing wraps, and try to hand-walk frequently, but I can still tell she's stiff after the first night.

    Once the stiffness sets in, it's more difficult for her to respond to the aids and she stops trying. The week after a show is usually pretty messy in terms of re-establishing forward, half halt and lateral suppleness.
    Things I've tried so far:
    - keep Friday's schooling session VERY light, just enough to stretch out and see the sights
    - hock injections & hind shoes planned for before next show
    - as much time out of the stall as I can manage - handwalking, grazing, etc
    - really light warmups before our tests that start with up to 30 minutes of walking and stretching before we 'get down to business', we do very little pre-test schooling

    If I could, I would haul into the show day-of. It's difficult because I travel with a group, and we all help each other out.

    I would love any suggestions about management, schooling/training/ringcraft, or other ideas that could help maintain performance at/after shows and avoid or lessen how Maresy stalls out halfway through.

  • #2
    Sounds like (my unprofessional opinion) mare has some arthritis that travel and stabling at shows brings out. Have you tried supplements, gotten a vets opinion and maybe considered injections provided a vet suggested them?

    Have you done a local show where you can go home at night to see how she does?

    Comment


    • #3
      Ours live out in a herd, and stalling can be hard on them. My go-tos are: back on track sheets, tons of hand walking, and these: https://www.easycareinc.com/our_boot...boot-Cloud.asp

      The clouds when stalled seemed to really make a difference for the horses who get tight when stuck in a barn at shows.
      If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.
      -meupatdoes

      Comment


      • #4

        Comment


        • #5
          You might also try a quarter tube of ulcerguard Fri-Mon of a show weekend.

          Comment


          • #6
            If it's just stiffness then I second back on track sheet. Mine moves much better after wearing hers. Also not sure what kind of set up the show grounds has but if your horse can't easily see other horses, buddy horse, then the simple stress of all of it may be upsetting.

            Comment


            • #7
              This is probably silly but is she drinking enough? Some horses won't drink anything but "their" water.

              My old trainer had water storage tanks she'd fill up from "his" hose to haul to shows. Some people put a splash of Gatorade in the water buckets at home and at shows to mask the difference.
              A helmet saved my life.

              2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!

              Comment


              • #8
                Does she lay down in her stall at the show? She may not be sleeping enough. I second trying ulcerguard, in addition to hand walking a lot. Adding Gatorade or some other electrolyte to the water is a great idea too. I monitor water intake, poop production and sleeping when I show. If my horse is not laying down over night or not drinking, I hand walk first (try to find some edible grass), and if that doesn't work, we scratch the second day and go home.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I would drop the arrival day ride and go to hand walk. you both have been around, it does not have to be ridden, she sounds like an old pro.

                  I would hand walk in the early morning and cut back the mounted walk warm up and lots of hand walk/ graze time in the day, even if it is just 10 minutes or so

                  2 rides/ day may not be for her any longer

                  show legal bute support

                  _\\]
                  -- * > hoopoe
                  Procrastinate NOW
                  Introverted Since 1957

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                  • #10
                    I second hoopoe's comments.

                    I have an older horse (17); he gets previcox starting 3 - 4 days prior to show. It is show-legal so long as it is given no closer to your ride time than 12 hours. I just give his in evening grain since there will never be a 5 am ride time!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Pain and fatigue. You might want to do more diagnostics, or just give NSAIDS. You might also want to do more fitness work on stamina at home. Lots more big marching trail walks and medium trot to build up stamina.

                      Also really go easy on the warmup rides at the shows. People tend to do hours of warmup ride, so the horse gets so much more work at a show than at home.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        So much great advice here! Thank you COTH!!!!

                        Originally posted by js View Post
                        Sounds like (my unprofessional opinion) mare has some arthritis that travel and stabling at shows brings out. Have you tried supplements, gotten a vets opinion and maybe considered injections provided a vet suggested them?

                        Have you done a local show where you can go home at night to see how she does?
                        Arthritis is absolutely the case. Vet is involved; injections are planned.

                        Have not tried any supplements yet. So many conflicting opinions/reviews, it's overwhelming. But could be a good idea to revisit. Thanks.

                        Local shows may be an option for GMO but unfortunately, no USDF shows within a practical distance for hauling in and avoiding overnight stays and since USDF is more important to me, I'm hoping I can find a better management solution for these overnights.


                        Originally posted by netg View Post
                        Ours live out in a herd, and stalling can be hard on them. My go-tos are: back on track sheets, tons of hand walking, and these: https://www.easycareinc.com/our_boot...boot-Cloud.asp

                        The clouds when stalled seemed to really make a difference for the horses who get tight when stuck in a barn at shows.
                        Haven't tried the BoT stuff yet. I've been skeptical of the efficacy, but so many people in this thread are recommending them, I should probably check it out. Thanks.

                        Also, those cloud boots are intriguing. I have easyboots for trail riding with my other horse, but hadn't seen these. That price per boot is scary, but I guess if I compare it to show entries and all of the other supportive care I've been doing, it's peanuts


                        Originally posted by PrincessPonies View Post
                        If it's just stiffness then I second back on track sheet. Mine moves much better after wearing hers. Also not sure what kind of set up the show grounds has but if your horse can't easily see other horses, buddy horse, then the simple stress of all of it may be upsetting.
                        Thanks for the ideas.

                        Originally posted by Bristol Bay View Post
                        This is probably silly but is she drinking enough? Some horses won't drink anything but "their" water.
                        Good thought - she drinks and eats quite well at shows. Intake is comparable to home / appropriate for the weekend's workload. I also supplement with salt and electrolytes as appropriate.

                        Originally posted by Sue B View Post
                        Does she lay down in her stall at the show? She may not be sleeping enough. I second trying ulcerguard, in addition to hand walking a lot. Adding Gatorade or some other electrolyte to the water is a great idea too. I monitor water intake, poop production and sleeping when I show. If my horse is not laying down over night or not drinking, I hand walk first (try to find some edible grass), and if that doesn't work, we scratch the second day and go home.
                        She usually has evidence of laying down (shavings and poop stains) overnight, but I never catch her doing it during the day at shows and only very rarely at home. I do think sleep could be an issue, and she's somewhat picky about stall size (lays down more if it's bigger). I'll keep a close eye on this next time.

                        Originally posted by hoopoe View Post
                        I would drop the arrival day ride and go to hand walk. you both have been around, it does not have to be ridden, she sounds like an old pro.

                        I would hand walk in the early morning and cut back the mounted walk warm up and lots of hand walk/ graze time in the day, even if it is just 10 minutes or so

                        2 rides/ day may not be for her any longer

                        show legal bute support
                        yes, I think I am going to skip friday schooling from now on. We're at the point where even a brand new facility causes barely a reaction (And honestly a little more zing might help us in the show ring!) Also cut back to 1 test/day especially in the summer.

                        Originally posted by 2tempe View Post
                        I second hoopoe's comments.

                        I have an older horse (17); he gets previcox starting 3 - 4 days prior to show. It is show-legal so long as it is given no closer to your ride time than 12 hours. I just give his in evening grain since there will never be a 5 am ride time!
                        Previcox is a great idea. I will talk to my coach and vet. We have mentioned it in passing but I have never seriously pursued it. It's time to get serious!

                        Originally posted by Scribbler View Post
                        Pain and fatigue. You might want to do more diagnostics, or just give NSAIDS. You might also want to do more fitness work on stamina at home. Lots more big marching trail walks and medium trot to build up stamina.

                        Also really go easy on the warmup rides at the shows. People tend to do hours of warmup ride, so the horse gets so much more work at a show than at home.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I've only had my horse for 3 years, but we go to shows on similar days as you. I only hand walk on Friday to show my horse the sights. I figure hauling is stressful enough and don't like to ride the day before a weekend show to keep my horse fresh. A teen Arab has just hit her prime, so it's not like she's an "oldie", but her routine at shows is quite disrupted vs at home. Though I've never found the BOT products helpful, maybe see if you can borrow someone's stuff first? It's so dang expensive for an "experiment".

                          I warm up for 20 minutes total before my classes. That includes 10 a min warmup walking on loose rein. If you're at the lower levels, know your horse well, then there's no need to go any longer than that. Make note of what happens at the next show sticking to your new routine to gain valuable data on how to proceed for the next ones...Good luck!
                          Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...

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                          • #14
                            If it's a show with temporary stalls, you could purchase two and take the divider out to create a double stall. Might help with sleep and space to move around a bit more while stalled?

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                            • #15
                              Another thought...If you have 2 rides on Saturday, is she any better for the second ride?
                              If so, drop the two rides for score on Saturday and do one loosen-up ride/hack and then do the ride for score on Saturday. Same thing on Sunday.

                              Doesn't have to be a long loosen-up ride, just enough to get her moving without the stress of prepping for a test.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                She is working 3 times a week I presume not 3 days in a row. Then you want her to work 3 days in a row.

                                if you want her to work 3 days in a row then work her at least 5 days in a row at home every week.

                                She is not fit enough.
                                It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Don't discount how fatiguing travel can be. I know a few driving horse trainers that like to capitalize on that by working new horses right off the trailer. (Sounds mean unless you've seen the damage 5000 lbs of runaway can do :0)

                                  What about adding in some post-arrival massage? I use foam rollers and other tools on sore areas after weight lifting to prevent fascia scar tissue buildup on my own body. Horses must experience similar problems to humans in that regard. When I was a teenager, post-ride massage for horses seemed to be much more common than it is now. Not sure why.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I wouldn't do Previcox if she doesn't need it at home. It is one that takes some time to build up in the body. For just a dose or two to manage arthritis while at the show, use Bute or Banamine. Also show legal in appropriate amounts and timing.

                                    Another thing to consider right before the show is Legend. Some horses respond well to it, others it doesn't do much. Doesn't tend to last a real long time, but might help her not feel so creaky. Could also be given in conjunction with NSAID support.

                                    Where is the arthritis? I do think some BOT products help, but sometimes the issue may be in a place that is harder to get, say for example stifles. Also don't know what your climate is, but relying on that in summer may or may not be doable.

                                    It does for sure sounds like the Friday school is not really helping you. Hand walk or graze instead while your group is schooling.

                                    Experiment also with 3 fairly hard rides at home in a row and see how she does. If that is hard, you also need to work more on fitness. Maybe replace a longe with another good hack with some marching walk and/or some galloping.

                                    Comment

                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by SuzieQNutter View Post
                                      She is working 3 times a week I presume not 3 days in a row. Then you want her to work 3 days in a row.

                                      if you want her to work 3 days in a row then work her at least 5 days in a row at home every week.

                                      She is not fit enough.
                                      Sorry, I said she's worked 4-6x a week.
                                      3 of those are either lessons or training sessions with coach. The other 1-3 sessions are rides on my own.

                                      My schedule varies but usually it's 3 or 4 days in a row of work, 5 if my coach puts in an extra session, then a rest day for Maresy, rinse and repeat.

                                      During the summer, this horse does 20 mile trail rides on many of the saturdays she isn't showing and goes back to the dressage ring ready to rock the next day. Lots of hills and such.

                                      But point taken, there are always greater things to achieve with strength and endurance!

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by Wanderosa View Post
                                        Don't discount how fatiguing travel can be. I know a few driving horse trainers that like to capitalize on that by working new horses right off the trailer. (Sounds mean unless you've seen the damage 5000 lbs of runaway can do :0)

                                        What about adding in some post-arrival massage? I use foam rollers and other tools on sore areas after weight lifting to prevent fascia scar tissue buildup on my own body. Horses must experience similar problems to humans in that regard. When I was a teenager, post-ride massage for horses seemed to be much more common than it is now. Not sure why.
                                        Yes, I know I'm tired and stiff after hauling to the show...I can't imagine what she must feel like in the trailer!

                                        Massage is a great idea, I try to do some work on her myself with lots of currying to help circulation and I have a few things her at-home bodyworker taught us. There aren't always bodyworkers at the show (that I trust!) but I like to take advantage at the larger ones when it's available.

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