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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.

  • atr
    replied
    Do you think you change when you go to a show?

    I mention this purely because I think it's what I do... it's subconscious, I'm not "nervous" in front of the judge, but I'm trying too damned hard and blocking my horse, who then get stiff and anxious.

    So personally I'm trying for NBD, loosey goosey, happy-go-lucky in the arena this year. We'll see how that goes (And I'm thinking that part of that is the long warmup walks, spending time out of the stall together, puttering about and relaxing stuff that everyone else is talking about for the horse and for me, too.)

    Leave a comment:


  • Ambitious Kate
    replied
    I beleive she probably isn't sleeping at the showgrounds. Just for shits and giggles, try arriving one weekend on Saturday, early morning, early of course, and see how she goes.My guess is if she isn't sleeping she can't function. If you think that's the problem, see if you can solve whatever anxiety is keeping her from sleeping. In general, horses who don't feel safe won't sleep. She may need blinds on her stall, or, she may need the opposite, to see other horses, and to see what's coming and not think she has to stay awake and be vigilant. Something like that.

    Leave a comment:


  • BrokenArrow
    replied
    I'm going to add to the camp of movement is going to be your mare's friend.

    I got these for my mare who's a little stiff and slow to warm up thanks to an injury.

    https://horseware.com.au/collections...culation-boots

    https://horseware.com.au/collections...ibe-hock-wraps

    I use the massage function before work and the ice packs for afterwards. They do ship overseas as well and while a little more expensive than BoT, I've found them to be extremely beneficial. Even my husband's old eventer looks a lot more free moving with these warming him up beforehand.

    Leave a comment:


  • bdj
    replied
    OP, don't know if you've managed to try out the Back On Track stuff yet, but wanted to let you know that Tack of the Day is having a President's Day BoT sale.
    http://www.tackoftheday.com/Back_On_...cts_s/4111.htm
    Looks like they have both kinds of hock boots on sale, too.

    Leave a comment:


  • enterata
    replied
    I have not used them but know people who swear by the BOT hock boots 30 minutes before a ride. Also, I have found an excellent product to help sport horses. Requires no prescription and very affordable. Much better than Adequan, which did nothing for the horses I used it on. Disclosure: I am no way affiliated with this product, just sharing.
    A REVOLUTIONARY NEW PRODUCT, IMPROVING THE MOBILITY, PERFORMANCE AND COMFORT OF HORSES AND DOGS AROUND THE WORLD.

    Leave a comment:


  • Samantha37
    replied
    Originally posted by theresak View Post

    While hand walking is great, she may also need to have someone hold the lead rope while she grazes and moves around slowly for a few hours rather than continuous walking for 20 minutes.
    This is golden. While I will do a typical handwalk in the morning, I do this type of thing in the evening. It's actually a fun group activity. The whole team takes their horse and we all go to a grazing area and let the horses wander and graze and we chat. It's a nice cap off to the busy day.

    I will also say my horse gets hock sores SUPER fast. I can't use shavings at shows. Instead of shavings I use straw, which provides significantly more cushion and my horse doesn't get hock sores.

    Leave a comment:


  • theresak
    replied
    Consider asking the show manager or the grounds manager/owner directly to see if they have any turnout options available for rent during the show.

    While hand walking is great, she may also need to have someone hold the lead rope while she grazes and moves around slowly for a few hours rather than continuous walking for 20 minutes.

    You could also see if your coach could ride her once in the show ring to see if you are babying her a bit too much - is she really tired or is she just not offering as much quality and you are accepting it?

    Leave a comment:


  • alibi_18
    replied

    Leave a comment:


  • 3rottenponies
    replied
    I would look into BOT for her. I wasn't really a believer until I bought one of the products for myself. Now I know.

    Another thing to look into would be stall mats for long shows. I find our show horses seem to handle long shows much better when stalled with mats and bedding than just bedding.

    Leave a comment:


  • RedHorses
    replied
    It sounds like the stall is causing stiffness through movement restriction. My first horse had wicked bone spurs in every joint space below his knees. I could tell you at two o'clock the next afternoon if he'd spent the previous night inside. Night. Nothing to do with fitness.

    ??????When my horse (not that one with the joint spurs) was 16 I tried giving him glucosamine (he'd been on MSM for years). Not because he was stiff, or noticably needing something, but because he was 16 and has less than stellar conformation. A couple of weeks later I was trying to figure out why he felt ready to trot after 5-6 minutes of walk instead of the usual 10-12 minutes.


    The horse I had between those two had a hock issue that was significantly improved by the right joint supplement for him. I realized that like everything else, not all horses will react the same way to a given supplement. My vet refused to suggest a specific joint supplement, instead telling me to pick one, double dose for two weeks, and if I didn't notice a difference to pick a different one.

    I found one, and after a year or so they changed how it was made. It looked and smelled different, and did nothing for my horse. Four days after I started the right supplement I noticed improvement. I didn't really believe it, but he just kept improving.


    So try something. When I was researching way back when the advice was 10,000mg glucosamine and 10,000mg MSM together. That's what I did for the 16yr old too. I won't advise on the product, but will suggest you try one that is easily available as it sucks to have supply issues.

    Try one and play attention to your metrics. The halved walk warm up time was obviously not a placebo effect for my horse. Neither was the gait irregularity in the second horse.

    Separate your tests. Don't change routine, do injections, bury her in BoT products, massage her with lineament, give her banamine, and joint supplements all at once. You'll have no idea what actually helped!

    Good luck!

    Leave a comment:


  • PaddockWood
    replied
    Great ideas from everyone. Montana the magic words you used were you ride 20 miles and she's ready to rock the next day. At the shows, you gotta keep her out of that stall as much as possible and MOVING. Just like us - she needs to move to have lube. I say the next show you have her out hand walking/riding - pay people to help get it done if necessary. Will be really curious to get your update on the next show.

    Leave a comment:


  • Samantha37
    replied
    My older horse gets Back on Track mesh sheet and quick wraps when we are at a show and it makes a WORLD of difference. We go to USDF shows Friday-Sunday. I don't know that I would skip your Friday ride... for my guy, we do 15-20 minutes of mostly suppling work and call it a day, but I think it helps to get him moving around. It is NOT a full lesson. Depending on the level, he will show once or twice on Saturday and always once on Sunday. I show him at 3rd level so we do one test each day, but his lessee showed him last year at TL and 1st level so she did 2 tests on Saturdays.

    There is also a legal amount of bute that you can give - look it up and maybe give it Saturday nights while at shows? It would help with the lingering stiffness.

    I would probably also address her GI while you are at it. Try Ulcergard or some form of stomach protection for a few days before the show and during the show.

    Also.. tons of handwalking but make sure she has time to actually rest/sleep. She might not be sleeping well at the shows which would cause you to have issues.

    Any time my massage therapist for my horse is going to a show, I get him done at the show. I really notice a difference.

    Leave a comment:


  • Montanas_Girl
    replied
    Originally posted by IPEsq View Post

    You can no longer give Robaxin + an NSAID at shows. For some reason, USEF is classifying Robaxin as an NSAID for these purposes and lumping it into the rule that you can't give more than one NSAID.

    Bummer. I didn't know that. It's been almost a decade since my last USEF show. About to start back this year, but with a baby, so I hadn't even looked at the updates. Thanks for the information!

    Leave a comment:


  • IPEsq
    replied
    Originally posted by Montanas_Girl View Post
    My old show hunter (also a Half Arab, coincidentally) would get similarly stiff - not really "sore", just less fluid - in his back when we traveled to shows that involved overnight stabling late in his career. Through some trial and error, we finally settled on legal doses of Bute and Robaxin to help him compensate for the lack of turnout. The Robaxin seemed to help much more than the Bute, but the combination worked wonders. He didn't get either for shows where we could haul in.

    It's worth talking to your vet about what the best course of action would be. Older horses can sometimes use a bit of help in situations like a multi-day show.
    You can no longer give Robaxin + an NSAID at shows. For some reason, USEF is classifying Robaxin as an NSAID for these purposes and lumping it into the rule that you can't give more than one NSAID.

    Leave a comment:


  • Montanas_Girl
    replied
    My old show hunter (also a Half Arab, coincidentally) would get similarly stiff - not really "sore", just less fluid - in his back when we traveled to shows that involved overnight stabling late in his career. Through some trial and error, we finally settled on legal doses of Bute and Robaxin to help him compensate for the lack of turnout. The Robaxin seemed to help much more than the Bute, but the combination worked wonders. He didn't get either for shows where we could haul in.

    It's worth talking to your vet about what the best course of action would be. Older horses can sometimes use a bit of help in situations like a multi-day show.

    Leave a comment:


  • lorilu
    replied
    I'm seconding the BoT sheet and hock boots. Here in Florida the mesh sheet is fine even in the summer if the fan is on. He wears them for between 30 min- one hour before I tack up. Made a big difference. And also seconding the idea that maybe she isnt sleeping enough...... maybe old fashioned stall curtains to give her privacy?

    Have you looked at the Posture Prep tool? It is a massage tool that looks like a curry with rounded knobs. It is used across the fascia in a specific pattern over the horse's body. I find giving him a good rub down with it really helps my guy when we work hard and I see he is feeling it because he rubs his ass on a certain tree branch LOL https://drpatbona.com/

    Does she get a rub down with SOre No More? I often use the posture prep tool with SNM Gelotion.


    ANd finally, perhaps get her used to being stalled by keeping her inside a few times a week, and giving her lots of hand walking time at the shows between/before/after her classes.

    Does she get any supplements such as COsequin ASU?

    Leave a comment:


  • seabreeze
    replied
    I don't have any advice to offer, but I wanted to comment that your post and responses give me the warm and fuzzies. Your mare is lucky to have an owner so concerned about and in tune to her well-being! Good luck finding what works.

    Leave a comment:


  • ArabDiva
    replied
    Originally posted by IPEsq View Post
    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.
    Thanks for the ideas, lots of good stuff to think about and try here. I will research Legend for sure.

    Arthritis is in hocks for sure, particularly right hock and I know BoT makes boots for that which wouldn't be too expensive to try out. Stifles not sure, coach/vet/bodyworker haven't brought it up, but I wouldn't be super surprised given her age and history.

    Leave a comment:


  • ArabDiva
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:

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