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What is your feeding/conditioning/grooming routine? (H/J show specific?)

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  • What is your feeding/conditioning/grooming routine? (H/J show specific?)

    Hi, I am new to the forum. I decided to post in horse care rather than H/J, even though that is the type of riding I do.

    I would like to make my show horses look better. I have mostly TB's, and I show H/J. Certain disciplines have their own methods to accomplish what is considered "ideal" in the ring, so I'd love to hear from the H/J folks, but I welcome anyone's input! For instance, in hunter-land, the 'round' (or fat-fit ) look is more desirable than in some other disciplines. But I do not want an obese horse that is too winded by walking out of his stall to be able to go around a few courses. My horses look good, but they could definitely look better!

    I would like to know what is involved in your conditioning regimens. I am interested not only in what sort of work your horses get, but also what your horse eats and what sort of grooming routine you do. The more specific you can get, the better! If you can break down what you do, how long you do it, what you feed (brand names are fine, I can research what the ingredients are on my own, but as all brands are not available everywhere, if you feed a 12%, 14%, etc., feed, what kind of hay, and so on) that would be very helpful. How much do you feed for your horse's size and breed?

    Horse gets ridden for an hour? How much time do you spend walking, trotting, cantering, lateral work, and so on? How many times per week? Does the horse get hacked in the morning with a lesson/training session in the afternoon? I'm thinking more about specifically conditioning work, i.e., getting the horse looking fit, not necessarily drilling a horse to death on something challenging or difficult to them. I'm interested in general fitness, but if lessons and training rides are part of the fitness routine, please include that.

    It can be difficult to get specific information from people about how they got their horses to look A-rated show fabulous.

    How do you achieve your show ring look? (And I realize that I have asked for some very specific questions and the answers could be, "It depends..." which is why I would like to know as much as possible, down to what kind of horse you have and how big they are, not just what you do on a daily basis. The more info the better, but I know I've asked a lot of questions, and I know I will get a variety of answers to the same questions. I'd like to be able to try things until I get what I want. I have hard keepers and easy keepers, and what works best for the quiet fat one may not work well for the high strung slender one who eats a ton but works it all off standing still!)

    Thanks for taking the time to read and share your expertise.

  • #2
    You're kind of asking people to write a book on horse care.

    Have you gotten yourself a copy of some really good books on grooming, fitness, general horse care? Those are loaded with info, by expert sources for the most part, and can be read in pieces.

    I will say briefly that I don't at all care for the "round" (obese is more like it) showring look that is popular with the hunter crowd and would personally rather have my horses lean and hard. I used to take my eventer to H/J shows now and then and never got "dinged" because she had muscles showing.

    Proper nutrition is impossible to condense into a couple of paragraphs because it is possible to get it done so many ways, but I am a "forage first" horse person and pay more attention to my hay (choosing, analysis) than whatever grain or concentrates I feed. I use only a bare minimum of vitamin/mineral type supplements and a little flax seed, no joint, stomach, calming, muscle, immune, or other kind of ridiculous nonsense.

    Fitness--my horses get a few weeks of basic interval training every spring to put a decent base on them, are kept outside as much as possible with room to roam and buddies to play with, and if they are competing above Novice level I like to do some galloping once a week if possible. Schooling jumps is kept to a minimum unless the horse is green or needs the jumping exposure. They get time off every year, usually in the winter, to keep their minds fresh and their bodies young.

    Shiny horses is easy--good nutrition and lots and lots of dedicated currying.

    Good luck! Knowledge is power, but in this format it is best delivered in small chunks.
    Click here before you buy.


    • #3
      Good hay, lots of it split into multiple feedings (preferably 3 times a day) based on what they can clean up in about 2 hours. Minimum of concentrates or grain. Probably does not hurt to add a muti vitamin but they are all about the same in effect, no need to break the bank. Coat wise, I use corn oil and have for 45 years, about 1/2 cup a day when the coat is starting to shed and a new one starts growing in. 1/4 cup a few times a week the rest of the time or you can skip it.

      REGULAR WORMING. REGULAR WORMING. REGULAR WORMING. Make sure barn mates are on the same program to prevent reinfestation.

      Groom every day. ALL the steps. Curry, stiff brush, soft brush, towel or cactus cloth. Don't mess too much with the tail, wash it once a week, condition if you want, work a little detangler in there as needed. Don't forget the dock and between the buttocks, udder for mares and sheath for the boys (and have the vet clean that properly as needed). I use Orvus or Dawn for soap, Mane and Tail for conditioner-you don't need to dump money in fancy lables or celebrity endorsed products they only use because they get it for free plus getting paid for the endorsement.

      When you ride, you GROOM first. All the steps. When you are done riding, you GROOM and can skip the curry but use the rest. If you rinse them off, wait for them to dry and GROOM-leave the curry off but do all the other steps.

      Keep riding interesting for the horse. Not the same thing over and over and over. Hack out. Avoid too many courses, do singles, ground poles and cross train by doing a Jumper course if you have a Hunter and vice versa if you have a Jumper. Ride about 4 days a week minimum spaced out a little to avoid 4 consecutive days, maybe 2 on, 2 off, 2 on. Probably going to be on for about an hour with, maybe 10 min walk, 20 min trot, 10 min canter (WEAR A WATCH so you don't cheat on the times there, 10 min of canter is a looong time). Then 15 min of serious flatwork or you go jump but horses have short attention spans. Plan what you want to do, do it and go take a trail ride or put them up if they are good. You can ride more but do not do it all in the ring. Jump twice a week. At most. Again, if they are really good? Reward them by quitting early. If they are not so good? Don't pound, try to find something they can do and end on that good note. Tomorrow is another day.

      Turn out as you are able. GROOM them first. And when they come in? GROOM them and use the curry first to remove pasture debris. GROOM under any blankets daily, many barns switch blankets around to avoid rubs.

      Tack is immaculate. Always. Brush off and inspect everything before tacking up. Wipe down everything when you are done-avoid too much conditioner or other product, keep it clean and you won't need much. Keep youself looking like a professional.

      Keep the horse clipped and clean and yourself neat as you would for a show and it becomes second nature. No crises the day before a show.

      You will note most of this does not cost much? No big magic bullet, just a lot of regular hard work most are not willing to do. Thats part of the reason they do better at a trainers, regular care every day-not some secret talent on the part of the trainer. Just regular work and proper care on a regular schedual.
      When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

      The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


      • #4
        I am an event rider and groomed professionally for eventers for a long time, but I do have a handful of show hunters in my care right now, so know a thing or two about keeping them show ring ready...and, really, the feeding and grooming really is about the same, in my book (the departure comes from how much fitness work I do and my flat work. I actually am in "Big Eq Boot Camp" with the trainer who has the hunters this winter, so my jumping is similar! ).

        Here's a few of my major points on keeping horses healthy, shiny, and fit (either hunter ring fit, or three day fit).

        - Start with the absolute best feed and hay you can get. Base the horses' diets on FORAGE first, then supplement with a high quality concentrate, as needed. Forage, in my book, is fed AS NEEDED, not free choice. For some of my horses, free choice is what's needed. For others, it needs to be limited (I use Nibble Nets and grazing muzzles a lot). I feed very high quality feeds as needed with the hay. DON'T SKIMP ON QUALITY. People think that buying inexpensive grain is fine, but in the scheme of things, paying more per bag for quality actually ends up being more economical because you feed LESS...which is better for the horses (I have math to prove this, as I switched my current barn from a locally milled grain to my preferred high quality grain).

        - Feed supplements only as needed. (No, really...your horse does not need 15 different supplements to be healthy. See above. Good grain and good hay should cover MOST of what you need for most horses).

        - Rub rags are your BEST FRIEND. I rub the crap out of my horse (Who has very dry skin). It really makes a difference...I was gone for 5 days, he didn't get groomed while I was gone, and you can tell. Curries are fine, brushes are handy, but rub rags are BEST.

        - Less soap, more rubbing. MOST horses do better with less soapy baths (I've met a few exceptions, and obviously grey or light colored horses don't have a say).

        - Take care of their feet!!! Good farrier, yes. But a lot of barn management things can make your farrier's job easier. Keep them out of the flies on hot summer days. Stomping at flies on hard ground is killer on feet. Bed them in deep, dry bedding in their stalls! Avoid hosing when you can (nearly impossible in the summer), or use a sealant before you get them wet to help (this made a huge difference with my horse's summer feet this year). Also, that good forage and grain make a big difference with feet!

        - Happy horses don't just go around and around in the ring. Get them out! Hacking out over uneven ground will also help their strength and fitness, and if you have safe, hard roads to ride on, you can do a world of good for their soft tissue.

        ALL of this applies to hunters, as well as my eventers...plus my foxhunters and dressage horses....and retired guys. This is just good horse management!


        • Original Poster

          Thanks, all!

          Yes, I realized I wrote a book asking for a book in return. I figured most would like to address certain parts of the book instead of the whole thing.

          Sounds like what I'm already doing is pretty close to what is being suggested. Areas that I can control would be grooming. I've ordered new grooming implements to inspire me. Rub rags/cactus cloths/whisps (sp?) are something I've used in the past but I need to incorporate again into my routine. I do ok but I can definitely do better!

          Hay is another that needs to be improved, but good quality hay is hard to come by in my area. I am intensely picky about hay and I've travelled up to 2 hours to get quality hay. Good alfalfa is hard to come by and very expensive, so I've been feeding bagged alfalfa since my feed store carries that. I do feed free choice grass hay, and luckily I have pretty good pastures with grass that has only recently frozen and died. I need to re-seed in the spring, which, in my location, should be in March. I do as much turnout as I can. Horses have been outside except to come in to eat for a few months now. It doesn't get very cold here, so I love fall and spring time as it allows 24 hour turnout.

          I am not a fan of obese hunters, either. I do like to get my TB's as round as they can be, which isn't very round when compared to the beefy WB's. But I don't care for the Jabba the Hut-type horses that jiggle when they trot. That's why I was interested in fitness. The horses I do admire the most have the "well-fed athlete" look, not the fat-roll look.

          Thanks for the suggestions. I'm happy to hear that my program isn't that far off. I just need to tweak it a little and hopefully I'll be where I want to be.