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Spin-off from Drug Land, II: How do you prep the purist way?

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  • #21
    Originally posted by Lord Helpus View Post
    Point being, every horse is an individual and must be treated that way. If hacking calms a horse down, then hack the horse. But if hacking the horse gets it wound up, then you have to get inside the horse's mind and figure out how to walk in the ring with a horse who can let his talent shine through.
    Exactly. I have one mare who needs a "zen" show experience to do her best--quiet walks/hacks and we limit her exposure to showground hustle and bustle. I have another guy who gets cranky and spooky if he spends too much time in his stall. He needs to be out in the thick of things for a certain period of time to do his best.

    Other than knowing your individual horse, non-pharmacologic prep is based on choosing suitable horses for the job, consistent training, giving horses adequate time and show experience to learn their job, and having a well trained and prepared RIDER riding the horse.

    I think it can be a really hard job to prepare a horse to show competitively under a not-so-great, possibly nervous or clumsy rider who may only ride the horse at shows and doesn't have a partnership with the animal. Horses aren't machines, they are sensitive creatures.

    In addition, I think it can be difficult to naturally prepare a hunter for a winning round in the ring of a judge that rewards an overly quiet, robotic round. IMO/E, there are judges that prefer an unnatural level of quietness that may not generally be achieved with training alone in most healthy horses.


    • #22
      I agree that prep starts at home. My guys live out 24/7. I keep them at home, do all my own care, and drive the trailer myself. They get dragged to a lot of horse shows with no intention of showing. I sit on them all dang day ringside until they learn that getting on the trailer and going somewhere does not mean they should turn into fire-breathing dragons. Once they get in the show ring, they trot the crossrails and halt in the corners until they figure it out. One horse spent an entire year doing this--that's what he needed to reform his brain from the track, so that's what he got.

      This is labor-intensive and does not loan itself to a "quick-flip" on a sales horse, but this is my hobby, not my vocation. I have plenty of blue ribbons from years past, and I don't really need to prove anything to anyone but myself.
      Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.


      • Original Poster

        Great replies!

        I have learned so much from you guys and from your horses.

        One addition from my spoiled POS momma's boy WB gelding. This horse could be wild.... until he got tired. Then he was dull to the leg, the POS.

        So with him, you wanted to offer a chance to play on the lunge, but also offer him the chance to walk before too long. You could get him to change his mind and chill if you physically stopped him.

        You wanted to do that just a little before he was done so that you had any energy of his left to use for winning ribbons, not screwing around.

        And many horses benefit from a break between lunging and riding. So they get lunged naked and than have to let the meter go back to zero whlle they come back to the barn to be tacked up.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat


        • #24
          I don't do hunters anymore; but my dressage horse needed "prep" LOL. He was always somewhat tightly-wound, and the thing that worked BEST for him at horse shows was LOTS of walking, both in-hand and undersaddle - especially around the stabling areas and warmup rings. I don't know why, but it really helped him calm down in the general environment. Maybe he just wanted to see everything.


          • #25
            Some great suggestions! When I had one that needed to relax and zen, a hand-walk was always first. Next step was what I call a horse show "trail ride"...we walked around under saddle to zen even more, often riding around the outside and back corner of the show ring so he knew the stuff going on outside the ring was ok. Last step was to hack, but hack with a purpose, ie- shoulder in, leg yield, halt to canter, collection, extension, etc. All the goodies that get a horse to be sharp and listen. He had to work--not for a long time--but intensely so the focus was on ME rather than the other horse 2,000 feet away in the distance. The few times I lunged him, it was not about a horse loping around for hours, but I lunged and someone shook a bag to try and get his attention on us. Lots of transitions, etc. This got his brain to focus.

            That being said...horse show prep starts at home as other posters have mentioned. My horse got excitable going to new places so every week even when it was cold and my motivation was lacking, I got him off the farm to a new place to school. Yes--it can be tedious! But for a horse that is excited in busy surroundings, it was essential in relaxing him. You can't expect a horse who never leaves the farm to be quiet with the hustle and bustle of a horse show once a month--give them a fair shake!

            Member of the OMFG I got banned clique


            • #26
              Tons of hand walking all over the grounds, and waking up before the sun and getting early morning rides in. Basically if they are “hot” they are not going to be left to stew in their stall.

              Never “prepped” through drugs or supplements.
              APPSOLUTE CHOCKLATE - Photo by Kathy Colman


              • Original Poster

                Yes, dressage horses need (and get) prep, too. Go to that forum and read about the pro who gives the dressage horse a Talking To for a long, rough and loud hour before the ammy rider gets on. Or read about the wild horse who gets lunged in a warm up ring not designed for that, and you'll know that they have to work with the same problems we do.

                Oh, and I rode a Hot Head dressage horse for a bit whose warmup included no canter at all. My goal was to learn to ride him better (everywhere) until I didn't need to use this kind of cheaty, duct-tape solution to getting a test from him. But in the time I had, we didn't get there yet.

                Being a Hot Head (who, not coincidentally was fried in Hunter World and then the jumpers before he got sold "down" to Dressage Land), the key was to figure out what worked for him. He wasn't my horse and I wasn't going to be able to reteach him how to go to a horse show in the time we had together. But my similar attempts to devise a prep tailored to each horse really helped this one. His heart was in the right place and he wanted to please me in the ring. When I discovered that the best way to get there was to "trail ride" then feed him treats and make him feel like I really, really liked him personally, he offered me a soft ride and I gave him one, and he breathed a sigh of relief... learning that not every show was scary. He might have changed over time with this kind of prep repeated over and over.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat


                • #28
                  I had an Encoriva-bred Appx QH. He was bred to run faster than any other sumbitch at the track, period. His siblings did not, and went to the show arena. I bought mine in utero, and he was one that would have made it on the track, but was so spectacular looking and such a beautiful mover, (and was all I had to work with) that he was aimed for the A Circuit hunter ring.

                  We did it the right way, and it only worked because:
                  1) My great trainer saw what he was instantly and said he would take time - 3 years of slow schooling to educate and direct his brain and jumping ability.
                  2) My feeding program of grass, handful of alfalfa, magnesium/calcium and B-1 on occasion.
                  3) Turnout all night during summer show season, and trailer to show dark-thirty.
                  4) Show prep by me was: AM longeing for 20 minutes until bucking stopped and head came down, then handwalking all around the busy barns and arenas until he stopped looking, then a flat school in his arena, with bending, and body control, slow work on changes, no jumping (trainer was elsewhere), but seeing the jumps. Back to stall for pee and clean up, then 15-20 minutes flat in warm up arena by me before handing over reins to trainer for warm up fences, then into the Baby Green class he went.

                  I would not have the time and energy to do that these days.
                  Comprehensive Equestrian Site Planning and Facility Design


                  • #29
                    I'm always the first person in the ring when it opens (unless my trainer wants to sleep in, then I'm the last). I hop on and see how my horse is doing. Unfortunatly he's still a baby and is basically a different horse at every show we go to. I don't bother trying to run him off his feet or calm him down, I just get him supple and thinking, take him over a few fences until he settles (doesn't over jump them or blow over them and run away) and then I put him away, graze him/ walk him until he's dry and then depending on how he was I get on him an hour and a half to twenty minutes before my class and cross my fingers
                    My Horse Show Photography/ Blog


                    • #30
                      I just ended my first show season with my guy, and it's clear *I* need heavy drug use. I love showing, I have the best partner ever (ok, not really because he's too much horse for me, but in terms of he would go through fire for me) and I have the worst show nerves. I start throwing up as soon as I wake up (I will throw up blood, that's how bad it is), then hubby manages to stick breeches and a tank top and a jacket on me and buckle me in the car. Then as I'm sobbing and gagging my way to the barn, he runs out and grabs my horse, and it takes me 5 minutes after that to just cry and curl up with a blanket. Once we get to the show grounds, I'm fine. Like I said, I need heavy drugs and I'm going to the dr for this show season LOL.

                      Now the horse, he only gets injections and I will be trying out smart calm ultra to take the edge off for him. But happy point is trainer getting on to get his yahoos out, then I get on and do some flatwork, pop over a few fences. Thereafter I like to relax ringside and watch, but last season my trainer would have me keep going. Don't know what will happen this year

                      Unhappy point: crowded ring, the 1m+ jumpers warming up, cantering horses. I have an ottb, and a green rider, it's not a happy moment.


                      • #31
                        #30 Why do you bother? Sounds like hell.


                        • #32
                          Lol because once I get to the show grounds I'm completely fine and I LOVE showing.


                          • #33
                            Originally posted by wendybird View Post
                            #30 Why do you bother? Sounds like hell.
                            Seriously, TBRedHead. Yikes!

                            A lot of really great suggestions here. Prepping for a multi-day horse show, or one with lots of space and/or good conditions, is hopefully, for most not too hard.

                            I'd be interested to hear what works for people who show in less than ideal conditions -- one day ship-in winter indoor horse shows. You know the ones where the high is maybe 30, the ground is frozen, it is windy, your division goes at 8 p.m. (it was supposed to be at 4 p.m., but you know how shows go), your horse has been on the trailer for 6+++ hours, and you only have 10 minutes to warm your horse up before your division? You definitely need a good horse and a good program to make this work!


                            • #34
                              Seriously, there's no magic way to make up for a difficult show situation. All you can do is do your best. Keep the horse blanketed and warm, keep plenty of hay and water in front of them to keep them from being bored and antsy, go for walks to let them see the sights, do a short warm up earlier in the day to keep your horse loosened up. Dress warmly and go for a hack if there is an outdoor area to walk around. Bring hot drinks for yourself, so you aren't tense and miserable from the cold and so you relaxation to share. And, if it comes down to it, be willing to drop down to an easier division or scratch rather than insist on proceeding with what is likely to be a bad experience/training setback for your horse.

                              IME keeping horses warm under cozy blankets and keeping their stomach full of hay helps reduce tension and keep back muscles warm and relaxed when showing in cold conditions.


                              • #35
                                Recently switched to QHs, and learned to tie my horses up. Literally. They learn how to just stand there, patiently relax and take a nap. I do it for 30 minutes to an hour before each ride and they are much more business like to ride. Sometimes they stand tied up with the tack on for 30 minutes after a ride as well. I get the same mental result from lunging or hacking, without the physical stress on the limbs or the increase in fitness you get from working a horse down. Horses were bred to work for hours at a time, and our little 20 minute lunge/40 minute ride routine doesn't do much for them mentally. If you stretch out the time that they are NOT free to move about at will, it becomes more "work" for them mentally and they are more accepting and patient when you are actually sitting on them. I will also do 5 - 10 mins of ground work getting them soft and responsive before getting on.

                                And like Singmiasong says, with a nervous horse, hanging out ringside for hours works wonders as well.
                                Man plans. God laughs.


                                • #36
                                  I've been lucky to (like PNW) pick a quiet horse - part luck and part instinct, especially since I ride the dreaded hot TBs (who all seem so to be quite Not Hot for me at least). But I did have one who was not consulted on his career change, and probably would have been perfectly happy to stay a race horse until they shipped him off the track in a van. Seriously, that horse had so much heart and was so tough it was frightening.

                                  He was everything an ammy didn't need - hard jumping, spooky enough to have an awesome jump but not able to take a joke, and once he got that motor going he saw no good reason not to relive his days at Hialeah. He was also pretty powerful -he was a galloper's dream - stand up in the irons, cross your reins, let the horse take a bow in his neck and carry you along with a huge, powerful stride and this massive neck under you. Awesome on the track when you are dealing with an old pro of a race horse. Not exactly the ideal traits for a hunter!

                                  With him, we usually worked on the idea that less was more. You wanted to get in and out of the warm up area and show ring without really waking him up -My trainer and I used to say we needed to sneak in 20 jumps before he woke up. Fortunately this was back when warm ups, blue reds and other non division classes didn't exist. I did about 4 warm up jumps and his 2 division o/f classes and called it a day. But I had to learn to ride a hot horse, and while I may have been (still like to be) quite the comedian as it related to my distances, I did learn to ride quiet and tactfully with a feather light seat. That's a skill I think is sadly lacking in many riders these days.

                                  For my other horses, they were sensitive and require a light seat because they are typically TB in that sense, but they are not "hot" or strong. However I still like the "less is more" approach to getting to the ring. I think the warm up area not only takes your horse's best jump, but can frazzle him as well so many things are out of your control and until they have a kamikaze hunter class, nothing that happens in there is required in their day job. So with my older horse, he was lunged him in the AM - we were sort of the joke, amidst all the flailing ponies with plastic bags on the end of the lunge whip - I went out there with my super duper extra long lunge line w/no chain, snapped to his halter and he did about 5 minutes of walking, then 7 minutes of what could best be described as a western pleasure jog, then 7 minutes of cantering that looked a little faster than a lope... then for about 2 minutes I asked him to stretch out an do a hand gallop to stretch his back muscles out... and back to the stall to get braided and get ready to show. Before the class we went for a long walk around the show grounds to loosen him up, then did a few minutes of T-C, jumped maybe 6 jumps, less if the pilot wasn't completely blind and went in and did our classes. That programminus the lunging is working for the younger horse, but being young and only going to local shows he isn't as stiff as the old guy was and also not in that stall for days on end like the older one was.
                                  Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.


                                  • #37
                                    Oh, us dressage riders get our share of fancy bred warmbloods who prefer to buck and bolt like mustangs

                                    I showed a 4 year old out of Donarweiss two summers ago. She was a spitfire packaged 15 hand hot hot spooky thing that would throw your butt on the ground before you even knew what happened. There were a few shows that we did not make it past the lunge ring, or that I excused myself from the show ring knowing that she was about to absolutely explode. Lunging was a part of our show routine, as well as walking and general "chilling" outside the stall and where the gounds were busy to get her used to it.

                                    The secret weapon I discovered at our last show that I wish I had discoverd earlier? PRAISE. Here was the magical moment: We were in the warm up with other horses, an activity she hated with all of her passion, and we were at hits in NY behind the food area so there were a lot of people and noises. She was absolutely ignoring me so I decided to try some leg yielding. We had been working on it at home (being 4 she had limited other movements) and she wasn't very good at it yet but I figured anything to get her thinking would work. And voila! Pony found a brain! Then I praised her, and DOUBLE VOILA she was finding some confidence! Every time a horse came by I just told her how great she was and stroked her neck. We went from bolting across the warm up to holding our ground within 3 days. It was amazing. All my fault for not building her confidence like that earlier in the season.

                                    We went into our classes that day and kicked butt. Not only with a good score and ribbon, but with a happy and confident horse and no dirt on my white pants.


                                    • #38
                                      Originally posted by jj90 View Post
                                      I'd be interested to hear what works for people who show in less than ideal conditions -- one day ship-in winter indoor horse shows. You know the ones where the high is maybe 30, the ground is frozen, it is windy, your division goes at 8 p.m. (it was supposed to be at 4 p.m., but you know how shows go), your horse has been on the trailer for 6+++ hours, and you only have 10 minutes to warm your horse up before your division? You definitely need a good horse and a good program to make this work!
                                      This is a lot of what we do. Most of the time, we try and time it so that we are there as close as possible (not always an option, of course), but when we get there, we typically leave the horses on the trailer while we check in at the office and check the ring. If it's going to be awhile, they stay on the trailer. If anyone needs to be lunged, it's done at home before we leave.

                                      I like to put bridle and martingale on in the trailer and then just pull them off and put on the saddle and the girth—minimizes time in the cold for all involved and then you can just hop on and go. Flat around in the schooling ring for 10 minutes, school in the ring if they're allowing it, and then get the showing part over with. Suffice it to say that we do not take horses that don't do well in this environment, but luckily, all of the ones in my trainer's program (even the green ones) are sane and have good minds.

                                      (Having said that, I've had lots of horses in the past who needed a lot of prep—hacking in the ring, a lunge, legal amounts of NSAIDs, etc., etc. I don't see a problem with that either if it's what the horse needs and they're happy and do their job well.)


                                      • #39
                                        Turnout the night before seems to work magic for my young guy. He's normally on day turnout only, but before a show he goes out during the day, comes in to eat, and goes back out. I see poop marks on the blanket so I am pretty sure he lies down and sleeps (he's a grumpy SOB when he's sleep deprived) but I think being out in the dark alongside different horses is exciting and keeps him up and walking/moving a lot longer and stimulates his brain. He is a different horse when he gets an outside night before a show. Totally night and day different.
                                        "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                                        • #40
                                          but when we get there, we typically leave the horses on the trailer while we check in at the office and check the ring. If it's going to be awhile, they stay on the trailer. If anyone needs to be lunged, it's done at home before we leave.

                                          I like to put bridle and martingale on in the trailer and then just pull them off and put on the saddle and the girth—minimizes time in the cold for all involved and then you can just hop on and go. Flat around in the schooling ring for 10 minutes, school in the ring if they're allowing it, and then get the showing part over with.
                                          This routine is very similar to what I try to do- it worked remarkably well with my young-ish mare (she experienced it for the first time recently). Try it, you may be surprised . Recent show with no where to school, turnout in the morning until about 9:00 AM at home, lunged for about 10 minutes to work out any kinks/ bucks (there were no bucks, but she did some nice stretching), tacked up at the show an immediately put on the cooler to keep her warm and as comfy as possible. Next up to the ring, had about 15 minutes for schooling and we started our classes. I tried to keep the schooling short and sweet to avoid the craziness that is caused by many people trying to school in short period. My horse surprised me and adapted really well to this routine. Usually she gets a much longer flat session at the show.