Archive for the ‘Horse Training’ Category

Horse shows have something for everyone, and are probably one of the most common activities horse riders participate in. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced rider, you can participate in local or regional shows to show your training and skills.

If you are interested in competing in shows, it’s best to start out in local shows. They are the best place for beginners to build confidence and gain experience. As you compete in local shows and consistently place well, you can then consider competing in state, regional, or national level shows. Be aware that at these levels, it is more difficult to place because there are more riders, and more emphasis is placed on superior skills shown in the shows.

During a show, there are several classes presented where you can win ribbons based on how good a horse person you are. In regional shows, you may participate in a class with as many as 25 other riders. No matter what, style is very important in the show. The general categories that are included in a regional show are:

  • Pleasure classes, which are not judged on the rider’s ability, but rather the performance of the horse. They judges will look for how “pleasurable” the horse is to ride. Pleasure classes are offered in both Western and English styles.
  • Equitation classes, where the rider is judged on her riding skills. In this class, the rider must effectively give commands to her horse, and the horse must respond smoothly. Dressage does belong to this class.
  • Timed classes, which are different depending upon which riding style is preferred. Western riding includes games such as barrel racing and pole bending, while English riders will do cross country and stadium jumping.
  • Showmanship class, where riders stand alongside the horse and walk it through a pattern that is posted around an hour before the show. The rider demonstrates leading, backing and turning around. The showmanship class is not always included in every show.

In a Western competition, there are typically three classes presented:

  • The stock horse section, where the rider demonstrates her horse’s paces at the walk, trot (or a job), and cantor (or a lope).
  • The reining-back test, which shows how quickly a horse to come to a stop from full speed. Some competitions involve working with cattle in this section.
  • The timed events, which are the same as mentioned above in the regional shows.

And finally, there are the English events, which are traditional English style horse shows which last three days (and are the ones where you see the ladies with big hats). Each day presents a different test:

  • Dressage, which requires riders to perform a test made up of about 15 different movements. Three judges oversee the riders, and marks are awarded for each movement including the seat of the rider, submission and paces.
  • In the speed and endurance test, riders typically go through four phases over a cross country distance of six to 12 miles. A steeplechase is sometimes included in this test.
  • The last event on the third day is show-jumping, which is a test made up of a course with up to 12 fences. Each event is timed and points are lost of a horse knocks over a fence, refuses to jump, or the rider falls.

Horse shows are considered by many riders to be one of the most fun activities to participate in. With plenty of training and practice, you can become very successful and progress through the ranks, or simply enjoy showing off the training you and your horse have worked through. Either way, it is a very fulfilling activity, for both you and your horse.

Image courtesy of pheanix300

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When you take your horse to his first show, it can be an overwhelming experience for him. However, if you have a plan in place for how to handle his behavior and any issues that may come up, it can prevent any disasters at his first show. Here are some tips to get your horse used to being in a show environment.

  • Start by taking him to local, small schooling shows, or even just a place that is new and strange to him, such as a local open space. Starting out somewhere where you are not competing will help because, if the first place you go is your own competition, your horse will feel your nerves and become more nervous. Find someplace that is neutral where he can get used to sights and sounds.
  • When you first arrive at the show, unload your horse and take him directly to his stall (after checking it to make sure there are no nails or dangerous objects that can injure him). Before taking him in, have water and hay available and have the stall bedded.
  • After the horse has settled in a bit, and had some hay and treats while in his stall, lead him around the area a bit and let him get used to the new surroundings. While he is walking around, a little neighing is okay as he will definitely be nervous, but make sure he is still paying attention to you. Be kind and firm with him, and give him plenty of space to see everything around him.
  • If a stall is not available at your show, make sure you keep your horse in a quieter area with plenty of space. Make sure he’s not cramped in as this will lead to more nerves.
  • If you are planning to ride your horse, lunge him in an area with other horses so he feels safe. If your horse is not safe on the lunge at home, do not lunge at the show – you do not want to endanger yourself or other people or horses if you are not able to control him at home. If you stay overnight, lunge him the next day by himself.
  • Be ready for him to spook at anything, anytime. Lead him around the show area again and realize that he may spook at things you cannot even see. Be prepared for anything.
  • Carry treats with you and give your horse lots of love. Acting as normally as possible, including doing things you would normally do at home with him around such as mucking out his stall and brushing, will help him feel more comfortable.
  • Make sure to reward him whenever he acts bravely and appropriately.
  • If needed, lavender oil can help calm your horse. However, make sure you do not use too much.
Following these tips can help your horse be more calm at his first horse show. If he does happen to react and become very nervous, having a plan in place will help keep you both calm and in control.
Image courtesy of DanDee Shots

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Since a horse show is a competition that shows how well-trained you and your horse are, it’s important to train and practice every day. One thing you must remember if you are going to compete is that training is expensive, both in terms of money and time. But if you are willing to put forth the effort, you can find great success.

In order to compete, a horse does not need the same level of training as a top level dressage horse. But good training is still needed. Your horse should be able to to respond to your aids and commands quickly. He should not get overly excited or bad-tempered, but should respond kindly and work in a nice outline. During your training, the horse should be taught to be balanced, straight and supple in each of the paces as they will all be tested during a competition.

Another main area you will want to work on in your training is keeping your horse calm and collected during a show. The horse show environment can sometimes be a noisy and overwhelming place for a horse. You can prepare your horse for this environment in a number of ways. Take your horse to smaller events, such as local shows, cross country events, or pony club meetings to get used to being around other horses and people, and get used to the sounds of competition. Playing the radio in the stable at home can also help your horse become used to other noises. Place “scary-looking” objects, at least ones that may be scary to your horse, around your practice area can help them become used to seeing new and different objects that may be seen at the show. Also, getting your horse used to being around children and other animals will help keep them from being scared as they meet new faces.

Keeping your horse calm and collected is an important part of horse shows as a nervous, anxious and scared horse will not perform well. Making sure you practice as much as possible at the level you and your horse are comfortable at is important as well. With a lot of practice and work, your horse will be ready for shows.

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Show horses are expected to be trimmed and plaited for competition to look their best. Doing so helps to create a sharp, streamlined appearance that is ideal for shows. Here are some tips to help you make sure your horse looks its best in the show ring.

Grooming: It’s best to start grooming early to give yourself plenty of time to get the horse looking its best. A sleek, short, glossy coat is best because a horse’s coat reflects the attention he is receiving, both from what he is being fed (to make sure it’s top notch), and how much grooming he receives. Make sure you are feeding your horse the best diet possible and brush religiously. Brushing his coat will stimulate natural oils that help his coat look shiny.

Trimming and Clipping: When trimming your horse, it’s usually best and easiest to use electric clippers. The areas that are typically trimmed are: the legs, trimming the “feathers” that form at the fetlock, which is the bulb at the bottom of a horse’s leg; the bridle path, which is the area of the mane right behind the ears; ears; muzzle; and any long eye whiskers. Take great care when clipping so you do not injure your horse, especially around the eye area. Using a size 10 or 15 blade for the legs will produce a great trim, while using a size 30 or 40 blade for the face will provide a close shave. Take care when using a blade that produces such a close shave, especially on the face. You may want to practice quite a few times before trimming for a show to fully get the hang of it.

Blanketing: Some shows do occur in colder weather, so it is important to blanket your horse. Blanketing your horse will prevent him from getting a long, furry coat that you will need to trim before a competition. It is also important that if you set up a blanketing regimen, you do not stray from it. If you have been blanketing your horse for some time and decide one day not to do it, it can make your horse sick. Make sure you have multiple blankets to rotate when one is dirty, and choose a blanket based on the temperatures in your area and whether your horse is mostly inside or outside. If it is warm enough during the day, you can take the blanket off, but make sure to brush him before putting it back on.

Bathing: The best time to bathe your horse is the day before the show. This allows natural oils in his coat to return and make his coat shiny. Most likely you will have to touch up any white legs on the day of the show. Use a gentle scrubber pad (the green, nylon kind) to clean off all the dirt from your horse’s feet. Make sure to wash your horse’s mane and tail, and apply a polish to it such as Show Sheen. When using polish on your horse, take care not to apply any to the area where the saddle will go unless you want to slide off during the competition. Put a clean, dry blanket on your horse and keep him in a clean stall until showtime.

Plaiting: Plaiting is basically braiding your horse’s mane and tail to provide a sleek look. The best time to do it is after you have bathed your horse, and it does take a long time to perfect, many times years. Manes should first be pulled and, when plaiting the mane and tail, use a thread that is as close to the color of your horse’s hair as possible. You can use rubber bands as well, but the look will not be as professional. Once you get a good handle on plaiting, it can help a horse with even the worst hair day look its best.

Image courtesy of Sister72

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There’s always the feeling of, “I’m forgetting something,” as you rush out the door to an event. And forgetting something on your way to a horse show can mean the difference between success and not doing as well as you’d like. Here is a checklist of things to remember as you head out to a horse show, both for the horse and the rider.

For the Rider

  • Shirts
  • Jacket, vest
  • Pants (jods, western pant, chaps)
  • Tie
  • Hat (derby, stetson, top hat)
  • Boots
  • Gloves
  • Lapel pin
  • Raingear
  • Earrings
  • Hair piece
  • Hair pins
  • Hair net
  • Hair products (such as gel, hairspray, etc)
  • Brushes
  • Makeup

For the Horse

Gear – Saddle Class

  • Saddle, girth
  • Bridle
  • Spurs
  • Whip (if needed)
  • Breastplate (if needed)

Gear – Driving Class

  • Bridle
  • Harness
  • Whip
  • Buggy

Tack Room Gear

  • Horse blankets (scrim, show, cooler)
  • Brushes
  • Towels
  • Vaccuum
  • Hoof pick
  • Hoof Black
  • Clippers
  • Twitch
  • Bug spray
  • Sandpaper
  • Baby oil
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Show sheen
  • Cross ties
  • Steel wool
  • Krylon
  • Lunge line
  • Lunge whip
  • Mirror
  • Electrical ties
  • Bridle Racks
  • Saddle Rack
  • Screw eyes & double ended snaps
  • Screw eyes, nails & clips to hang things
  • Necksweat
  • Extension cords
  • Hammer
  • Screwdriver
  • Staple gun & staples
  • Fans with bunge cords
  • Flashlight
  • Tackroom stall lights
  • Shovel
  • Pliers
  • Chairs
  • Table
  • Scissors
  • Duct tape
  • Halter (leather or nylon)
  • Leads (leather or nylon)
  • Broom
  • Grain scoop
  • Manure bucket
  • Manure fork
  • Water hose
  • Drapes
  • Hay
  • Grain
  • Vitamins or supplements
  • Buckets (water, feed)
  • Rubber mats
  • First Aid kit
  • Horse emergency kit (includes: Bute, Bedadine Scrub, Mineral Oil, vet wrap, leg wraps, ointment for cuts

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Like all of us, horses have flaws – but there are things you can do when preparing him for a horse show to deter attention away and put the focus on his good points.

Using cosmetics is a popular way of enhancing your horse’s features. You can use petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) around the eyes and muzzle. This helps draw attention to the area. There is also black makeup made just for horses that you can use in these areas, as well as inside the ears. This sets off these areas and helps your horse look its best. It does, however, take some practice to perfect, so make sure you practice a few times before the show.

If your horse has any scars or imperfections on its body, there is horse makeup available in a variety of colors that can be used to cover up these marks. For the entire coat, a sheen spray, such as Show Sheen, can be used to make the coat shinier.

If there are any white socks or areas on your horse’s legs, using some chalk powder can help to enhance them. Also, when you wash your horse, which you definitely want to do at least a few days before the competition, use conditioner on your horse’s tail, especially if it is looking thin. But the best things you can do are regular brushing and grooming, especially the day before the show, as well as giving your horse a bath the day before or a few days before.

Following these tips and tricks will help your horse get noticed for all the right reasons, and can help you find success in your competition.

Image courtesy of DanDee Shots

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As we’re getting back into the swing of things now that the weather is warmer, many horse owners are looking at training and spending more time with their horses. Just like you, me, and every other person on this planet, horses have different moods, and they tend to vary from day to day. Did you know that your horse’s eyes can reveal a lot about how they are feeling, and their personality?

When you look your horse in the eye, which is an important part of training, what do you notice? Does your horse have a kind eye? That can indicate that the horse is agreeable and responds to you while training. Or does your horse appear nervous or worried? He may need a more gentle and thoughtful handling than a different horse.

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and a horse’s are no different. They are very expressive, and given the right amount of attention, you’ll always know where your horse stands and how he’s feeling. And when you are training, they can give you valuable insight into the horse’s personality and how much work it will take to train your horse.

While you are training your horse, keeping eye contact with him is essential. Not only are you observing your horse, but he is observing you and his surroundings as well. Keeping the line of communication open through the eyes will help you establish who is in control of the situation (you), and lets you know what your horse may be thinking as he takes in his surroundings.

And keep in mind the proverb that says never to trust a horse that shows the whites of his eyes. This is most likely an indication of fear or even cunning, and this horse may charge or behave inappropriately if given the chance.

Getting to know your horse through his eyes is valuable in establishing and maintaining your relationship with him. Make sure to establish this habit to get to know your horse as fully as possible.

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