Friday, January 15, 2010

Pre Show Pep Talk

Since the breed shows in our area are off to a bold start, I figured now was a great time to talk about all of this. With the Scottsdale show looming, the Arab industry is abuzz. Paint-O-Rama held in Tuscon had the Paint horse folks busy and the upcoming Sun Circuit Show has the Quarter Horse folks hopping' and bopping' at the moment. Grooms are making their lists and checking them twice to make sure they have everything needed to get their horses ready for what is, in their world another career defining moment. A few weeks before the show is the time to buy what you will need and make sure it is all packed.

They are also scheduling days for body clipping and planning the horses workouts around them. Clippers are hitting the shop for a 'once over', cans of coolants, lubricants and blade wash are flying off the shelves and the blades have all been sharpened... Farriers scheduled for one last shoeing, hooves are being sanded, tails blocked, joints injected, saddles cleaned, silver polished, new outfits ordered- it's chaos I tell ya!

But slow down a minute there. For the people showing on a budget, without the bottomless checkbooks, Big Name Trainers and entourage to do it all- what do you do? We aren't all made of money, and the funny thing about it- it really doesn't cost that much to do it yourself. It is also not that difficult to do it right. The resulting sense of accomplishment can be a gratifying 'high' itself.

Less is more...

If the horse is that great to begin with, there really isn't much you can, let alone need to do, to accentuate or improve on perfection. Your job is only adding the highlights.

If the breeder has done their job of producing a quality horse with good conformation, built to do the job and hardy enough to stand up to the daily work involved known as training, you're already well on your way.

With the basic diet of quality feed, the horses will have a 'glow' about them and their coat will naturally shine reflecting their good health. Proper diet will also help their hoof growth and a good farrier or trim specialist will again, only enhance that which is already there.

Even the horses promoted as Champions that you may see in the ring have their flaws. No horse out there is perfect. They may have their titles, but keep in mind, they were the horse that the judge(s) felt, was the best horse in the ring on that particular day, at that particular show. The judges job is not always an easy one either.


  1. First!!!! A healthy horse does have a beautiful glow, doesn't it? And when their eyes are calm and wise...

  2. Hi CNJ, I'm Roses friend and I follow Beyond and I am asking if it would be ok if I follow yours also. I am full of questions about horses and this was very interesting.

  3. Daisy Mae- Ask away! That's why it's here. To learn, to share, to laugh and above all to benifit the horses. They are what has brought us all together.

    There's a link to the 'Neighborhood' on the home page. Lots of info there too and no need to ask permission to follow there either. Lots of the same folks or familiar faces, and usually a Friday night party post.

  4. Oh, and if you're using the highlighter around eyes and on muzzle...LESS IS MORE! You don't want your horse to look like Tammy Faye Baker after a meltdown.

    I like new shoes about 10 days to 2 weeks before a show. Any farrier can quick a horse.

    I don't clip horses the morning of, or the day before a show if I can help it. I like how they look about 2-3 days and some a week after clipping. (Yes, in my youth I was out there at 5am, possibly still buzzed or hung-over trying to clip my horse before the show).

    Don't think about your last ride, or last error. If it is in your head you will repeat it. I try to visualize my test, or pattern or whatever in my head picture perfect before I enter the ring.

    Don't worry about your competition. Don't worry about what so and so make be thinking or saying. Make your ride. Don't ride for the 6, ride for the 10. If you ride for the top, you have a shot at it, you could have that moment of brilliance...ride for that. If you ride for the 6, being cautious you have nowhere to go but down. I'm not saying be foolhardy or unsafe...but go for it. Don't careful yourself out of a class winning ride, or a score in the 70's or above. Now if you're sitting at the top of the points and just have to have a qualifying ride to win it...that's different.

  5. Okay, so is what I posted so horrific everyone is rendered speechless?

  6. It's SO EASY to talk yourself into bungling.

    If you are one of those constant "inner dialogue" people like me (who often make very good English majors), then it might be very difficult to "throw" yourself into that standout performance.

    The old saying in jumping is "throw your heart over, and the horse will follow." That mantra got me through many classes, when it's more natural for me to thinkthinkthink every single move and cause my horse to suck back, run out, plain old stop, or ......

    After nearly a decade of voice lessons, I had a random teacher in college who got very frustrated with my overanalyzing each note.

    She said, "You KNOW all that stuff. Now open your damn mouth and SING."

    It worked....

  7. Very well put CP. The inner dialogue will kill you.

    Years ago a friend and I were at the same show. They wanted us to do something out of the ordinary we'd never done. I was starting to agonize over it. She was actually first up. I asked her what she was going to do. She said, "I'm going for it. I'll set the bar, see if you can catch me." Great competitive attitude. Has stuck with me to this day.

  8. AWESOME attitude indeed! :)

    I used to get so nervous over shows that I'd have major Crohn's flare-ups each time (which pretty much sucks if the toilets are blue port a johns in 95 degree heat), but I still loved every minute.

    My mom knew NOTHING about showing, but she was always good for a "Smile!" each time I rode by, and it was even better if Mr. Corder or Mr. Reeves was working the gate and telling us all how great we looked and how wonderful we'd do.

    Next time you're at a show and see a nervous kid, smile and compliment something, even if the horse is just super duper clean.

    (No amount of feed or Show Sheen will bring out the bloom of a coat like regular grooming will.)

    (Don't forget the fly spray or the ziploc full of wet washcloths in the cooler.)

  9. Kestrel- that is the ultimate combination in a nutshell. When the horse and rider are a true team- poetry in motion and the glow is even brighter...

    CP- inner dialogue, boy does that explain a lot. I have done that too, but more like rambling on to the horse, chattering or blabbering away up there, all the way around the ring. Horse is probably thinking "SHUT UP ALREADY!"

    I have also been known to sing our way around the ring. Sorta under my breath, but still singing to get us through it. Frosty the Snowman in the middle of summer gets some strange looks from the other side of the rail...

    HP- Your friends idea is a great way to combat the fears. We all have them at some point and have to deal with them which ever way works best for us.

  10. My old Morgan would get so hot and wound up that he'd drive both of us nuts...I found that if I breathed a tune to him he'd match the tempo, and I'd be too busy to fuss at him! He's the world's biggest ham, so loved the show ring.

  11. Finally got here to read this post. I love it !!!!
    "If the horse is that great to begin with, there really isn't much you can, let alone need to do, to accentuate or improve on perfection. Your job is only adding the highlights."


  12. Well, I always cower when HP is around:)

    well said, great post, great comments.

    (cowering again)

    Yup, bring your A game/attitude to the show.
    Or don't go. Showing should be FUN!

  13. Yay! 13th! Just so that GL can post hers...

  14. 14th.

    Thank You:)
    Just saw HP's comment on JR's blog.

    serious snorkage values there.
    Poor Elaine, indeed.

    Gawd, I have a post, I just can't FINish the dratted thing!
    Lucky for YoU:)

  15. >Next time you're at a show and see a nervous kid, smile and compliment something, even if the horse is just super duper clean.<

    Words to live by CP for sure. And it doesn't even have to be a kid!

    HP I am speechless. Laughing but speechless.
    I love the way you phrase things.

  16. I'm still appalled by the number of horses that are medicated, surgeried, injected, specially shod, etc. just so they can complete the physical breakdown that the show ring has caused in the first place. If the horse has to be medically modified to do the job it is no longer a sport involving horses, it's just a sport of who's got the best cheater vet! Injecting joints is just a way to deaden the horse's pain and cover damage enough to finish riding the joint right out from under them.
    I know, I know, sigh, there's so much money and ego involved any more that the show ring usually isn't a place to show off your beautiful healthy well trained horse and enjoy the company of other horse people. It's about winning, intimidating the competition, and riding a good horse to death. And we wonder why so many amateurs hate showing. Sad deal.

  17. Kestrel- I feel your pain on that one. Working for the vet and helping him inject joints, I had a rude awakening to just how prevalent that is in just about every discipline from 4H and Jr Rodeo up to those at the top of their game. Trust me there were times that keeping my mouth shut was the toughest thing happening in the barn!

    But I also got a look at another side of it. The owners realized they had a problem and their horse was hurting. They came to the vet for him to provide the horse some comfort and relief. At least they were doing something and something is better than nothing. To go off on them would shut them out and possibly turn them off to the whole idea of turning to someone in hopes of easing their horses pain.

    Now I can't say I approve of going out and working them into the dirt afterwards, simply because the meds are masking the issues, but there are those who do and find nothing wrong with that. I stand rather firm on the grounds of not working a horse so hard to begin with that the injections are the only option, easing them into their work and laying off before it gets to be too much. And if it does get to be too much, well then maybe the horse deserves their time off and a replacement brought in to do the job.

    And where money and having the 'best horse out there' comes into play, those people seem to have no problem thrashing and then trashing one good horse after another in hopes of getting to and staying at the top. So why go to the trouble of injecting one of them to the nth degree and showing them to death- literally- when they can stay off that horse letting them heal, while they hop on a replacement and head on down the rail?

    I guess it's true- Money doesn't equal brains or common sense.

  18. I don't have a problem at all with injecting a horse to relieve pain, but injecting joints so that the rider can get one more class or run out of them before they have to be put down makes me queasy.

    Besides, what ever happened to looking at what is breaking the horse down and modifying the root cause of the issue?

    Seems like there is so much focus on winning form that healthy form is getting left behind.

    Western pleasure horses needing major medical procedures to compete?! Huh? They goes around in a circle, walk trot canter reverse, and go to the lineup. What is soreing them up in droves is the artificial carriage and body weight demanded by judges.

    What is up with dressage horses breaking down?! And here I thought dressage was training to create a strong body and sound mind...silly me!

    Breed registries need to be held responsible for the damage they do by placing extreme and unnatural ways of going that are detrimental to the horse's well being.

    I think there is a real need for equine physical therapists!

  19. I know people that will bute a horse to run it in a gymkhana. Flat pisses me off.

    One guy had a really nice older gelding. One of those been there, done that kind of horses. He'd had some lameness issues in the past, but was doing well.

    The man's daughter would pull this old boy out of a stall or pen and just go to running him. Doing the pattern over and over. Spuring and yarding on the gelding. The gelding just took it, kept trying for the kid.

    The man comes up to me and says the old gelding is off. There was a gymkhana the next day. What did I think about just giving him some bute and running the next day. I told the guy I wouldn't do it. All the bute would do is mask the pain, and the gelding was more likely to injure himself worse.

    Guy blew me off. Buted and ran the old boy the next day. Dead lame later. I don't even know what they did with that horse.

    They came up to me a month or so later looking for another horse. They needed something young, that could go faster than the old gelding. I told them I didn't have anything and didn't know of anything.

    They brought up my Cat horse as you know, I'm just wasting her. 1D horse standing in the field herding babies. I laughed at them. There is an evil little part of me that just wanted to throw that kid up on Cat. Go ahead, stick a spur in her, yard on her mouth why don't ya.

  20. If a sport is ruining the bodies of its young participants, like HS football or reining futurities, why the hell do they even let it happen?

    It just blows me away.

    Robert Miller's essay "And they call us horse lovers" says it all.

    My current horse has high ringbone because a soulless riding instructor used him day after day after day, all day, for jumping lessons.

    If all you want to do is go fast and do stunts, get a damn dirtbike.

    I am liking working with the little Mini 4-H kids - they are in love with their ponies, and I intend to foster that mentality.

  21. I got into it with a girl on the FiSH forum last week about something like this. She has a National Champion horse and has spent all year and over $7000 in vet and shoeing just so that he can compete at Scottsdale. She stated that poor training/handling(previous owner) and poor leg confo had made the horse lame. So she had a vet come out to find out the root cause of his issues. Well, lots of money and glue on shoes later, the horse was reassesed (5 months) and he was still off and sore. They decided it was his hocks, so he was injected. The horse had quite the career before a meltdown landed him in a sale ring.

    My question to her got me flamed to no end. What was the question? Why was the horse even being shown if it took such extraordinary measures just for him to be able to do his "job"? I felt that if the horse wasn't going to be shown, such extreme measures would never have been taken to find out why the horse was lame/sore to begin with. She admitted that if he wasn't a show horse, then she wouldn't have gone to such lengths or spent that kind of money getting him sound.

    That, to me, is unacceptable. If you have to work that hard just to get a horse to "appear" sound in the ring, maybe you should just retire him. And forgive me, I'm not all that familiar with the Arab show world, but don't they use weighted shoes and pads in some of their classes? If this particular horse is being shown in classes where it's common to use them, wouldn't that just make his issues that much worse? I guess it doesn't matter just so long as you can get him to the show ring.

    Am I overreacting? Do I just not understand how it all works? I, personally, wouldn't want to put a horse that has soundness issues through the stress and physical demands of not only showing, but the training to get them there.