By: Dr. Mike Guerini (www.dunmovinranch.com)
You have just finished your class at the horse show. You pat your horse on the neck as a sign of appreciation for the nice job. Your horse is tired. You are tired. Your mind is running a thousand thoughts through your head about what you could and should have done differently (or if you did not agree with the class placements, you wonder if the judge missed how spectacular you and your horse were in the class).
You loosen the cinch just a bit on your horse and proceed to the barn or trailer to unsaddle and pack up for the day or prep for the next class. Along the way you stop and chat with your friend about the next show…or you celebrate your win with a few high five’s.
Are you making a mistake following the above routine? — The answer is Probably YES and if you do this all the time – MOST DEFINITELY YES!
Why are you making a mistake is the question you should be asking by now.
Your error comes in thinking you and your horse are finished with that class and there is no immediate homework. Sorry folks but life is filled with homework and if you do not study what you did and set yourself up for the next success — you will be stuck performing at the same level — or worse, you will see a decline in how you and your horse perform after each show.
A short story here for you all. A horseperson called me a few months back to describe how her horse was acting up at the shows. She mentioned that the horse was getting more and more anxious at each show and seemed to be anticipating every single minute of the entire show day. This horse was normally calm at home but at the show it was getting hard to deal with. The person wanted to know if I thought the horse was past its prime for showing and needed to be retired. I asked her to describe her normal horse show routine. She described what 85% of all show people do after their class – nothing to prepare herself or the horse for the next success. Since that time we have solved this issue and I want to share with you how we set her and her horse up for success.
How to set you and your horse up for Success at the next show – while still at the current show:
A) Take notes or give yourself a voice memo in your phone as soon as you can after your class/test. Your memory is great for 5 minutes after the class, but 1 hour later and you will not recall how to describe that feel or issue you had in the class. Preparation for the next class/test begins immediately after finishing the current class.
B) Take your horse back to the warm-up arena. You heard me – get back to the warm-up arena (which in my world should also be called the cool down arena). PLEASE NOTE – I am not saying that you go back and lope circles or do a vigorous warm-up. I am also not advocating that you go back and immediately begin working on issues and training your horse.
- Re-establish Relaxation and Rhythm with your horse. This is very important. Many show issues and anxious horses come from not having a guided process that gets the horse back into rhythm and relaxation and harmony after the test/class/performance. If you abandon Rhythm and Relaxation after your class/test/performance – you are failing your horse.
- At the walk, move your horse to help him/her flex joints to promote circulation and movement. If you want to still be riding your horse and competing when the horse is 15+ years old, then take care of it by using a process to promote recovery. Great athletes always make certain to have a cool down routine that promotes rapid recovery of your body….works for people and most certainly this works for horses.
We all get busy at the show, sometimes (or may times) have multiple horses to show but we need to make sure we take the time to make things right for our horse. Follow these above suggestions and you will be setting yourself up for many future successes in the arena.
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Dr. Mike Guerini is a clinician, author of multiple Horsemanship books, co-inventor of the Equine Hydro-T and specializes in western performance based instruction and you can learn more about Dr. Mike and his 6 C’s of Horsemanship at www.dunmovinranch.com. Dr. Mike is also part of Coach’s Corral (www.coachscorral.com), an online Horsemanship Coaching program that specializes in video coaching and the 5 Ride Program. Dun Movin Ranch is also home to the Equine Hydro-T (www.hydrot.com).