Winter presents a challenge for horse owners, particularly those of us who continue to pack up the horse trailer and travel to indoor shows when the weather turns cold. Showing in winter requires more thorough grooming due to thick coats, or more thorough blanketing due to clipped coats. Regardless of your horse’s hair, there are a few winter horse show tips things to keep in mind that will make your winter show days much easier.
Winter Horse Show Tips
- Always carry a cooler, and an anti-sweat sheet
While bringing two layers might seem like a bit much, it’s hard to predict the weather and in many show venues are in big, open fields. Not only will a wool or fleece cooler help keep your horse warm while he dries, but layering it over top of an anti-sweat sheet will help speed up the process and ensure your horse does not get a chill.
- Bring extra hay
Have extra hay ready to keep your hay bags filled. Digesting hay constantly will keep your horse warm and happy while they stand in their stalls or on the trainer, even in the chilliest weather.
- Bring extra layers of clothes for you, too.
There’s nothing worse than standing around at a show with numb toes, wishing you had brought an extra pair of socks, or warmer boots to change into when your divisions were done for the day.
- Pack hand/toe warmers
Toe warmers and hand warmers are not just useful for keeping yourself warm in cold weather, but they also make fantastic bit warmers, too!
- Water is important
Make sure your horse is drinking water – oftentimes in colder weather, horses don’t want to drink as much. It is very important to keep encouraging them to drink. Sometimes warmer water will help, so if your horse does like warm water, you can bring an electric kettle or find hot water in the show barn to mix in.
- Support your horse’s legs
Make sure to pack something to support your horse’s legs when trailering, after the show, and especially if you have long breaks between classes. While traditional standing wraps can work, we love our Equiflexsleeves (of course!) as a quick and easy way to add and remove support in a flash.
- Enjoy company of family and friends
Thank your trainer, and if you have friends and family there, be sure to thank them, too! It’s one thing to stand around all day at a typical “hurry up and wait” show during pleasant weather, but to stick it out through frostbitten cheeks and frozen fingers is a sure way to see how much these people care about you and your horses’ success!
Good luck this winter, and don’t get too discouraged – spring and 60-70 degree days will be here before you know it!
This past weekend at the Horse Park of New Jersey, the National Standardbred Horse Show took place to showcase the versatility of the breed. With horses ranging from under saddle pleasure horses, English show horses, Western horses, and of course driving classes, it had something for everyone. There were even divisions for “War Horses” for Standardbreds with over 100 starts or $200,000 in career earnings, as well as “Fresh Off the Track” for horses who have raced this calendar year.
We had the opportunity to follow Equiflexsleeve sponsored rider Dr. Jennifer Lowrey and her Standardbred, Striking Mystery, as they showed in classes under saddle as well as in the games division. Striking Mystery, known as Frosty around the barn, is a striking grey Standardbred that stands out from the crowd of common bays and blacks. At over 16 hands tall and 14 years old, he’s got a resume to rival his owners.
Dr. Jennifer Lowrey is, as you may have guessed from the “Dr.” in front of her name, an equine veterinarian, but it doesn’t stop there. She’s also an avid show competitor with several of her horses, included OTTBs, a warmblood, and stock horses in addition to her Standardbreds. On top of that, she is also an active licensed owner/driver/trainer with the United States Trotting Association and one of the few licensed active RUS riders in the US (where riders race Standardbreds at their race trot gait while riding them rather than driving in the race sulky). Knowing that Frosty had raced the Tuesday right before the show, we were excited to catch up with her to hear about her horse, the show, and her opinion of Equiflexsleeves.
After the show, Frosty got to enjoy a bath, a roll in his freshly bedded stall, and then the comfort of his Equiflexsleeves. He had the following day off while Jenn’s other horse showed, and then had the sleeves on to keep him from stocking up during the day in the stall after a long day showing the day prior, and they remained on for the trek home.
When asked how she liked the sleeves Dr. Lowrey said, “Equiflexsleeves did a beautiful job preventing Frosty from stocking up following the National Standardbred Horse Show and during our three hour ship home.” Not to mention how easy they were to put on – Dr. Lowrey was nice enough to let us video her with Frosty in the stall putting on the Equiflexsleeves to show how fast and easy they are to use. At just under 30 seconds a leg, that means you can have your horse done up after his classes in less than 5 minutes – much faster and easier with better, consistent support than any standing wrap can offer!
You can notice in the video the dots on Frosty’s hind legs – that’s from freeze firing, a common practice on the track with race horses (both standardbred and thoroughbred) and after retirement it’s not uncommon to see horses with these marks on their legs prone to stocking up due to poor circulation. We were thrilled to hear that Frosty’s legs were tight and comfortable following his long weekend thanks to help from Equiflexsleeves!
Thanks Dr. Jenn for sharing your story and photos of Striking Mystery with us, and we wish you the best of luck on the track and in the show ring as Frosty gets ready for his next under saddle race next week!
Last week, we posted an article about horse leg care after a jump school. Today, we’re taking the time to discuss what you should be doing before your ride – stretches and warm ups to make sure that your horse is loose, supple, and ready to begin working.
Any athlete knows that stretching prior to a workout is a good way to get your blood flowing, start to warm up your tendons and ligaments for more rigorous exercise, and to notice any stiff or sore muscles that may indicate a need to change or adjust your routine. The same goes for your horses, and if you add some simple stretches to your grooming and tacking up routine, you’ll be able to help your horse perform better, help keep him safe from tendon or ligament injuries as well as notice any stiffness or soreness that may require further attention.
Many equestrians work “carrot stretches” into their grooming routine. It’s easy to get a horse to bend their neck to their side to follow a treat. We prefer doing several on each side of the horse – one by their shoulder, one at the girth, one by the hip, and have the horse hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds.
One area of the horse that tends to get tight and block movement is the long muscle in front of their shoulder. You can stretch this muscle by lifting your horses’ hoof as if you were to pick it, and then bending their neck to the opposite side. At first, it might take an assistant to help you teach your horse, but once they understand how good the stretch feels, it will become easier to put them into this stretch.
Once your carrot and shoulder stretches are done, leg stretches are next up. First, pick up the leg and stretch it out in front of your horse. It’s easy if you cradle the fetlock in one hand and hold the hoof in the other. Then, just lean back a little and stretch the entire leg straight out. Be careful not to lift the leg too high, you just want it to be slightly bigger than a normal, engaged step would be. Hold this for up to 15 seconds before slowly releasing and setting the hoof down, and then repeat on the other side.
You can repeat a similar stretch with hind legs, and add a small circling of the leg to loosen the stifle, gaskin and hip joint. Not a big circle – just around a little bit – and be careful if your horse has any hind end issues.
Be sure to stretch yourself out, too, with some basic leg, back and arm stretches before you begin your ride.
We recently ran a contest asking our fans for their best #horseshowhacks, or smart tips and tricks to get through show days. Over here, we love using our Equiflexsleeves to save time over standing wraps – plus, they’re safer and give owners and riders peace of mind. Our fans had some great ideas, too! Thank you to everyone who submitted their tip, and we hope the post was helpful to many of you in the middle of show season. We’ve chosen our top eleven, and drew three random winners. Read through and learn some tricks to help make this show season your best one yet!
- Eileen Keller: QuikBraid works way better than human hairspray or hair gel on your own flyaways, and to help tame your hairnet, but be careful not to try to brush it out! It will only come out after a shower.
- Leslie Ann Briggle: Hang a box fan inside a rope hay net to attach it to a stall!
- Susan Jansen Auten: Use waxed upholstery thread rather than yarn for braiding – it’s easier to match colors and braids are tighter and stay in place.
- Amber Sparks: Take a rubber band and run it through itself and your short barrel reins, then over your saddle horn. Reins won’t get tight, you won’t have to lean over while you’re waiting, and the rubber band will break if it needs to. It will help keep your horses from trying to graze while waiting!
- Tammy Taylor: Stick Velcro to your trailer or barn tack room to organize and store your sport boots. Works great and prevents you from digging through bags of show gear to find the boots you need! Great tip for eventers!
- Kenzie Critterden: Use cut pieces of pool noodles for boot trees in tall boots!
- Jamie DeConcini: Bring a pocket hose for water – no need to wrestle dirty, bulky hoses and they store easily in a trailer! While they aren’t as durable as rubber hoses, they should stand up to horse show use.
- Keli Onaleaki: Corn starch or flour works great to get whites whiter before entering the ring.
- Erin Swann: Shave white socks! If they’re clipped, they are much easier to keep clean. Baby powder helps whiten them up before showing as well.
- Taylor Cronk: Pack a spray bottle with diluted bleach to spray your stalls down before making up stalls for the night. Horse shows are a popular place for infectious diseases to spread between horses.
- Kristin Covington: Use ketchup on gray or white tails to remove stains! Let it sit for ten minutes before washing it out – it works great!
Three WINNERS were chosen at random from the above. Congratulations to Kenzie Critterden, Taylor Cronk and Amber Sparks!!! Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for instructions on claiming your prize!
Many of our fans also suggested having bailing twine, zip ties, duct tape, electrical tape and large diaper pins on hand. The twine, tape and zip ties can help you fix anything, and the pins are great for broken zipper pulls or attaching your numbers. EXTRAS OF EVERYTHING will come in handy for yourself and probably others on the show grounds – extra stirrup leathers, extra reins, extra double end snaps. We don’t think it’s possible to have too many double end snaps! Baby wipes, too. They work great everything, from boots to horse faces right before entering the ring!
As so many of you reminded us, showing doesn’t have to be high pressure, and should be a good time for you, your horse, and your stablemates regardless of placings. Cassie Sprenger put it well: “Count the positives at the end of the day and learn from the mistakes”.
Have a great weekend!
Taking care of your horse’s legs is important every day, but it’s particularly important to have a good equine leg support routine to follow after jumping. Your horse works hard to get you over those fences and nail those distances, and the best way to ensure he remains sound to continue that hard work is to pay attention to his whole body, and in particular, his legs.
Make it a part of your every day grooming routine to run your hands down your horse’s legs and notice any changes – heat, swelling, and puffiness can be a sign that something isn’t right. Otherwise, if all is normal, continue on your grooming and tacking routine, and have a great ride.
It’s good to begin your post-ride care before you’re out of the saddle. Just like a good warmup is important to loosen up the horse’s muscles, a good cool down is essential to feeling how your horse is going to recover. While walking the last ten minutes of your ride, try to notice how your horse feels. Is he tighter than when he started? Are his footfalls even? Is he tired and struggling, or does he have a good amount of energy left? You want to make sure your horse isn’t working too hard in his schooling sessions, because overworking a horse can leave him more susceptible to fatigue injuries.
If all feels right to you, untack and groom your horse as you would normally. Be sure to pick your horse’s feet, and again, feel his legs for any abnormalities.
Cold hosing, or icing legs after a jump workout can help tighten up the legs and cool down any heat left over from working hard. After icing or hosing, apply an alcohol based linimint to help alleviate soreness and promote circulation to your horse’s lower legs.
Finally, spend the next two hours wrestling with pillow wraps and standing bandages, only to find that your wrap is uneven and you really should start again – just kidding! Make your post-ride routine more efficient, quicker, and safer with a set of Equiflexsleeves – the revolutionary new replacement for cumbersome and frustrating standing wraps! Just slide them on over the hoof and set them on the leg. You don’t have to worry about leaving them on too long – unlike traditional standing wraps which immobilize the fetlock joint, and trap heat, Equiflexsleeves allow for normal movement, they dissipate heat, and they allow the leg to breathe. Way more comfortable for your horse, and way more peace of mind for you!