The Winter Horse Show Survival Guide
While a lot of riders look forward to the Florida circuits when the weather gets cold, many of us "winter warriors" stay in the north and travel around for the winter A-circuit. Riding will always be fun, but in sub-twenty degrees it can be hard to motivate yourself to ride and especially hard to stay positive at winter shows. I can sympathize with this feeling. As a rider who wants to qualify for Indoors in the Junior Hunters, it can be pretty difficult if you do not travel to Florida for the full circuit. To get a head start on the season, I stay north for most of my winter. To help myself persevere in less than ideal weather conditions, I have created the winter horse show survival guide.
1. How to Pack for The Rider
This may seem obvious, but I cannot express how many times I thought I had packed enough clothes, but by ten in the morning I was shivering. The key is to not only dress warmly, but to dress smartly. The first tip is to wear a base layer underneath your show shirt because chances are your show shirt is made for ninety-degree weather not twenty. Bring an extra base layer as well because after you ride in the ring before the show chances are you will be hot, sweaty and gross. This rule of extras can also be applied to socks and jackets. If it gets wet, replace it as soon as possible. Another tip is to pack your homework (or just regular work if you’re an amateur). At winter horse shows you can’t kill time by shopping or watching the big jumpers. It is one ring and a small heated office or viewing room. Bringing work will not only lessen your stress for tasks you have to do after the show, but will keep your mind off nervous energy and the cold.
2. How to Pack for the Horse
Packing for your horse is just as crucial - if not more so - than packing for yourself. The key is less is more. Try to fit everything you need, and nothing more, into a rolling Husky trunk for easy set-up. What should you be packing in the Husky trunk? Make sure you have everything you would usually need for a horse show: tack, lunging equipment, wraps and whatever else you may need. Make sure you pack two wool coolers per horse so that they can also stay warm before and after your rounds. I personally like using a Back On Track sheet and a wool cooler. Another tip is to keep your bridles in the car and not your trunk. Not only does this save space in your trunk, but it also keeps the bit warm for your horse. Another way to save space and limit carrying heavy objects from your trailer to stalls is to pre-make your horses meals before you leave (if it is an overnight show). This will save you from lugging heavy grain bags around the show.
3. Plan Extra Shows
Whether you are trying to qualify for Medal/Maclay, Junior Hunters or state or regional finals you have probably heard the saying, “better to qualify early”, and they are right! Better to qualify with people in your peer group then wait to compete against the riders who have just returned from Florida. Unfortunately, winter weather is pretty unpredictable. Making a plan with extra horse shows in the beginning of the winter season gives you options if it snows or is too cold. Organizing your horse shows will also hopefully help you show during the warmer winter months and be able to have down time during the coldest months.
4. Make Friends
Winter horse shows can sometimes get a bit boring because usually the whole barn does not venture out in the subpar conditions, so many times it will just be you, your trainer and maybe a few other die-hard riders. An experience I have had going to consistent winter shows series is I tend to see similar people. Consistently seeing the same people means you can start to make new friends while waiting for the jog or test. Having friends you don’t see other than at the winter horse shows gives you something to look forward to at your next show, even if it is still snowing outside.
5. Stay Fit
The last tip in my survival guide is to stay fit. At winter horse shows your rounds will probably go closer together and you will have less time to catch your breath between rounds. The only way to make sure you are ready for your next trip as soon as you finish your previous trip is to make, and execute, a workout routine. I personally try to do some sort of physical activity outside of riding every single day, whether it be a hard strength-based gym day, cardio on the treadmill or just a quick yoga routine. Doing something every single day makes it harder to break your routine and keeps you fit. Depending on your schedule, you may not be able to fit in gym time every day but even doing fifty crunches followed by a quick stretching routine can help! To give me inspiration for my workouts I like to use the Equitation Bootcamp from The Fit Equestrian. I find this program has helped both my equitation and endurance in the saddle.
While winter horse show conditions can be challenging, I find that these tips and tricks have really helped me and I hope they can help you as well. I wish you all luck in your riding endeavors - whether you are a “Winter Warrior”, with the palm trees in WEF or waiting for warmer weather!
TFE Ambassador Eva Mazzola