The competition season is well and truly underway. Some have a full schedule with competitions every one to two weeks, some have it less strenuous. Competitions, while fun and rewarding, are draining. For you, your horse, your support team not to mention your wallet! How can you best take care of your horse?
Travel is draining for your horse, just like exercising. Not only do the muscles work harder to stabilise the body during transport, the heart rate increases, breathing rate and temperature also increase. Stress hormones are also released. Sometimes upon arrival at a competition your horse is highly strung or completely exhausted.
Tip 1 - Upon arrival either at the competition or again at home, walk your horse for a good 10-15 minutes. Afterwards offer hay and water. Walking relaxes, familiarises and helps the blood flow remove the by-products of the trip. Eating hay and drinking water are important for replenishing lost energy reserves.
The day of the competition involves a lot more exercise than a normal training session. That means that with the travel to and fro, warming up and competing in different event categories, your horse has exerted more energy.
Tip 2 - Your horse may be sore the next day. It is important on this day to do light work. I recommend a 10 minute walking warm-up, 5 minutes of trot and canter on a loose rein interspersed with walking for 3 minutes. Repeat two to three times. Finish with 10 minutes cool down at the walk.
Reward your horse! Regular massage during the competition season helps maintain healthy muscle function. Tension caused by attending competitions cause blockages in the muscles. These can quickly escalate and affect performance. When you incorporate regular massage as part of the routine, you keep your horse performing optimally.
Tip 3 - The competition season is long. In order to keep your horse fit and sound I recommend a massage at least every month. Or better, learn yourself! After a couple of massages you will recognise the best time to arrange this for your horse so that his best performance is on the day of the competition.
Keep in mind also that your horse will need more food during competitions. To avoid other problems, good quality hay is what i recommend and a fresh supply of water. Also remember to adequately cool down to avoid stiffness in the muscles.
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