Where #SeriousHorsePeople come to better understand digestive health in horses and its impact and management.

Tips for Reducing Horse Show Stress

Heading off to a horse show is stressful, whether you are the horse or the rider, and whether you do it all the time or just once in a while. Stress comes from the travel, the change of schedule, the competition, and more. Not only can this stress affect your performance, it can lead to health concerns for your horse.

Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to prepare your horse for the stress of showing. It all comes down to just one thing: routine.

How Stress Affects Your Horse’s Digestive Health

While stress doesn’t directly cause digestive problems like ulcers and colic in horses, it can affect your horse’s behavior and eating habits. The stress of travel or excitement of a show atmosphere often keeps your horse from eating and drinking enough – both of which can have a serious impact on the equine digestive tract:

  • Not enough water can increase risk for impaction colic
  • Not enough food, especially hay, can disrupt the digestive process and lead to digestive imbalance, ulcers, and colic

Prepare Your Horse To Handle Horse Show Stress

The key to keeping your horse relaxed and its appetite normal at a show is to create a routine at home and stick to it at the show. If the travel, noise, excitement, and general stimuli at the show are “routine” for you horse, it is less likely to get stressed.

Here are some tips that work well for our horses at Freedom Farm when we head off to shows.

Reducing Travel Stress

The more comfortable your horse is with trailering, the less likely it is he will get stressed.

  1. Offer water every 3 hours during travel
  2. Use protective wraps on horse’s legs
  3. If it’s hot, leave at a time of day when the sun is coming up or going down
  4. Provide a hay bag (sometimes wet hay)
  5. Fly spray horses during hot buggy months
  6. Bed with at least 3 inches of shavings – cushion and less slippery
  7. If the horse has never hauled, practice loading and unloading ahead of time and go on short drives
  8. Trailer with a more experienced horse

Settling In at the Show Grounds

Acclimate your horse to the new atmosphere carefully so that he gets comfortable and can go on with “business as usual.”

  1. Maintain the same feed and care schedule and routine at the show as at home
  2. Stall your horses next to a buddy if possible
  3. Use the same tack and equipment
  4. Take your horse to the stall first and give him some time to settle
  5. Hand walk your horse around the show grounds and let them get used to the sights, sounds, and smells
  6. Hand walk your horse in the show pen before riding in it

Prepare for the Show Ring

Practice with distractions at home so your horse will be prepared to focus in the show ring.

  1. Prepare your horse to handle the new, busy atmosphere by going to clinics, taking group lessons, or taking your horse to shows just to ride before you try to compete.
  2. Walk in the show pen yourself first and get a sense of confidence on your own feet before you get on your horse.
  3. Use the same tacking and warm-up routine as at home.
  4. Put signs up on your ring at home, umbrellas, and other strange objects and people to prepare them for the weird things they’ll see at the show.
  5. Practice in your show gear or something similar. (For saddle seat we ride with a towel in our pocket to get horses used to the feel of the long coat.)
  6. Practice clipping, braiding, and face glaze at home so they are used to the feel of them.
  7. Use cameras with flashes at home, walk horses through mud puddles, and generally prepare them to handle common show situations.

Remember: a horse that feels great will perform its best in the show ring!

Leave a Comment:

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Related Articles:

Systemic Inflammation and the Equine Gut

Equine researchers are paying more attention to systemic (bodywide) inflammation in horses and its impact on their health and performance. Why? Systemic inflammation affects the entire body and can contribute to various health problems, including […]

How Stress Affects the Horse’s Gut and Immune System

If you work with performance horses, you know the high demands placed on these animals. The pressures of rigorous training, regular hauling, and staying performance-ready can be intense and have physical repercussions. Do you know […]

Low-Glycemic Feed for Improved Horse Health and Performance

If you rely on complete feeds in your horse’s diet, you may be hurting their system with high-glycemic meals that cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar. Understanding what’s in your horse’s feed and how […]

Comparing SUCCEED DCP and SUCCEED VF Gut Health Supplements

A horse’s gut health can be negatively affected by management practices and the stresses of training, traveling, and competing. A healthy, comfortable horse is a happy and high-performing horse, which is why we created SUCCEED. […]

Your Horse's Blood Work & What It Means for Gut Health

As a horse owner, our equine partner’s comfort and health is our top concern. We all know the old adage, “no hoof, no horse”, but the same could be said about a horse’s GI tract. […]

The Summer Run’s Impact on a Rodeo Horse’s Gut Health

The notorious “summer run” in the world of rodeo is the most demanding time of the year for competitors and their performance horses. It’s not abnormal for rodeo athletes to travel more than 20,000 miles, […]

horses nutritional needs

FREE eBook:

Nutrition for Horses

Three factors for evaluating
your horse’s nutritional needs.