Danielle Tursky is very familiar with the horse show process as she takes in off the track Thoroughbreds and retrains them for a second career. We are thrilled to have her share some of her tips with us on how to have a successful horse show!
Tips for a Successful Horse Show
As a three day eventer, I basically think about what my next show will be like the second I am home from my last one! We have worked up to keeping separate show equipment that stays in the trailer. Of course, we still have to clean and pack tack (Honey, can’t I have a show saddle?? And a show bridle??).
As for conditioning the horses to be at their peak fitness, mentally and physically I do a lot of dressage work offset by riding in the fields or trails. If you are not able to get out in open fields, ride around in the pastures! Getting out and galloping makes a horse very happy, especially the OTTBs! It improves your fitness and theirs, and makes your cross country ride much easier! You will have less fatigue and less battles with speed (whether it be your idea or theirs… you have more time to bond by working these matters over at home!) I do stadium only 1 time per week on my seasoned horses and 2 at the most on the young ones. They don’t need to be jumped every day to prove anything. It adds more stress to the tendons and bones and you risk over facing your mount. Start the week by doing a gymnastic or something your horse likes to do while working on technique. Give it a few days and work on something more intricate to develop new skills. Your horse will appreciate you when you make his job fun (while learning!).
• 6 WEEKS BEFORE, Start supplementing for a healthier skin and coat. Make sure the supplements you choose do not show up on a drug test (valerian root tests positive!)
• 5 WEEKS BEFORE, Protect your horses coat from bleaching sun damage. Choose a fly sheet with UV protection.
• 4 WEEKS BEFORE, Know your test and practice your transitions and geometry. Better yet get your horse to memorize the test to avoid errors.
• Within the month leading up to the event, we make a point to find a schooling show or get a cross country schooling in to prep the horses for the big event. Anything off property will help your cause! If you can only get to the neighbor’s pond, go! Practice your waters!!! Your horse needs to mentally focus and get excited as much as you do!
• 2 WEEKS BEFORE, Save yourself some last minute stress and clip with plenty of time to let the hair blend for those of us with artistic tendencies while clipping. Then, a quick pre-show touch-up is all you will need.
• 2 DAYS BEFORE: Wash show clothes and polish up tack and boots! Start packing for tomorrow. Triple check everything!
• Double check everything again to make sure that you are ready to hit the road!
• Pack your dressage saddle early – get in a good gallop or trail ride before you head out. The horses will be stuck in a trailer breathing in highway winds for however many hours to show up to a showgrounds where you school and warm up dressage. Show them you love them by getting out in the open and relaxing.
THE DAY BEFORE
• Touch up your trim before you bathe. Clippers work better on dry hair.
• Ride on the show grounds – walk your horse around all the arenas, the schooling area, anywhere that is not roped off.
• Bathe after your ride!
• Once your horse is dry, give him a final once over with a clean towel or brush. Then blanket him so he does not get dirty. For hot summer days, use a fly sheet and not a blanket.
THE BIG DAY!
• Arrive at the barn bright and early. Wash out any overnight stains so your horse has plenty of time to dry while you braid, or braid the night before if your test/class is early.
• Start Braiding at least 2 hours before you get on to ride
• Get yourself ready with ample time to tack up, unless your groom/parent is simultaneously readying your horse!
• Warm up time! It is essential to know how long your horse needs to warm up before your test/class. If you overdo the warm up, your horse loses focus and energy for a peak performance. If you skimp on warm up you will have a tense and rushed looking ride. Make sure you try your timing at home and then pay attention to how your horse responds at the show. You will get the hang of it over time!
• I keep a journal of all the events I go to and write down the PROs and CONs of each place and what the warm up is like. It’s best to write everything down so you know if and when you come back, what worked and what didn’t!
• Drink lots of water! Make sure to eat breakfast! Once those nerves kick in, you won’t be thinking about food, but your stomach will need it when the adrenaline wears off!
Second Chance Thoroughbreds was founded on a dream of Danielle Durette Tursky’s. They have a special passion for the breed here at SCT. Their goal is to take in the racing duds and give them an opportunity to learn a new career, and while they specialize in eventing, they will cater to each horse’s strength be it dressage, hunter/jumper, even trail riding. They give them a new focus, away from the busy routine of racing to a more relaxed atmosphere. They have time to learn to be a horse again, turned out to pasture, while being handled on a regular basis. These horses are restarted from groundwork to riding and even showing!