If you ride dressage or jump with your horse, it is sometimes quite fun to go to a competition. At least, for you as a rider or amazon. Competitions are a good opportunity to check where you stand in training and to compete against other combinations. But does your horse really like it? And what can you do to make the experience as positive as possible for him? A few tips and tricks, even if your horse may not like it much yet.
Before you go on a competition, it is important that your horse can deal with everything that will come at him. In other words: your horse must be sufficiently resilient. There are several things you can do to increase the chance that your horse can mentally handle a competition. First, make sure everything isn’t strange to him. Do you ever braid your horse more often? Practice that once and then ride in your own trusted arena. Without stress. Also make sure that other actions in preparation for a competition are normal, such as washing the tail or shaving the legs. Loading a trailer and being transported in the trailer can also be practiced separately. Just ride around the neighborhood and unload your horse at home. Many horses find the trailer exciting at first because they associate it with moving and end up in totally strange circumstances. If the trailer is no longer scary and your horse knows that he is coming home, it saves stress, even when you go to a competition. In addition, practice riding on foreign terrain. Rent a arena somewhere and ride there. Or take lessons in foreign territory. Only when your horse can be ridden on foreign terrain, you can start thinking about competitions. It is also useful if you practice reading and riding the test. Some horses are startled by screaming readers. You can also choose to ride the test by heart. Groundwork can also help your horse to deal with exciting situations. Tristan Tucker’s method is suitable for this, for example, but other groundwork exercises also help your horse to keep to himself, by breathing and relaxing his muscles. You can also do these exercises before getting on your horse in foreign terrain.
Prepare yourself well
When you go to a competition, there is always some tension involved. That is almost inevitable. In any case, make sure you are on time with everything. And that your horse is not standing in the stable for hours to be braided and pimped and therefore has to pee enormously, has not eaten hay for hours and is completely out of rhythm. Try to keep the changes to the normal pattern as small as possible for your horse and make sure he gets plenty of rest and roughage in the hours before the competition. Make your own preparations elsewhere and don’t bother your horse with it. Especially not if you’re a bit nervous yourself. Go somewhere else to clean your things and don’t hang around with your horse endlessly excitedly chatting. You don’t have to do it all right before the game, of course. Shaving legs, trimming the beard and removing the hair from the ears is fine one or two days in advance. Just like cleaning your saddle and bridle.
The human factor
Are you nervous or very ambitious yourself? Both the rider’s nerves and the ambition to ride as well as possible feel to your horse as tension for the rider. And your horse takes over that tension. He doesn’t understand that you just want to do the best you can, or find it exciting that there are people judging you. They only think: there is something different about my rider, it is exciting, there is danger. And then they become grumpy, jumpy or shut themselves off from the aids. For example, many people pull on their thighs, arch their backs or tighten their arms when they want to sit ‘neatly’ in front of the jury. Do not! Just try to relax and move with your horse, then he will react much more ‘normally’. Tell yourself that you are not competing to perform at your best. You are there to guide your horse and ensure that he can show himself as optimally as possible. The best way to do this is to reassure him, not to “carry” any mistakes in your mind to your next exercise and to keep riding relaxed. If it really doesn’t go well, say goodbye in your first test or round and ask the judges if you can stay in the arena for a little longer to practice that scary corner or jump one more hurdle for confidence. Then you can close it calmly and you may be able to perform better in the second test.
Extra support with supplements
Supplements can additionally help to get your horse better through the competition day. First of all, keep in mind that your horse uses extra magnesium with greater physical exertion and for exciting situations. This mineral is important for both the muscles and the nervous system. Therefore, make sure that there is sufficient magnesium in an easily absorbable form in the ration and give a little extra in the days around the competition. Then your horse will get less muscle pain and less stress. For exciting situations you can also use a liquid herbal supplement, such as monk pepper, passion flower and chamomile. You start with this extract 48 hours in advance and give it up to and including the day of the competition. The herbs ensure that your horse is less stressed, without sedating him or making him less alert. Always make sure that the supplement is guaranteed doping-free!