Developing a plan for show day

Candy and I made it to two schooling shows last year. We’ve been out hunting, we’ve been on plenty of trail rides, and we’ve been to lots of lessons. I’m still learning how to best set her up for success when we’re traveling, and I’m working on developing a plan for show days. We kick off show season this Saturday, and while I’m waiting for ride times to be posted, I’m thinking about what our plan for the day should look like.

  • Feeding: Unless I’m leaving SUPER early in the morning, I like to feed my horses their normal amount of grain before we go anywhere. Saturday’s show will probably see our group pulling out of the driveway around 7 AM, so I can feed my horses a little earlier than usual. I always take more hay than I think I’ll need to shows. Candy has previously eaten well at shows and hunts, so I like to have plenty to refill her bag throughout the day. She’s a good drinker, too!
“am so hungry after jigging forever”
  • Stabling: I never used to get a stall at shows- I thought of them as an added expense I didn’t need. That was true when I was showing Moe. I could count on him to stay contentedly tied to the trailer with his nose buried in a hay bag. Gina was way less reliable. She’d frequently spook and pull back, breaking her halter and/or lead rope. She’d weave at the trailer. She’d scream for other horses. I finally decided the stabling fee was worth my sanity and began to pony up for a stall at shows that offered them. Candy’s behavior at the trailer is somewhere between Moe and Gina’s extremes, but I like getting her a stall so I don’t have to worry about what she’s doing.
I had serious concerns she would try to jump out of this stall window.
  • Pre-warm-up: Candy seems to do better at lessons and in everyday rides where I tack her up and give her some time to stand around before getting on. At home, this means I tack her up in my barn, lead her over to my neighbor’s arena, and spend ten minutes chatting with whoever’s over there. Candy’s much quieter and more relaxed when I do this, so at the show, I’ll plan on hanging out near the warm-up ring for a few minutes before getting on.
“HALP”
  • Warm-up:┬áThis is really where I’m still figuring out what works best for Candy. She always appreciates some time to walk around on a loose rein to take in the scenery, but if I give her too much time, she gets very nervous. (Maybe it’s sensory overload?) This weekend, I plan to let her walk a couple of laps in each direction in the warm-up arena before asking her for some mild work at the walk. We’ll progress to trotting when she feels focused and relaxed, and we’ll canter a little bit before returning to the walk. I’m going to give myself 30 minutes to ride- Candy gets tired when she’s using her body correctly and I don’t want to go down center line with her leaning on me!
  • Riding the tests: I need to memorize Training 1 and Training 2 before Saturday, because I can’t count on someone to read them for me. In the arena, I’m going to think about riding Candy quietly and not nitpicking her. I have to remember she’s still a green horse and this is just a lowkey schooling show! She is not Valegro and this is not the Olympics.

Do you have a certain way you plan your show days? Have you found a particular process that works (or totally does not work) for your horse?

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

14 thoughts on “Developing a plan for show day”

  1. It’s so different with every horse isn’t it? Sounds like you have a good plan going. That’s interesting you mention letting Candy hang out and absorb her new surroundings. Badger appreciates that too. He lets you do it on his back, but he does like to stand for a bit and see what needs seeing.
    I, like you, prefer to feed normally in the morning. I haven’t ever run into a situation where I couldn’t since I’ve been in charge of my horses’ care. I also always bring way too much hay. I just feed it when we get home if there’s extra anyway.
    Jampy always needs a lunge at a new place. He comes off the trailer like the stallion he hasn’t been for the last 7 years. Tail in the air, eye balls bulging, fire breathing… I’m not sure he’ll ever get over this. Nine times out of ten, he trots and canters for maybe 7 minutes and he’s over it. Occasionally there are antics, but not usually. He IS pretty old after all.
    Rio was a lot easier. When he was a jumper, I just threw tack on him and went on my way to my classes. No prep what-so-ever other than normal warming up stuff. Once he switched to being a hunter/eq horse, I would let him lunge for a few minutes to have the option of letting a buck out. In his older age, I think it was his way of self-adjusting the old body. It also let him warm up some without a rider which I think was great for him.

    1. Moe was like Rio- you can just throw tack on him and be on your way. For dressage, I like to give him 10 minutes of walking, 15-20 minutes of trotting and cantering, and then just let him hang out. For jumping, we’d walk/trot/canter very briefly in each direction, jump three or four jumps, and go on course. He is such a reliable horse, and it’s totally spoiled me! I have a hard time cutting the mares any slack about their behavior, haha!

  2. Sounds solid to me! My approach is similar to yours – keeping it simple and as close to “normal operating procedures” as possible, while adapting to meet my horses needs as we gain more experience. Hope you guys have a blast this weekend!!!

    1. Yes, I like to keep it as normal and lowkey as possible! Candy is so anxious to begin with that I don’t need to wind her up any more than she already is!

  3. I looooooooove getting a stall at the show. Like you, I used to be like “no way that’s expensive!” but that’s because my QH would stand for 12 hours and never complain. Simon is a different story. Having a stall makes the entire experience much more pleasant for me!

    1. oh man, stabling has changed my life, especially at shows like the one I’m going to this weekend. Candy’s hitching a ride in Space Trailer with my neighbor, which means we’ll leave early and be there late because she has something like half a dozen students going. It’s so nice to just stick her in a stall when I’m on helping-the-barn-children duty.

  4. I’m both excited and anxious to see what I need to do for Opie this year. Bobby was a lot like Moe–tie him to the trailer and you were set for the rest of eternity. I have a feeling I’m not going to get anything like that with this kid.

    1. I keep hoping that one day Candy will like…mature and get through a travel trip without having a panic attack? Going hunting helps, since she has to hang out at the trailer while I eat and socialize because there are no stalls. I just need to take her hunting 230498 more times! Maybe.

  5. And this is why showing is not that enjoyable for me. I start getting the shakes just thinking about prepping for it! Candy does seem to be particular about her, uh, methods. lol So it’s wise of you to plan ahead!

    I’m so happy for you that the weather will finally be nice!!

    1. Candy has so many needs lol! I am excited about nice weather! I’ll be in your neck of the woods at Valley View in Stillwater, so come say hi if you’re looking for something to do!

  6. I like to walk around on a long rein for a while too. Luckily for me, Murray only gets more relaxed during this, he doesn’t wind himself up more. This also means i can get on really early for my ride and calm my fears about being late in the show ring!!

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