All horses can get tense from time to time, but some are more likely to than others. Here we look at what you can do to ensure that your competition horse doesn’t lose his cool before an event:
Investigate the cause
Sometimes the cause is obvious — pre-competition nerves or a new experience — but if not, the horse’s reaction needs investigation. As yourself is the reason your horse is upset due to pain, or a problem with his tack? Or maybe he is sensing a lack of confidence in his rider? You must also consider the horse’s personality – some like to be kept on the move at a show, while others are best left alone.
Feeding and stable toys
Your horse’s diet should be considered. If you think that food is fuelling the excess energy that may cause a horse to become frustrated or stressed, a change may help. Maybe you could try feeding a fibre and oil based feed, rather than high-starch, which is better at giving slower energy release.
Alternatively, stable toys often involve food and can be used to extend feeding times and encouraging natural foraging behaviour.
Horses are very similar to children in their liking for routine — if you want either to behave well, avoid spontaneity at all costs. For those who compete regularly this is difficult, but it will help if you stick to your usual timings and activities as far as possible. For example, you should wash and trim your horse in plenty of time — attempting to pull a mane or trim legs on the morning of a competition is bound to cause stress to your horse.
Riders might not think twice about booking a massage if they were feeling tense, but alternative therapies are still not mainstream for horses. Why not book your horse a pamper day to help him relax?
If you’ve had a good look at your horse and found no clues to why he is behaving differently, maybe it’s time to have a look at yourself. Many behavioural problems may begin when the rider is frightened. A little thought and organisation can mean the difference between a disaster and an excellent performance.
When you’re at home, you still want your horse listening and learning, so keep exercise in line with feeding, try to stick to your usual routine and, above all, don’t lose your cool and expect the horse to keep his.
Now that you are feeling cool, calm and collected, why not search www.equoevents.co.uk and see the variety of upcoming events on offer. Alternatively Equo has a wide range of training clinics that may help you and your horse to overcome any problems.