Competing in horse shows can be stressful for both you and your horse. Trailering, changes in routine and exposure to new environments are all major stressors for horses.

But with a little planning, you will feel more confident heading into the ring and be able to focus on performing and having fun.

In preparation for show day, give your horse ample opportunities to practice loading onto the trailer and travelling to new locations. This will help your horse arrive at your competition in a calmer state.

Practice, visualization, warm-ups, video and detailed packing checklists can also help you plan better for your next show.

Below are 14 tried and true tips from an FEI dressage coach and trainer to help de-stress your show days for both you and your horse.

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14 Tips for a Successful Show

1) Practice Loading your Horse

Whether you are heading to a dressage show for the weekend or loading at the crack of dawn for an 8 AM class, a horse that doesn’t load easily and reliably adds real pressure to the day.

On horse show weekends, you are always working on someone else’s schedule.  This can include your shipper, your ride time or your coach’s time. Whatever the case may be, a loading issue will make you and your horse feel stressed.

Stressed horses are at higher risk of injury during transport. Stress during trailering and competition also increases the risk of gut health issues, such as colic and ulcers. [1]

By training your horse to load and travel with ease, you can avoid this being the worst part of your day and minimize stress. [2]

2) Take your Horse Off Property to School

You don’t want to find out how your horse responds to new places and experiences for the first time on a show day. Give your horse lots of experience with being in new locations to help you feel more comfortable at competitions.

Start with small outings – especially if your horse is young, inexperienced or new to you. Your first trips need to have good outcomes so that your horse has a positive association with trailering.

Once you have sufficiently practiced loading and your horse is comfortable being enclosed in the trailer, take your horse for a short trip around the block.

After your trip, give your horse time to relax in a calm, familiar environment. Give them free-choice access to appropriate forages and provides electrolytes to address any dehydration that may have occurred during the trip.

The next step is to trailer them to a nearby farm.  Walk them around the property and let them graze. Bring plenty of treats to make this a relaxed and happy experience for your horse.

Ideally, take your horse on several outings and slowly introduce new experiences such as asking them to work at a new location. If all goes well you can practice your tests away from home.

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