Horse show season is well underway and trainers, owners, and the horses have a busy few months ahead of them. For humans it’s sleepless nights spent in cramped hotel rooms, eating whatever someone brings them, and fifteen trips to Home Depot because they can never find the black electrical tape. The horses can look forward to thousands of miles on the trailer and a new stall to rest in every weekend. Show season can certainly take its toll on humans and horses alike, the thing that everyone looked forward to throughout the cold winter months becoming more of an exhausting obligation as the season wears on.
At the end of each show, the trailers get packed, horses loaded and weary humans travel back home to hopefully get a day’s rest before starting it all over again. Taking some time off, even if it’s only a couple of hours, during the long summer months can really help to keep your mind and body fresh, and it can do the same for your four-legged athletes.
Get me off the farm!
Fortunately for horse people, the best time to work horses during the hot summer months is early in the morning. With the sun setting later and later, that leaves plenty of daylight hours to go do something fun in the early evening, even if it’s the middle of the week. Something as simple as going out to dinner or catching a local baseball game can really help to break up the monotony of the daily grind during show season.
Groupon and Living Social are great places to start when looking for fun things to do near your home base. You may find a local theater group putting on a production of a play you were in back in your high school days. Or maybe a paintball park just opened up and is offering 50% off. Karaoke at the local Chinese food restaurant is always a great source of entertainment, though it would be advisable to ask your friends to leave their phones in their pockets so you don’t end up a YouTube sensation with your version of “I Love Rock & Roll.”
For more outdoorsy ideas, check out your state park’s website to find a nice walking or hiking trail near your house. This will not only get you away from the four walls of the arena, but can help you to burn off the McDouble, Snickers bar, and extra large coffee that had to keep you awake on the ride home from the last show. A 9-hole golf course can also be a fun afternoon. Though it may seem like a very boring sport to watch, it can be massively entertaining to watch your friends search for the tiny little ball they’ve just hit into the woods for the fourth time in two holes. Most will opt for the golf cart rental, but be sure not to treat it like a horse show golf cart; the attendants at the courses are pretty strict on the two person, two bag rule.
Nothing soothes the soul and clears the mind quite like the smell of fresh or salt water, the feeling of the wind on your face, or the sounds of waves lapping at the shoreline. When you already own a pick-up truck and are used to backing a 32’ trailer it’s not a big leap to hook up to a boat, go down to the local ramp and go for a long excursion around the lake. It could be the horsepower of the boats or the coolness of the water, but it’s probably a safer bet to say it’s the complete lack of dust that draws horse people to the water.
Give’em a Break.
The snow and ice are gone and the outdoor arenas have finally dried up. The grass is growing and the flowers are blooming. Spring, summer and early fall are great times to be working horses outside. Not only does this get everyone away from the four walls of the indoor, but it helps to prepare the horses for shows that do not have a covered warm up and show arenas.
Like many farms across the country, Colleen Fitzpatrick’s Chase Farms in Hollis, New Hampshire is situated on a dirt road. With limited traffic driving by, she is able to ride and drive most of her show horses on the road. Though most farms are situated in rural areas, those who do not have access to dirt roads can utilize their pastures and driveway around the barn to stretch their show horses’ legs when they don’t need a strenuous training session.
Something as simple as going for a trail ride after a tough workout can be a great change of pace for the park or equitation super star. At Fairfield South in Richmond, New Hampshire, they will let the riders take the show horses on a mini trail ride around the parking lot and out onto the road as a way to cool out a horse, and let the rider catch their breath.
Turnout for most show horses is not really an option during show season for fear of them pulling a shoe or hurting themselves. John Lampropolous of Northgate Stables in Newton, New Hampshire does turn out his country pleasure horses during the show season though. He turns them out for about an hour almost every day that the weather is nice and early in the day so the bugs are not too bad. Hand walking and grazing for the horses with a little more shoe is a much safer and almost as effective solution to turning them out. It allows them to get some fresh air, stretch their muscles and feel the sunshine on their backs while keeping them under control.
It wouldn’t be fair to exclude the hardest working horses in the barn from a little R&R during show season. Lesson horses are the bread and butter of most farms, worth their weight in gold for their trustworthiness and work ethic (most of them). During the hot summer months, they are the unlucky ones to have to work the after school/work hours in hot indoor arenas and buggy outdoors and put up with countless campers on top of their usual lesson passengers. Morning turnout for them can not only help to burn off extra energy before the tiny tots get there, but can help to reduce your feed bill a little by letting them graze in a pasture. For those doing double duty as lesson and academy horses, a few days of turnout after a show can be just the break they need to not turn into the evil monster we all know they can become when they’ve had enough.
Before long, the temperatures will be cooling off, sweaters and blankets will come back out of storage and everyone will be complaining about shoveling another 6” of snow. Show season or not, it is important for trainers, exhibitors, grooms and horses to enjoy the sunshine and beautiful weather while it’s here. And who knows, if you give yourself and your horse enough time to smell the roses throughout June and July, by August you may just be smelling carnations.