Keeping a horse calm at a show - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 10-25-2007, 05:45 PM Thread Starter
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Keeping a horse calm at a show

I didn't really know where to put this but I think this is good place (mods, if not feel free to move it).
My horse is a tb and she is a really good horse she just has a bunch of energy and I love that about her but at a show it's not really that great. we took her to both her and my first show about a month ago and she was good while we were in our classes but when we were waiting for the classes to start and such she was REALLY antsy. Like anytime that we were waiting (while I was on the ground with her, riding waiting to go into the ring, or even sometimes in the ring) she was pulling on the reins, throwing her head, prancing etc. It was really annoying and not very convieniant since I was trying to concentrate on my "game plan" and instead I had to concentrate on keeping her calm. I tried keeping her busy by walking her around and keeping her circling while we were waiting and it helped some but not as much as I wish it did. I would've liked to relax inbetween classes. It was just kinda frustrating because I know we could have done much better in our flat classes than we did (we didn't do bad but we could've done better if she would've been calmer). I'm not complaining I just would like to know if anyone has any tips or advice about keeping my horse calm inbetween our classes because we have a show this weekend and I would like to have an even more enjoyable time than last time =]! So if you have any advice about this I would appreciate it so much!
Duskylove is offline  
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post #2 of 13 Old 10-25-2007, 06:23 PM
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These are pretty common sense, but I'll post them anyway...will be interesting to see what others have to offer, I've often wondered if there are any "tricks" myself.

- Bring a companion horse: Another horse your mare knows from home, even if they aren't showing.

- Take your mare to "practice" shows: If you aren't performing, you won't have to worry about anything but your mare's behavior in a new place.

- If she's nervous, move: Which you've already been doing, of course. If her nerves are stressing you out, let a helper deal with working the mare while you concentrate on your strategy.
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post #3 of 13 Old 10-25-2007, 07:45 PM
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I wouldn't even think about entering any classes at this point. She isn't confident, so putting yourself under any stress is only going to add to her anxiety. Take her to shows and don't enter classes. I would do this UNTIL SHE IS CONSISTANTLY CALM. Go to as many as possible, even western shows, just to expose her to the atmosephere.

If she really gets antsy and wants to move, do not try to keep her still. Get her moving, get her to fous on something. DO NOT just lunge her in circles!! That will only aid her emotions 'running away.' Ask her to back up a lot, go sideways, change directions a lot, do transitions, wrap her around a tree, etc. I would say use a lot of obstacles, but show grounds are not exactly known for being littered with logs, poles, ditches, etc. Just make sure that while you are working her that you stay very calm and in control of yourself mentally and emotionally. She will eventually pick up on that and feed off of it.
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post #4 of 13 Old 10-25-2007, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
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Sara, those are really good tips! I think that I am going to start taking her to some schooling shows and get her used to the environment. We are already doing the other two (having companion horse and keepin busy but those are still good)!
Spirithorse, waiting til she is consistently calm would usually work but you have to know her...Dusky and calm don't really go together...ever lol but I will start taking her to more new places and stuff. I will also try other things you said though like the obstacles. There is a trail course thing at this show in the back maybe I can take her in there and mess around in between classes.
It's weird though because inbetween classes shes a nut but as soon as we get into the arena and are working she was pretty much completely focused. I think it has something to do with the fact that she is an ottb and she used to barrel race and they would try to like pump them up and then go run the barrels with adrenaline goin but still focused (hah but i really don't know anything about barrel racing so I may be totally off base...I usually am lol).
Oh and I have heard that if you feed them pepermints or rub like mint oil on their noses it has a calming affect? Does that work?
Anyone else with some tips for us feel free to keep postin =]!
Thanks guys!
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post #5 of 13 Old 10-26-2007, 01:56 AM
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these are all really good points if ur hose is nervous which she could be but i had a thoroughbred who would act exactly the same outside the ring and especially waiting for cross country and i found he worked a lot better if i extended his warm up at shows for half an hour to 45 mins or more so that he was fully warmed up and we had taken the edge off his energy by doing this he was focusing more on what i was asking him for. also i found if i worked him the day before not hard but enough to expell any energy and just get the kinks out
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post #6 of 13 Old 10-26-2007, 02:36 AM
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Yes indeed. You seem to be doing all the right things if she is an off the track throughbredI would be interested to know whether you rebroke her or just retrained her. Because the show environment is a lot like the track that means that she might think this is the racetrack and you see Thoroughbreds just about to race acting the same way. Again... a larger warm up or a companion could help but the best thing would be experience from other shows
Gd Luck
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post #7 of 13 Old 10-26-2007, 07:39 AM
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I don't show horses but Vida and I rode in our first parade a few months ago. I was really nervous when we were lining up and I started to feel Vida trembling. (we got stuck behind some antique cars that were backfiring) I had to take some deep breaths and mentally calm myself down, relax my whole body. As soon as I relaxed Vida relaxed and we made it through. It was a lot of fun and we have done a couple of parades since then.

"Until one has loved an animal, part of one's soul remains unawakened..."
- Anatole France
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post #8 of 13 Old 10-26-2007, 02:29 PM
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I don't agree with not entering her in any classes until she is calm in the show environment. The classes are the more stessful part of the shows, and you need to give her and yourself as many opportunities as possible to get used to them. They are just outsided of her comfort zone still, but with time and experience, they will become old news to her.

Just practice relaxing yourself as much as possible. I agree with an extended warm up. I would say at this point, don't give her many opportunities to stand still, but keep her moving, flexing, and suppling, She doesn't have to work her until she is tired, just keep her mind busy by asking her to do various maneuvers and obstacles as spirithorse said. If you keep her focused on you, she won't have the time to get nervous and think about getting nervous and ready to go in to the arena. Give her little 30 second intervals where you allow her to stand still, and then move her out again before she has a chance to move without being asked. Gradually increase the length of time that you stand.

One thing that you can do, if you have a pattern class you are trying to prep for: look at the pattern, and then walk through it in your head, and on your horse. You can walk the whole thing on her, turning the designated directions, and just day the gate change or obstacle in your head. "walk, walk, walk...trot at ground pole...left lead canter...." I tend to do this a lot to help me prep for my patterns, and to keep my boy busy. This was our second show season, and the difference between this and last season was really improved; I can't wait to see how much more relaxed he is next season...It just takes time, expreience, and exposure.

Finally, in addition to her being an ottb, you have the fact that she was a barrel racer going against you. You are exacty right in thinking that while you are sanding outside of the arena waiting for a class, she might be anticipating a high adreniline run coming up. That would definitely be cause to prance and dance in anticipation. I would avoid doing any kind of gaming events, even for fun, until you have her fairly relaxed at the shows.

Good luck :)
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post #9 of 13 Old 10-29-2007, 01:20 PM
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I spent years showing my ottb, and she sounds a lot like yours. She's highly-sensitive and a little flighty, and standing still wasn't her favorite thing in the world, but she always concentrated well in the ring. I have two thoughts to add:

1. Bring somebody to stay with you on the ground. They could help keep her still or lead while walking and can concentrate on her. That gives you an extra hand, someone to bounce ideas off of as you prepare, and more flexibility to prepare yourself mentally.

2. Free lunging was a great option for this mare and for another tb I showed. If you have an indoor arena at your home barn, you can free lunge. It's easiest if you have two people, one for each end of the ring, to help keep the horse moving and going through the turns. We never pushed or chased, but let her trot and canter at her own pace. We'd do this early in the morning before leaving for a show. It really really helped burn some of her excess energy and take the edge off not to mention limbered her up. She didn't have to worry about a rider or constantly being on a turn. Another bonus is that it also takes her edge off without burning up your energy. She was always much calmer when we were able to free lunge for half an hour before the show.

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post #10 of 13 Old 03-15-2011, 10:09 PM
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Like someone already said,usually now not all the time but most times lunging works like a charm! lunging on a long line could help process the energy! just a thought :) or if theres a lunging ring freelunging would definitely work!
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