Top Tips Emma Ford The Carolinas Equestrian 02 Emma with “Happy”. Photo Credit: Shannon Brinkman Preparing for the Competition ...

As the head groom and barn manager at Phillip Dutton Eventing, in Pennsylvania, I am the the general “go to” person so I’ve figured out a few things along the way.  Growing up I was in Pony Club and able to achieve my “B” rating.  Those years benefit me now.  I have worked for Phillip since 2005, starting out as an assistant groom then gradually moving up to be his Barn Manager/ Head Groom in 2009.   Through my work with Adrienne Lorio, (7 years) and now Phillip, I have groomed at many international events from 3 Olympics, 3 World Equestrian Games, 2 Pan AM Games, numerous Rolex CCI****, as well as trips to Germany, The Netherlands and the renowned Burghley CCI****.

So, you’ve come within two weeks of your season end goal, this is the time to “sweat the small stuff”!  Knowing your horse inside out and backwards is paramount.  Daily checks of your horse’ legs, behavioral habits, and overall well-being are crucial, even the smallest cut that goes untreated may turn into an infectious nightmare that takes you out of the competition.  Make sure he is sound at the jog in hand.

Do you know your drug rules?

In today’s climate of rules and regulations, you need to take responsibility for knowing what rules your competition is run under, as USEF and FEI have different drug rules that need to be followed.  

Top Tips Emma Ford The Carolinas Equestrian 03 Eating Habits ...

Knowing your horses eating habits is important, as many horses will have a change in appetite as they sense something big is coming.  Do not make dramatic feed changes.  Keep things simple by dividing his regular portion into smaller more frequent meals.  If your horses receive supplements, these could be separated into each meal, removed completely or given orally by dosing syringe if required.

Water Intake ...

Travelling and going to a strange place can lessen their desire to drink, so having a few tricks up your sleeve to help increase water intake can be useful.  I find trying them out at home first to be beneficial.  Adding a handful of sweet feed to a bucket of water, chopping up carrots and apples, or adding Gatorade are all tricks that have helped me in the past to improve drinking at competitions.

Pre-Competition Grooming ...

You want to arrive at the show with a tidy and correctly turned out horse.  Pulling the mane to appropriate braiding length, if needed, should not be left till the last minute.  Trying to braid a horse that has had its mane recently pulled can lead to a frustrating time between horse and braider.  The tail needs to be thoroughly washed, conditioned and tangle free before it can be banged to the desired length.  Important tip - do not cut the tail whilst wet as this can cause the tail to stretch and then look shorter than intended when dry.  I strongly recommend testing any new liniments and shampoos at home before using them at the event.  This goes the same for new jumping or work boots, should your horse have an issue it is easier to deal with at home rather than away.  

Top Tips Emma Ford The Carolinas Equestrian 01Photo Credit: Jessica Daily, JessicaLynn PhotographyFor those of you with grey or white horses, regular baths at least a week out from the event are key.  If you don’t have time for a full bath, then make sure you spot clean any manure or grass stains.  I like to use Shapley’s Easy Out, a no rinse shampoo great for stains when bathing is not an option.  For horses with white tails I will wash everyday with Shapley’s Equitone whitening shampoo.  A couple of times prior to the event I will do a wash with Tide laundry detergent with Oxyclean to help get rid of the tough stains.  You must not overdo the Tide as the hair will get very brittle and dry.

Depending on the time of year you may need to clip your horse.  Doing this in a timely manner allows for a fresh clip to grow out before your event.  Should you need to sedate to clip or if skin gets easily irritated, 2 weeks gives you time for drug withdrawal and/or skin issues to be resolved.  Remember to clip according to workload and temperature.  A horse used to 65* weather but going into an event with temperatures reaching 90*s, will need clipping to help cool out compared to a horse that has consistently been working in higher temperatures.

Top Tips Emma Ford The Carolinas Equestrian 04Photo Credit: Jessica Daily, JessicaLynn PhotographyShoes and Health Certificates ...

It’s my opinion to have the horses shoeing schedule organized so they are shod 2 weeks to 10 days out from their major competition.  This allows time for any treatments that might be needed should a foot issue arise, for example corns, abscess, high nails or thrush.  I like to keep a set of shoes from the previous shoeing as spares so if a shoe is pulled whilst at the event, we can have the show farrier easily tack one on.  Do you require a health certificate to travel?  If you are crossing state lines, then you should always carry a health certificate and coggins.  Your vet will need to do this for you so don’t leave this until the last minute. It is also a good idea to have a copy of your horses’ flu vaccinations record, as many showgrounds now request it.

Time to make those lists ...

I write a packing list a least one week out from big events.  Break the list into sections, for example, Stall Set Up, Riding Attire, First Aid, etc.   Also, remember to look at the extended forecast so you can take the correct clothing for both you and your horse.  For more great tips, check out, World Class Grooming!