Horse Show Tips

Simple horse show food shopping list

We can survive all day on the items in this photo. (Click to enlarge.) Showing horses takes a lot of energy and fluids, and a big ice chest full of food and drinks from home keeps us going while we’re on the run. Nobody has time the day before the show to cook up a gourmet picnic, but we do have time to make a quick run to the grocery store for this simple list. (Click on photo to enlarge.) We buy a bag of ice or dump the bin from our freezer into the chest and then put everything on top of the ice, starting with drinks, and leaving the lighter, crushable foods at the top. Things that you don’t want to get damp should go in heavy-duty zipper bags for protection. We like to put everything, even non-refrigerated items, in the chest so they are easy to find. For us, this menu works better than typical concession food -- donuts, pastries, hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, potato chips, candy, and carbonated sugar drinks -- which leave us feeling tired. We still love the junk so we bring petty cash to

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CSU riders sweep international competition

Congratulations to the Colorado State University English Riding Club team, which swept their international competition Saturday in Edinburgh, Scotland! 1st in Dressage, 1st in Jumping, 1st Overall! These young women all worked hard practicing and preparing this winter with their awesome coach, Tiare Santistevan. We'll have more photos when my daughter returns with my camera. Meanwhile, there are a few photos on the CSU Equine Sciences Facebook page. You're looking good, ladies! I'm a proud mom, Kalinda. P.S. In my mind, a Kindergarten-through-High-School career in the Larimer County, Colorado 4-H Horse Program has led to wonderfully unexpected places!

Four things I learned from Olympic medalist Greg Best (at a CSU ERC clinic)

(Karin Livingston was a career 4-H leader specializing in horses, and is the author of the young-adult horse novel, Winning Bet.)

Four things I learned from Greg Best

FORT COLLINS, Colorado -- (Oct. 23, 2010) I headed over to the Equine Center at Colorado State University in Fort Collins for a couple hours of (free!) audit time watching the clinic by Olympic medalist, Greg Best. I learned four things:

    1. Stick a crop down the front of your breeches, so it sticks up in front of your face. Try riding at all gaits, AND over jumps. If you can keep the crop from hitting you repeatedly in the face, you’re probably doing a good job of maintaining proper, consistent body position. This isn’t just a parlor trick. Horses perform better for riders they can trust not to flop all over the place.
    2. Shorten your stirrups about three holes. OK, take this with a grain of salt. It is a fact though, that many riders attempting jump courses need to take up their stirrups.
    3. Use a tack taped to the rear quarter of your saddle to tell you whether you’re centered. Again, not another parlor trick, just a sharp way to remind your body about centered position, even while launching, flying and landing after a jump.
  1. 4. Get in shape. Greg Best clinics, which I have audited a number of times, are microcosms of the strength, agility, and endurance you will need to compete. You expect your horse to be in shape, and you should stay fit, too.
    Watch the video for a small sample of a Greg Best riding clinic.

The CSU English Riding Club hosts Greg Best about twice a year, and his next clinic is Aug. 9 & 10, 2011. Save up your money, and sign up. You won’t regret it.

More training: Foolproof flying lead changes

(An ad-free version of this blog is available for e-readers in the Amazon Kindle store. Just search for "Hoofprints" on your device.)

20 questions: How well do you know leads, diagonals?

Diagonals_Leads_Cover_Shot TEXT (Earn points and free badges at our sister site, Mane-U. We are mobile-friendly and love horse trivia.) 

Recently, we got a judge at a horse show who gave first place in our equitation class to a rider with gross lead and diagonal errors on the pattern. Worse, it happened in yet another class. Same horse. Same rider. These things happen, and maybe the judge forgot to wear glasses. You have to figure that days like this make up for that time you won a ribbon and didn’t really ride that well. Really though, everybody riding, judging or rating needs to have a firm grasp of leads and diagonals.

Good horsemen know where the horse’s feet are, and what those feet are doing. Judges, instructors, and raters in particular need to be able to see these things from a distance. Riders need to feel the differences for balanced and safer rides, in order to pass riding advancement levels tests, and yes, be more competitive.

How good are you at leads and diagonals? We offer 20 questions for you, and if you pass, you earn a certificate that you can print out. This is not just a quiz. It is a learning experience. You can watch the videos and take the quiz as many times as you want. Good luck! Click here, or on the photo to start.

If this quiz helped you, please:


Other quizzes:

Horse Safety: How do you rate?

Winning Bet: Reader's challenge

(Karin Livingston is a career 4-H leader specializing in horses, and the author of the young-adult horse novel, Winning Bet, available in hard copy and for e-readers.)

Animal Den - The Gift Shop for Animal Lovers!

Weapons for the dog days of summer

My daughter enjoys the scarf's soothing coolness following her cross-country round.

The dog days of summer are here. When the Colorado Front Range weather get this hot, our dogs just give up, and sleep all day. We riders prefer crazy activities like competing on 18-jump cross country courses in 100-degree-plus temperatures.

At the Moqui Meadows “Jump Start”, we discovered a new tool for our collection of hot-weather weapons: the Cool-Medics cooling scarf, given to us as a gift by a friend who runs a tack shop. It worked great! All you have to do is keep the scarf damp, and its patented materials keep you cool.

As of this writing, the scarf is priced at $15, not too bad for a good idea. Other hot-weather weapons:

  • Electrolyte paste for your horse the morning of the show
  • Plenty of horse-watering the day of the show (Pack some unless you know for sure the show grounds has their own.)
  • A light-weight, white, reflective fly sheet
  • Sponging or hosing (Note: Always cold-water hose a horse starting with the feet. Blasting them in the heart-girth area with icy water could kill them.)
  • A large, insulated water cooler filled with ice and water for the humans
  • Sun protection: Hats, sunscreen, clothing with sunscreen protection

(An ad-free version of this blog is available on the Amazon Kindle e-reader. Just search for "Hoofprints" on your device.)

There was blood on the show shirt …

Our last weekend horse show reminded me of that old cowboy song, “There was blood on the saddle, and blood all around …”

Let’s just say it was a rushed morning. The list of things I wished I had remembered to do grew and grew as the pre-show minutes raced by: re-glue my show bow, organize my clothes the night before, find my show gloves, find the coffee thermos, find the checkbook, get up earlier.

In my defense, it was my first show in more than a year due to Great Recession cost-cutting.

They called the Hunt Seat Showmanship class, and as I slammed my helmet on

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Hair box: The ultimate organizer

The "hair box" is an indispensable piece of horse show equipment. (Click photo to enlarge.) One item that has proven valuable over the years is our “hair box”. It holds everything from hair nets, to bows, to show numbers, to scissors, to a sewing kit. The latest incarnation of this idea is a tool box from our local Ace Hardware store. (Click to enlarge the photo.) We have used old overnight travel cases, makeup kits and clear, stackable tubs, but the tool box has been the best. The handle is convenient, the plastic is tough and shatterproof, and this size is light and therefore easy to carry along with all the other items you need to pack for a horse show. Our hair box has clear, closable compartments on the lid for small stuff like safety pins, stock pins and bobby pins. When you open it, another tray for bigger items makes up the second layer, and finally, underneath it all is the big open spot for everything else. As an organizational tool, the hair box keeps us from having to repack easily forgettable things, which when forgotten, create a crisis. When the show is over, we just close the lid and our hair box keeps everything in place for next time. This Stanley tool box at Amazon is similar to ours.

Radios: Stay in touch at the show grounds

Two-way radios prevent missed classes. You'll need one for each contestant and their support person. (Click photo to enlarge.) Communication is everything; especially at large horse shows where you may find yourself far away from your support person. (Yes, every contestant needs a support person, and for children, a support person is a must!) There are times when we have missed classes at large horse shows due to arena changes that were suddenly announced in one barn, but not the others, or due to broken sound systems. After suffering the loss of all-around points due to missed classes, we went out and bought two-way radios, which instantly solved the problem. Even with the evolution of cell phones, we prefer our radios because they require no dialing, and therefore no wait time. We also carry the radios around the property at home, and have nipped many an emergency in the bud thanks to instant communication. My last pair of two-way radios purchased about two years ago came with a five-mile range. This pair from Wal-Mart costs about half as much and provides up to 15 miles of coverage. A word to the wise: Make sure you pick a different frequency than horse show management is using, and teach your children to use the radios as a tool, not a toy.

Horse dehydration causes collapse at the state fair

Billy gets his dose of Vetline's paste electrolytes. Click to enlarge. Our gelding, Billy, went down on his knees about 10 years ago just before my son’s Hunt Seat class at the Colorado state fair 4-H horse show in Pueblo. This handsome red gelding had seemed fine all morning, but the temperature spiked 30 degrees in two hours, taking us from the 60’s to the 90’s. We did not think anything of the uncooperative weather until, on the way to the in-gate with his boy, Billy went to his knees, and then to his side. If we had not pulled Billy up by the reins, he would have crushed the saddle. Billy had colic, the Number 1 killer of horses. The many kinds of colic all involve stomach pain. Two of the many causes include a sudden change in the weather and heat distress. Like dehydrated people who experience headaches and muscle cramps, heat stresses horses and they need constant hydration to help cope. Billy suffered a handful of other colics over several years until we figured out that he drinks little water. Today, Billy gets daily electrolytes, and an extra dose for any summer horse show. The electrolytes did the trick. Since then, Billy has been as healthy as … a horse! We prefer Vetline's electrolytes or for convenience, a monthly SmartPak shipment.

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Level III: Horse show attire

Click to enlarge. The higher Colorado 4-H Horse Project riding levels tests make a big jump in turnout. Workman-like attire and turnout are acceptable for Level II, but by the time you hit Level III, expect to demonstrate show quality turnout for horse and rider. This photo (click to enlarge) demonstrates acceptable western showmanship attire. Technically, you don’t have to get this dressed up for your 4-H Levels test. The western rules call for long sleeves, long pants, riding boots, belt and headgear. Show-quality grooming of the horse is required. Always practice with new equipment and clothes before performance day. High-quality turnout seems like a lot of trouble, but it is important to be proud of your appearance, especially when performing. Learning how to create a successful image is a real-world professional skill. As a teen, I rode into an individual workout for a Saddle Seat medal class, only to have a trainer completely unravel me as I entered the arena by shouting, “Turn your collar down!” Proper attire builds confidence, and confidence builds a better performance.

Sponsored by: Poudre River

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