How to acclimate your horse to the show grounds and help avoid/temper spooks in the show ring: We asked Tracey Hill, Trainer at Wyvern Farm in Martinez
“This will vary horse to horse but here are a few tips that have worked for me in the past…”
1) Get to the show early
Whether its a one day or multi day show, it has always helped me to let my horse have time to see the sights and hopefully relax in the new atmosphere.
2) Lots of hand walking
At a one day show its usually a little low key and less scary as the facility is typically smaller. If you arrive and the ring is on a break, you can ask management for permission to hand walk on the outside (!) of the show ring. Multi day shows will allow you to hand walk and ride in the show rings the day prior and at the end of the day.
In addition, I like to bring a friend to move around in the judges box and/or walk on bleachers etc if I have a horse that is noise sensitive.
Occasionally I will lunge my young or spooky ones to “burn off some steam”. I personally choose to use side reins because I think the horses are: less likely to to hurt themselves, stay better under control and continue to build muscles that are more in tune with how dressage horses are desired to go.
Hand walking with treats: chopped carrot pieces or a low sugar/low carb cookie alternative is positive reinforcement to conquer scary show environments. Treats help change their focus back to you if even for a moment but eventually they will realize that there are no monsters behind banners, flower boxes or judges boxes.
5) Buddy system
Walking with a confident horse can often help reassure your spooky horse. Let that horse lead the way and when going past a scary spot, be sure to put that horse between you to act as a buffer.
Good luck and happy showing!!
Tracey Hill trains at North Peak Equestrian. Since 1995 Tracey has earned her USDF Bronze, Silver and Gold medals. Tracey has also graduated from the USDF “L” judges program with distinction. This year Tracey was invited to ride in the USEF Elite Rider Clinic with Morten Thomsen. In 1999 Tracey moved to California to work for Steffen Peters. She stayed for two years. Following her time in Germany, she was asked to come back again in 2002. Tracey currently rides with Steffen Peters, Guenter Seidel and Alfredo Herdandez