Groom Your Horse Like a Pro
As a freelance groom, I’ve spent a little time grooming for other people at shows, usually the same competitions that I’m also competing at. Hiring a groom for a show can run you a bill of a couple hundred dollars, usually not including their food and hotel expenses if they’re from out of town. If you’re anything like me, you definitely can’t afford to make these competitions any more expensive than they already are!!
That’s why I have put together a list of suggestions for you to get professional level results while grooming for yourself without being totally exhausted by the end of the show!
Most people plan their competition schedule several weeks or even months ahead of the actual competition. This gives you a lot of time to get the baseline grooming done so your job will be easier at the show! There is no substitute for elbow grease and good nutrition, so when you’re mapping out your schedule for the upcoming season, take some time to review your horse’s nutrition requirements, weight, and current grooming status. While you’re working on fitness and skills needed for the competition, take a few extra minutes before and after each ride or work session to groom just a little more thoroughly and make note of when to schedule extra grooming tasks like bridle path clipping, tail taming and any hoof or leg tasks for your discipline. If you stay on top of these tasks every couple weeks during the season they will take less time. If you have a horse that is kind of antsy about certain tasks (especially clipping and pulling) this reduced amount of time and work with regular upkeep may improve their behavior as well!
Planning ahead also applies to when the competition schedule is published. Many disciplines publish a show schedule a few days before the event. When that comes out, make sure you plan some time before each class to do some grooming touch ups before it’s time to tack up and warm up. Having a schedule will allow you to minimize the amount of time you take prepping for each class and can reduce the overall stress of the competition.
Create a Pre-Ride Checklist
Prior to the show, make a list of the grooming related tasks that have to happen each day and before each class. By creating a to-do list and organizing it by daily and per-ride tasks, you can maximize your efficiency the day of the show. Perhaps your horse will let you pick their feet, clean their stall and clean their water buckets while he or she eats their breakfast? If your horse doesn’t usually lay down at shows, maybe you can save yourself a step and only brush out their mane and tail in the morning before your rides start. If you’re new to competition or a particular discipline, reach out to a friend or trainer with experience and ask them for a list of tasks that are particularly important for your discipline.
Know your horse
If you are new to competing or new to competing with a particular horse, it will be a little tricky to know what to expect from your horse’s personality when you reach the competition venue. If you compete with the idea in mind that you need to make a mental note of your horse’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, then you’ll be better prepared for future competitions. Make a note of how often you need to get your horse out of the stall to walk, explore and hand graze. Maybe he or she needs turnout if it’s available at the venue? Does your horse ALWAYS roll in the stall after a bath or when there is fresh bedding? Maybe you should wait to put them back until they’re dry, or wait to braid until after they have their roll. Knowing how much hay and water they drink when away from home can prevent more serious hiccups during the competition as well in addition to saving you time and money on supplies.
If at the end of the day, you know that you can’t handle all the requirements on your own (particularly if you’re riding multiple horses and competing in several classes each day) then don’t be afraid to see if a friend or a young student at the farm you train at or a nearby farm wants to come with you. Often time’s barn friends are more than willing to come help and enjoy the experience with you and young riders who maybe haven’t reached a point where they can compete as well may treasure the opportunity to learn about competing in your discipline without the stress and financial obligations of showing themselves. Make sure if you have a volunteer help you, that you always show appreciation for their help and use patience when they inevitably do things a little differently than you. Remember that horses are all about enjoying the time we have with these wonderful animals and it’s no use competing or riding if you’re not having fun!