Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We've Talked About This Before...

...but revisiting because I find it such an important topic. :)

Getting the horse prepared is really a simple task, it just takes elbow grease. Plenty of good grooming leading up to the day before the show, then it becomes prep time.

Clipping, hoof sanding and bathing are the three big "to-do's" on that list, and are a must do for your horse to look his or her best. Now, before someone goes on another rant about sanding hooves (and I have no doubt there are a few who will ~ save your comments, unless they are productive and constructive, please), nothing harmful or debilitating to the horse is done when we sand. I have heard it all before, I am not concerned about my horses' health being compromised and they are all healthy, sound and happy.

For clipping, I like to begin with legs, trimming the coronet band upward to take off the hairs that fall over the hoof itself, then run the clippers downward on the pastern and fetlock. Some folks prefer to shave the leg up to the fetlock or even the knees/hocks, but I want my clipping to look as natural as possible. Trim the longish hairs at the back of the knees, over the hocks and any strays you notice, so that the legs are smooth. Then I'll move to the head, where I'm going to drop the halter around the horse's neck so I can smooth the jawline and sides of the face. All of the above is done with a size #10 blade. After that, I make a "diamond" pattern on the horse's forehead, shaving with a #15 blade. Unlike some, I do NOT shave outside the eyes or below the cheekbones, I merely blend. To me, it looks far better and I like less sharp lines. I do use a #40 blade to clip the bridlepath, muzzle and around the eyes, but on the muzzle and eyes I spend more time blending than anything, looking mainly to remove the long whiskery hairs. Finally, I use a pair of small cordless finishing clippers for the ears, shelling them totally inside and then rimming the outside edges, leaving a small, diamond shaped tip with fuzz. My clipped ears have been called masterpieces by more than a few folks...I think that might mean I'm doing it right. ;)

To the controversial topic of sanding hooves, yes I use a power sander (quarter sheet) and prop the hoof on a hoof stand like a farrier uses, beginning with lightly taking off any roughness with a 60 or an 80 grit, whichever I have available, then lightly running a 150 grit and a 220 grit over them before finishing up with a 400 grit. Afterward, I very lightly buff with a fine steel wool and finish the hooves off with a coating of Kiwi shoe wax, black for the dark hooves and neutral for the light hooves. It's not as if we are taking layer after layer after layer off the hoof, literally grinding it down to nothing ~ the entire process for four hooves takes maybe 10 minutes per horse. On show day, cleaning them off with a wet rag, buffing with steel wool again and wiping with a clean, dry rag before applying hoof polish and a spray enhancer makes for stunning feet on your horses.

Now, baths vary depending on whether the horse is light or dark, and their markings. Grey horses, Pintos (or Paints) with a lot of white, Palominos or any of the dilutes and all white markings get a whitener shampoo like Quik Silver. For the rest of the horse, I use Salon Care shampoos from Sally's Beauty Supply. They have neat "flavors" like Wild Cherry, Passionfruit, Luscious Kiwi and Apples & Pears that make your horse smell fabulous in addition to clean!! I will wash the mane and tail first, then scrub the body, down to the legs and finish off with the face, using a harder scrubber for the body, a soft scrubber for the legs and a soft sponge for the face. After rinsing, I liberally apply conditioner (I generally use TREsemme` instead of the Salon Care, because I use far less of it and like their "dry damaged hair" formula) to the mane, tail and forelock, followed by a final rinse. After scraping excess water off, I'll towel dry the horse and ultimately spray the entire horse with Show Sheen, avoiding much contact with the back of a performance horse. Then once the tail is nearly dry (though still with just a hint of dampness) I'll wrap up my tails, and blanket/hood the horse before putting him or her away.

At that point, my horse(s) will be ready for the big show day, and I can concentrate on cleaning tack and getting the truck and trailer packed. More to come in the next few days!


Monday, September 28, 2009

Putting Your Best Face Forward

This week I'm going to write a series of posts on preparing yourself and your horse to hit the show ring. I have an entire process I follow in order to get my horses (and students, too) ready for the show ring, which begins with working hard to get both rider (or handler) and horse in condition.

They likely will be short and to the point, but hopefully valuable to my readership!

Fitness we have covered here before, but it bears repeating that you need to make sure your horse is at his optimal condition and that he is physically ready and able to do whatever you are asking of him. The same goes for yourself, you've got to have enough stamina to last the day with a smile on your face until the very last class.

In addition to the conditioning aspect, grooming is imperative, lots and lots of elbow grease will show your fellow competitors that you mean business and you'll be the envy of those you're competing against. Hand rubbing on the coat, plenty of currying, conditioning the mane and tail (keeping the tail wrapped up and clean), hoof dressing and keeping the sweat rinsed off when your work sessions are done will have your horse looking fabulous in no time.

Along with the above comes knowing what you'll be showing in, and training both yourself and your horse for those classes is an important part of the equation as well. If you are showing Halter, be sure your horse will lead well at both the walk and the trot/jog. See to it that he's trained to square up without much fuss, and if he's an Arabian for instance, he needs to know at least a little bit about how to present himself. The same goes for any other class, and you need to study the rule book(s) for whatever divisions of classes you will be competing in.

Over the next four days we'll explore preparing the horse, cleaning your tack and show clothes, choosing products to use on your horse and packing for the show.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

We're Baaack!

Where to begin? It's been a while...mainly the hiatus on this blog began as trying to look into doing something different with it, trying a custom layout and such, but since I failed miserably, I got discouraged. Then, life got in the way and I neglected the blog. But, we are back in the business of blogging! :)

Last weekend was the final show of the year for the Mojave River Valley Horsemen's Association in Apple Valley, and we had a fabulous show. We only took one horse, and one rider, but brought home both the Western and English Walk/Trot 10 & Under High Points, wrapping up the Year End High Point in both Western and English Walk/Trot 10 & Under, with my student winning her Showmanship class, her Western Horsemanship class and all three of her English classes unanimously under both judges. What an accomplishment for this young lady!! Now we are on to the Year End Awards Banquet, which will be a blast.

Next Saturday we have the final show of the season at the Sun Country Horsemen's Association in Hesperia, where the beautiful palomino filly I have in training will be finishing up her year end points in Late Yearling Halter and Arabian/Half-Arabian Halter, the first of which she is leading the points and the second of which she sits in second place currently, just four points behind. She can win it, all we need is to place ahead of the lovely gelding who is leading right now, under both judges. But a Championship and a Reserve Championship is a fantastic way to start a show career!! Either way, we will be at that Year End Awards Banquet as well, having a great time. In addition to the pally filly's two Halter classes, she is entered in the Yearling Longeline Futurity, so wish us luck there. We also are taking the beautiful Pinto mare and her young rider that went to the MRVHA show last weekend, to compete in a couple of Halter classes, Showmanship and is riding the three Walk/Trot 12 & Under classes under hunt seat tack.

Also on Saturday, the third of October is the Apple Valley Equine Extravaganza, which is like a miniature, local version of Equine Affaire. I was asked to present an Arabian breed demonstration, and to present a training clinic on the topic of my choice. I chose Showmanship In Hand, because it's one of my favorite classes and essential to excel at if you are going to compete for high point awards. That's going to be a busy day for sure.

Then we're off to more horse shows, with a number of Arabian, Pinto, Palomino and Open shows on the slate for the remaining months of the year, including the High Desert Pinto Horse Association show on October 24th in Chino Hills, and the Temecula Valley Arabian Community show on October 25th at Green Acres Ranch in Temecula. We have at least one or two shows in both November and October, so we'll have plenty of results to report!

That's about it for right now, welcome to all our new readers!! Thanks for stopping by! :)