Despite the wild weather over the last few days the nights are drawing out, the daffodils are flowering, and Spring is definitely around the corner, plus the first events of the season are underway. If you’re still planning your 2019 competition season or you’ve got your first event under your belt, make sure you read the following tips to give you the best possible chance of success!
1. Check your passport is up-to-date: you would have to have been in hibernation over the last few months to have missed that the UK has had a major equine influenza outbreak with a new strain of flu. As a result, competition venues are likely to be much more on the ball when it comes to checking passports plus many are insisting on a booster within the last 6 months. I usually advise getting boosters done before the season starts anyway just in case your horse has a rare vaccination reaction you don’t want it to be when you’ve got a competition coming up. So, check your passport, get a booster and make sure you remember to take it to the competition!
2. Fitness: It is super important your horse will be fit enough for the type of competition you’re going to be doing. An eventer will obviously need more stamina than a horse for showing for so tailor your fitness regime to suit. Remember fitness takes time and I advise to allow 6-8 weeks to slowly build up to competition fitness. Unfit, tired horses are significantly more likely to have an accident or injury and the start of the season is when horses may be at their least fit. Make sure your season doesn’t end prematurely with an injury!
3. Nutrition: hopefully you’re happy with your horses’ condition coming out of winter, but if not don’t be tempted to just ramp up the concentrates. Keep concentrate feeding to a minimum and focus on forage. If your horse is lacking a little topline consider a high-quality protein supplement (such as REV Topline+) to give them an early season boost.
4. Training: even the best riders have regular coaching and training. The start of the season is a good time to think back and reflect on last year – what went well and what do you need to focus on improving this time around? Review your videos and dressage scores including the comments – is there one area that seems to be a common weakness? Make the most of pre-season training camps and maybe even try a new coach – having different coaches can invigorate you and motivate you for the year ahead.
5. Rider Fitness: we tend to focus on the fitness of our horses more than ourselves and rider fitness is often overlooked but it is really important that you have a good core strength and cardio fitness. Fitter stronger riders ride better and can help their horses out so much more, exercises such as swimming and rowing are great for core strength and running and cycling will help with your cardio. Do it for your horse!
6. Horse health: it goes without saying your horse needs to be in top health in order to perform at their best. Make sure their teeth have been checked before the season starts and at the same time have an all over health check. Are their feet in tip top condition – if not chat with your farrier and vet about improving them.
Gastric ulcers are common over winter and are unlikely to go away during a competition season without treatment – if your horse is showing any signs it’s definitely worth checking for ulcers and getting them treated asap in order to prevent any poor performance issues. A routine physio appointment is always a good idea pre season along with getting your saddle checked – most saddle fitters recommend doing this every 6 months (Yes!!!) so it’s definitely time to give them a call!
No matter what your goals are this year I hope you have fun and remember to let us know when you’re out and about and how you’re doing – we love to hear your success stories!