The Week Before

It’s official – we’re one week away from leaving for Coconino.

the left – me on the outside; the right – me on the inside

We’ve already talked about the tremendous task that is packing, and right now I’m choosing to bury my head in the sand and pretend I don’t have to worry about that yet (omg), so let’s not talk about it again. But as I’ve tweaked Henry’s work routine a little bit this week to prep for the long trip followed by two weeks of showing, it got me wondering what other people do to prep for shows.

stand around and look magnificent?

Most of the time I don’t really do anything drastically different before an event, I just scale it all back a bit. Usually a few days before we leave I pop Henry over some fences, more for my sake than his, and put in a dressage ride or two, but mostly I just focus on keeping him happy and feeling good. I don’t like trying to fit a bunch of lessons and work in at the last minute; I want him to get to the show and be happy and interested in what we’re doing, not mentally/physically burned out or tired and sore. I feel like if I’ve done my job on a day-to-day basis in preparing him, there’s no need to cram a million things into the last week or two.

his mental health is ever-precarious

Of course for this show we’ve done way more conditioning than we’ve ever done in the past, so while I will keep up with his normal schedule of conditioning rides, he had his last really long one on Monday and now they’re getting scaled back a bit. We’ll do a couple more dressage rides and he’ll have his last jump school this weekend. The day before we leave he gets a day off and a massage. Otherwise we’re gonna hack out in his sidepull, go on some long walks, and take a little bit of a breather before the whirlwind starts. We’re as prepped as we’re gonna be.

It takes a lot of work to look this good

Which approach do you prefer – a lighter workload the last week before a show, or lots of cram sessions to try to sharpen things up? And more importantly – why?

21 thoughts on “The Week Before

  1. I’m definitely in the school of keeping things light and easy before a show. Then again, I need my corgi to be a bit amped when we get to a show, so working her down would be counterproductive.

    One of my favorite things to do before a show is to go on a trail ride in the woods. May gets stretched and loose and relaxed, and I get myself mentally prepped for the next day.


  2. I’ll usually do my last big conditioning ride early in the week, if not the weekend before. If possible I’ll try to do a jump school and a flat lesson the week before, but the other days are definitely hack days. So basically I push some days, but compliment that with relaxing hacks. Since I don’t have to factor in much travel to the show, I feel comfortable to push him a little, but his brain can be a finicky thing, so the hacks balance us out. Will always hack the day before the show (since most of mine here are one-days). Seems to be the ticket for Justin so far – keep up the pace without frying his pony brain 🙂

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  3. It’s been a while since I’ve shown seriously, but, so long as I’m not being a worry wart, I keep things the same. Typically, the day before a show is the day off, and the day prior to that is a lesson. Depending on how I’m feeling, I might add in another private lesson earlier in the week and basically do a “play day” where I try out new things that I don’t usually do in a lesson. I probably won’t use most of it where ever I’m showing, but it helps me slow down and focus, plus it’s fun.


  4. I tend to do a similar low-key week before the show. In the beginning of the week I will definitely do a jump school and a dressage ride, and usually run through my test once or twice, but by the end of the week we are hacking out or trail riding, and the day before the show Dino gets the day off, or if I feel he needs to get out, I will hop on bareback and walk him once around the farm. Since he can get sour easily, I keep things suuuuper easy before a big outing!


  5. I’m still figuring out what Frankie likes best, but what we did for Loudoun seemed to work really well- jump lesson the week before, then a flat ride or two over the weekend, and hack out the day before shipping over. He’s pretty go-with-the-flow so I don’t think he necessarily needs a certain type of routine, but I’m happy to stick with what works!


  6. Definitely a keep things calm before the storm kindof a person. No extra lessons, maybe a short 20 or 30 minute one early in the week for a local show. If a long haul is involved then just some light hacks. I like my horses fresh and excited about their jobs, plus I’m a firm believer that you can’t fix or change anything the week before a show, you are either ready or you are not ready.

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  7. Your approach is perfect in my opinion, as long as you haven’t been stacking in the weeks prior. 😉 I like to take it easy on the week of a show too…I call it our Feel Good Week. Trail ride a bit, do a couple rides full of the things my horse does best (to stroke his ego). I don’t start any new fights the week before a show unless absolutely necessary (like, if he decides he no longer knows how to do something we had been solid on. :P)

    If the show is on a Saturday, I usually don’t ride at all on Thursday. That’s our beautification and packing day. On Friday evening we do a short/light warm-up ride at the show-grounds. That ride is purely to get in the rings so there’s less tension/spookiness the next day. Sat morning before our first class, a quick warm-up, all about getting forward and supple. I pump Clay up with some hand-gallop because he tends to be a little behind my leg at shows and gets locked in the back. It really relaxes him…there’s just something about cantering around that makes a guy feel good. 😉

    Another little trick I have for shows…When the bell rings we canter along the ring and then trot right in, because his trot right after we come back from the canter is so good. We’re still working on maintaining that thoroughness and pizazz throughout the whole test, but our centerlines are almost always 8/8.5 ever since I started doing canter-trot right at A. I may have had a 9 last time even.

    Enjoy your Feel Good week! Do all your laundry and take inventory little by little this week so all you have to do is put everything in the trailer at the end and go!


  8. Not being a horses owner OR an eventer, I still wanted to tell you that I think your plan is excellent and makes sense. For one thing, I hate it when I go to shows and see people riding the crap out of a horse in the warmup, apparently trying to fix training holes at the last minute. 🙁 That’s just wrong!


  9. When I went to rated shows, it was a lesson or jump school a day or two out from hauling over. For one-day schooling shows, I school a day or two before and the morning of at the show, but not too many jumping efforts. Eli has no shortage of energy, so I don’t really worry about that for what we’re doing. It’s more about managing his apprehension about being at a new place than anything else.


  10. I haven’t shown in a few years, but I would always do one last jump school early in the week. Then one more decent flat school. The day before I would leave would either be a hack day or a really light ride, just to keep my horse a bit mentally stimulated. She never did well with a complete day off before. Too much energy! I think your schedule is great.


  11. I like to do a lesson or more serious school on my own a few days to a week out just to sharpen my horse up and make sure all of the buttons are working as they should, and if I know the courses might have a particular question (like Robert making us ride a bending line toward an in-and-out on the rail) I’ll try to work that in as well, so that the answer is fresh(ish) when we get to the show. Otherwise I put in a good flat a couple of days out, again just to push all the buttons and then he gets a day or two off before we leave.


  12. I’m with you. Not frying brain before a long haul seems most important. I typically do a conditioning day the weekend before we leave and then do some “fun” rides that will help me prep for the show. For example, we do some of the dressage movements, or just work on suppleness. Mainly just some homework stuff, but try not to introduce anything new. I used to have a lesson right before we left but this typically doesn’t go great, and adds to my stress. I put Georgie on electrolytes a few days before and just try to keep everything calm. Our work has been done, nothing I do in the 3 days before I leave is going to make it or break it for us… Have fun! I can’t wait for your updates!


  13. I always figure, if we don’t know it by now, we’re not going to get it days before a show. With that, I try to keep things plunking right along by keeping my rides about the same. When I can, I even try to get a lesson on Friday night. Not to necessarily learn anything new, but to sharpen up what we do know. Since I am still riding at a low level, a Friday night lesson doesn’t take Speedy’s edge off.


  14. Well… I ride hunter/jumpers so the conditioning is WAY less intense. But as far as work load prior to a show, I think it really depends on the animal in question. My horse Jamp is a nervous nelly. So for him, he stays in serious work to keep him tired enough that he doesn’t wind up in a tizzy. But when Rio was still showing, we didn’t do anything extra. He knew the job. We would usually have a lesson early in the week to keep my eye working, and then show on the weekend. As he got older, I might not jump the same week we were showing.
    I can’t wait to read all about your trip!


  15. I just do the fancy prancing thing, so my prep probably looks a bit different. Still, delicate-minded thoroughbreds want what they want. I try to remove the pressure in the 1-2 weeks before a show. I don’t ask for pieces of the test more than 4 days out, I don’t push at (or even touch) hard concepts (NO CHANGES, ONLY COUNTER CANTER). I’m not looking to start a fight. I also try to do Pig’s feet 2 weeks out from the show. Barefoot horse can’t handle changes to his feet in stressful times. If his feet are long when I leave for a show, they’ll stay that way for the whole time. It’s better than trying to fix them.

    The day before we leave for the show grounds, I try to do a stretching ride and an extra, relaxing hack. The day we leave for the show grounds, I don’t ride at all. Most of the time, I just take Pig for a long walk around the grounds before bedding him in for the night. Then on show day, we do a lot of grazing and in-hand jogging before our ride time. It’s all about staying loose and relaxed, which is probably the toughest part of the game for us.


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