Prepping a hunter at a show

This post is potentially controversial… but I promise I am just asking out of need/curiosity.

I have always ridden and shown with hunter barns, but while in college I ride with an eventing coach. She is great with me and my horse and am super happy riding with her. Before I graduate, we are going to a hunter jumper show together. Since, at least in my experience, hunters tend to be prepped differently than eventers and even jumpers at horse shows, I was wondering if anyone had a good step by step formula for me to pass over to my trainer for the upcoming show. Before any of you say it, she will not be offended in the least. She knows that the hunter world is out of her comfort zone, and is excited to experience what its like to show a hunter. That being said… any suggestions? :smiley:

“Prep” depends on the horse. For some horses, it’s go straight into the ring. Some need a quick hack in the morning, occasionally in draw reins. Some need a lunge and a hack. Others need a lunge and schooling. Some need a trainer on first. Some never jump a jump before going into the ring. It’s all relative. If you’re speaking drugs intended to calm a horse down it’s illegal, and while it may happen, it doesn’t happen with trainers that are actually doing their jobs.

I take my horse for a hack in draw reins on the first day, just for ease of riding in a new environment in case she’s a bit fresh from the trailer ride.

I hack in the morning before I show each day, in the ring if possible. Probably for about 45 minutes.

I get on with enough time for 20 minutes of warm-up. Then I go in the ring. If she happens to come out too fresh in the first class and I show more than once that day, I canter some laps in the warm up.

That’s about it…not much different than when I show the same horse in the jumper ring. Just no canter laps…I need all the energy I can get hahaha.

I agree, it all depends on the horse. The super quiet ones get minimal prep, especially if they have a lot of classes to get through.
The younger/hotter ones may get the same prep + ear stuffies, or they might get a pro ride, a flat school earlier in the day if there’s time, or a lunge to get the spooks and bucks out.
The prep really isn’t that different from other disciplines, you just want to make sure you have a horse who’s focussed enough to maintain that perfect, consistent, rhythmical canter to every jump. Generally the better the rider, the less prep that’s needed.

I’m not sure how big the show is, but if you’re there earlier in the week and want to test out how you’re going to prep, pretend that the ticketed ring is your division. Do everything you would do on show day and see how it plays out.

There’s no need for the discussion to be controversial.

My horse gets hand walked and grazed around the showgrounds to see the sites. He doesn’t do well in a busy schooling ring - the effort to stay calm and focused there exhausts him and leaves little spark for the actual showing in the ring - so a schooling class before he shows in his regular division is a good prep for him. On the rare occasions that isn’t enough to tone down excessive enthusiasm, a few laps of canter in a schooling area then some walking on a loose rein are generally all that’s needed.

He gets a massage and stretching at the end of the day, and more hand walking and grazing. His feet might get packed with Magic Cushion. Depending on how much he did that day, he might get Previcox or Robaxin to alleviate soreness or stiff muscles.

I get wine and Advil, but no massage.


I get wine and Advil, but no massage.[/QUOTE]

This is my prep (and my post- who am I kidding…) . :slight_smile:

I’m confused.

It’s your horse, you’ll be at the show and you know how to prep it. So why the need to get ideas for your trainer?

Just do what you know works for your particular horse.

Does your trainer mean the kind of prep done in the warm up ring to get the best jump out of the horse when it goes in the class? Or the kind of prep that keeps a horse in the right mindset for a hunter show?

The latter (as we all know) is contentious as hell and can be anything from drugs, LTD, hacking or just hand walking. But the former may be different from how she is used to prepping (or not). The key there is to know the horse’s weakest point compared to the course and his strengths as well. How do you tune up one and make the other shine?

Things I have practiced before a class: If I see a long gallop to an oxer on a right lead and know my horse might swap at the base on that one, I’ll practice riding left to right down to one oxer to reinforce holding that RL, or if there was a bending left line on course and my horse likes to land right I might do a tune up on landing left (if we are any good at that) or holding the counter lead off a left turn if we are not.

But other than that, the warm up is tailored to build to the best jump for my horse and ideally leave the ring as soon as that jump is done. With any degree of luck, I’m not the problem that needs fixing and we can leave on his best jump, but there are no guarantees in ammyville. For my last horse he was pretty solid - small vertical, then oxer, raise the back rail by two, jumping it back and forth on each lead until it was competition height, square it up, jump once. make it a vertical one hole higher, toss the cooler on, jump it, head into the ring. LOL after 11 years showing him, I had it down pat!


I get wine and Advil, but no massage.[/QUOTE]

Thank you so much everyone for all of your tips and advice! Since I know I was vague in the beginning about my particular situation, I figured I’d fill in some details.

This horse is pretty darn rock solid at home. The only reason I am mainly concerned about preparing her properly is because I have only shown her once and that was about 2 years ago. That one show was a month after I purchased her. So, as much as I know my horse at home, I don’t really know her at shows. Then, on top of that, my trainer is an extremely experienced eventer, but wants to make sure she gives my horse the preparation she needs to go around nicely in the hunters (since they require that rhythmic, steady pace and attitude). We also want to make sure that its a good experience since its my first time to show in such a long time!

I will personally be showing her in a small division because I will be A) so nervous and B) trying to ease back into the showing world without stressing my horse too badly (when she most likely will have to take care of my mistakes!).

So, in regards to what she needs… what would your recommend for essentially a horse that you aren’t experienced with at a show, that is showing in low height divisions.

Some things that were crossing my mind were:
trainer showing her on Thursday and Friday in some similar height classes (schooling hunters)
Saturday and Sunday- light hacks in the morning
Some lounge-lining towards the beginning of the week

I also loved that some of you suggested how to warm up depending on how she feels. I also really liked the idea of how my trainer can best set her up to jump her best in the ring when she shows her.

So, basically, any suggestions are welcome, but hopefully that provided some context to my post!

I hack in the morning of the first show day. Doesnt have to be in a show ring as she doesn’t spook - schooling area is fine. No draw reins but usually with spurs. I do lots of lateral work and lengthening/shortening and at least one lead change each way. I focus on straightness coming out of all my corners. Then I bathe her and put her away until we are ready to show. I don’t like to spend a lot of time in the schooling area before my classes. A few minutes on the flat and 2 or 3 warm-up jumps and we are ready to go. My morning prep lets me leave the spurs off and float the reins in the afternoon on an obedient horse. I never lunge. I usually only hack the first morning but it depends on how up she is really. A gram of bute on the days she jumps.

I would think if your trainer is experienced with eventing she already knows what a green (to showing) horse might need and be able to tell what level of schooling your horse will need before you get on.

When I take a horse to a show the first few times, what I really want is time and flexibility.

Time to do what the horse needs, flexibility to adapt my schedule and plans to his needs. Does he need to go hang out at the ring and take it all in? Does he need a long warm up away from everyone else? Does he need a lunge session to get just tired enough to go hang around the ring and learn he can take a deep breath? Did he need less the next day? Is he getting better or getting worse? Is he fine in the ring alone but the warm up scares him? Or is he secure around other horses but a little lost in the show ring alone? Is he fine and handling it like an old pro, or am I better off scratching classes and just letting him chill and maybe showing next time (or the time after)?

If you have all the time in the world and no expectations then you can listen to your horse and make it th ebest experience. If you get there with no spare time and a bunch of hard and fast plans, that is usually when things go poorly.

If I were in your shoes, I would be more focused on the training before the show, and if you guys are able to put down a smooth, consistent round at home at a heigher jump height han what you intend to show at, I wouldn’t worry about the prep at the show until you see how your horse is feeling, and then go from there.

It will be good experience, and the fact is, you won’t be able to follow a recipe that might be suggested by others until you have been to a few more shows. I would try to jump as many boxes and fillers as you can ahead of time, though, as you may see a lot of that.

Enjoy yourself! Have fun, and don’t worry about how you your round is supposed to look, just give it your best shot. If you really love it you can work on becoming more competitive at the next shows (although you very well might kick a$$ at this one!)

Has your horse had opportunity to get off the property frequently? Is she good to trailer and calm with commotion going on in new venues? Does she get quick to the fences or looky off property? I think if you know those things you will know how to best prep.

Knowing whether you have the kind of horse that has a limited amount of energy and will fizzle out and get either snarky or lazy when they’ve reached their limit, or a hot horse that needs to be ridden down in new situations, or something in between will help you figure out what things to try.

Don’t worry about the ribbon so much as having a good ride where you acheive your goals or improve each class.

Most importantly good luck and have fun!

Honestly, I have showed both eventing, and in the hunters, and have been in both eventing and hunter barns.

It depends on your event trainer - but with my event trainer, the goal (at least at the lower levels - Novice - 3’ and below) for your stadium jumping round was to “make it like a hunter round”. Steady, quiet, consistent, jumping out of stride. Warm up was about establishing a good rhythm, and jumping out of it (no picking, no rushing). Pace was perhaps a bit more forward then a straight hunter round - but the warm up and the goals were not very different.

The schooling ring at hunter/jumper shows can get chaotic. Remind your trainer that most people go back and forth over the fences - not usually flagged as they are in eventing. Eventing often also has fences at a set height to school over whereas at hunter/jumper shows trainers/assistants can raise and lower as necessary.
The thing that I found out with my horse at his first show - he was calm and very good. Took everything in stride but on the last day he ran out of gas! The hack was before the final over fences class and in the hack it was hard to keep the canter and in the line up his eyes were half shut. I ended up scratching the over fences class as he was just too tired. After that first show no problems keeping his energy up but at that first show he was just exhausted - no special prep other than getting on before my class and riding around the warm up - no lunging, etc.
So pay attention to your horse as he may be fine and just get tired before it is all over.

Don’t try to be perfect in your first class. The idea is to get a little better each round and pay attention to the fact horse will not be exactly the same in each round or each day. Most need alot less prep or none at all as they tire.

Its OK to be a little fresh to start with, don’t wear him out at the beginning and have nothing left for subsequent classes. And get any serious training done at home, the show is not a place to try to teach, you go with what they know and dont worry about what they don’t. They won’t learn anything in that warm up ring except to hate it if its always a place of angst and pressure.

Its so much better to go in that first class with a shaky first few fences that get better and better with each that follows then pound them in the warm up until they get a good fence… And leave it in the warm up while each fence in the actual class deteriorates.

Well, it took us several shows to figure a routine that worked for my mare and also she just needed several shows to realize it wasn’t really THAT exciting.

She gets longed on schooling day and then schooled. First day of show, hand graze and then longed as long or short as necessary. Then she gets hand grazed after we are done. On the second day, we play it by ear. Sometimes she needs a short longe and sometimes not. She ALWAYS needs to be hand grazed though. That seems to REALLY help her get settled.

Current horse? Gets pulled out of his stall, does some flatting around the warmup ring (busy or not, he doesn’t care), and pops over a few jumps. Could probably go straight into the ring with no warm-up fences, honestly. They’re more for me mentally.

Previous horse? Never really settled into the routine, but by about day 3 of showing he started to be more manageable. Not what I would call a calm, relaxed hunter by any means, though. Lunging, in warm-up ring, avoiding warm-up ring, walk around the place - none of it seemed to make much difference. He would be asleep ringside, and turn into a fire breathing dragon the second all 4 feet were in the show ring.