Either shee-ite or get off the pot?
Well, that's kind of where I am at. Bear with me.
Sue Smith's clinic this weekend was awesome. She is a fantastic horsewoman, has a wealth of knowledge and is clear, concise and direct in her instruction. But, she is super nice!
The first morning was spent discussing the ever important care aspects of 'the competitive horse'. While there are similar aspects, 'going down the road' is a whole 'nother beast than loading up and heading to your local events. When you start hauling over a hundred miles to an event and/or plan on being on the road for multiple events, the smallest of details start to make a difference as to how well your horse holds up.
Things like adding double mats in the trailer, doubling the depth of bedding and adding easy boots and wrapping legs can be the difference between pulling in and having a comfortable, reasonably rested horse vs. one who is sore or tired from riding in the trailer.
Feeds and feeding were discussed-While Sue was not trying to 'sell' anything, she uses what she uses because it works and she noticed differences in her horses whether they were on certain products or not. According to her, it's not so much the brand of feed you use as the type and quantity. Competitive barrel horses need a lower sugar/carbohydrate mix (as do most horses, except race horses) and a much higher fat content. And about twice as much feed as even I realized. While I am not going to be totally changing my feeding regime, I definitely found out that I need to get Moon on a lot more of the 'right' kind of grain than what he has been on.
Apparently ulcers are a huge concern. The aspects of hauling can bring those on as much as the nervousness repeated competition causes. Sue treats her horses with UlcerGuard just before leaving and while on the road, as well as feeds a supplement (Pink somethingorother-I'll have to look that up) that helps to coat the entire stomach. Also, keeping hay in front of a horse, so they can constantly nibble and keep something in their stomachs is important. I was pleased to find out that she is perfectly okay with horses being provided a hay bag right up to competition. Unless of course your horse is a hog. You don't want your horse to gorge himself before competition, but having a hungry horse usually means you have a crabby or less focused horse. I have always kept hay in front of my horses, particularly Moon, as he is always hungry.
Appropriate warm-ups depending on your horse. Again, pleased to find out that tons of warming up is not necessary, because I don't. If your horse is working properly and has had a chance to get some blood going to his muscles...it's just fine to take them back to the trailer (or go stand in a corner) until just before your run. About all they need right before a run is a nice stretching walk and maybe a bit of long-trotting to get the blood flowing again. Watching people lope and lope and lope...and lope their barrel horses before a run has always driven me crazy. If your horse is having a bad day and needs it...fine. But if they are working properly, tuned in and warmed up...Why would you work them to death before making a competition run? Besides...all of that sloshing in their guts, combined with probably little feed and a lot of nerves is a good way to get ulcers started!
Shoeing-Sue does the majority of her own shoeing. She is adamant that the hoof needs to be under the horse's leg, have the proper break-over and heel length. A barrel horse's front shoes need to have the heels a little tight (as minimal hang-over as possible), without causing contracted heels. This minimizes the possibility of a horse stepping on his shoe and ripping it off in competition. She likes to see some hang-over in the rear leg heels because she feels that it protects a horse's heel bulbs from burning and bruising. She uses these amazingly light (can't even feel them in your hand) aluminum Queen's Plate No-Vibe shoes. You can also get the No-Vibe in a metal shoe, which is more practical for people who don't run a lot and ride outside a lot. Now here's the kicker people...Competitive horses need to be re-shod at the most...every FOUR weeks. Re-setting the shoe every 2-3 weeks is more appropriate. That's how much difference even a little bit of growth can affect a run. When you are talking hundreths or even thousands of a second that determine earning a check or not....It's all about the details!
Speaking of details...Sue passed around several different types of shoeing nails that she uses depending on the ground she has to run in. Yea...The woman rides the ground and determines if she needs to add different nails! Then she proceeded to show us all how to re-set a shoe that has been pulled off or come loose and how to add different nails if necessary.
More to come...