My 5 Small But Mighty Horse Show Necessities

Our fall competition season is in full swing, and once again, I am immersed in the excitement of show life. Over my ten plus years of competing, I’ve sifted through various items in my tack box, finding what works, what I certainly don’t need to be hauling around, and what I simply can’t function without. Which brings me here, sharing with you my 5 small but mighty horse show necessities that I always keep within my horse show arsenal.

1. Seam Ripper

In my opinion, a seam ripper is the BEST tool for un-braiding manes, especially if your horse’s braids are sewn in using yarn. The smaller the tool, the better, because it is easy to accidentally take chunks of hair out when using something bigger, such as scissors. I may or may not be speaking from experience… I’ve used my seam ripper for years now, and you can pick one up at your local drug/grocery store for under $3.00. It makes life much easier, especially on the final day of competition when we’re all usually quite tired.

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Bless you, Tack Up Grip Spray.

2. Nunn Finer Tack Up Grip Spray 

Tack Up Grip Spray is a highly under utilized product. However, I actually don’t use it to spray the seat of my saddle, much to the contrary. Instead, I spray my reins and my hands once I have put my gloves on, right before heading over to the warm-up arena. Humidity in South Texas is a serious issue, which inevitably makes my leather reins sweat, especially if I have cleaned or conditioned them the night before. Sweaty reins mean ultimate slippage through my fingers, regardless of how securely I’m holding onto them. The Tack Up Grip Spray has been a solution to this dreaded issue, and I won’t be traveling to competitions without it.

3. Extra Test Book

If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that you can never have too many test books laying around your tack stall. Whether you’re using the book to study or you need a caller for your ride, always keep one handy in the times of commotion. You never want to show up late to the ring because you couldn’t find what you’re looking for at the stalls. The United States Dressage Federation’s “Member Guide” lives in my show box, because the booklet actually contains the national and FEI tests. And, well, the booklet is free if you’re a member of USDF, so you won’t have to spend extra dollars on a specific test book. Three cheers!

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I don’t travel to competitions without my USDF Member Guide! Oh, and I also don’t travel to competitions without a folder containing mine and Leah’s USDF/USEF Membership Proof, a copy of Leah’s coggins, her proof of flu vaccination, and a copy of her breed registry papers… Just in case!

4. Towels & Rags

Okay, this is a pretty generic item, but you never know how badly you need an extra rag until you’re crunched for time and need to wipe out your horse’s nostrils. I actually have a tote bag specifically dedicated to rags, towels, and old socks (yes, old socks make the perfect tack cleaning cloth), that travels to all the horse shows with me. Just think of all the things we actually use rags for! From last minute boot shining, to whisking away sweat, dirt, or grime, to putting the finishing touches on your saddle cleaning procedure, rags are a serious necessity.

5. Apples

Surprisingly enough, apples serve more purpose than just a reward for your equine partner after a solid test or two. We always travel with apples because they can be an important aid that encourages your horse to drink water. Just like us humans can be picky about what we like to drink, horses can easily turn their noses up at water that tastes differently than what they are used to at home. For example, just last weekend, one of our horses at the show began to slow down on water intake. His rider chopped up a few apples, popped them into his buckets, and sure enough, he began to suckle down water, while simultaneously trying to eat the sweet treat. As we look ahead to the longer competitions, such as Regional Championships next month, it’s important to remember this tip because few things are more important than making sure your horse is properly hydrated.

My horse show necessities extend more than just these five, but as I mentioned before, they are all mighty in their own way. Perhaps you’ll feel so inclined to acquire a few of the items I have mentioned, and if you do, then hopefully you’ll feel the same way!

Happy showing, everyone!

Clinic Etiquette 4-1-1

Currently, CEC Elite Training is buzzing with excitement for our upcoming clinic weekend with German international dressage competitor, Kathleen Keller. The first rider will enter at A beginning at 6:45AM tomorrow morning, Friday, July 1st. My time is set for 7:30AM. Kathleen, daughter of Dolf Dietram Keller, currently rides and competes for Germany’s B-Team – meaning, the group of riders are the future Olympian’s for the country. We are all so thrilled to revel in her knowledge for three days!

With this clinic looming on the literal horizon, I felt as if it would be appropriate to share my list for proper etiquette. Clinics are far more than just an opportunity to watch an instructor guide various horse/rider combinations through a series of movements and techniques. There is a technique behind being a demonstrative rider and/or auditor!

  1. Look Professionally Put Together
    Looking professional to your clinician, and audience, is a sign of respect. This person is donating his or her time to you and your horse, sharing their guidance and expertise in hopes of you having a fantastic training session and taking away some valuable pieces of information. Plan your outfit the night before so the morning of, you aren’t in a mad scramble around your room, helplessly throwing clothes around like ragdolls. I tend to lean more towards traditional, subtle colors for clinics and shirts with collars; however, I have been known to sport my pink breeches during one of my rides with Volker Brommann. Hindsight is 20/20 and I probably wouldn’t opt for those again… Anyway, make sure your shirt is neatly tucked into your clean breeches, a belt is perfectly in place and your boots are tidy. When it comes to hair, I opt for a low ponytail, braid, or preferably, a bun at the nape of your neck. Your riding wardrobe doesn’t necessarily matter on a daily basis, but it matters during a clinic because putting A+ effort into your look gives the impression that you are dedicated and serious. Again, it all comes back to appreciation of professionalism.
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I always aim to dress professionally when I ride. In my personal view, it a sign of respect to my barn and my trainer. I plan on wearing this outfit this weekend because it’s neutral yet elegant!
  1. Horse Appearance
    While you as a rider need to be looking sharp, this rule equally applies to your horse. The day or so before the clinic, give your horse a good spa bath and touch up areas that require clippers. On the day of, get to your barn or clinic location earlier than the time you’ve already allotted yourself. Give your horse the once over – checking for any bumps, scratches, or cuts (tip: you should do this everyday, clinic or no clinic), then really take your time in the grooming department. Start out by giving your equine a solid curry session. This will bring out the natural oils of the coat, resulting in luminous shine. Dandy brush away the loose hair and dirt, comb through the mane, if it is not braided (some clinics require braided manes), and pick hooves thoroughly. Apply a nice detangler-shine to the tail; I use ol’ reliable Cowboy Magic, and gently brush the coarse hair, starting from the bottom and working your way up. Shavings in tails are a big no! Lastly, use an old rag to wipe dirt out of nostrils and clean up the face. Don’t forget a mist of fly spray, as a finishing touch, and a shine spray if you feel so inclined – just don’t apply it where the saddle goes or else you’re in for a slippery ride. Select a clean saddle pad for the training session and if able, an equally clean pair of polo wraps – they are always professional. Oh, and please leather soap/condition your tack!
  1. Be On Time
    This is probably the biggest rule of thumb when it comes to proper clinic etiquette. Depending on how your clinic is held, your instructor will either want to guide you through your warm-up routine or they will want to begin the “real” work as soon as your time begins. If the latter of this option happens to be the case, make sure you are on and warming-up at least 15 minutes before your required time. Every horse and rider’s warm-up routine differs. Either way, you need to plan accordingly, as time management is an important skill to have when you’re a dressage rider. Be courteous to other riders too – if you’re late, you’re pushing their time back, which puts the entire clinic behind. This is especially difficult if the clinician needs to catch a flight back to their hometown at the end of the day. Every rider wants to feel like they received the same amount of time and attention as others… because clinics are not cheap! So, I repeat, be on time.
  1. Know When To Ask Questions
    Like I mentioned, auditing clinics is so much more than sitting in a chair, watching the rider before your eyes. It is important to engage with fellow auditors and your clinician. However, you must know the right time to ask questions. When the clinician is focused giving instruction to the rider, this is not the ideal time to interrupt with your opinions or questions. Usually, when the rider takes a walk break, this is your opportunity to ask. A handful of clinicians will question the auditors if they have anything they’d like to ask about what they have just seen. However, it is always polite to start out by saying “Insert instructor name, I have a question that I’d like to ask you, if that is okay.” Never just assume it is the perfect chance.
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Work, work, train, train… and train some more.
  1. Take Notes
    I am a very visual person, and I find that note taking really helps me absorb all the information that can be easily forgotten in the mist of daily life. When I ride in a clinic, my mother videos my rides – Bailey has also videoed a few of my rides with Volker! I find this to be the best tool for clinic riders because you can always refer back to the video if you need to recall a key piece of training guidance. However, if you are just auditing, come to the clinic with a small notebook and a writing utensil of your choice, and be prepared to write like a mad man. At the top of the page, write the level of that particular rider and jot down statements that stand out to you. Pieces of what you learn as an auditor can be applied to your daily riding.
  1. Be Thankful and Appreciative
    This is the most important etiquette rule. Clinics are a big task to host. From setting the date, to organizing riders, to scheduling said riders and a location, to arena set up, to food, drink, chairs, and picking up the clinician, the task is not for the faint of heart. Offer to contribute to the clinic by bringing breakfast one morning or just a cooler full cold water. Water never goes unnoticed, am I right? Say thank you. Find the host, or hosts, and let them know just how appreciative you are for their hard work. And of course, thank your clinician after each ride, but that should be a major given!

All if this clinic talk has me feeling extra excited about tomorrow morning. Leah and I have been working very hard to prepare for our rides with Kathleen – we always strive to be the best we can be and we always are eager to learn new tricks of our trade. Look for daily updates on my Instagram and don’t forget to follow The Preppy Equestrian’s Snapchat (@thepreppyequest) as I am taking over all day Saturday and Sunday.

Show your next clinician that you’re etiquette is at the top of its game!

Happy clincing!

The Do’s & Don’ts of Sun Protection

Ah, summer is upon us. Well, most of us… especially if you’re located in South Texas. The summer season here is anything but glamorous. Try triple digit temperatures with ungodly humidity and wicked thunderstorms because of it. Learning how to properly protect ourselves from the harmful, powerful UV rays is a science. Over the years, I’ve learned just what to do and what not to do. Allow me to share my do’s and don’ts for surviving the summer sun.

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Cooling Leah out after a morning training session. We ride in the mornings to beat the afternoon South Texas sun!

DO put on sunscreen before you put on your clothes, not after. It is hard to maneuver around necklines and sleeves, so make putting on your sunscreen a part of your pre-barn, morning routine. Plus, if you’re like me and despise the greasy residue it leaves, you can wash your hands before grabbing things like your phone. I opt for SPF 70 or above because I am fair skinned and burn easily. Look for sunscreens that have ingredients you can read, too. The more natural, the better, and your skin will thank you! I also keep a bottle of sunscreen in my tack trunk for reapplication. If you are spending a day at the barn, consider the fact that you will sweat and hosing off horses will result in you getting wet somewhere on your body. Reapplying is very important!

DON’T pick tanning lotion as your form of SPF. Tanning lotions are great, but they are meant to be applied during a leisurely few hours at the beach or by the pool. Most tanning lotions only reach up to 8SPF, which is not nearly enough UV protection for a long day in the sun. My tip? Apply SPF 70+ sunscreen, followed by a thin layer of tanning oil or lotion. You’ll still get color without the high risk of burn. However, let’s just take a moment to accept the fact that equestrian’s arms will always be tanner than the rest of our body… Shrug.

DO pick UV protective clothing. As we know, Kastel Denmark, Ariat, Arista, HorZe Equestrian, and more, are designing and merchandising UV protective, technical riding shirts with mesh sleeves to ensure maximum air flow. These shirts all give the rider an added boost when it comes to blocking out harmful UV rays. Another alternative to these shirts is opting for fishing shirts. Yes, fishing shirts! GameGuard or Columbia manufacture shirts in either short sleeve or long sleeve options. They are designed for fishermen and keep you incredibly cool while riding. I often ride in my fishing shirts, as they keep the air flowing all throughout my training session, even in the long sleeve style.

DON’T pick dark colored clothing. No matter how cute, fun, sparkly, precious the shirt is, if it is a dark tone, don’t wear it. Dark colors absorb heat (leaving you more prone to heatstroke), while light colors reflect sunrays. Unless it is wintertime, you can always find me at the barn in a light colored tank top or short sleeve, if I’m not sporting a Kastel.

DO wear a hat when you’re not wearing your helmet. Protect your face, peeps! If you can, purchase a visor that easily attaches to the brim of your helmet. The skin on your face is ultra sensitive. Wearing a hat will obviously block the sun from burning your precious forehead, cheeks and nose to a crisp. Also, find a sunscreen that is less oil based to prevent pesky breakouts.

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My top pick products for combatting UV rays. I use Lancome BIENFAIT Multi-Vital Sunscreen Cream for my face as it does not lead to breakouts! 

DON’T load your face up with makeup, if you can help it. I know that I used to wear makeup while riding on a daily basis. However, I found that my makeup combined with the sun would leave my face feeling irritated and itchy. Finally, I stopped wearing all makeup to the barn, opting to slather non-oily sunscreen on my face instead. Much better option! Makeup can also subconsciously make you feel hot. When you sweat, your foundation can run into your eyes causing burning and discomfort. Stick to a sweat proof sunscreen and you’ll be feeling so much fresher! And if you feel the need for makeup, try waterproof mascara only.

DO find a pair of sunglasses and stick with them! Your eyes need sun protection too. UV rays are bright! If you can afford polarized glasses, they are the ideal choice for ultimate defense. However, most any type of pair will do. My sunglasses are glued to my face during sunny days. I haven’t quite found a pair that fit comfortably under my helmet, but the hunt is definitely on!

 DON’T forget to drink water and moisturize your skin. This is definitely a given when it comes to surviving summer sun and summer heat. However, the two go hand in hand. After long days in the sun, your skin needs to rehydrate. It is recommended that we drink 3 liters of water a day – that’s what I do! Don’t forget to incorporate electrolytes into your hydration routine, too. As I have written before in my blog, I add different types of cubed fruit and citrus to my water jug, which makes the task of drinking 3 liters far less tedious. In addition to rehydrating from the inside, rehydrate your skin from the outside. Find an after-sun lotion at your local drug store and after your shower, apply lotion to all areas where sun was exposed. It’ll have you feeling fresh and your skin feeling yummy.

DO remember that your horse needs UV protection; especially if he or she is a grey or paint with dominant white markings. Leah’s delicate, pink nose is subject to sunburn every summer. Luckily now, her fly mask has a mesh piece that covers her sensitive area. However, before that came into my possession, I was constantly smearing SPF 100 (yes, human sunscreen!) around her nostrils to prevent burn. I highly suggest this if your pony has delicate features. If you can afford a flysheet, do so, as they also help block UV rays. Just like people, horse’s coats need rehydration too. Shop around and find your favorite coat conditioner spray (I like using Wahna Win Complete Coat Care Conditioner) – they really do help! Some brands of fly spray have SPF built into the formula as well. If your horse has sensitive skin, try turning out during times when UV rays are weakest: the early mornings and/or evenings/overnight.

Living in Texas definitely gives you all the tools you need to protect yourself from horrid sunburn, dehydration, and heatstroke. Be smart about your sun protection and remember that none of us are above the diagnosis which is skin cancer. Remember my do’s and don’ts the next time you head out for your day at the barn!

Happy summer riding!
Madelyn