Teach Your Horse to Take the Bit
How to Get Your Horse Used to a Show Atmosphere
Sometimes horses can get very skittish when you take them to their first shows, so always know what to do. If your horse has issues when you go to a show, make sure you know how to handle his behavior. It is a good idea to set out a long term plan to get a horse ready to go to a show. Start out small, with schooling shows, or even just taking your horse to a strange place where there is no show (like a local open space). It is often a good idea to start with a show you are not competing at, since your horse will pick up on your nerves as well.
The first time
Consider bringing your horse to the first show just to be there.This means not entering your horse in any classes but going through all the relevant procedures, such as transportation, housing in a stall, feeding during the day, allowing the horse to see lots of people, getting your horse used to the noise, etc.
- Give your horse treats to reward him each time that he does something good.
Stay with your horse at all times.When it is your horse's first show, staying by his side will help your horse to feel relaxed.
Settling the horse in
Try to park your trailer/van in a quieter spacey area of the park with more space if you cannot stall your horse.Do not cramp him.
Unload your horse and lead him directly to his stall and give him some hay.
- Do not put him in a strange stall until you have carefully checked it for nails and dangerous objects.
- Have it bedded, with a bucket of water, and a hay net before you put him in it.
- You may want to use a shank across his nose or under his chin as you lead him from the trailer. Also, use trailing boots.
Going to the show
Head on over to the show.Keep your horse occupied with toys and hay.
Deal with negative reaction quickly.If your horse starts neighing, let it slide unless it gets really serious. In this case, it may not be a good idea. Wait for a moment of calmness and stop the trailer. This shows that good things (trailer stopped) happen when he is calm. Go over to your horse, wait for calmness once again, and then pet him. If he neighs, back away. When your horse has stopped freaking out, try again.
Lead him around and let him get used to things.Do this after he has had some time to settle in his stall and has had a few treats and some hay. A little neighing is OK, but make him pay attention to you.
- Be kind and firm. He may get overexcited.
- Make sure to give him plenty of space, and let him see everything around him. The walk should end on a good note, meaning stop when he is behaving well, if you can.
Preparing for a class
Lounge your horse in an area with horses around, but not in it.That way, he feels safe, especially if you plan to ride him. When he is calm on the longe, then move him to where the horses are.
- Do not use a horse show as a venue to longe (lunge) your horse if he is not safe on the longe at home. Remember, if you can not control your horse, you have no business taking him to a show endangering other people who paid good money to come.
- The longe should be no more than 20 minutes.
Before your class, ride in a quiet arena.Walk, trot, and canter. Halt. Pet him and tell him he's good.
- Sit up straight, and try jiggling the reins. Nudge him and gently say walk, but do not be a passenger. That means, do what you want, do not let the horse control you.
- If you see any improvement at the walk, try a slow trot.
- More improvement? Try some collection. When you succeed, slow back to a walk and try a canter.
- If your horse misbehaves uncontrollably, bring him to a walk and wait until he is calm, then hop off. Pet him a little, then try again, much, much slower.
Finally, join a different ring where other horses are also being ridden.Practice passing the other horse. Again, end on a good note.
- Give him a lot of hugs and kisses and do things you would normally do at home around him (Like mucking his stall out, brushing him, etc.)
- Make sure to always reward him when he behaves properly.
- He will be nervous, so remain firm and ready.
- Walk him around the show area. Be ready for him to spook at anything, even things you don't see.
- Try taking a young horse to a show without actually entering any classes. He will associate shows with relaxation and quality time with you, rather than the hard work and stress that often accompanies actual showing.
- Carry a treat for when your horse is good.
- Check on your horse often to make sure that he has settled, before doing something else.
- If you are staying overnight, longe (lunge) him again the next day by himself.
- Be careful when handling your horse and follow all of the safety precautions and rules around horses.
- If your horse rears, stay out of the way of his legs, but hold on.
- Never wrap the lead rope around you as if the horse gets a fright and pulls away you will be in big trouble.
- Always have an adult with you, one that is experienced with horses.
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