The year started off as usual with our regularly scheduled local events. The futurity horses had some much deserved time off but now it’s time for Derby season. We show 4 and 5 year olds at the derbies so we were full speed ahead getting them in top shape for these major events. When the Corona virus pandemic disrupted the world it took a lot of the urgency out of preparing for the shows that either got canceled or postponed. It took a few days to adjust mentally to these changes that immediately affected our “normal” routine. The silver lining was that we were able to take some pressure off the young horses and really focus on taking our time and developing good fundamentals. We continued training and coaching as normal as we could. Events like virtual horse shows and competitions kept morale up as well as providing some incentive to practice with purpose.
The announcement recently that the NRCHA is holding the Derby as originally scheduled gave us all a glimpse of hope that we may be headed towards some sense of normalcy. Everyone showed up at the barn with a little more spring in their step, smiles on their faces, and rode their horses with more purpose. I believe competition is a healthy way to maintain motivation and a positive attitude. For our upcoming Derby we have a wide range of horses and riders to prepare. My son as well as two other youth riders will be showing in the youth bridle class, my wife and 2 other non-pros will be showing their derby horses in the amateur and non pro divisions, I have two derby horses to show in the open as well as one in the open bridle. Everyone is looking forward to getting back to the competition arena as well as catching up with our extended cowhorse family. Much of the enjoyment of the western performance horse industry is the camaraderie between us as competitors. Throughout the years we develop relationships with the office staff, trainers, owners, and sponsors all of which are integral parts in the success of our industry. We rely on each other in good times and bad and though we are competing, there is a mutual respect that extends beyond the business. The horse is the common denominator that brings us all together, and the personal relationships that are formed are invaluable.
Besides reinforcing fundamentals one of our priorities is conditioning so our horses are in excellent physical shape to meet the demands of reined cowhorse. Besides trotting and loping in the arena the desert is a great place to get out and work on conditioning. It’s also good for the horses’ minds to get outside and stretch their legs.
The art of balancing high-performance training with good mental wellness is a fine line. One of the things I do to mix things up is roping on my cowhorses. It is a great way to combine conditioning with a different job that allows the horse to stay fresh mentally. The two disciplines complement each other so well as the basic fundamentals are the same. It also results in a better trained more versatile finished horse with additional skills.
Periodically, I’d say every 3 months, I like to have our veterinarian examine all of our horses. The old saying: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, applies very much to performance horses. I rely on the vet to give us a fresh set of eyes on the health and wellness of the animals. Soundness is critical to maintain a high level of performance so if we can reduce and relieve inflammation and soreness, we can minimize more serious injuries and wear and tear that can ultimately shorten a horse’s competitive career.
Some of the things we do routinely include: apply Absorbine’s Bigeloil® liniment to legs and joints after strenuous workouts, feed Bute-Less® supplements to assist in reducing inflammation and promoting muscle recovery, utilize CoolDown™ bathing products when heat is a factor, and always maintain high levels of electrolytes to maintain hydration. Especially during the summer months it’s important to have effective control of flies and other pests. We use UltraShield® fly spray regularly before and after riding so our horses aren’t distracted and wasting energy avoiding pests. In addition, it allows us to maintain a healthy, disease free environment.
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