Monitor Horses Closely at Shows

Monitor Horses Closely at Shows

A dose of “good horse sense” by participants at summertime equine shows can help both animal and owner to excel while showing.


A dose of “good horse sense” by participants at summertime equine shows can help both animal and owner to excel while showing.

Dave Freeman, PhD, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension equine specialist, said special attention to a horse’s management and health program is a necessity during the show season.

“Horse shows break up an animal’s normal daily routine,” Freeman said. “The ability to manage these disruptions and their effect on an animal often will be the difference whether or not a horse is able to operate at peak performance during a show.”

First, it is advisable to keep the horse on its routine diet during shows. This will not only help to maintain the animal’s nutritional status while away from home, it can also help the horse to remain healthy.

“If you can’t haul all the grain and hay needed while on the road, feed a grain mix that is available from vendors at the shows,” Freeman said. “It’s not the best course to count on hay being available from vendors given recent hay shortages, so haul as much as you can relative to your expected needs.”

Secondly, heat stress is a possibility at shows if horses are ridden too hard or too long, or if they are placed in poorly ventilated areas while cooling out after a ride.

“To prevent heat stress, riders should keep a close watch on the horse’s attitude and appearance while practicing for or showing in a class,” Freeman said.

A horse with a rapid respiration rate and large amounts of sweat is likely in the early stages of heat stress. Freeman said to ensure serious heat stress problems do not occur, riders should practice in short bouts and make certain the horse is allowed to properly cool off before being placed in a stall.

“Use of fans, shade, and drenching a hot horse’s legs with water also will help prevent and treat a heat-stressed horse,” he said.

Dehydration in horses also is a problem that can occur frequently at equine shows.

“Some horses are finicky and will not drink water readily from sources other than home, so hauling water for short trips is advisable,” Freeman said.

A continuous supply of clean, fresh water should be made available while at shows.

“The water supply in a stall should be checked frequently, and the horse’s water intake should be monitored,” Freeman said.

Finally, contact with other horses at shows increases the chance of exposure to several contagious diseases to which a horse has little immunity unless on a routine vaccination program. Freeman said horse owners should practice preventive equine medicine, and vaccinations, deworming, and dental care all should be taken care of well before the actual show. Additionally, not sharing equipment between animals also can help reduce the chance of spreading disease from horse to horse.

Changes in normal behavior such as going off feed, small amounts of nasal discharge, or coughing are signs of impending health problems that could require prompt attention.

“Horses are highly individual animals,” Freeman said. “Learn what constitutes ‘normal behavior’ for each and act quickly if changes are observed.”

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