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  • Writer's pictureJenna Tolson

Preparing for a Winning Horse Show Season

As the new year begins, so does the preparation for the upcoming horse show season. In the world of horse shows, getting ready is crucial. This period is not just about planning for shows; it's about setting the foundation for physical fitness and mental strength. In this guide, we'll focus on practical steps to prepare both your body and mind for the season's challenges. Whether you're a seasoned exhibitor or an eager new amateur, these tips are designed to help you enter the season with confidence and

readiness. Let's dive into how you can make this horse show season a successful and fulfilling experience.

Physical Preparation

The horse show season demands not only skill and precision but also significant physical endurance and strength from its competitors. Understanding and meeting these physical demands are crucial for both the horse and the rider.

Exercise and Fitness Tips for Amateurs:

  • Core Strength and Stability: Focus on isometric core exercises, such as different plank variations, which are essential for maintaining balance and control while riding. Additionally, incorporate exercises like bird dogs to further enhance core stability.

  • Posterior Chain Development: Focus on strengthening the back, glutes, and hamstrings. Exercises like Romanian deadlifts are effective and adaptable for all fitness levels.

  • Balance and Coordination: Single-leg exercises, such as the rear-foot elevated split squats, help correct asymmetries and improve balance, essential for riding.

  • Consistency Over Intensity: Emphasize a realistic approach to fitness. A routine of 30-45 minutes of structured resistance training several times a week is sufficient. Adapt the fitness regime to your lifestyle.

  • Customized Fitness Goals: Understand that fitness isn't one-size-fits-all. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity per week and 2-3 days of full body resistance training. But make it fit in where you can!

The Trade-Offs: While dedicating time to fitness amidst a hectic schedule can be challenging, the long-term benefits are undeniable. A physically prepared rider is not only better equipped to handle the rigors of competition but also forms a more effective partnership with their horse.

Mental Preparation

In horse showing, aptly described as “you are now being judged,” mental preparation is as vital as physical training. This sport inherently places competitors in a vulnerable position, under the scrutiny of judges, peers, and spectators. Such an environment demands a strong sense of self-confidence.

Embracing your true self is a key aspect of this preparation. It's about acknowledging and accepting your insecurities and appreciating what your body does for you, rather than fixating on perceived flaws. This mindset shift is a significant confidence booster.

The way you present yourself also plays a pivotal role in boosting self-assurance. Dressing in your favorite show attire or accessories can positively impact how you feel, lending an air of preparedness and reducing feelings of insecurity.

Facing insecurities head-on is essential. Understanding that feeling anxious or unconfident is a normal part of the experience is crucial. One effective strategy is to view your time in the show pen as an opportunity to 'play a character', helping you channel confidence even when it may not come naturally.

Goal setting is another critical practice. Redirecting your focus from external judgments to personal progress and development fosters a growth mindset. This approach allows you to measure success on your terms, rather than solely by the opinions of judges.

Furthermore, identifying and employing personalized coping strategies, such as yoga, meditation, or giving yourself a period to process emotions, is invaluable in managing show-related stress. These practices help in aligning your mental state with the demands of the sport.

Nutrition and Health

Proper nutrition is a fundamental aspect of an athlete's regimen, and this holds true for equestrians as well. The demanding nature of horse showing and training necessitates not just physical strength and mental sharpness but also relies on the energy and focus that stem from a well-balanced diet. A diet that includes a rich blend of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats is crucial for maintaining energy

levels, aiding physical recovery, and supporting overall health. Equally important is hydration, as adequate water intake is vital for optimal physical performance and cognitive functioning.

Healthy snacking plays a key role in an equestrian's diet. Choosing snacks that provide sustained energy without leading to sluggishness is essential. Some practical options include protein bars, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, edamame, hard-boiled eggs, raw veggies with hummus, quality meat jerky, grilled chicken breast slices, deli meat with low-fat cheese, yogurt or cottage cheese, low-sugar jello or pudding, air-popped popcorn, and string cheese. These snacks can satisfy hunger efficiently while

aligning with the need for balanced nutrition.

Practicing mindful eating is another crucial aspect—paying attention to hunger cues and eating until just satisfied helps maintain a healthy relationship with food and prevents overeating. Regular eating schedules also play a critical role in keeping energy levels consistent, which is essential for optimal performance in training and competitions.

The interplay between sleep and nutrition cannot be overstated. A lack of quality sleep can adversely affect dietary choices, leading to cravings for unhealthy foods. Thus, regular, restful sleep is an integral part of a comprehensive nutrition strategy.

Being attuned to your body is also crucial. Noticing changes in energy levels, mood, or physical performance can signal a need to reevaluate dietary habits or seek medical guidance. Remember, as a rider, you are an athlete, and prioritizing your nutrition and health is key to excelling in the sport you love.

Pre-Season Planning

As the horse show season draws near, strategic pre-season planning becomes indispensable for equestrians, especially for amateurs who juggle multiple roles. The first step in this planning process is setting realistic and achievable goals for the season, whether it's improving specific riding skills or aiming for particular results at a chosen show.

Organizing schedules is another vital component. This encompasses planning training and practice regimes, allocating time for horse care, and balancing personal, family, and work responsibilities. Such meticulous organization is key to ensuring amateurs are well-prepared, enabling them to maintain consistency and effectiveness in their training.

Equally important is the ability to handle setbacks, such as injuries or unforeseen challenges. Having a flexible approach and being prepared to adjust plans as necessary are crucial. This adaptability enables continuous progress and allows for adjustments in response to changing circumstances, ensuring that amateurs can stay on track with their goals regardless of the obstacles they may encounter.


As we prepare for the excitement and challenges of the upcoming horse show season, it’s essential to remember that success in this arena is a blend of physical preparation, mental resilience, sound nutrition, and strategic planning. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned amateur, the journey to the show pen is as rewarding as the event itself.

We encourage you to share your preparation tips, experiences, and stories with the community. Your insights and experiences can inspire and guide others in their own journey!


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