Prepping for the big show in town
February 18, 2013
It's that time of the year when some of the major stock shows are taking place around the country such as Fort Worth, the National Western Stock Show in Denver and the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo in Rapid City. Before you head out to the stock show with your horse, there are several things to consider and ask yourself. Are you and your horse ready to compete? When was your horse last vaccinated – is his Coggins up to date – do you need a health certificate – what about hay and grain? I suggest making a checklist prior to leaving. You may even need several checklists for the stock show.
Stock shows such as the National Western or Fort Worth Stock Show will require your entry several months in advance. Both shows have an early – November – entry date for the horse show division. Some shows will allow you to enter late, for example Fort Worth will take entries until Dec. 31, but you must pay a late entry penalty. Some shows will allow you to enter much closer to the date of the event and this is good if you are showing a young horse or if you are competing on a horse that has soundness or health concerns. The later entry deadline, which may cost around $40 in office fees compared to $20 if you are on time, may save you and your horse in the long run by only entering a few events/classes until you can gauge the progress or condition of your horse.
You may want to update your horse's vaccines. Keep in mind when traveling to competitions, your horse will come in contact with a lot of other horses and people that will essentially be housing or bringing with them their own germs. So, to decrease the chance of your horse becoming ill consider having his vaccines up to date or give a booster at least a month prior to traveling to the competition. Also, consider bringing a disinfectant with you (such as bleach) and bleaching the stall prior to putting down your bedding. Also, consider putting your tack or feed stall in between your horse and other horses. Another thing to consider, if you can pick your stall(s) choose a back wall if the stalls are open on the sides so your horse can not come in contact with other horses standing behind him.
Also, don't share water! A lot of events will put a water trough out for the stock including exhibitors and competitors to water their horses out of but this is a great way to share germs. Avoid community waters. Also, consider packing a sign or making one that ask people to not pet your horse even if he's friendly and enjoys the attention. By preventing others from petting your horse then you can help decrease the chances of him possibly receiving germs or bacteria from another animal that could be harmful.
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Other things to consider along the line of health – check the state and states you are traveling through and to for their latest health requirements. Also, check with the venue and competition to see if they have any regulations on papers and documents needed to get your horse on the grounds. For those that enjoy traveling with other pets like dogs and cats, be aware that some fairgrounds now require a health paper and even a current rabies tag for them, so check the guidelines in advance. Most health papers for horses and even dogs are good for 30 days so if you are traveling to several shows, try to get one paper that can cover more than one show. In other words have your veterinarian write your health certificate for your horse(s) close to the date you are leaving, with several locations if possible. Your veterinarian will likely need a current Coggins paper/test to write a health certificate for your horse.
A Coggins paper/test is a certificate showing that your horse has been tested for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). The test is called the Coggins Test named after the individual that came up with the test to diagnose EIA. Again, each state and venue may have their own specific requirements for a valid Coggins Test. For example some states require a six month test and others are fine with a year. Some states will require the accession number from the Coggins Test to be included on the health certificate and then others will not. So, check the health requirements at least a month prior to traveling. Some states or facilities may require tests for other infectious diseases (example: some states in the past required horses coming from places where equine piroplasmosis was found to have a certificate showing they did not have the disease before entering the state or the grounds). Most Coggins tests will take a week to get the results back but some labs can rush the order and in some cases get the results within a few hours or at least within a 24 hour period. Granted, an extra fee or cost is generally associated with this convenience.
Memberships, Registration and Paperwork Prep
On the subject of tests and papers, do you have your paperwork in order for the association(s) you are showing or competing with? Have you renewed your memberships? Do you have your current card(s) or copies of your amateur or membership card? What about your horse's registration papers, do you have a copy or did you send off your new horse's papers and get them back? Some folks who travel to a lot of competitions will make a folder or binder with all of the necessary paperwork from health, coggins, registration, insurance (truck, trailer, and horse) and membership cards in one place. It's always a good idea to make an extra copy or two in case the show/event needs a copy and can't make one. Also, if you are hauling a long distance do you have a map with you in case the GPS system doesn't work? How about a list of horse hotels or places you can overnight? It's also not a bad idea to keep in your folder/binder a copy of your roadside assistance plan and contact information should you need it.
Don't forget to consider your horse's hoof and hair needs. Don't wait until the last minute to have your horse shod, but don't have him shod or trimmed too far in advance so that he needs to be re-done right before the show. Your farrier might not be available. Also, consider how your horse reacts to being shod or trimmed. If he is always a little sore or moves a little differently, plan to have him reshod or trimmed at least one or two weeks before the event.
Similarly, consider your horse's hair coat. Will the event require you to body clip or keep lights on your horse? If so, then again, planning needs to take place a few months in advance. If you choose to body clip your horse, make sure you do it in time for the blemishes to grow out so you will have time to re-clip or smooth out the lines after shaving your horse's body. Most people generally clip 10-14 days prior to showing. If you have a large horse or a horse that doesn't like to stand for body clipping, consider breaking it up into several sessions. Also, make sure you have clippers that work (some like to use the larger livestock clippers on the body and then do the head and legs with smaller blades), oil, a brush (helps to clean the hair out), coolant (some companies make a product that help cool off the blades, if the blades get too hot then the horse may resist you), and an extra set of blades or two. It's also recommended that you wash your horse prior to clipping. He will clip better – meaning less lines in the body and it will save your blades. When clipping the body, go against the hair and make long single strokes to decrease lines. You may consider using smaller clippers on the head and ears too. Some horses get fidgety around the head and even legs, so consider asking someone to help hold him. Also, be sure to blanket your horse after clipping.
Prior to blanketing take a soft body brush and brush off his body, legs and head to remove any fine hair particles. Ideally, you should bath him and then spray oil sheen on his body to prevent his skin from drying out. Then put the appropriate blanket or blankets on him. Do not clip your horse and turn him out in the cold! Also, if you have a horse with white markings you may want to clip the white markings closer to the show date with a surgical size blade to really clean up the white areas and give them a very fit and clean appearance. You may also need to clean up the ears, muzzle and lower limbs on or just before show day. Also, be careful to not clip the mane too close. It's always a little better to blend the hair and leave it a little long. When clipping the bridle path generally an ear's length is a good rule of thumb unless you are showing a long eared breed (mule or donkey) and then three to five inches is a good rule. Again, check your breed's standards when clipping and ask someone to help you if you are unsure. With the mane consider the industry or event standard, which can all vary according to the breed and event.
Some people braid tails and put them in socks or tail bags and others leave them loose. Ask others what works best and make a plan that will work for your horse and situation. Some even trim the end of the tail if the horse is performing in an event where it comes to a deep stop or a sliding stop. Trimming the end of the tail to the fetlocks will hopefully prevent the horse from stepping on it and pulling out tail hair when competing.
Mane preparation can also vary depending on the event(s). If you will be roping, your options are braiding or roaching the mane. So, make sure you pack enough rubber bands to braid plus yarn if needed and the appropriate tools to braid and unbraid the manes (such as a seam ripper). If you are competing in events where banding is the protocol, be sure you have your banding equipment packed.
Stock shows can be a great place to stock up on supplies considering the endless number of vendors that can be found. So, make a list of what you need to compete, a list of things you need to get your horse ready prior to the competition and during the competition. Then consider stocking what you need when you are visiting one of the shows but don't rely on the show to have what you need! If you are showing you will probably need products to wash and condition with as well as things to shine and polish hooves (hoof black, hoof clear, and/or hoof oil plus sand paper to sand hooves) or things to enhance the shine of his coat (show sheens or oil sheens). Consider the environment that you are competing in. In a dry climate, moisture may need to be added to the coat (consider a product that has lanolin or is oil based versus silicon in it) in a humid environment such as the Houston Stock Show you will need something to lay his hair coat down (show sheen). Also, pack horse wear (like a sheet to keep him clean, etc.) that your horse may only wear or need at the show to stay clean and neat.
Along with general supplies like extra buckets, bucket hangers, hay bags, hay, feed (can you buy feed there if you run out?) and bedding (can you buy bedding there or do they having bedding restrictions?) be sure you have all your tack. Make a list and check it twice! Then check the trailer several times. Check for your hat and spurs, clothes, chaps and helmet if needed. Last but not least, don't forget to pack your good sportsmanship attitude! Showing, rodeoing and competing at any level should be fun. Even if you are making a living, remember to be a good sport, learn from your mistakes and go get 'em next time. You never know who is watching you and stock shows are a great way to encourage young people to get involved with equine and to educate those who may know little about horses or the sport.
Amy McLean (formerly the University of Wyoming Equine Specialist) is the new North Carolina State University Equine Specialist.