A long summer season stretches ahead, and if you’re the competitive sort, you may be eager to map out your horse show schedule now. Keep your horse’s health as the first priority in your horse show schedule planning, however. How much competition a horse can handle over the course of a summer depends primarily on his age and experience.
Younger horses still refining their skills or learning a new sport need plenty of slack built into their schedules. Rigorous training to prepare them for competition can tax their energy reserves, possibly risking injury or leaving nothing for show day if you’ve pushed too hard up until then. Build recovery days into a young horse’s schedule before and after shows. Plan on entering no more than one or two competitions a month, and be prepared to withdraw him if he seems sore, bored or listless after his rest days.
Seasoned campaigners who know their jobs won’t need nearly as much precompetition prep. In fact, many trainers recommend not schooling at all between events and, instead, keeping the horse fit simply by hacking or recreational riding. Without the stress of schooling, you may be able to compete every weekend of the season with a sound, happy horse. However, this schedule is suitable only for adult horses whose condition has been maintained by riding throughout the winter months. Trying to rush an older, unfit horse into competitive shape in a matter of weeks is asking for trouble. Instead, make your big plans for next seasons, and start now to condition the horse to meet those goals.