Hauling your horse and/or competing can be stressful. Even though you are excited, you can't help but be a ball of nerves. There's so much to do and so many things you can forget. Your horse feels it too. Hauling and performing puts a lot of pressure on them, even if they don't show it. I love running barrels and I live for it. However, every single time I have to haul and compete I feel like an emotional tornado! I have a simple routine that I do every time to put some ease on my horse and I. It's nothing crazy, just some tips/tricks to keep the performing road less stressful :)
The night before an event, I always try to get a good night's sleep. Trying to get ponies fed and hit the hay early can make a huge difference in your hauling experience. I like to check my horse's water and make sure he has a good amount to get hydrated before our trek. I am not a morning person by any means, but I do like to get up earlier that way we have plenty of time and don't have to rush. This also allows time for my horse to eat his breakfast.
I am extremely forgetful, so I always pack a bag with all the stuff that I need. I pack my spurs, water, snacks, halters, entry money, and basically anything else that I have to take with me. I leave it right by my dresser so I see it immediately and grab it. I also always bring a jacket. I don't care if it is July in Colorado, bring a jacket! Packing a phone charger is also a good idea.
As I said before, we do pack snacks/drinks. You just never know when hauling what might happen. I also do the same for my horse. I make sure we have water and I always bring him at least one hay bag. If we are staying the night somewhere, I do bring 2 hay bags, his grain, a grain pan, and an overnight water trough. You can never be too prepared!
For the vehicles, I think it is super important to do a walk about and make sure everything is intact. I always like to make sure I have a decent amount of fuel and that tires/mechanical things are all ok and safe to take off. Same thing with the horse trailer, I triple check it. Also double check that the lights are working!
For my horse, I do try to make him as comfortable as possible for whatever haul we are making. I adjust the windows based on the weather so he's not too cold and not too hot. The one thing I never, ever suggest doing, is leaving your windows completely down and allowing your horse to stick his head outside of the trailer. This is very dangerous and can lead to a huge accident. So I always make sure the screen is up and he is safe and secure in the trailer. If we are going to be hauling for a long time, I do spray him with Draw It Out Liniment to keep him from getting stiff. The liniment just helps him to not get sore while standing in the trailer. If we are going over 4 hours, I do plan to stop on the way and get him out of the trailer. I will walk him around, let him get some exercise, and offer him some water. If we left earlier than usual, I will also put a hay bag in there for him. There are shipping boots, sheets, or other types of horseware you can get to help them during a longer haul. I typically never go over 3 hours from home so I haven't used them, but they are great products!
We always drive sensible since we do have the horse and trailer. Being aware of your surroundings is very important. Also being aware of your horse in the back. Is he moving a lot? If so maybe stop and check him, just to be safe. Keep an eye on other drivers, construction zones, and traffic jams.
Performing or showing can lead to a very busy day. There's so much to get ready for and you have to be prepared for your turn. As much as I love competing, I do get nervous. One thing that really helps me is having music at the ready. I always play my favorite tunes on the way there and I will sometimes put headphones in while I am getting ready at the competition. It really lightens your mood and calms your nerves.
I also make sure we get there in plenty of time and that I am not in a hurry. Being on a time crunch just stresses you out more, so being able to go at your own pace is super helpful. You have to unload, enter, tack up, warm up, and wait to run. So definitely give yourself enough time.
When I unload my horse, I always start by brushing him. After grooming him and cleaning out his feet, I always spray him with my Draw It Out Liniment. This helps reduce inflammation in the muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments. It helps him feel his best to perform. Once I spray it all over his body, I then saddle him up. I never tighten my cinch up all the way until I am about to compete. So just enough to keep the saddle on. I then get his sport boots and bell boots out. I always attach them to my saddle, but I don't put them on until it is closer to us competing. They get sweaty/itchy and my horse starts trying to rub them off. So I wait to keep him more comfortable.
Once we are tacked up and ready, I take him to the warm up pen. Here I will tighten my cinch a little bit to be more secure. I do my walk, trot, lope routine during this time. Once we have warmed up, I cool him off and then take him inside to the arena. I really like to let my horse stand at the fence and let him see everything. This calms him down and me as well. We can see the banners, listen to the music, and get accustomed to our surroundings. Every horse is different, but mine does better with standing until we run. When they do a drag or break, I do walk him around, but nothing faster. He gets amped up if we lope around in the arena, so I like to keep him calm. When it is closer to our turn, I will get down and tighten our cinch up more. I also put his boots on and take some deep breaths. At this point my heart is beating like crazy, so I try to listen to the music and sometimes even sing! This helps keep me calm and gets rid of the jitters. Something you can also try is using Lavender Oil on you and your horse. I sometimes will rub some on my wrists and even a small amount on his forehead to help calm us.
When it is my turn, I take deep breaths and I always talk to my horse. We go in and do our thing. When we come out of the arena, no matter how our run went, I always do these next steps. I get off, loosen my cinch, take his boots off, and pet him. Even if we had a bad run, we walked out safely and he tried his heart out for me. I then walk him back to the trailer and offer him water. Then I unsaddle. I always let him roll and cool off before we head back home. I offer him water again and then we load up and head back. I do always check our vehicles again just to be sure and depending on weather, adjust the windows again.
These little things may seem silly, but they do make a huge difference. The most important thing is finding what works best for you and your horse. When the shows starting opening up again, try getting into a routine. This really helps ease your mind and make sure you are prepared. Thanks for the read and we hope you guys have a wonderful weekend!