We’re pleased to be bringing you the first entries of our International Equestrian Blogging Contest. Remember, you can still enter as long as all three of your blogs are submitted by September 30. You can find full rules here.

From Fiona Patterson, straight from her horse, Elvis’, mouth!

In anticipation of the upcoming show season, I took some time to reflect upon my show career and all that my good looks and charm have accomplished thus far. I really outdid myself in the dressage ring last year, adding my own unique movements to a test. I took a crack at eventing and jumped all the things.

I even pretended to be a hunter for a day (N.B. blasting around the hunter ring over fences won’t win you any bonus points with the judge, but it sure is fun). I have a good feeling: this is my year to shine (like the heavenly deity that I am).

To help out all the rookies out there, here are my tips for effective and comprehensive show prep (like the saying goes, “be prepared”):

Know Your Audience

Whether in the dressage ring or on the cross-country course, people will be watching, so make sure to practice your poses for the inevitable photos. I like to pick an item in the arena (it could be a ground pole, jump standard, pitchfork, or even a person) on which to focus my attention, and every time I walk by, I freeze, ears forward, eyes wide open, looking into the “camera”.

Check Your Equipment

You want to make sure all tack and apparel is properly functioning and will stand up to the rigours of competition. For example, when my human is leading me, I take the first opportunity that becomes available to test the quality of the reins by stepping on them. If your reins break today, that means you will have to get new ones and you won’t have to worry about their integrity in the show ring!

Fitness

Stamina and flexibility are primordial for competition season, especially when you are straddling a multitude of disciplines. I like to vary my workouts with a cross-training schedule. Some days I will practise my agility (leaps, bounds, sideways jumps), others it’s strength and stamina (blast-offs, quick sprints, long-distance cantering). It’s important to work on flexibility as well; you want your head and neck to have maximal range of motion. I do this by stopping periodically (usually right after a canter) to stretch my head down, taking the opportunity to scratch my face on my leg (I get itchy!).

Diet

As I’ve stated previously, carrots are a must when one wishes to be in the King’s presence. This is not mere hedonism. Nay (Neigh? Not certain on spelling…). There is method to my perceived madness. Carrots contain a wide array of nutrients which are essential for optimal health and well-being. Most notably, carrots contain a high level of vitamin A, which aids in maintaining the immune system. I can’t think of anything worse than spending weeks preparing for a competition, and having to scratch because you get the sniffles.

Well, there you have it.

I’ve got more gems, so if there’s something I missed, feel free to send your questions, and I will respond in my upcoming In Conversation with The King segment.

Signed,

Elvis (J.C. Slewdownfromheaven)

Photo credit: Stefan Patterson