Amistad getting in the trailer... on his way to the Olympics!

Getting in the trailer…

Like many competitors, getting back home after a long weekend of horse competition is a mixed bag — you’re glad to be home and get a rest in your own bed, and your horses are, too. But there’s probably a pile of stuff  to get unpacked and washed, more unpacking and cleaning with tack, horse trailer, and the back seat of the truck (yuck).

The good person who you left in charge of the barn needs to back to work or school on Monday, so you can’t get much rest – you’ve got to get up and get the barn done in the morning. You’re braindead and the phone has a gadzillion messages on it. Lots of things to do; now what?

First, rehydrate yourself with plenty of fluids (non-caffeine, non-alcohol), and a healthy meal. Then, get some sleep — no blue lights (keep the phone and iPad off and don’t read screens in bed) – at least 7 hours. This resets your body and helps it start cellular repair from the stresses of the physical work you did over the weekend and when arriving home — riding, and packing/unpacking. While you’re doing that, your horse should be also doing the same — a good meal, a deep bedded stall for rest, fans if hot, blankets if cool.

Watch turning out a horse that has worked hard and shipped a long distance — you can’t monitor drinking and manure if they’re in a 20-acre field, no matter how nice it might seem to let them enjoy a night out on grass. Let them rest where they can be monitored the first 24-hours upon returning home, check temperature and respiration at least a couple of times before turning out. It’s just smart to watch out with the fit horses because of the work they did over the weekend and the lack of free time (usually stabled all weekend). Especially if the show was a long way from home, you’ll want to be careful about additional stress to a horse that has just competed and shipped. Their bodies also need cellular repair and studies show it takes from a day to several days to complete that process.

Thank your stay-at-home help with a nice gesture! A card, a photo on Facebook, something special – a Starbucks card or a pizza party, whatever would make them smile and say, “Gee, that was nice of her!” It goes a long way to alleviate those jealousy symptoms (you were off having fun and they were home cleaning stalls) no matter how professional your set up. It makes them feel like they are a part of your success and part of the team, even if the team is in different places over the weekend.

Return your phone calls! Set aside a time where you are not riding, working, or dealing with chores — and get your calls returned. If you are a professional, this is a must, and if you’re an amateur who depends on your family and friends to allow you to have a great competition weekend, same deal – give some attention to them without distractions. Your barn and horse can have a day while you keep your family happy!

Ike relaxing in the barn

Ike relaxing in the barn

Finally, get some “me” time. Evaluate your entire performance over the weekend and ask yourself how you felt about each challenge, and whether your response was enough, great, bad, or somewhere in between.

Make notes or decide what to do to change for the better. This might take the form of, “I need more show jumping instruction,” or “I wish I could better my dressage score”, or even figuring out a better organization strategy for the time schedule.

Allow yourself a pat on the back for completing, or finishing with a ribbon, or sticking it out if things didn’t exactly go to plan. This doesn’t always mean focusing on just the competition; also your interactions with your trainer, officials, spectators or others are important too. Did I say the right thing? Did I act appropriately with that person? Was I as kind and attentive as I could have been? These are things I do when I get home and try to think over my day or my weekend. Competitions truly are learning experiences, from top to bottom, for not just the horses and not just my riding skills but all other parts of my life, too. Even a disappointing competition has value – you just have to look for it and find it.

(For help in finding a better way forward after competition weekends, you may want to check out Sport Horse Riders — it’s a self-help concept centered around busy people, utilizes internet technology, and is guided by some really great people — I’ll offer a review on Sport Horse Riders in a later post.)

I hope you had a great weekend no matter where you were!

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