How To Leg Up For Show Season

How To Leg Up For Show Season

Who else has been sitting for most of the winter and both you and your horse have put on a few extra pounds? I am right there with you. It sometimes seems daunting to get back in the groove of things with the hopes of getting ready for show season. So here are a few great places to start. You want to give yourself at least a good 2 months to get back in the swing of things. Before we get started, be mindful of their fitness and coat density, especially if your horse is not clipped. You don’t want them getting all sweaty and catching a chill when the temps drop.  

Back to Basics

If your horse has been sitting for a while, some good groundwork is never a bad place to start. Maybe their manners are still intact, but if they now resemble a feral animal, then groundwork is a good refresher… leading, standing, all the basics. And then lunging is a super helpful tool to get back to work again. The first few lunges may just be a rodeo, but you can gradually add in elements of transitions, changes of directions, moving their bodies, etc to engage them back into how gear. And let’s be honest, giving a small lunge before you get back on is just a smart idea if you’re not too keen on a bronc ride. For clarity these lunges are just for excercise to get them back into a structured work environment. This is not the time to break out the ropes, or lunging aids,  There will be plenty of time for that once they are back in routine work and have their stamina built up. 

Start Simple

Unless your lucky enough to have access to a covered ring or an indoor, sometimes you just have to wait for mother nature to cooperate. In our area January and part of February are typically the worst for freezing temps, a variety of precipitation, flooded rings and lots of windy days. When I’m first to bring a horse back into work I try to keep the rides brief and low pressure. Just let them get out, stretch their legs, start to build some muscle and endurance again. We do lots of walking both in the ring and out in the fields. I add simple pole exercises in the ring to keep things interesting with lots of changes of direction. Transitions and hill work will help build stamina and muscle, so you’ll both be ready for that first jumping lesson of the year! 

Houston We Have A Pole Situation!

Once you and your bestie have gotten back into a groove of ridden work, you can start adding challenges to your flat work. Once your transitions are super sharp, start working in some poles around the ring. These are great for keeping your horse engaged and attentive They also help you perfect  your rhythm, straightness, and track which all translate right into your course work. But this way it’s low impact on your horse as opposed to pounding over jumps too early. Does your horse bore easily with just plain poles? Get some Rail Razrs and give them a little lift off the ground. Low cavaletti are a great way to get them thinking forward while keeping it light while we get fit. 

Hit The Gym(nastics)

Gymnastics are not only great for legging your horse up after a break, but they will get your butt into gear as well! Simple jump grids will give your horse confidence jumping again and you can work on your position (gotta get ready for the Eq classes). My favorite set up is the one pictured below from!

Simple horse jumping gymnastic
The trot poles help establish your horse’s rhythm and balance and then the one stride to one stride is easy and flowing while encouraging your horse to rock back so they make the nicest jump. (Stay tuned for an exciting blog post all about pole and gymnastic exercises!)


Let’s Get Down To Business

Then start with simple courses and work your way up from there. What classes are you going to show in that first show back? This will help pinpoint what kind of course work you need to focus on. But all divisions can benefit from practicing your lengthening and shortening of stride, to help you find that correct distance to the jump. Tip: it’s not a terrible idea to start at a lower fence height than you ended last season. That way you can give both you and your horse a good confidence booster.

Remember for the first show back, that winning isn’t everything. Take it easy on yourself, the first show after a break you always need to knock the rust off. Get over those show jitters and strap on the confidence. The most important factor is giving your horse a good, positive, and successful experience. Same for you the rider as well. You may not be perfect, but just go there with a good mindset to have some fun!

Ladies on horses

You might also like:

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.