Show Horse Preparation Starts Long Before the Show Chelsie Huseman * Texas A&M Agrilife Extension * Horse Program Specialist

Now is the time to begin preparing your horse’s condition for the show season. Many horses experience some weight loss over the winter months due to increase energy expenditure to stay warm and no increase in feed to meet those additional needs. The ideal Body Condition Score (BCS) for a working/maintenance stock horse is a 5. Some individuals may progressively drop to a 4 or worse over the winter months. Now is the time to assess your horse’s BCS and begin feeding changes to ensure you have a healthy, vibrant horse come show season. Weight gain and fat cover on your horse takes time and cannot be achieved overnight. If you find your horse to be a little underweight begin changes now by increasing its energy intake either through increasing its roughage (hay or pasture) and/or concentrate (grain). Your county extension agent can help you in modifying your feeding program to put condition and weight back on your horse. As always, make sure all health concerns like teeth, internal parasites (worms), and disease have been ruled out to ensure the weight loss is from what we are addressing here.

Evaluation areas for body condition scoring.

Preparing your horse’s haircoat and mane and tail starts early too. Grooming regularly, along with an adequate diet, increases the shine of the haircoat. Sebum is an oily substance that is stimulated by brushing and works to protect the hair follicle and repel water, but also provides the shiny coat we desire in our horse. This too, does not happen overnight, but takes consistent and regular grooming which also helps to lift dirt, debris and loose hair when shedding. Using a rubber curry in a circular motion with the lay of the hair is most ideal.

Types of rubber curry combs.

Often times, winter is also the culprit of a rubbed out mane. Perhaps your horse attempted to eat grass on the other side of the fence and rubbed out a portion of its mane or a certain hay bale ring was used that left bare spots in what was once a long, healthy mane. Regrowth of the mane and tail takes time and should be addressed now if you desire that “show ready” look again. Keeping the mane and tail combed out and applying a conditioning agent can help in the regrowth. Additionally remove the horse from the environments that caused the problem in the first place!

Rubbed out mane.

If you’ll take the time now to assess your horse’s condition and begin to make changes, you’ll see a dramatic improvement come show time. Good luck!

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