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[dropcap]S[/dropcap]outh Africa’s equestrian disciplines host various national shows every year, with many riders making the journey to other provinces to compete. An away show is an exciting experience for you and your horse, and it gives you the opportunity to compete in a bigger, more diverse pool of riders. Thorough preparation and a good understanding of the show is key to your success when you get there. If you’re thinking about entering your first away show this year, here’s what you need to know.

At what cost?

First and foremost, it doesn’t matter how badly you want to compete at an away show if you can’t afford to. With the rising costs of regular shows, it’s unsurprising that an away show comes with a hefty price tag. To break it down, you need to factor in the approximate cost of the following:
• Trucking for your horse (there and back) – R4,000
• Transport for yourself (there and back) – R1,000
• Stabling for the duration of the show – R1,000
• Cheap accommodation for the duration of the show – R2,500
• Groom’s accommodation on showgrounds – R1,000
• Composite entries – R1,600
• Three meals per day for yourself – R1,500
• Three meals per day for your groom – R1,500
• Show help from your instructor – R500
• Extra money for unexpected expenses
You might be able to cut some costs out of the equation if you, for example, have your own horsebox and don’t have to pay for your horse to go on a truck, sharing lifts to and from the show, or you’re staying with a friend for free. You can also save money if you make your own meals instead of buying on the showgrounds or eating out, or if your accommodation includes breakfast. However, work with a budget of around R14,500. Other costs that you may need to consider are topping up of shavings for your horse’s stable, plaiting or other show prep, and a tip for your groom at the end of the show.
An away show is an incredible experience and it can be a lot of fun to be out of the province for a while, enjoying your riding with your friends. However, this is no small amount we’re talking about, so make sure you have the funds available!

An away show gives you the opportunity to compare your riding against a bigger and more diverse pool of riders

Are you ready?

A national show usually takes place over five or six days and each horse-and-rider combination will do four classes, usually with a rest day somewhere in between. This is a lot more mentally and physically demanding than two classes on one day, which is the norm for a weekend show.
Physical fitness is of paramount importance. You don’t want your horse to be tired by day three or four, resulting in poor performance – your whole trip will just be a waste. Riders with fit horses usually find that their horses actually improve toward the end of the show. Stamina training is absolutely necessary leading up to a long show. Make sure you incorporate lots of track work and long hacking to get your horse’s fitness levels up. If you have access to a horse walker, try get him up to two sessions per day. Equally important is rest leading up to the show. You want him to be at his fittest two weeks before the show, so that he can work relatively lightly the week before the show so that he’s not too exhausted once he gets there.
Your mental fitness as well as your horse’s is also important. Don’t think it’s only you who will feel the pressure of the show. Your horse needs to have a positive attitude every day, despite a possible bad performance the day before. He needs to not be easily overwhelmed and stay calm in the hustle and bustle of the big show. Try and enter one or two busy shows in the months leading up to the away show so that he’s used to a loud and fast environment. If you’re jumping, try to enter a show where you know the course builder might build something challenging so that you don’t get nervous about a tough track at the away show.
Make sure you are 100% happy with your horse’s schooling at home. He must be responsive, attentive and positive in his work and attitude. Taking a horse who is sour, distracted or spooky to an away show is not going to do you or him too many favours. Rather get him more comfortable at some shows at home before you consider an away show.

The full article appears in the April issue (132) of HQ > Shop now