Tournament time - checklist for a successful performance

Turnierzeit - Checkliste für den gelungenen Auftritt
It smells of fly spray, grass, horses and chips. Pop music blares from the speakers, interrupted by horse neighs and stadium announcements. The boots sparkle, the white breeches shine and stylish helmets and jackets attract attention. You can see artfully woven firecrackers dancing through the arena and athletic show jumpers flying over oxers. Finally tournament season again!
Have you trained diligently and are well prepared for the start of your tournament? We have put together the most important tips and checklists to ensure that everything runs smoothly on your tournament day.

Before the tournament:

Don't forget to report!!! It's probably happened to everyone before, but it's really annoying when you miss the registration deadline and then no longer have a chance to take part. So read the timing carefully and see when the registration deadline is. Allow a little time here as the telephone number is usually overloaded. Reporting is often done online or via WhatsApp and usually ends 90 minutes before the exam begins. Attention: For the first exams of the day, the registration deadline is often the evening before!
Find out exactly how to get to the tournament the day before. Are there diversions or bridges and tunnels that are not passable with a trailer or van? Do I have to take a specific exit? Is the parking lot at a different address? If you are traveling with a trailer or truck, you should also allow at least 10 minutes in addition to the navigation time!
Washing and grooming: to ensure a proper appearance, it is worth washing your horse thoroughly. White markings stand out even more beautifully and the horse shines well-groomed. The shampoo concentrates from Wild Wash, for example, are suitable for this. Tip for an extra curly tail: work the Leave in Conditioner or the Oil Detangler from Knotty Hors e into the damp tail and then braid it. The next day before riding, open the tail, brush it once and your curls are ready. Both products are also perfect for braided manes and protect them from hair breakage. The Highlighting Coat Shine Treatment gives the horse the final shine on show day.
The tack should also be prepared a little. Here we recommend the natural and incredibly scented care from Sterling Essentials . You can read about how to properly care for leather items HERE .

Departure! The right time management:

Timing is everything and you should plan extra time, especially when you first start a tournament. Even if loading always goes well during practice, take a lot of time for it on day X. The horses sense your excitement and could become unsettled by it, and nothing is more stressful than the feeling of coming too close to the test. If nothing works and you're running out of time: tick off this tournament, load up in peace, go for a short ride and then go horseback riding in a relaxed manner. Last-minute starts bring nothing but stress for rider and horse and do not help to present confident and relaxed rides, so the stress level may be even higher next time.
To make transport less stressful for you and your horse, Annie Oakley 's natural lavender oils can help. You can easily spray these in the trailer. The natural lavender oil calms and relaxes the nerves.
A good rule of thumb is to be there at least 90 minutes before the start of the exam. Even as one of the first starters, you still have enough time to get an overview of the show grounds, prepare yourself and the horse and also take a pee break. Depending on how far the trailer parking lot is from the tournament grounds, even a simple bio break can turn into stress...
It's best to discuss how long you'll be riding with your trainer in advance, but here too, most horses need a little more time at their first tournament starts to get used to the unfamiliar atmosphere. Longer, relaxed riding at a walk often helps more than excessively forceful riding at higher gaits. The goal should not be to ride the horse “tired,” but rather to give it the time it needs to acclimatize and gain confidence in the new environment.

Checklist for the horse:

  • Transport gaiters
  • Longe
  • Feed and feed bucket
  • Hay net
  • Water cans and buckets
  • Welding knife and sponge
  • Spare halter and rope
  • Hand towel
  • Grooming box (don't forget the mane rubbers)
  • Fly spray
  • Fly blanket / sweat blanket
  • Fly hood
  • bridle
  • saddle
  • Breastplate/auxiliary reins
  • (white) saddle pad
  • Gaiters and possibly bells
  • Treat
  • !!! Head numbers / start numbers!!!
  • !!! Equine passport!!!
Be sure to take your equine passport with you. Firstly, the horse cannot actually be transported without this and secondly, a passport check can always be required at the tournament.

Checklist for the rider:

  • helmet
  • (white) gloves
  • white breeches
  • ( lucky ) socks
  • Tournament shirt
  • Tournament jacket
  • Plastron or tie
  • Hairnet and hair clips
  • Safety vest
  • Boots (chaps and ankle boots)
  • Spurs
  • crop
  • Leather care
  • Spare clothing/change of clothing
  • Exercise book! (Dressage)
  • Drink (isotonic or water)
  • Snack (muesli bar, banana, apple, glucose, ...)
  • Sun protection
Be sure to pack something small to eat and drink. Especially when the distance is long, it's good to have something in your car. If you can't get down because you're excited, you should at least drink something and snack on glucose every now and then. The exercise book can provide additional security and the time can be used on the way to the tournament or before the start to "ride through" everything again in your head.

What if I forget something or something breaks during the tournament?

No panic! This also just happens every now and then, despite checklists etc. You can actually borrow most of it and there are often stalls where you can buy equipment. I've already ridden in borrowed riding boots, a borrowed jacket and a borrowed saddle pad and bought starting numbers several times at the tournament... If you get there early, you'll find a solution for everything. Most fellow riders are very helpful and understanding and you should always offer help yourself if possible. Fair sport also includes fairness and support among the riders.

The warm-up area: Stay calm

The time has come, you're finally sitting on the horse and riding warmly. Your helper (commonly known as TT = tournament idiot) has something to drink ready for you and an eye on the start and results board. A towel, fly spray and, if necessary, a bag/bucket (for the gaiters) are also useful. You can use the towel to clean the horse's mouth again if it has caught a little grass in the parking lot and is now foaming bright green (not so welcome in dressage), or to wipe over the boots if it is very muddy. If the horse sweats a lot, a second layer of fly spray often makes sense.
The normal track rules generally apply on the warm-up area, but it is extremely important not to insist on these for once. The other riders and horses are also tense and nervous and the preparation areas are often so full that you are mainly concerned with avoiding collisions. Don't get angry with your fellow riders and try to remain calm and polite despite all the excitement. If you accidentally ride into someone's path, apologize politely and continue riding. If you get cut, brake, praise your good horse, take a deep breath and move on. This happens to everyone at some point and being angry doesn't help.
If you are called to start, there is one more important thing to keep in mind, especially in dressage: Don't forget to take off your gaiters before the test! If you ride in with gaiters you are disqualified! When jumping, it's important to wear gaiters: just as you get to the warm-up area, you have to ride in the course. It is not permitted to attach other gaiters shortly beforehand.
On the subject of auxiliary reins: in the lower dressage classes these are sometimes still allowed in the test, sometimes only on the warm-up arena. Read the announcement carefully and if you are unsure, ask the organizer or the judge at the warm-up area. You can get general information about equipment and what is allowed in which class from your trainer and in the FN (LPO) regulations.

During the exam: Please smile!

It's starting! Take a few deep breaths and remember: you have practiced and can do this. The aim is to go home with a good feeling and to give your horse as much calm and trust as possible. Try to ride everything the way you practiced it. If you suddenly change your concept on the day of the tournament, it will most likely not work.
Did a big mistake happen? Check it off and move on. Always the next lesson or the next jump is important. You can do plenty of analysis after the ride.
Smiling helps! It's wonderful to smile again as soon as you ride in and to be really happy that you're here and that you've made it to the show grounds with your horse. Competition riding should be fun and despite all the tension, the joy should outweigh it, no matter how things go.

After the exam: Positive vibes

You made it! The (first) ride at a tournament is behind you and that - regardless of the result - is a reason to be happy. Now the most important thing is to care for the horse conscientiously and praise it appropriately. Your horse doesn't know whether a grade was good or bad, or that a fallen pole may have prevented him from placing. For the horse, it was a trip into a completely new environment with countless other unfamiliar horses, loud music and then a performance that required concentration.
Now it really deserves some relaxation and praise! Especially on hot days, it makes sense to wash the horse off before driving home and let it rest in the shade for a while. It is also important to always offer some water to drink, especially on longer trips. Some horses drink poorly at the competition. A sip of apple juice in the water can help here, or you can make a very thin mash. Sufficient roughage is also very important as this helps to retain water. Giving a small portion of food or mash as a reward makes the trip even more positive for the horse.
Grooming and the journey home should also be planned with plenty of time and peace. Every positive impression your horse makes helps for the next tournament or training. Positive vibes are also very important, especially after a not so successful performance, and lay the foundation for the next time.

Let's briefly summarize the most important thing: Time and good planning are half the battle! It's best to get someone who already has experience in tournament sports and can support you. Feel free to ask on site if you are unsure or need help.
And most importantly: have fun with your horse!

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