One of the best ways to get the end result you want is to follow a recipe. Unfortunately for us, horses do not come with their own individual set of directions. We know that every horse is different and what worked for one horse may not work for another. How do we find each horse’s individual recipe for success?
I believe in “can do” planning and getting a game plan. Dedicating time to keeping records of your horse’s daily and weekly regiment can help you not only keep your horse on a consistent schedule, but can also help you if you seem to have hit a rough patch. With written records you can go back to the months you were winning and see if anything has changed since the problem started. You may notice you changed feed or haven’t been riding as much which resulted in changes to your horse’s performance.
To start with, I am a firm believer in taking a picture of your horse every couple of months. This is something I tell all my students to do. It helps you to know what you need to work on. Whether it’s getting one in shape, needing a healthier coat or gaining weight, pictures are wonderful guidelines. It is important to write down your horse’s current feeding program and anytime you add a supplement or change feed be sure to document it along with the date you made the change. This can help you determine if that particular variable makes a difference in a few weeks. If I add something such as Gastro-Plex into a horse’s diet, I can usually tell if it’s beneficial because my horses coat looks healthier or may even enter the arena better and be less nervous.
Next, exercise and training records need to be kept day by day. How long did you ride? How many days this week did you work the pattern? This can help you determine if your horse needs more or less pattern work as well as to see if your horse performs better with a day of rest before a run or a light tune up. Be sure to write down anytime you sprint/breeze your horse. You may find the weeks you sprint him he runs harder at the shows.
As you go through weeks and months be sure you always document any deworming, injections, teeth floating or even something as simple as a runny nose. Write down any medications you give. Take note of any soreness along the way. Your journal will become a source of information over the years. You will know how you treated minor injuries and illnesses.
At your shows be sure to write a brief description of your performance such as did your horse enter the alley well? Did you have a long or short warm up? What bit did you use? Were you indoors or out? How did he handle the ground? This will give you something to compare to. You may start to notice a pattern of how many months your horse can go between injections. Write down how long the haul was to see if your horse performs better when hauled shorter distances. You may find that your horse performs better closer to home. If so, you will need to figure out how to make him more comfortable going down the road. If your horse seems sore, stiff or has congestion after a long haul, you may need to look into a flooring system like Polylast™ that eliminates shavings and offers a more comfortable ride. Tiny, little details like these can help you know what problems need to be solved or how you can better the environment for your horse.
In a separate section of your records, be sure to write down all the arena addresses along with directions to them. Be sure to notate if they have good stalls, hook ups etc. as this will come in handy when you find yourself returning to the same shows or rodeos every year.
By keeping a detailed journal of your horses activities, wellness and feeding programs, you will find that the smallest changes can affect your horse. It is your job to create a system and schedule for each specific horse. Over the many years I have spent riding great horses, I believe that paying attention to tiny details are what helped me become so successful.
Martha Josey personifies barrel racing for many people. She was the first and only cowgirl to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in four consecutive decades. She has the distinction of winning both the AQHA and WPRA World Championships in the same year. Her career has stretched, win-to-win, over four decades. For more information, visit BarrelRacers.com.
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This article was printed in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 9, Issue 10