Eventing Nation: Preparing your horse for a trot-up

Lindsey Taylor, head groom and barn manager for Boyd Martin, offers some tips for readying your horse for the jog at a three-day event.

Lindsey Taylor works as head groom and barn manager for Boyd Martin in Cochranville, PA. She manages 25-30 horses and travels to events throughout the U.S. almost every weekend. She has also  groomed at several international events including Rolex, Burghley, Boekelo and the 2012 London Olympics. She’ll be sharing what she’s learned on the job in her “View From The Barn” posts here on EN.

From Lindsey:

Sometime during the last 24 hours, the Bromont horses have arrived in Quebec, Canada, gearing up for a weekend of intense competition at one of the most beautiful venues in North America. Upon arrival, the ground jury has done their initial assessment of each horse, checking temperature, pulse and respiration and running their hands down each of the legs of the 103 entries. This initial assessment provides a baseline status of health, which provides the FEI veterinarians with a background to compare to throughout the weekend, as the horses fulfill the demands of this challenging competition.

This afternoon, first on the formal agenda, the CCI horses and riders will present to the ground jury in a trot up. The ground jury will assess the soundness of each horse, and any horse that is deemed unsound will not be allowed to compete. That being said, the riders go all out to make a good first impression on the ground jury, dressing to the nines and grooming their horses with an impeccable amount of detail.

Just how do you groom a horse for a formal jog? While consistent, day-to-day elbow grease will always win out in the long run when it comes to maintaining the health and luster of your horse’s coat, at a trot up grooming products are essential, and will become your best friend. You want dark, shiny hooves (Fiebring’s Hoof Oil does the trick), a glistening coat (Healthy HairCare Hair Moisturizer), a polished face (baby oil on the nostrils and on the insides of the ears if they are clipped), and a tidy tail (an ace bandage keeps the top of a pulled tail in place, and Vetrolin Shine creates a shiny, flowing tail). The braids should be small and numerous; at a three day event, I usually aim for 20 to 25 braids to give the illusion of a long, elegant neck. The bridle should ideally not have a flash, the number should be placed on the left side, and as always, the leather should be clean and the bit should be polished and sparkling.

As the time nears for the start of the trot up, it is a good idea to get your horse out of the stall and walking around for about 30 minutes before he presents to the ground jury, giving him time to loosen up. If you have to decide whether to brush your horse’s tail one more time or give him two more minutes of walking, remember the purpose of the trot up in the first place: to present a sound, limber horse to the ground jury. Yes, the horse should look beautiful, but if the horse does not trot sound, your weekend is over. When time is of essence, keep things in perspective.

When leaving the barns, I pack a backpack or a bucket with essential items that might be needed. For the trot up, my essential items usually include a hoof pick, hoof oil, a towel with a dab of baby oil on it, Vetrolin Shine and a tail brush. While most of the grooming and preparation should occur in the barns, these items provide a finishing touch if needed. If the weather is inclement, dress your horse in the appropriate clothing; a rain sheet if it is raining, a dress sheet if it is chilly, or even a heavier rug if wintry weather threatens your otherwise beautiful trot up day. Use boots to provide protection for your horse’s legs; I try to avoid wraps because they are time consuming to take off and become quite a hassle if your horse will not stand still.

When all is said and done, you will hopefully return to the barns with a sound horse that has been “accepted” and will move on to think about your dressage test and the rest of the weekend. If you used any products on your horse in preparation for the trot up that might irritate or harm his skin, make sure you bathe your horse promptly to remove any unnatural substances from his coat. Now is not the time for a skin irritation, but rather the time to think about and gear up for the competition ahead.

Good luck to all horses, riders and grooms this weekend! Go Bromont.



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