The Academic Equestrian: 5 Steps to Cure the Horse Show Hangover

Hair of the horse… er, dog?

The author with Cornell University’s Rafa. Photo by Hayley Fedele

When your twenty-first birthday falls on the Monday after a hunt seat show, chances are you’re too horse show hungover to contemplate going out and adding an actual hangover to the mix. Since I don’t yet have any alcohol hangover cures to share, below are some horse show hangover cures tested and approved by a collegiate rider who’s had shows for four consecutive weekends (and has two more weekends to go before she gets a break).

1. Wake up the morning after at 5:30 and go right back to the barn for practice! This might be the riding equivalent of the people who “cure” their hangovers with more alcohol, but if horses are the only thing that can drag you out of bed after a horse show, so be it.

2. After your first practice, ride another horse. Your muscles can’t get stiff if you keep stretching and using them, right? One of these rides should be a stress-free fun ride with no expectations, like a trail ride or a bareback hack to bring yourself back down from show mode. If you showed your own horse and want to give him a break, you may choose to reduce this step to a spa day for your horse with some poultice and horse cookies. If you can’t manage this much, you may also just sit on a bucket in his stall, listen to him eat hay, and be tired together for a while to decompress.

3. Go to class armed with coffee and bags under your eyes. Showing up to class horse show hungover ensures you look too scary for anyone to mess with you, so even if your answers or class discussion doesn’t make much sense because you’re too tired to string a coherent thought together, no one will call you on it.

4. Take a quick power nap between classes. Drink some water and get a snack first, then sleep for as long as you have between classes. Allow for at least fifteen minutes to fully wake up. This will leave you groggy, but take the edge off your exhaustion so you’re serenely sleepy instead of murderously tired for your next class. More coffee may be necessary after this step to un-zombify from your nap.

5. Wash your show clothes. This is a cleansing ritual that allows you to rinse out the mistakes you made this weekend and start the next show on a clean slate. Or, if you did well and your show shirt doesn’t smell bad, skip this step for residual good luck at the next show. This step also ensures that you can get some sleep the night before your next show instead of frantically doing laundry on a Friday night because you forgot your show clothes crumpled in the bottom of your garment bag all week.

This horse show hangover cure should leave you feeling somewhat rested and moderately ready to compete again the next weekend!

Go riding.

Haley will continue to share more adventures from the perspective of a collegiate equestrian! Keep an eye out for The Academic Equestrian weekly.

Haley Ruffner is attending Alfred University, majoring in English with a minor in Equine Business Management. She owns two Quarter Horse geldings, Cricket (“At Last an Invitation”) and Slide (“HH Slick N Slide”). Haley is a captain of the AU western equestrian team, competing in horsemanship, reining and hunt seat. She also loves trail riding.

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