Feel Your Best at Horse Shows

Increase your energy so you can stay strong through long horse shows.

By Kelly Altschwager, With Nichole Chirico; Photos by Nichole Chirico

Female rider loping horse
When you’re in the saddle, pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. If parts of your body feel tight or unbalanced, take extra time to stretch.

Reining competitions can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, and when it comes to being at a show for an extended period of time, you need to provide energy to your body so you can perform at your best. While these tips are designed with horse shows in mind, they’re also great to practice at home so long days at the barn become a breeze.

Stay well rested. As basic as it sounds, it’s important to give your body a chance to rest when you can. If you have to ride in the middle of the night, adjust your schedule to ensure that you get some sleep, even if it’s just a 20-minute nap. If you struggle with sleeping, try melatonin before bed.

Drink plenty of water. When you’re busy at a show, it’s easy to get dehydrated. Water regulates your body temperature, improves sleep, and helps with digestion. Staying hydrated increases your body’s energy and keeps you firing on all cylinders. 

Meal prep. Avoid filling yourself with processed, greasy concession-stand food that leaves you feeling tired. Bring foods that fuel your body, including pre-cooked chicken, low-sodium lunch meat, canned tuna, string cheese, salads, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh veggies and fruit. 

Keep moving. Take 15 minutes to get blood pumping through your body and increase oxygen flow. Go for a run, do some jumping jacks, stretch, or do this quick high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise. 

  • High knees: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lift your left leg to your chest, then switch to your right leg and continue the movement by alternating your legs and moving at a running pace. 
  • Burpees: Begin standing and move into a squat with your hands touching the ground. Kick your feet back into plank position while keeping your arms extended and perform a push-up. Return your feet to squat position and drive forward with your glutes as you stand. For a modified version, keep your stance wide (like you would for a sumo squat) and skip the push-up when in position.
  • Mountain climbers: Start in push-up position and pull your left knee into your chest. Keep your abs tight as you drive through with your glutes to maintain the correct push-up (or plank) position. Quickly switch legs pulling your right knee in as your left leg goes back to your start position. Move your feet as fast as you can without compromising your plank position.

Do each exercise for 30 seconds to one minute in succession and then rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Depending on the amount of time you have, do three to five rounds. 

Listen to your body. Anytime you’re in the saddle, pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. If you feel any imbalances, adjust your plan accordingly. For example, if your hips and quads feel tight, work on stretching your hip flexors and quads before you ride again.


Kelly Altschwager

Kelly Altschwager, Wellington, Colorado, is an ACE-certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist; PiYo instructor; fitness expert at Fitness1 Club Wellington; and owns and operates Western Workouts, a personal-training service geared toward helping the busy horseperson. Learn more at  westernworkouts.com.