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Hay is for horses but what about the Rider?


Lesson 6: Nutrition

Let me paint you story: It is 5 am you have pressed snooze a couple of times and are now rolling out of bed and running out of the house to get to the showgrounds to prepare you & your horse for the long day of showing. As you make the drive your tummy starts to growl and you realize you left the house without eating or packing anything to eat, and you are starving! You know there is a really good food truck on the grounds that serves deliciously greasy bacon and fried egg sandwiches, and that fried goodness will go really well with the venti caramel macchiato with extra whip on top that you stopped to pick up!

donuts and frappucinos

You finish your morning classes and see somebody has made another Starbucks run and come back with frappucinos for the barn, and yet another parent has brought a box of donuts for all to share. Later on you make another trip to the food truck and order your hamburger & fries for lunch. As the afternoon wears on your energy is drained and you turn to the barn cooler full of pop and energy drinks for a pick me up.


The show ends late and by the time you’ve finished putting your horse to bed and make the drive home all you want to do is have a hot shower and hit the sack. You decide the only effort you can make for dinner is a bowl of cereal combined with a couple of episodes of your favourite show on Netflix and lights out! Does any of this sound familiar? You have fallen into the horse show trap of bad nutrition!

This entire equestrian blog series has focused on YOU being an athlete. The nutritional aspect of eating like an athlete is arguably one of the most important factors in this series. How much time, money, and energy do you spend ensuring your equestrian partner eats the proper foods/supplements at the proper time to make certain they are performing at their best? Why wouldn’t you take the same time to care for yourself to enable you to also perform at your best?

Equestrian riders walking the course

Let’s look at the reasons why proper nutrition is important:

  • Weight control

  • Increase energy throughout long show days/weeks

  • Improve performance

  • Optimal recovery from training/showing stress

  • Mental acuity & focus

  • Heart health, bone strength, lean muscle

As an athlete you need to start paying attention to how you are fueling your body to achieve your optimal level of performance. On show day you want to be as prepared as possible. You typically have a general idea of timing of classes, so you can plan your meals & snacks accordingly.

Let’s look at a few tips with help from the Coaching Association of Canada:

Overall your meals should:

Healthy plate of food
  • Consist of higher carbohydrates, with moderate lean protein, and lower fat choices

  • Consist of 3-4 major food groups for larger meals, and 2-3 major food groups for snacks

  • Be easy to digest (especially when show nerves hit!)

  • Include foods and fluids that are familiar to you, you can tolerate, and you enjoy

  • Take into consideration timing (if you are having a large meal you generally would want to wait up to 4 hours for the meal to digest before engaging in physical activity). You don’t want your food or fluids to be sloshing around your belly in your equitation or medal classes!

Show Day Nutrition Tips:

food cooler
  • Plan & prepare

  • Pack a cooler!

  • Fruit

  • Veggies

  • Sandwiches/wraps with lean meats

  • Granola bars

  • Trail mix

  • Water!! (limit caffeinated drinks)

Hydration is key especially on those long hot summer show days. Just as your horse is susceptible to dehydration and muscle cramping, so are you. To avoid any heat related issues follow these tips:

water bottle

  • Drink before you are thirsty

  • Keep your fluids chilled

  • Drink between 0.4-0.8 L per hour

  • Add a sport drink to your cooler (ie: Gatorade)

  • Add a little salt to your meals or eat some salty foods (ie: nuts, pretzels…)

  • Limit alcohol

On-the-Road Nutrition Tips:

  • Pack another cooler!

  • Try to book a hotel room with a kitchenette for easy food preparation & storage

  • Make wise fast food choices (click HERE for fast food tips)

  • Don’t experiment with new foods. Keep it simple & familiar

Staying away from the common pitfalls of horse show nutrition and fueling your body appropriately can make a significant difference in sustaining your energy, stamina, strength, and focus for long horse show days and seasons. Remember YOU ARE AN ATHLETE!

Featured on Noelle Floyd Style

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#Nutrition #showjumping #horseshow #equestrianfitness #equestrian #fitnessforriders #diet

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