In her latest blog, successful Show Groom Tabby Oliver (pictured above with Cadlanvalley Super Ted and Finlay) shares her insight into preparing for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS)…

It’s hard to believe that HOYS is almost upon us, the amateur league wildcards have been awarded, entries are done and preparations are well underway.

I know everyone will be stressing over coats, rugs, to clip or not, when to clip, whether to go to a pre HOYS show/clinic or not, condition, work and the million other things that go into preparing a pony for HOYS.

That isn’t even thinking about the insanity that is HOYS when you get there, there really is no other show like it and it’s a bit of a maze for someone that hasn’t been before.

In this blog I will aim to give HOYS newbies a bit of an insight into all things HOYS prep and I will cover how things work when you actually get to the show itself in a further blog, so without further ado let’s get to the important bits!

Should you clip?

To clip or not to clip? That is the question on everyone’s minds in the run up to HOYS. My general advice is to look at how your horse’s coat has been at the start of October in previous years, have they still had a relatively fine coat without full rugging or do they look like a yeti in the middle of September?

Some horses will hold a beautiful coat naturally and with a little help from proper rugging and grooming you will be able to keep their summer coat for HOYS. If you have one of these horses my advice would be don’t clip, instead I would recommend careful rugging and a thorough grooming regime. A little hack is to always use a rug that is easy to wash and dry (i.e. a cotton sheet or similar) as your base, this means you can keep the rug closest to the coat clean and grease free which will help to prevent any rubs. I also advise ensuring giving horses at least a couple of hours a day with nothing covering their neck and to wash any neck coverings regularly to help prevent rubbed manes.

For those that blow their coats early my advice would be to clip. Different people have different opinions on when is best to clip, some swear by 10 days before, others will say 2-3 weeks before and some 4-5 weeks. Again I would say this is something that depends on your horse, do they regrow coat very quickly at this time of year or does it take a little longer to come back through?

Do they usually clip out to a good colour underneath or do they go a bit wishy washy? A dark horse will generally clip out to a strong colour at this time of year so I would clip 2 weeks out to allow enough regrowth to look like their summer coat, I would clip grey horses at the same time. For paler horses (palominos, duns, roans, lighter chestnuts etc) I would clip at approximately 3 to 4 weeks ahead to allow time for the colour to come back through.

Then the question is if you are clipping, what blade do you use? There are a multitude of options available, a fine blade will give you the closest clip which I would recommend if you are clipping early and don’t have a huge amount of growth to work with at the time. A medium is your in between blade, this will generally leave you with about 3mm of hair left on so is what I would recommend for 3 weeks and closer. The last is the Covercote blade from Lister, this blade leaves 5mm of hair on and will give you the closest to a “summer coat” finish. These are best used for clips around a week before the day of competition as due to the longer length of hair left on can grow out a lot quicker.

Coat maintenance

Whether you choose to clip or not looking after your horses coat is of the utmost importance. As we all know a healthy, shiny coat comes from within, however as HOYS is less than 3 weeks away it is too late to be changing feed so I am sure you all have that under control.

A good grooming regime will make a huge difference to your horses coat, not only does thorough brushing help remove dirt it also helps stimulate blood flow to the skin and distributes the natural oils through the coat which will help build that natural shine. Grooming should feel like a work out for you, your arms should be aching by the time you finish and it should take a good 30 minutes from start to finish. Starting with a dandy brush to remove any mud, dirt and dust, then moving to a dense body brush before finishing off with a lambskin mitt or stable rubber to really polish the coat. A mane and tail detangler should be used daily to prevent knots that can lead to hair loss, you can also use a coat shine spray after grooming to help build that shine. This should be done most days for best results.

Hot clothing should also be incorporated into your regular grooming routine, it is fantastic for removing grease and dirt from the coat without stripping all the natural oils. I personally like to do a double hot cloth, one with Dettol or 2020 Equine Winter Wash to remove dirt and grease and a second with almond oil to nourish and condition the skin and coat. Hot clothing should be done with very hot water, it should be just cool enough that you can tolerate putting your hands in it without burning yourself. I like to use a smaller bucket half full with a capful of Dettol or a couple of squirts of Winter Wash then the same with a decent glug of almond oil instead for the second.

I would avoid bathing too much, particularly if you aren’t clipping as it can cause the coat to blow. If you do bath make sure it is with hot water and you towel dry thoroughly before rugging up well to avoid your horse getting cold. For dark horses you can get away with doing a final bath up to a week in advance and hot clothing regularly in the final few days to keep any dust and grease away. For greys, coloureds and those more prone to stains I would try to do a final bath a day or two before to allow the coat to settle and lay smooth again, any stains can then be spot washed as needed. A spray of a non-silicone polish such as Wood Silk through tails and on the inside of back legs is useful to help stop stains sticking so easily and a good stain remover spray is a necessity.

If you have access to a solarium it can be very beneficial to the coat to spend some time under the lights a few times a week.

Rugging confusion

The age old rugging dilemma is something that everyone prepping for HOYS experiences. Are they warm enough? Are they too hot? What’s the weather doing tonight? It’s 10pm and I’m feeling chilly should I go and put that extra rug on?

I always suggest starting your rugging with a base of a cotton sheet or a lycra suit as these are easy to wash and dry regularly to prevent any grease build up that could rub manes or shoulders. From there you can layer with stable rugs of varying weights according to the weather, the Horseware Mio’s and Amigo’s are very popular due to being lightweight but warm and having silky linings to prevent roughing the coat up.

It is very important to make sure your horse has a couple of hours with nothing covering their mane to help prevent it being rubbed out. Coconut oil is very good for encouraging growth and massaging it into the base of the mane will help stimulate blood flow to the hair follicles, this does need to be washed out of the mane regularly though as it can clog pores if left on. If you do have any issues with thinning manes then I would highly recommend Ezee Tails Fake It for anything requiring plaits, this simply plaits into the remaining mane and gives the illusion of full, normal plaits. I would also recommend the use of exercise sheets whilst riding if it is cooler or raining to help prevent your horse from becoming cold. I have even used hoods whilst riding on particularly chilly HOYS build ups.

I will leave you all with that for now and will be back in a few days’ time with a blog on what to expect when you get to HOYS, how to navigate the show and all the essentials you will want to take with you.

Tabby is one of 20/20 Equine’s paired riders. “I discovered 2020 Equine in late 2020 thanks to a friend who was working for Jayne Ross at the time,” she explained. “I was in need of some new plaiting thread so I put an order in and swiftly found a new favourite!” Since then the company has provided products for Tabby’s plaiting and turn out demos, and they have been working together ever since. Take a look at our review of the 20/20 Equine Equine Leather Magic, with a discount for Your Horse readers.

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