Survival of the Fittest

October 10th, 2017 3:48 PM | No Comments

Congress Veterans Weigh in On How to Thrive in Columbus

by Melinda Davison

 IMG_5203 (2)The All American Quarter Horse Congress is the highlight of many exhibitors’ show season, and months go into preparation for the event.  However, as much as the Congress is known for its world-class competitors and weeks-long competition, it is also known to be a grueling task for every kind of participant.  It is definitely not for the faint of heart, and it can take several years to get your Congress routine down to a science.  While many put a lot of thought and work into the competition aspect of the show, the infamous “Congress Crud” is an unwelcome souvenir that many people take home with them.  Fortunately, some Congress veterans have shared their insights on how to make it through the tough, but fun, weeks of the World’s Largest Single Breed Horse Show.  

Trainers seem to bear the brunt of the Congress, with many staying for weeks and getting multiple clients and horses ready for a number of events.  The constant “on-the-go” schedule and late nights can really take their toll if you’re not prepared.

Georgia-based trainer, Jamie Murrow, advises to boost your health and immune system as much as possible in the weeks before the Congress.

 “The trick for Jason [English] and me to make it through the Congress is to start taking vitamins a few weeks before we leave and then stay on them while we are there to help with our health,” she says. “Another tip is to treat it like any other horse show, where your stress level stays lower, and pace yourself so you don’t wear down so quickly.”

For Kristy and Jay Starnes, avoiding greasy, fair food and eating healthy as much as possible also is key to keeping your strength up during the Congress – as tempting as those cream puffs and strombolis can be!  The show parents at Starnes Quarter Horses keep home-cooked meals on the menu for the team.

“Our parents keep the kitchen stall stocked with good, warm meals from the crock pot at all times so we don’t have to eat the grease on food alley!” Kristy explains. 

She also stresses the importance of vitamins and prepping your immune system before hitting the road to Columbus.  “I try to double up on vitamin C for two weeks before I leave for the show and continue through the show. Also, I get a flu shot before I leave for Ohio!  If you can make it through the two weeks without getting sick, it really helps the whole show run smoother. Being sick and getting no sleep is never fun!”

It’s not just physical health that trainers need to keep in check at the Congress, but mental preparation and organization is just as important for a successful run.  AQHA Professional Horseman Kelly McDowall has years of experience getting his clients ready for one of the biggest shows of their careers, and that comes with a lot of preparation on his end.  Each client and horse has their own prep plan.  Since every team has different needs, he doesn’t approach it with a “one size fits all” mentality.

“Have a plan for horse and rider preparation,” McDowall says. “Each horse and rider are different so put some thought into each individual before you depart.  Ride through patterns before you leave home so each rider is familiar with their patterns once they get to Ohio.”

 McDowall shares a few additional pieces of advice that might be easy to overlook……Read the full article  in the October 2017 issue of Show Horse Today]

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