Cosequin Presents Aftercare Spotlight: Tips And Tricks For Making Horses Look Their Best by Jen Roytz|08.29.201810.19.2021|2:27pm4:11pm Lisa Reynolds of Woods Edge Farm on her off-track Thoroughbred, Rant’n Rage If you think about it, there are a lot of people in the pre-track and off-track worlds who are operating on parallel paths this time of year. With September barreling toward us, sales consignors and breeding farms throughout Kentucky and around the country are preparing their yearlings for the Keeneland September and Fasig-Tipton October yearling sales while also ramping up preparations on weanlings and breeding stock for the November sales. At the same time, many owners of off-track Thoroughbreds are making their own preparations as they gear up for the upcoming Thoroughbred competitions, like the New Vocations All-Thoroughbred Charity Horse Show and the Retired Racehorse Project's Thoroughbred Makeover, not to mention the many other year-end championships and high-point shows for horse show circuits and associations around the country. While the two sectors of the Thoroughbred world are working toward very different end-goals, there are many similarities in what will make them successful in their respective arenas. Whether it's how to put that eye-catching shine on a horse's coat, having a mane that looks just right or having a horse carrying the right amount of weight and muscle in all the right places, there may be some helpful tips and tricks those preparing for the show arena can steal from the auction ring. Davant Latham, who manages racing, breeding and pinhooking partnerships under his Davant Latham Bloodstock and Insurance banner, sits on the board of Thoroughbred Charities of America and previously served as the general manager of Vinery and director of bloodstock services for Darby Dan Farm. He said proper prepping, whether for the auction or show ring, begins from the inside out. “Most feeds are complete feeds these days, but it's worth your while to have your pasture samples analyzed and most county extension offices will do that for you,” said Latham. “Knowing what your horse is getting from his pasture is key to making sure he's getting everything he or she needs from what you're feeding.” Regular pasture maintenance, including mowing and weed management, can also make a big difference in a horse's coat and condition. “The more a horse depends on pasture for its nutrition, the more important it is for that pasture to be maintained,” said Latham. “Regular mowing is a great way to keep the weeds down and rotating your herds around to different pastures to give the land and grass time to rest and rejuvenate will help. Sometimes, though, when the pasture has been used continually and the weeds just overtake the good grass, you have to go to the extreme of killing off a pasture and starting it from seed, which I am actually in the process of doing with one of my own pastures right now.” Denali Stud yearling and sales manager Donnie Snellings, whose father and grandfather were both in the hunter/jumper business, said often when people think about the goal of proper nutrition being increasing or maintaining a horse's weight, sometimes during wetter years one deals with their horses gaining too much weight off their pasture. “Our horses stay on a general program, which includes nutrition and exercise, so that as it gets closer to the sale, all you're doing are little tweaks,” said Snellings. “With all of this rain and lush grass we've had, we've had to limit our yearlings' turnout, sometimes to every other night and/or with a muzzle, especially the fillies, to get a bit of the belly off of them.” Meg Levy, who owns Bluewater Sales after growing up with a riding and show horse background and is perennially a leading consignor of Thoroughbred yearlings and breeding stock, said top-dressing a horse's feed with oil can help add a sheen to their coat and keep them at a good weight. “There are so many supplements on the market these days. We've used rice bran oil for many years, but really anything with Omega 3 fatty acids will help you get a good shine on them,” said Levy. “I tend not to use corn oil because it can have a tendency to upset the gut of a young horse.” Lisa Reynolds, who works for Woods Edge Farm, a breeding and sales facility in Lexington, Ky., and competes with her off-track Thoroughbred in eventing, echoed Latham and Levy's sentiments about proper nutrition and additives. Reynolds suggested that when a horse still isn't looking its best with proper nutrition alone, it's time to dig deeper, often treating proactively for ulcers. “Preparing yearlings is similar to preparing an OTTB for a second career. Some settle right into their new job and thrive with the work you're asking of them, but some can find it quite stressful,” said Reynolds, adding that often a horse may not appear stressed in its behavior but may be displaying other symptoms internally. “I am a big believer in treating the horse from the inside out and gastric support is paramount. If a horse is healthy on the inside, they'll look healthy on the outside, and they'll always tell you how they feel if you just listen.” Another thing that can keep a horse's coat from blooming are parasites in its system. “Worming a horse or even doing a fecal if you suspect your current worming plan isn't solving the problem can make a big difference in their coat and attitude,” said Levy. “I think one of the most commonly overlooked things is teeth floating. When they have sharp teeth, they develop bad habits, and they eat and digest their food properly, which means they're not getting all of the nutrients they can out of what you're feeding them.” Thorough daily grooming is essential in helping a horse look its best. In addition to ridding the coat of loose hair and dirt, it gives the horse's groom a chance to meticulously inspect the horse for cuts, scrapes, bumps and lumps on its body. “A curry comb and a rub rag are your two best friends when you're trying to make a horse look its best,” said Snellings. “Clipping can really put a polished look on a horse, too. We trim the hair around the coronet band, the long hairs on their fetlocks and faces and clip their ears, which makes a subtle, but noticeable difference.” Proper grooming plays a major role in the difference between a horse looking good and a horse that looks truly great. While all three experts said they aim to keep their horses out of the sun when it's strongest, there are a few other tips you can use to promote a deeper, darker coat on dark horses or bright white hair on gray horses. “The shampoos formulated for specific coat types are great and really do make a difference. We use Black as Knight on horses we get in who have been out in the sun,” said Levy. “It can really help a horse who has been outside quite a bit and has that sunburnt look.” Added Snellings, “Some people will dye manes and tails using just boxed permanent hair dye from the drug store if they're badly burned to give them a richer, deeper color.” Regardless of how good a horse looks, the best-looking horse behaving badly will not score any points with judges. When it comes to horse show day, making sure your horse knows what to expect will help put all of your careful planning, nutrition and grooming to good use. “Exposure to the tasks being asked is important for both sale and show. For our yearlings, they need to learn how to walk properly, how to stand, how to respond to their handler and how to look their best. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Peter (O'Callaghan, who owns Woods Edge Farm) is pulling them out daily to have them walk, have them stand, repeat, repeat. We're also lucky to have an amazing staff who bring out the best in them through their handling.” Snellings said in addition to helping them understand and respond to what will be asked of them at the sales or in a horse show, it's also good to prepare them for what they might encounter. “At the farm you've got tractors, lawnmowers, blowers to clean out the barns and that all helps to desensitize them to the unexpected sights, sounds and other things they might encounter at the sales,” said Snellings. “If they come to a sale or a show having seen nothing, they won't handle that well.” When all else fails, asking your fellow equestrians about tips or tricks they use for issues you're trying to adjust can help you refine your approach to horse show prep. “Look around your barn or even at the show grounds and if anyone's horse looks better than yours, ask why,” said Latham. “The people who are best at prepping Thoroughbreds for the sales ring often come from a horse show background. There are a lot of techniques that came from the show world and were adjusted to meet the needs of the sales world. We're all just trying to make our horses look the best they can.” Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky and was recently named the Executive Director of the Retired Racehorse Project. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She is the go-to food source for one dog, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds. Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.