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Horse Show Hangover

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222 – August/September, 2015

The Much-Needed Cure Revealed

by: Delores Kuhlwein

kuhlwein-hangover_bkgYou’ve felt this way before, but you thought it couldn’t possibly happen again. The fatigue hits you like a tidal wave as you roll out of bed. Your head begins to pound harder with each step on your way to the shower. Your muscles cry out for forgiveness, even after you pummel them with hot water and fight the urge to return to bed. You shake your head, forgetting for a split second how much it hurts, trying to clear the cobwebs and remember what you need to do today.

As you fumble to begin your day, silently hoping for nothing out of the ordinary, perhaps you cross your fingers, or pray, or start to make deals with those around you in exchange for peace, or quiet, or both. It seems the classic symptoms of a hangover have all but stopped you in your tracks.

We’re not talking about a regular hangover here, but instead the infamous “horse show hangover,” that intolerable yet inevitable period immediately following indescribable days of bliss surrounded by friends, horseflesh, and the feeling of accomplishment. Finding relief at this stage of the game can become your ultimate goal for that day, or possibly the entire week.

Googling “hangover cures” brings almost 700,000 results within a fraction of a second, all for what the Mayo Clinic defines as “a group of unpleasant signs and symptoms.” But what should you do for your horse show-induced hangover? Pinning down the cure, or a clinical definition of this industry phenomenon, is elusive. Still, we’ve found the answer. Knowing the ropes and having a little experience under your belt can arm you with not only a cure, but the secure knowledge of prevention. Our expert lineup shares their advice, so you too can kiss “the horse show hangover” goodbye: APHA Amateur Marylyn Caliendo of Lake Oswego, Oregon; AQHA Amateur Katie Grossnickle of Maple City, Michigan; and AQHA Amateur Kathy Tobin of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Pre-Show Strategies

Going into the show with a plan can go far as an ounce of prevention. For Marylyn Caliendo, planning ahead sets the tone for the entire show. “Plan your time way ahead of the show, so you know what you’re going to do, including flights and hotel reservations. Get all your ducks in a row, so when you do hit the ground running everything is as it should be for you. For me, the more time I have before going to the show the better. The best plan is to go in for a few days and ride and get my body back in tune.” She advises to make the proper arrangements with everything at home well beforehand. “I have an assistant in Oregon that stays at the house, nannies the dogs, and takes care of the things that go on there while I’m gone. Our companies are established and we have a great Senior Management team that keeps them running. We’re extremely blessed,” she says.

Thinking about sharing the tasks that sap one’s strength is also a must. For example, Katie Grossnickle and her mom take two horses to the shows together, so they’ve learned to be savvy about time and rest before the show – and afterward too. Katie says, “My mom and I take turns driving, which allows one of us to sleep. It’s a major help!”

Mid-Show Schemes

Even though social media is filled with funny photos of napping exhibitors, typically posted by their peers to rib them for sleeping on the job, the concept is actually practiced as a smart coping strategy.

“Nap when possible!” Katie laughs. Knowing the benefits of rest during competition, both Katie and Marylyn have adapted their habits over the years to include staying on the showgrounds. “I also try to make sure I have some down time at the shows, which is usually just relaxing in our motorhome,” Katie explains

“I stay in our coach bus during the shows and always fly back to Oregon the day after the horse show ends. That gives me a little more down time to pack and organize,” Marylyn adds. She explains that incorporating rest with staying healthy adds to her success. “A day before the show and during the show, I drink a lot of water, and I add a hydration powder to it. I make sure that I get plenty of rest and sleep, and I take Aleve before I go to bed. I don’t like to eat out every meal at a show, so the bus allows me to cook meals as if I was at home.”

Post-Show Tactics

Immediately following the show, all three amateurs find that the way they reenter the “real world” impacts the hangover a great deal.

“Like any other hangover, I take two Advil and keep going,” Kathy Tobin says. “Nowadays, the Advil is for the minor aches and pains from showing all day long. Luckily, there are no headaches with horse hangovers!”

Rather than allowing the much-dreaded hangover to hover, Kathy takes control and stays true to her nature of being active. “I like to keep going once I’m home, because ‘taking it easy’ was never in my vocabulary. When our sons were young, I couldn’t miss a beat with their routines. Even today, I try to keep up with my routine to keep busy,” she explains.

Planning the exit, much like Marylyn advises planning the entrance, is key. “What doesn’t work for me is rushing to the airport and taking a late arrival flight. It’s a four-hour flight from DFW to my home, and I can tend to start feeling muscle sore if I travel like that. Also, I can tell if I haven’t had enough protein, and that isn’t good for my muscles, so skipping meals doesn’t work.”

The same line of attack appeals to Katie, who owns her own business. “Having early mornings and late nights at shows and then driving home is always the hardest! After a horse show, I typically plan an extra day for travel, if possible, which might mean leaving the show the day after it ends. If we do leave the show that same day, I might stay in Indiana, where our motorhome is stored, and then drive back home to Michigan the next day. I normally arrive back in Michigan sometime on Monday, which means I’m back to my store on Tuesday! However, I own a boutique, and I’m lucky enough to be able to still go to some shows. But, often taking another day off isn’t doable. If that’s the case, I just always hope the last day of showing is light, and then I’ll try to get to bed early the first few nights home.”

Managing Down Time

When the showgrounds have completely emptied, and the time between horse shows grows longer, the symptoms of a horse show hangover can linger, according to our sources. In fact, these symptoms can develop into downright withdrawal if one isn’t careful. Yet, these amateurs have discovered how to “nip this in the bud,” too, by staying busy and prepping for the next event.

Katie keeps herself occupied to ward off what she refers to as summer hangover. “My boutique is in a huge tourist town, so summer is my busiest time!” she exclaims. “Getting to horse shows is much harder during that time, so I cope by staying super busy at the store.”

Like she does for her immediate post-show strategy, Kathy likes to keep moving. “I like to go out and ride after a few days off. The days off are mostly for the sake of my horses. I know they need more rest than me. These days, if I sit too long, it takes a couple of days to get the aches out, so I want to keep moving and riding. I try to focus on the next show and get back out practicing at home as soon as possible,” she explains.

In the same way, Marylyn keeps busy and starts to prepare for her next goal. “I always go over every class I did from the previous show, in my mind,” she says. “Then, I want to go and practice more. Plus, I really like the camaraderie of riding with our barn, hanging out, and catching up. In between shows, I stay physically active to keep my mind busy. Otherwise, I get a little anxious and start counting the days to the next one.”

Final Words of Advice

Kathy advises to keep looking forward as her method for success. “I like using the horse shows to catch up with friends, and the thrill of competition makes leaving the shows kind of a letdown. My husband and I want to keep being ‘moving targets,’ so we look forward to going on the road again. We try not to dwell on the last shows but look forward to the next ones!

Marylyn explains that part of the fun includes all the ups and downs. Try to figure out what works best for your personality, in addition to planning as much as you can. “Do what works for you and your body and mind to get into a groove that makes showing an easier experience. I feel that when you have a passion, any type of hangover is going to occur. It can be a positive, euphoric one or a sad, negative one. So, do what’s good and comfortable for yourself and family; don’t wait until the last minute.”

Even though Katie’s wish list includes the perhaps unattainable goal of “one day of rest with no interruptions,” she also has this to say. “We all know it’s coming and can gradually get used to it and cope as much as possible. But in the end, it is totally worth the hangover!”

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