Eating Healthy at Horse Shows: Five Ways to Stay (or Get) on Track
We carefully plan our horses’ meals, weigh their feed, and provide them supplements and the proper nutrition that they need as equine athletes.
But what about our own nutrition and needs as an athlete? That often looks more like a skipped breakfast as we’re rushing out the door, whatever burger or fries we’re able to scarf down at the horse show food stand, or that delicious Nutella-filled crepe calling our name from the crepe stand.
The fact is though, as riders, we’re athletes too! If we expect our horses to perform their best, it’s important for us to fuel our bodies in a way that allows us to ride our best.
We know it’s not always easy with busy show days and tempting, convenient food vendors, but here are five tips to help you stay (or get) on track.
1.) Don’t Skip Breakfast!
It’s been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but for horseman and women, it’s often the most skipped meal of the day! Our days start early, and we’re often in a hurry to get to the barn or the show ring. However, by skipping breakfast, we’re only setting ourselves up for failure.
To get the most of your breakfast, try to include a combination of protein, carbs, and fats to give you energy and to keep you satisfied until lunch time.
“If you start with a good breakfast, you’re geared up for the day,” said amateur equestrian Michelle Durpetti, who trains with True North Stables. “I’m not as hungry; I’m not as inclined to go get fries or something like that. It’s so easy to forget at horse shows that you are also an athlete.”
Durpetti recently began placing more of an emphasis on her own nutrition while at horse shows, and she and trainer Caitlyn Shiels start most days with their own smoothie blend.
“I heat up almond milk every morning, and I use a superfood greens powder,” said Durpetti. “I add in probiotics and prebiotics, and it has an apple and cinnamon taste. It kind of tastes like old-school oatmeal.”
Show jumper Hannah Selleck of Descanso Farm is another rider who has made her own health and fitness a priority, alongside that of her horses, and even on her busiest mornings, she ensures that she doesn’t skip a protein-filled morning meal.
“Sometimes I’ll have a coffee, ride a few, but then make sure that I get protein and eat breakfast,” said Selleck. “I never want to skip a meal or feel like I don’t have energy, so I make sure that I’m eating throughout the day when I’m showing.”
2.) Plan Ahead
It’s no secret that you’re more likely to grab a sugary snack or order that convenient burger and fries when you let yourself get to the point that you’re starving or don’t have other alternatives readily available, so it’s important to plan ahead.
By the end of a long show day, it’s normal to be exhausted and to want to reach for whatever is available or to grab a quick (likely, unhealthy) dinner on your way home. Instead, try to meal plan or prep your meals in advance if you know you’re not going to feel up to cooking after you’ve finished riding and showing. Pre-made meal services are also a great option if they’re within your meal budget, and Pinterest is a great resource if you’re looking for meal prep recipes like these or these.
3.) Keep Snacks on Hand
Planning ahead and packing snacks go hand-in-hand! As a professional hunter/jumper rider and trainer riding a number of a horses a day and going from ring-to-ring, Shiels relies on pre-packed snacks, so she always tries to keep a banana, dried fruit, and almonds in her ring backpack for a quick pick me up when needed. For Selleck, turkey jerky sticks and RX Bars are her go-tos.
Apples and carrots also make great snack options (for you and your horse!), as does trail mix or a pre-prepared protein shake. Other protein sources like hard-boiled eggs, tuna packets, or no-bake protein bites also travel well and can make for a great pick-me-up. (Google “no-bake protein bites” or “no-bake protein energy bites” for a number of quick, easy recipes!)
4.) Stay Hydrated
Keeping your body hydrated while showing is just as important for your health as proper nutrition.
Try keeping a cooler packed with ice, small water bottles, and sports drinks at your stalls, on your golf cart, or near your horse trailer so that you never have to worry about finding something to drink at the show. (As an added bonus, packing your own drinks will save you money at the horse show, where drinks are often more expensive!) Thirst is also often mistaken as hunger, so by quenching your thirst, you may be less likely to go looking for something unhealthy to eat! Try to steer clear of sugary, caffeinated sodas during the day, as they won’t do the job to keep you hydrated and will only give you a temporary boost before your blood sugar drops.
5.) Make It a Group Effort
Keep yourself on a healthy track by encouraging your barn mates to do the same. Hold each other accountable to healthy eating and offer to take turns providing healthy snacks or filling up the barn cooler with waters and sports drinks for the team. Consider swapping recipe ideas, packing group lunches, or even creating fun challenges like all trying to drink a certain amount of water each day of the show. Have fun with it, and enjoy feeling better as the group of athletes that you are!