A Day in the Life of Stephanie Kramer

Stephanie Kramer works as a head groom for top amateur jumper rider Vanessa Hood and U.S. Olympian Kent Farrington. Keep reading for a day in Stephanie’s life at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival Week 5 during the CSI5* Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ) Team Competition in Williamsburg, MI.

Friday, August 5, 2022

6 a.m.

My first alarm goes off around six in the morning when we are starting at the barn at seven. I like to give myself time in the mornings, so I don’t feel rushed or stressed starting out the day. I usually make myself a coffee to go and grab some sort of granola bar or something light to get my day started.

Photo by Boss Mare Media

7 a.m.

I have three horses in FEI this week. I have one horse showing in two-star classes and two horses competing at the five-star level. No matter how many horses I have showing every day starts the same. We begin by feeding hay, then grain, and then moving on to the chores. When I have horses showing, they wear the Sport Innovations magnetic blanket in the morning.

8 a.m.

Once chores are done, I start getting my horses out for a hand walk and some grass. One by one I groom them and hand walk or graze them for 15-20 minutes to let them stretch their legs before they go to work. Cascalretto is the only horse I have showing today in the MLSJ Team Competition at 5:30 so when I take the first horse out I put the magnetic blanket on him and set the program and massage to run as I walk the other horse.

11 a.m.

My two other horses, Easy Girl and Conner, aren’t showing today so they will just flat. Once Vanessa is ready to ride one, I pull them back out and fully groom them again. I start with a good curry, then a flick brush, and I finish with some Santa Fe spray and a soft brush to protect their coat from the sun and keep them nice and shiny. As they go out, I like to keep their stalls picked as well so they’re always coming back to a clean stall.

12 p.m.

We feed lunch hay and top off water buckets at noon. Since Cascalretto will not get ridden until later in the day, I take him out for another quick walk and some grass between the two others getting ridden. Cascalretto will also get a short flat to loosen up a bit before the class tonight. As the other two come back from being ridden they both go for baths and grass. Before going for grass, I like to bring them back to the barn and towel dry them, brush their manes down, and put conditioner in their tails if I washed them that day. Then we are off to the FEI grazing area until they are dry and can go back to their stalls.

2 p.m.

At this time, I usually like to start my afternoon chores depending on what my day looks like. I get my stalls cleaned one last time and top off their water buckets. Then it is time to get Cascalretto ready for his quick flat before the class. He gets a full groom again before getting tacked up. He then heads out to loosen up. Once he’s back I give him a few minutes in his stall to get a drink and go to the bathroom before I pull him back out to get cleaned up.

3:30 p.m.

Photo by Boss Mare Media

The horses get dinner hay and then I like to tidy up the barn one last time before the end of the day. I usually sweep, dust, and all of that fun stuff. Today after they get their grain and are finished eating it is time for Cascalretto to come out and start getting ready for the ring. Vanessa’s team, which is Team Lugano Diamonds, is going first so that means he needs to be ready and at the ring by 4:45. The first thing I do is braid him. He doesn’t have the best mane for braids, so it always takes me a bit to get them to look good. Then I groom him one last time before tacking him up with his show tack. I put on his jump boots and grab boots, I double-check that my ring bag is ready, and then we head to the ring.

5 p.m.

I get Vanessa on, we do our pre-boot check, and I go grab a jump so we can warm up. Today wasn’t the best day for Team Lugano Diamonds but that just comes with the sport.

6 p.m.

Once Cascalretto is finished showing we go back to the barn and he gets untacked. I like to ice him in his stall so he has time to relax by himself before I continue with his aftercare. I leave the ice on for 20 minutes. Once he is done icing, he gets a good liniment bath to cool his muscles down. I take him out for a bit of grass to help him dry more quickly. Then I bring him back to the grooming stall to get wrapped. I poultice all four legs and pack his feet. Once that is done, I run a brush through his mane and tail and brush him off one last time before letting him go in his stall for the night. After he is put away, I quickly check over my other horses before heading out.

7:30 p.m.

When I get home, no matter how late it is, I always try my best to give myself a bit of time to decompress before going to bed. I’ll usually shower first, then make myself something for dinner, and then either watch an episode of a show or scroll through my phone to give myself a little “me time” before going to sleep and starting all over!

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9 Ways to Beat the Heat This Summer

As the summer months draw near and temperatures get warmer, it’s important to remember how to stay proactive and avoid overheating, for both yourself and your horse. With long days, high temperatures, and extreme humidity levels, overheating can happen fast and with little warning. Horses can fall victim to heat stress much faster than their humans, and they don’t have the words to tell us they’re overheating until it may be too late. But with proper actions on your part, you can keep your horse and yourself cool all summer long.

1. Hydrate.

This is a no brainer, but when temperatures start to heat up again and we are sweating more than we’re accustomed to, hydration levels can fall fast. Drink plenty of water both before and after your ride, and snack on hydrating foods such as cucumbers, strawberries, and watermelon. If you struggle to drink enough water, use a hydration booster or find a water bottle with labels to remind you to drink throughout the day.

Similarly, always make sure your horse has access to water to stay hydrated. A quick way to tell if a horse is dehydrated is to pinch a small amount of skin on its neck; if the skin takes more than a few seconds to even back out, the horse may be dehydrated. Electrolyte supplements are a quick way to restore a horse’s hydration if it isn’t drinking enough water. You can also encourage a horse to drink water by adding apple juice or honey to their water.

2. Ride at the beginning or end of the day.

Typically, the sun is strongest in the middle of the day, heating up temperatures to their highest points in the afternoons. If you can ride first thing in the morning, you’ll likely beat the heat and can get on with the rest of your day. If you can’t ride until later in the day, wait until the sun is down and the temperatures have cooled off slightly.

3. Ride efficiently.

Over the summer, it’s important to know how to make your rides as efficient as possible so you both aren’t out in the heat working for too long. Focus on exercises that challenge your horse but don’t physically demand as much when the heat is extreme. You can get a lot done in a smaller amount of time if you are intentional about every minute in the saddle.

4. Always monitor breathing.

If you feel your horse breathing excessively or see its nostrils flaring more than normal, it may be time for a break or the end of the ride. Also be aware of how long it takes for your horse’s respiratory rate to return to normal. If a horse is struggling with labored breathing in the heat, put it in front of the fan and spray its body with rubbing alcohol to cool it down. If labored breathing continues, you may need to call your vet.

5. Shower and sweat-scrape.

Hot days can lead to sweaty horses, so cool showers feel good and help them cool down. The most important areas are the chest, neck, and between the legs. Once you spray their bodies, quickly scrape the excess water, as it can heat up on the surface of their skin quickly and cause discomfort for an already hot horse.

6. Clip winter coats.

\Though horses naturally shed their winter coats, some might need extra help getting rid of the remaining hair that may be making them extra hot. This is particularly important on really hot competition days, as significant effort is required and extra hair could lead to overheating. Keep coats clipped throughout the summer and have a sheet handy for nights when the temperature dips somewhat.

7. Wear lightweight materials.

We all have our favorite ventilated, moisture-wicking clothes we like to wear on the hottest days. Companies like EIS, Ariat, and even mainstream sports brands like Under Armour make very breathable fabrics that are ideal for riding. While we may know what keeps us coolest while riding, we also have to keep this in mind for our horses. Use saddle pads made from thinner materials that wick moisture and cover less area on the horse.

8. Adjust the turnout schedule.

If the days get too hot, you may want to turn out at night or very early in the mornings. If the sun is shining, be sure your horse has ample shade to relax in while turned out.

9. Fans, fans, fans!

There’s no such thing as too many fans in a hot barn. They help keep everyone cool on hot days and maintain proper airflow throughout the facility. It’s important that every horse has a fan in its stall, plus additional fans in the grooming areas for post-ride cooldowns and to dry them after showers. Plus, it feels pretty good to stand in front of a fan after a hot ride.

While the cold can be uncomfortable, heat can bring its own problems, so we have to be smart about how to beat the heat and keep everyone safe and healthy. Keeping all these tips in mind, you’re sure to have a great summer with your horse. You can make the most of hot summer days without fretting about overheating yourself or your horse.

Liv’s Tip of the Month – Signs of Dehydration

Liv’s Tip of the Month

Dehydration is more than just your horse being extra thirsty – it can become a veterinary emergency.

Pulling a bit of his skin on the neck to see how fast it snaps back is not a reliable way to measure hydration. Older horses have less elastic skin!

You need to look at your horse’s gums. Pale, white, red, or blue gums are a sign of severe danger. The gums must also be slippery and slick, not dry or sticky.

In the warmer summer months, use electrolytes a few hours before you exercise your horse. This helps retain water.

Keep plenty of fresh water available and make sure your horse gets at least a tablespoon of salt per 500 lbs of body weight every day – no matter the season.

BarnManager can help track supplies, medical records, and watering reminders –  to sign up for a free trial click here!

 Liv Gude, a former International Dressage Groom for years, founded proequinegrooms.com as a way to unite Grooms in the horse industry. The educational website also serves to entertain and inform horse owners across all disciplines about horse care, grooming, and health. Click here to check it out!