For your horse: Those few days you give your horse off before entering an event, don't just ignore him, he's your partner in all this - take him for long walks to keep his muscles supple, concentrating on tight turns and bending exercises. You can even trot him over some trotting poles in the arena to keep his mind occupied. Remember that he won't understand why you're not riding him after all that conditioning the previous weeks, and may even show boundless energy by running around his paddock, bucking and performing - let him work it off as it won't last too long, anyway. Remember to increase his hay and water intake but to decrease his feed by about half, although you need to give a full ration the night before the event. The night before the ride, keep his hay net and water bucket full - you can even put more hay nets and water buckets in his paddock for the night. Don't forget to give a dose of electrolytes - if he won't eat it in his food, mix it with some syrup or molasses. On ride day, give about half the amount of feed at least 4 hours before starting and keep the rest for when you come back - more and more riders are feeding as early as midnight - giving about 7 hours for digestion. Another dose of electrolytes is in order.
For you: Eat sensibly the week before the ride and try to sleep well. If you're a novice, you'll be lying awake all week ticking off your packing list in your head. As you become more seasoned, you'll still lie awake a few nights before the event, ticking off your packing list in your head - so you can't win, but at least you'll know you're not alone. Refer to the 2nd article where we discussed how to take care of yourself and follow a good diet and exercise plan. Tell your family not to stress you out with niggly things like why they're having take-aways AGAIN tonight - you're a finely tuned athlete who needs your rest.
TLC After The RideFor your horse: Immediately after vetting, let your horse relax, don't bother him anymore as he's had enough of your company for the time being. Leave him in his paddock or tie him with a full bag of hay and a bucket of water for about half an hour. Many horses at endurance rides will lie down flat and catch a nap - don't be alarmed - you'd like to do the same if given the chance, wouldn't you? But that doesn't mean you have to ignore him totally - he's worked hard for you and he'd like some acknowledgement from time to time. Keep muscle stiffness at bay by walking him once or twice around the camp site, but don't keep him away from his hay and water for too long. If it's chilly or a cold wind is blowing, use a sweat blanket to keep the chill away or keep him in the sun to stay warm, as tired muscles will cramp up quickly. Don't be in too much of a hurry to pack up and go, there's still the certificate hand-out to attend, besides, your horse is tired and expecting him to travel back immediately in the trailer is not fair!
Both of you need a day off for every 12kms ridden plus one day for travelling. However, don't let him stand around for a few days without any form of exercise, as he's bound to have one or two stiff muscles that would benefit from walking (maybe you too!). Hand walk him for 1-2 kilometres every day, making sure you do fairly tight turns to loosen those side muscles as well. Remember that the feeding plan should be amended accordingly for those few days off.
Keep an eye on his hydration, pulse and gut sounds while he's off, any change to the normal will alert you to any possible problems brewing - especially pulse, as that'll tell you if your horse is hurting in any way.
For you: You've been good by eating the right things and exercising before the ride, so now is a good time to indulge yourself. Treat yourself to all those forbidden things and tell everybody that it's what all good endurance riders do.