Proper Nutrition Needed to Fuel Today’s Equestrian Competitors
July 9, 2013 by Jec Ballou
When I get home from a horse show and all I want to do is eat. You see, if you’ve been to many horse shows, you quickly realize that it’s a darn good thing we don’t feed our horses what people stuff down themselves at shows. It seems proper nutrition at horse shows is not very prevalent any longer.
After all these years, I still cannot understand this irony. I mean, a show involves at least three or more days of grueling labor, sun exposure, often extreme weather, long hours, and performance. You would assume that equestrians would feed themselves in the nutritional ways of an athlete. Nah, quite the opposite.
I pondered this fact yesterday morning as I wandered the show grounds in a desperate search for something to eat that resembled nutritional food. My options included: sugary over-processed muffin from Costco being re-sold at the show’s only food vendor, the sugary complimentary glazed donuts and coffee tasting like jet fuel given out by show management, or a sugary baked good from the nearby Starbucks. So, basically, the only ‘healthy choice’ I had was in what form I wanted my sugar. I decided it was better to starve another day until I could get my hands on a piece of fruit or something without mass quantities of corn syrup.
What really amused me was that when I arrived at the show four days ago, people were carefully administering bran mashes and electrolytes to their horses, ensuring their fine steeds would drink ample water and handle the miserably hot weather in good health. Meanwhile, they themselves stuffed down glazed donuts, ice cream sandwiches and whatever else was more or less guaranteed to make them dizzy, red-faced, and worn-out in 100-degree heat. By the third day, competitors were seriously wilting… and I was dreaming about things like bananas and whole grain toast. The horses, on the other hand, fared just fine. Luckily they don’t have to suffer the offerings of horseshow food vendor.
I think somewhere around the mid-1990s, with a plethora of processed and imitation food products at their disposal, food vendors caught on to the very sage capitalistic knowledge that horse show competitors are a captive market. Usually, the nearest supermarket is a 20-minute drive from any show grounds and competitors are tight on time. So, their one option for nutrition is the show food vendor. Much like in the case of movie theater prices, this has resulted in things like $3 bottles of water and $8 hamburgers. It has also resulted in offering items that marginally resemble healthy food but cost as much as a restaurant entrée. After all, why prepare a fresh-made sandwich when a horse show competitor will shell out $7 for a corn dog nuked in the microwave for 30 seconds? Never mind that the competitor will suffer digestive duress for the remainder of the afternoon.
What is sadly missing from most shows today is a staple from my childhood spent at horse competitions all over the East Coast. The mighty fried egg sandwich; full of healthy protein, nutritional carbs and yummy goodness. Back in the day, almost every competitor downed an egg sandwich in the morning, because then they were bolstered for the day with strength and stamina. In fact, fried egg sandwiches become synonymous for me with horse shows. And I do not mean a pre-made plastic-sealed sandwich with imitation eggs and bright orange cheese. I mean the real deal. They were always fried up fresh by a slightly grumpy gentleman in a white aluminum trailer. They were served piping hot on toasted English Muffins with a slice of cheese. With one of those in your belly, you could tackle the stress of competition and inclement weather all day long and wake up bright eyed the next day.
It may not count as an actual revolution, but I’d like to start a movement that brings the fried egg sandwich back into style at horse shows. I say… out with the glazed donuts and in with the English Muffin goodness. Until my revolution takes hold, though, I’ll be here in my kitchen stuffing my face until my next horseshow.