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The Horror of Horse Show Food

We feed our horses like they athletes they are, but when it comes to fuel for riders at competitions, options are sorely lacking.

By Jec Aristotle Ballou | May 8, 2014

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Feeding Grain
Nothing but the best when it comes to feeding our show horses. Why don't we give ourselves the same consideration?


I just got home from a horse show and all I want to do is eat. If you’ve been to many shows, you quickly realize that it’s a darn good thing we don’t feed our horses what people stuff down themselves at shows.

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.

Horse Show Food
Any fresh veggies hiding in that corn dog stand?
I pondered this fact yesterday morning as I wandered the show grounds in a desperate search for something to eat that resembled real 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 ‘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 show food vendors.

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 showgrounds and competitors are tight on time. So, their one option for food is the show 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 real 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. 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 show…

Further Reading
Life with Horses: It's Cheese Only at Horse Shows
Nutrition for Equestrians

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Reader Comments

dawn    gatlinburg, TN

6/14/2015 6:29:32 AM

As a horse show mom - we always have a cooler with us with good food to eat - I dont believe if we ever buy anything from the food vendors - maybe once if my daughter is craving french fries lol and thats about it.

There really is no reason why one cannot eat healthy while showing horses.

Lisa    Shelbyville, KY

6/12/2015 5:43:04 PM

Our horse club has a food booth that we run as a fund raiser at local shows as well as our own spring show. Our best seller is the fried egg sandwich you spoke of. We use bacon, egg and cheese on toast. We grill burgers and hotdogs as well, but no fries and nothing deep fried. Everyone loves the "breakfast sandwich" that we make fresh when ordered.

Kerri    Wilmington, NC

6/11/2015 10:37:10 AM

Try being gluten free at a horse show! I usually eat boiled eggs at the hotel and bring my own oatmeal and protein powder for breakfast. I also be sure to grab a handful of apples and bananas on the way out. I'm definitely bringing a cooler to the next show, after almost withering away at the last one. I would love to see healthier options.

Marie-France E. Nolet    Loma rica, CA

5/16/2014 10:55:07 AM

I totally agree with Jec Ballou!!! The only time I get good food at a horse show is at Rancho Murietta Complex, Sacramento CA. These ladies know how to present goood! food!! I ought to hug them next time I see them. :)

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