No matter what your level of experience or what type of riding you do, preparing for a horse show or event can be very anxiety producing. There are lots of things you need to do to get ready, and many things you must remember to take along.
In this article, we provide good advice to help you prepare yourself, your equipment, your tack and your horse for any big event. Read on to learn more on how to get ready for a horse show.
What You'll Learn Today
Know What To Expect
One of the best ways to prepare for a horse show is to attend lots of horse shows in advance. Before you decide to enter your horse in a show, go to some local events to get an idea of what will be expected of you.
This will help you to choose the right types of events and classes for yourself and for your horse. If you’re able to bring your horse along for the ride, this can be a great way for him or her to become used to the show atmosphere.
It can be a good idea to start off with some simple shows, such as schooling shows, which have a more relaxed atmosphere than more demanding events and disciplines, such as dressage.
While you’re at the show, talk with participants, trainers and others and get their feedback and pointers regarding show preparation and participation.
Early Preparation Paves The Way
When you’ve decided what type of show you want to participate in, find a good venue close at hand and enter a few classes. Be sure to mark the dates clearly on your calendar and send in your entry fees right away.
Start getting ready as soon as possible by preparing a list of the things you believe you’ll need. You may not know everything at this moment, but it’s a good idea to get yourself into a frame of mind for preparation well in advance.
Here are some of the things you may need to participate successfully in a horse show:
For your horse…
- Current registration documents
- Current coggins certificates
- Current vaccination records
- Feed and water buckets
- 5 gallon jugs of water
- Horse a first aid kit
- Horse grooming kit
- Feed and hay
- Full tack
- Emergency phone numbers list
- Pertinent insurance documents
- Grooming implements
- Human first-aid kit
- Drinks and snacks
- Cash/credit card
- Show clothing
- You riding crop (if needed/allowed)
As you work with your horse in preparation to the show, imagine yourself in the setting. If you’re unfamiliar with the venue, visit it or the website and/or talk with others who are familiar with the setting.
You are sure to think of other things aside from this list that you may need to bring.
As The Show Approaches…
1. Two Weeks
In the last couple of weeks before the show, take care of any appointments you or your horse may need in preparation. If you need a haircut, get one.
If your horse needs his hooves trimmed and shod, take care of it now. Have any necessary vehicle or trailer repairs taken care of in plenty of time.
2. One Week
In the last few days before your show date, be sure to examine all the clothing you plan to wear. Do any mending necessary, and give your clothes a final wash or cleaning and pressing.
Play it smart by arranging an entire alternate outfit, just in case something happens to the clothes you plan to wear.
Put your outfits on hangers and protect them with a garment bag.
Get your footwear ready as well. Give your boots a good cleaning and polishing and wrap them up or place them in a boot bag to keep them clean.
Get your helmet or your hat ready (although I wouldn’t recommend wearing a cowboy hat :)), and place it in a hard case or hatbox to keep it pristine.
Give your vehicle and your trailer a good safety check and cleaning. Make sure all your lights are working, fluids are topped off, gas tank is full and all your tires are properly filled and in good condition.
Clean the inside of your trailer and put in a fresh layer of shavings to protect your horse’s hooves and legs.
Hitch your trailer to your vehicle and make certain that the hitch and chains are safe and secure. Double check your first aid kits to be sure that they are complete and in position, ready to use if needed.
Post copies of your emergency phone numbers list inside your vehicle, inside your trailer and inside the lids of both your first aid kits.
3. One Day
On the last day before the show you’ll want to make sure your horse and your tack are ready to go.
After your last ride at home before the show, give your horse a bath and spend some extra time drying, grooming and polishing his coat.
Comb his mane and tail thoroughly; do any clipping you plan to do, and then clothe him in the proper weight of sheet or blanket to help keep his coat clean.
If your horse has white stockings, you may wish to apply standing wraps to help keep them nice and white.
Clean your saddle and bridle thoroughly and (if your saddle is leather) apply a good leather conditioner. Buff all surfaces with a soft, dry cloth for an attractive sheen.
If your tack has silver ornamentation, clean it properly with silver polish and give it a good buffing for a nice shine.
Protect your tack with padded carrying bags or wrap in clean, dry cloths. Load everything up safely in your trailer, being sure that everything is well padded and secure and won’t become damaged rattling around.
Finish loading up your truck with everything you’ll need tomorrow (that you don’t need tonight.) Get your trailer ready for your horse’s travel by filling your hay net and making sure everything is safe.
Take along several 5 gallon jugs of your own water. Sometimes horses do not like unfamiliar water and may become dehydrated in a strange place.
Lay out everything you’ll need so that you won’t have to run around in the morning searching for things.
4. Show Day
Get up early so that you won’t have to rush, and set out early so that you can arrive early. This will give you plenty of time to get your horse settled in his stall and to unpack and organize your belongings.
Even if you have already visited the venue once, take a walk around the grounds to make sure that you know where everything is and take note of any changes that may have occurred since you last saw the setting.
Locate any services such as an attending farrier or vet and check in with the main office to take care of any necessary paperwork and to get your show number.
Return to your horse’s stall and give him a good grooming. Get yourself and your horse ready for your first event.
Pay close attention to the rulebook to make certain that all of your tack is acceptable for the show and that you are properly turned out.
Double check the show schedule in case of changes. Take your horse on a walk around the grounds to calm him down and familiarize him with the setting.
Just before you go to your first class, use a soft cloth to wipe your horse and tack down. Check to make sure that all your clothing is presentable and get ready to show.
Show Prep: Night Before
Frequently Asked Questions
You can create a checklist that includes goals such as improving specific riding skills such as: Achieving consistent contact; Mastering a particular movement; Enhancing overall performance and accuracy in the show ring; Building a stronger partnership and trust with your horse; Maintaining a calm and focused mindset throughout the competition.
Be sure to obtain a copy of the show’s rulebook or test booklet. This publication typically contain the patterns or movements required for each class. Take time to study and practice these tests at home. Go over them with your trainer or instructor if you need to. You could also attend clinics, seminars, or schooling shows that have similar test formats.
In the weeks before a show, be sure to keep up with grooming tasks such as: Mane and tail care; Healthy coat care; Regular bathing; Hoof trimming. Pay close attention to your horse’s overall health and well-being. Address any skin issues, and make sure your horse is getting proper nutrition and hydration. Consult with your vet, and scheduling necessary check-ups and vaccinations. Get your travel paperwork in order.
Begin by keeping your horse’s tail clean and well-groomed. Wash and condition it regularly. Keep it tangle-free by using a tail bag or wrap can help protect it and keep it clean between grooming sessions. Think about using tail conditioner or detangler for more shine and manageability.
Be sure to properly store and transport your equipment. Invest in a sturdy gear bag or trunk to protect your items from dirt, dust, and damage. Use garment bags or covers for your show attire to prevent wrinkles or stains, and carry a lint roller or brush to remove any debris before entering the show ring. Before the show, check all your own clothing and clean and polish your tack, including saddle, bridle, and boots.