Horse Show Preparation

horse show teammates

When we think of a horse show, or any competition going well, we think of riding well, our horse behaving, everything clicking, and perhaps winning some decent ribbons.  However, for any of that to happen consistently, we must first be prepared and organized. That means understanding your responsibilities as a conscientious exhibitor and responsible team-member.  Depending on your situation, you may be a one-person operation, doing everything yourself. Or, perhaps you are part of a full-service program and just need to show up dressed to ride. Chances are, you are somewhere in between. No matter what, having a good understanding of horse show preparation and logistics will give you the confidence and peace of mind needed to perform at your best.  

If you’ve shown a lot, these may be items with which you are very familiar.  But if you haven’t, these are great things to stay on top of. Or, they are great things to outline with new team-members, in order to be supportive!

Before the Horses Leave

    • Clip muzzle, ears, jawline, fetlocks, and coronet bands.
    • Make arrangements with the braider
    • Pull/ shorten/ thin/ even out mane as needed.
    • Give your horse a thorough bath, being sure to address the tail and mane (roots too).
    • Clean all tack and packed it with you or with trailer as per trainer instructions. Possible items:
      1. Saddle
      2. Bridle
      3. Martingale
      4. Girth
      5. Half Pad
      6. Show Pad
      7. Schooling pad
      8. Boots if your horse wears them
      9. Cooler
    • Prepare what your horse needs to travel, and the night before place it on their stall door, on your trunk, or where it can be easily found by whoever is hauling the horses.  This could just be a halter and lead rope, or it could be a shipping halter, shipping boots, or standing wraps.  It could also include a sheet or blanket, depending on the weather.
    • Pack your trunk neatly with everything you will need at the show. You may not have a fancy tack trunk- but you still need a way to keep everything organized and neat, rather than in a heap next to the stall. So make sure you have a trainer-approved strategy for doing so. Don’t forget to make sure you have everything you might need:
      1. Spurs
      2. Crop
      3. Extra bits
      4. Polo banagages
      5. Horse bathing items
      6. Horse grooming items
      7. Boot polish kit
      8. Towels/ rags
      9. Tack cleaning items
      10. All pertinent paperwork- Coggins, membership information, checks, etc.

Before You Show

    • Check in at the office, give them your check, get your number.  Be sure you’ve reviewed the guidelines in the prize list and have entered according to all rules and class specifications.
    • Make sure you introduce yourself to the paddock master and learn their name- they will play a crucial role. Understand your class schedule and any timing conflicts with other riders on your team. Plan ahead, watch and listen to your ring, and work with your trainers to post with your teammates at appropriate times. Keep them informed of any updates or changes.  Ask trainers about any potential conflicts with other rings and together, strategize how to post to try to avoid them.

Show Day Logistics

    • Ensure that your horse is meticulously groomed- if you are doing this personally, do so before putting your show clothes on.  Give them a bath if needed, and make sure you go over every square inch to ensure they are gleaming from poll to dock. No dust, no shavings, no stains.  They need to truly look and feel like a show horse. Plan to spend some time.
    • Make sure your horse is tacked up and you are dressed well in advance, but don’t get on until you check in again at the gate- things can change!
    • Keep in contact with trainers so they can keep track of where they need to be, and when.
    • Make sure you are on 10 trips ahead, or approximately 20 minutes, so you can warm up before going in the show ring. However, you don’t want to start jumping to warm up until the paddock master knows you are there, and has told you that you are 5-8 trips out (depending on how much time you need). Because if you don’t check in, you may warm up and find out the gate has 20 trips lined up ahead of you…

Show Day Culture

    • Please help your teammates stay on top of schedule if they are newer to horse showing.
    • Try to help keep our stall area neat and orderly so everything can run efficiently for your trainer and the entire team. Keeps stress levels lower!
    • Try to watch and cheer on all your teammates!!

Remember: We are here to have fun and enjoy the journey!  To make mistakes, learn from them, and support each other. And most importantly, to enjoy the horses!

If you have any more questions about how to have a successful horse show, or to join a winning team, contact Alicia Wilkinson today!


Above photo courtesy of MTN Photography.

Jenn Crow
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