All of my show people – let’s take a moment to reminisce on your first show. Remember the nerves, the excitement, the faith you put in your horse in a new way for the first time? Remember getting your clothes all ready, grooming your horse with great anticipation for what show day would bring? I can relate! I’m glad to say I’ve come a long way as a horseman since my first show, but I still look back on that day fondly; I’m sure you do as well. There were also a few little hitches and hiccups that day – and throughout my years showing – that I was able to learn from and improve to make my next show run more smoothly.
Safety pins! And More Safety Pins!
My mom and I still joke about it to this day, but within fifteen minutes of arriving to the show grounds for my very first show, we had our first hiccup: no safety pins. I ran around with my back number, back to the announcer’s stand, then to a few competitors until I found a show mom with some to spare. From then on, we kept a small box of safety pins in the tack room of the trailer at all times. Speaking of back numbers, I also would recommend keeping a few plastic paper sheet covers in your trailer. On rainy days, this was a lifesaver. The back numbers are typically the size of a half sheet of paper, so they fit in perfectly, and you can fold the plastic cover over to keep all water out. (This one was my mom’s idea, so I’ll give her credit!). Making sure you have the little details taken care of can make your day run much more smoothly.
Keep Your Horse Happy
We use hay nets to feed our horses, and would stuff a few full and toss them in the back of the truck. In between classes, I liked to do all I could to keep my horse feeling great, so I’d loosen the cinch and put her in front of feed. She didn’t necessarily need it, but it kept her occupied while tied to the trailer.
Our trailer tack room came with a water tank, which we always filled with our own water from home. Most showing facilities have water available. We rarely took advantage of this for two reasons:
- The spigot was always quite a ways from the parking section, which meant I’d have to carry a bucket of water across the fairgrounds. By the time I got back to the trailer, I was wearing half the water that had been in the bucket. Having it in the trailer with a hose attached saved time and back-breaking work.
- Some horses can be really picky about water and refuse water that doesn’t taste like it’s from home. Showing season is usually at its peak in the summertime, and I never wanted to risk working my mare all day long in the summer heat without her drinking a drop of water.
- This being said, don’t forget a bucket for water.
Keep Your Horse Clean
In western pleasure and many other forms of competition, your horse’s cleanliness is just as important as your own. We kept a package of baby wipes in the trailer tack room, and before every class (especially showmanship and halter), we’d clean out my mare’s nostrils and wipe off her nose. It gives a finished look, and judges like to see such attention to detail.
I also keep a razor on hand to get any extra whiskers I may have missed when grooming her the day before. We keep a clean brush in the trailer to get any flyaway hairs, too. Our brushes at home are everyday brushes and carry a lot of dirt in the bristles. For this reason, we have a specified show brush that stays in the trailer and is only used on clean horses.
Hair spray has also proven to be a lifesaver, for both my horse and myself. Going back to a clean presentation, I use hair spray to keep my mare’s forelock and mane looking neat. She gets flyaway hairs that shoot strait up from her crest, and a little bit of hairspray lays them back down on her mane. Her forelock likes to separate into two pieces, so I spray liberally on the top of her forelock to get it to all stick together.
The List for Your Horse
- saddle stand
- saddle pad
- decorative blanket to go on top of saddle pad
- show halter
- backup halter – I’ve seen so many horses get loose at shows, and having an extra never hurt anyone
- rag to wipe off leather tack
- lunge line and whip
- bucket(s) and bucket straps
- hay nets
- muck rake and bucket
- hoof pick
- hair spray
- clean brush
- Show Sheen
- baby wipes
- mane bands – make sure they match the color of your horse’s hair
- liniment to run down your horse’s legs at the end of the day – Listerine mouth wash works just as well for a fraction of the cost
- shavings in trailer – to provide some footing traction for the horses
- hay nets hung in trailer – depending on the length of the drive; we used to do this for the longer hauls
Taking Care of Yourself
Food! If you’re anything like me, this is where your mind goes first. I pack a cooler the night before with lots of snacks:
- almonds – not messy to eat, and a quick handful can give you a protein boost
- sub sandwich from local deli
- lots of bottles of water
- apples and carrots – for my mare and myself
- granola bars
- something sweet
- don’t forget the utensils – plates, napkins, forks
- we usually brought a folding card table to eat on during the lunch break
Typically, there will be vendors at the shows, but it’s cheaper and healthier to pack your own lunch.
Gathering the pieces to put together my show outfit was one of the most exciting parts of preparing for a show. Make sure you remember:
- show shirt
- undershirt – if it’s hot and/or you really need to keep your show shirt clean in between classes
- show pants
*I use a plastic trash bag to cover all of my show clothes and hang them up in the trailer tack room the night before my show. The clothes are protected from dust, and it’s a cheaper alternative to buying a suit cover*
- hair net
- hair bands
- bobby pins
- hair spray – so important I listed it twice!
- hat – kept in hat box until your first class
- boots – have someone wipe them off when you mount to make sure you look clean from head to toe
- earrings – I would recommend something simple; dangling earrings make it look like your ride is choppy because of the extra movements they make. It’s a small detail, but it can actually lose you points if it looks like your ride isn’t smooth. For this same reason, I pull my hair back into a tight bun rather than leaving it in a braid or ponytail.
- lint roller
- safety pins
- plastic back number cover
- extra hangers
- change of clothes that can get dirty
- old pair of boots
- extra socks
We usually hook up the trailer and load everything the night before to make the morning less stressful. Filling your gas tank up the night before is a great idea, too.
The Most Important Item to Pack: a Good Attitude
In all of the chaos and stress a horse show can bring, remember to go and have fun. You and your horse are a team. Having a good attitude is the simple best way to ensure you have a great day of showing. Have some other tips? Comment below! We’d love to hear!
If you want some tips on how to improve your competitive edge, see my article on that here.