Let the show begin: some horse show preparation tips

First show of the season next weekend:  Just a schooling show, but we’re going up a level in dressage, and trying out a brand new Freestyle. Fun! And challenging.Finn, 3rd level

Considering the show season ahead, I think: what will it be like this year? How will we grow? What successes (and disappointments) will there be? Will it be fun? If not, then I need an attitude change. I can become far too driven and tense about horse shows, draining the joy out of it for me and my horse.

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 5.14.40 PM

A horse show can require an immense amount of focus and effort, but it CAN be lots of fun and it gives us goals to work towards and ways to measure progress.

To make Show Day easier, organizing and doing things BEFORE the day of the show is helpful. Here’s how I make things easier:

1) Set aside a large plastic lidded bin as your Horse Show Box. This bin goes with you to every show. In my bin: 

  • Copies of my dressage tests, with large print so my reader can see them
  • Extra copies of all my horse show membership cards (USEF, USDF) in case the show office lost some part of my entry
  • Extra braid bands
  • Clean, small cloth towels for wiping boots, bits, coats, etc.
  • Small sponges
  • Granola bars, bottled water
  • Small boot cleaning kit
  • White, clean show saddle pad
  • Polished and ready dressage boots for me (I keep a nice pair just for shows and trash my every day pair)

2) Get things done ahead of time

  • Plan the route to the show. Google maps has a feature to calculate travel time and figure out usual traffic patterns. Add EXTRA TIME. Nothing worse than thinking I might miss the class. Who needs the stress?
  • Write down a Time Plan for the day of the show. Wake up time, leave the house, braid the horse, load trailer, arrive at show, warm up, etc, etc. Allow extra time! Drink plenty of water, eat snacks, and allow for bathroom breaks. Sitting the trot with a full bladder is SO unpleasant, isn’t it? You don’t want that distraction from doing your best.
  • Pull the horse’s mane to braiding length a week or two before the show. Wash the tail a few days before, too. No need to do it last minute, for most horses it will stay clean enough (white horses might be the exception to this rule).

    Braid ahead of time if you can. Practice makes perfect.

    Braid ahead of time if you can. Practice makes perfect.

  • If your horse will keep braids in overnight, braid the day before! Mine will rub them out, so I have to do them on show day. Hence, I use rubber bands. It’s fast and they look fine from a distance. Yes, they do. I know, the perfectionists are cringing, but I’m telling the rest of you, it’s o.k. to use braid bands as long as they match your horse’s mane. DO practice ahead of time and learn to do nice, small, tight braids, though. Or hire someone to do it for you, there’s no shame in that.
  • Clean the bridle the day before the show. The saddle can be cleaned several days before and just wiped with a dust cloth on the day of the show. If you only have one pair of boots, clean them the afternoon before the show.
  • Try on your show clothes and make sure they all FIT, are clean, have no rips, etc. Do this well before the show in case you need to clean, mend, or buy new ones. Horrible feeling: trying on your show britches a few days before the show only to discover they are too small. Or worse: I remember one friend who got to a show only to discover her white breeches were ripped right down the center crotch seam…and she was going “commando.” It was not a pretty sight, believe me – I saw it. I actually had to sew up the seam on her butt (while she was wearing them), just enough of it to allow her to ride without the seam ripping further. We laughed as I was sewing, it must have looked so peculiar to anyone watching…

    Just imagine the scene...

    Just imagine the scene…

  • Make sure your trailer and trailer vehicle are ready to go and in good working order, and that your horse loads predictably. 

3) Set a realistic goal for this show and visualize how you will meet it. If I have a young horse, my goal might simply be that my horse gets to see as much as possible of a busy show environment, has a good time, and that I help her be as relaxed as possible about it. I put all thoughts of points and ribbons out of my head. With a more seasoned campaigner, perhaps I have my sights on a certain score. What do I need to do to achieve those points? What will be my strategy for success? Have a plan, visualize the plan, and work the plan. Spend time in the days leading up to the show quietly imagining yourself successfully riding the test, jumping the round, etc. Imagine how you will positively overcome any challenges.

Probably not like this…

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 5.06.04 PM

Happy Showing!

One thought on “Let the show begin: some horse show preparation tips

  1. I like the tip with making a time plan. Love that idea of not feeling rushed on show day.
    And I think your braids look super nice! Wishing you a really good schooling show. Let us all know how it went!


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