Horse shows are a thrilling experience, but require proper preparation.

The time is here to show off all of your hard work. You and your horse have been practicing and getting ready for competitions. From A-rated, national shows to your local schooling ones, they offer a unique and fun experience. Some compete to achieve their personal best, while others enjoy the friends and community of it. In either way, horse shows require some preparation!

Helpful tips to get you and your horse ready for show season.

Get into condition.

Your horse needs to work off that winter hay belly. And hey, you may even need to burn a few calories yourself. Your muscles could be out of condition from a long winter of not riding as frequently. The best plan of action is to create a workout schedule.

Start your horse slowly by riding for 20-30 minutes a few times a week. In the beginning, focus on walking and trotting. You want to develop strength, rhythm, and balance. As their fitness improves, increase the intensity and length of each ride. Eventually, your rides should be upwards of one hour long with equal parts of walk, trot, and canter work. 

Flat work is key to any riding discipline, so start there. During your rides, you can include circles, serpentines, figure 8’s, and even trot some poles. Make sure to also give your horse long warm-ups and cool-downs.

Start getting ready for your classes.

First, you’ll need to decide what classes to enter. It can be helpful to attend a few shows without your horse to get an idea of what happens. It’s also advisable to show one level under what you school at home, then you can enter the arena with more confidence.

At least one month prior to your show, you’ll want to start practicing your specific discipline. If that’s jumping, then try a few courses. Dressage riders can work on various maneuvers in their test. And reiners can work on their slides, spins, etc… At this point, you may want an instructor who is skilled in your discipline of choice. They can help with the fine tuning!

Horse getting bath

Spruce up your horse’s looks.

One to two weeks before your show, you should begin tidying up your horse. That can include trimming whiskers, pulling their mane, and possibly body clipping. Now is a good time to find out how your horse should be turned out for your class. Are manes pulled and braided, loose and flowing, etc. Make sure to practice braiding ahead of time or find someone who will do it the night before your show.

The day before the horse show is when you’ll want to give your horse a good bath. Use quality shampoo, conditioner, and detangler. Those white horses will need some good shampoo to lift any stains. That applies to those with white markings too! Trim up any loose hairs. Add your final touches and cover your horse with a sheet and sleazy for the night.

Horse by trailerPrepare your show attire and tack.

Find out the required apparel for your discipline and have it ready ahead of time. Check for fit and condition a few weeks before the show. Your instructor may be a good person to ask for specifics. Your clothing should be clean and presentable the day of the show. Don’t forget about safety gear, as well!

Additionally, your tack should be cleaned and conditioned before the horse show. Check the rules to make sure your equipment is legal. It’s helpful to have your tack loaded and ready to go ahead of time. In fact, create a checklist with everything you need. Run down the list before you leave!

The day of the show.

In order to perform your best, you’ll want to arrive nice and early. Give yourself plenty of time to feed your horse, tack, and warm up. This also gives your horse a chance to get comfortable with the horse show environment. Don’t forget to get your number and check in! 

Once your class begins to near, you’ll want to get dressed. Make sure you know your time and arrive promptly to the ring. It’s important to relax and enjoy the experience!

Showing can be so much fun, but it definitely requires some preparation. Now, who’s ready to get out there and win a blue ribbon!

Emily Fought

Emily Fought discovered her passion for horses early on in life. When she isn't writing about them, you can find her in the barn riding. Although Emily's background is in dressage, she enjoys cross-training and is an avid trail rider. She resides in Northeastern Ohio with her husband and small dog. Together, they own and operate Humblewood Farm.

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