How to Prepare for a Horse Show
Anyone who has ever shown a horse knows the thrilling but sometimes stressful times right before you enter the arena. This article will explain how to make you and your horse look like winners before those nerve racking moments.
- Give your horse a bath to get every part of him or her squeaky clean. It's best to give your horse a bath a few days before the show to allow time for the natural coat oils to return and make him or her gleam. However, if you are already running out of time, coat your horse in some shine-enhancing formula after he or she is dry.
- Clip the feathers on your horse's legs closely, as well as the longer hairs that grow on your horse's muzzle, face, ears, and throat. Also, always clip your horse a nice, clean bridle path - a few inches at the most. Clipping adds definition to your horse's body shape and improves the overall presentation before the judge. The judge will always choose a great performance over a mediocre one, and presentation is a key part in the judging process.
- Decide what to do with his or her mane. The style mainly depends on your horse's breed and the discipline (type) of the show or class, but here are the basic styles:
- Hunter and western riders often sand the horses hooves to make them smooth, then apply shoe polish. When the shoe polish dries, paint black hoof polish on your horse's clean black hooves (use clear polish on hooves that are not black). This should all be done on a clean hard surface. Once the hoof polish is dry, spray with black (or clear) paint right before entering the ring for a final touch.
- Make sure you look your best, now that your horse is all set to go. Dressage competitors should refer to the FEI regulations; Eventing competitors should refer to the USEF Rules for Eventing as well as the FEI regulations.
- Use the proper tack for your discipline. Dressage and Eventing riders should study the rules in detail, as you may be eliminated if your tack is incorrect.
- Load all grooming equipment, tack, and anything else you will need. Try to get to the show at least an hour before it's supposed the official opening or start. This way you will have time to accustom your horse to the surroundings and tend to little last minute touch-ups.
- Remember to warm up before your classes and make sure you have fun at the show. Good luck!
For English events such as Hunter Under Saddle, English equitation, jumping, or Dressage, pull your horse's mane to around four inches (the width of your hand) and then braid it with yarn that matches you horses mane so it will blend in. The braid is then pulled upward to create a loop. Then, with the extra string (from braiding), tie off a little before the middle of the loop, creating a button.
Whether or not to braid the tail also depends on the discipline. Typically, Hunter competitors do braid the tail but Eventing competitors do not, even for Dressage. FEI regulations do not require braiding. To braid the tail, simply do a French braid, taking very small sections from the sides, starting at the top. You should braid down to almost the end of the tail bone. Then, keep braiding regularly (no longer a French braid) and either loop it under and secure or pinwheel it.
If you are showing your horse in western events such as Western Pleasure or Trail, banding your horse's mane is a good idea. Banding tends to make a thick neck appear thinner and makes your horse appear well-groomed and finished. To band a horse's mane, you must first shorten it to an appropriate length, probably around four and a half inches. Then you take about one inch sections of the hair and wrap a small braid binder of some sort tight around it. Be careful, however, not to wrap it too close to the neck as to it will stick up like a mohawk. Repeat the banding process until you have run out of mane. Try to keep the band even and laying flat.
To make your banding job stand out, use a different color band than your horse's mane (such as white bands on a dark mane).
A mane tamer would be an excellent idea in keeping the bands intact for a night or in the trailer ride over.
For western competitions, always wear an outfit that makes your horse stand out and color coordinates with your saddle pad. This will add great style to your overall presentation. For a local show, a button up western shirt, nice show pants, boots, hat, and a belt may be very acceptable. But for more competitive horse shows, everyone will be wearing more elaborate garments such as form fitting silkies and vests, expensive chaps, etc. If your budget will not allow you to make these purchases, as long as your outfit complements yourself as well as your horse, then you have nothing to worry about.
Dark colors on light horses, and lighter colors on dark horses tend to draw more attention to them.
It's not recommended to wear an all-black outfit in the show ring. Most of your competition will also be wearing it and you will want to stand out among everyone else. A deep purple or midnight blue is a great alternative.
Your chaps, boots, and hat will look very smooth if matched in the same color so it would be a good idea to do so.
Once you have your outfit together, assemble a test drive to make sure everything matches, fits, and is comfortable so you have no surprises on show day. For huntseat you should be wearing a dark coat (navy, black or hunter green) and breeches that complement. Your shirt should also bring out any stiching details in your coat.
For the western events, use a complete leather bridle, western saddle, and saddle pad. Your outfit looks very put together if your reins, headstall, and saddle are in one leather color. Lighter oil colors make dark horses stand out but darker colors can look just as good depending on your particular horse's color.