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Horse shows can be a lot of fun, however the days leading up to them can be stressful. There’s so much that has to be done.

Are you ready for your horse show?

Is your horse trailer packed and hooked up? Do you have everything you need? Is your horse washed, clipped, and their mane pulled or braided just right? Is all your tack clean and loaded in the trailer? Are all your show clothes in the garment bag and loaded? Do you have your spurs, crop, hat, helmet, bobby pins, number pins, saddle pad, martingale, boots, lunge line and whip, bridle, hair net, horse cooler, sweat scraper, washing tools, a hose, water bucket, a hay net, manure fork, grooming tools and products, brushes, a rag, and mounting block?

Phew… that made me anxious just to type all of it! 

I’ve been showing horses for about 30 years. Mostly, I’ve shown english and western and that’s what I do now. I haul both Tibantos and Sonny to the horse show and just do a quick tack, horse, and wardrobe change in the middle of the day. It isn’t easy, and it’s an exhausting day, but in the end, it’s really fun. 

horse show

I have a new horse show series coming up next month so I guess it’s time to start getting back in the saddle (pun intended). 

Not only do I need to get my horses, and myself, in shape, I need to go through my horse trailer and make sure everything is in good working condition.

Here are some of my best tips, tricks, and checklists to help take the stress out of horse show prep. 

First, start early.

If you wait until the day before the horse show to get everything done, you may become overwhelmed, or worse, forget something you can’t show without.

Second, plan out your plan.

Is the weather beautiful and warm and you can wash your horse anytime? Or is it supposed to be cold and windy the days before the horse show? You may need to plan out when you can bathe so it falls on the warmest day of the week. 

I’ve bathed in cold weather before and my horse was shivering. However, I made it the fastest bath possible. I started by washing just the tail and mane without getting the rest of the body soaked. Then, once those were done, I wet their body and scrubbed with shampoo within about 2 minutes. A quick rinse followed. It’s super important to scrape the excess water off as much as you can. Rub them with dry towels to help soak up some of the leftover water.

After that, I put a fleece cooler on and sometimes another stable blanket on top (depending on how cold it was). I’ve also taken them out and trotted them on the lunge line to generate some body heat while they dry (with the cooler or blanket on). Works like a charm. 

Colder days are great when you’re cleaning your tack. You can usually find somewhere enclosed and warmer while you do it.

It’s also important to bathe your horse, and let them dry completely, before you clip them. Dirt and grime on your horse’s hair will dull your clipper blades faster than anything. In the long run, clipping a clean horse will save you money. Remember, never clip a wet horse- Water + Electricity don’t mix.

Third, make sure you have all the supplies you need handy.

I love a good quality leather cleaner and conditioner. This one is both a cleaner and conditioner in one. As long as you keep your tack clean on a regular basis, a combination product like this should do a great job cleaning.

If your tack is really dirty, it may take several applications, or a cleanser only product like Leather New which has a lower concentration of the conditioner part. This product suds up some so you’ll need to be careful to wipe all the foam off. If it gets stuck in tooling or in holes in your bridle, for example, it will build up and cause more gunk (that’s a technical term).

When you clean your tack, take it all apart and get it all. Take your stirrup leathers off the saddle and clean under the stirrup bars. Undo all the buckles on your bridle and clean under them all, making sure no soap gets stuck in the holes (suds=gunk, remember?). Take your bit completely off the bridle and soak it in warm water. That will make the dried on hay and slobber much easier to remove. I recommend using an old toothbrush to scrub your bits.

Most english saddle pads can be washed in the washing machine, however, check what it’s made of and the care instructions. Wool pads should not be washed regularly. They need a special type of soap. Here are instructions on how to clean wool pads. Western pads and blankets should be professionally cleaned. A clean, stiff horse brush does a pretty good job though.

Fourth, make a horse show list.

This was what I started to do way back when I was little. My mom helped me to create a horse show checklist, and although it’s been modified over the years, I still use it today. I have a list specifically for my horse trailer, my tack, my clothing, and my horse. Over the years, I’ve found it to be invaluable. You can download it free using the link below.

On the checklist, I’ve included links to some of my favorite products. When I have the choice of a product that comes in a cute container, I usually go for that one. For example, safety pins. I can buy a bag of 150 multi-sized pins for $6 or a box with different sized pins separated into different sections for $8. To me, the organization and ease of finding what I need is worth the extra $2.

You can also find it on my password protected Freemium Content page, along with several other free resources. To get access to this page, just fill out the form below and the password will immediately be given to you.

What are some of your favorite horse show preparation routines? What do you take to a show that you can’t live without?

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