For anyone who has spent any amount of time showing horses, you know there is an endless amount of preparation involved to make it through that much anticipated class against that one competitor who seems to win every time. From the moment you first decide to show your horse to the moment you wait patiently at the in-gate, every step on the way is filled with its own set of challenges. Whether you're showing your horse at the local fair grounds or a championship show, preparation is needed for the horse and rider, prior to the show, and prior to the class.
HORSE AND RIDER PREPARATION
Depending on the level you wish to show at, getting a horse and rider ready can take months and even years. If you are just starting to show you have the option of going solo or utilizing the experience of a professional trainer. First and foremost you want to make sure your horse is healthy and sound for the discipline you wish to compete in. In the weeks leading up to the show it may be beneficial to practice with your horse. This may include rail work for transitions and horse collection, rider equitation during such exercises, and perfecting the feel you have for your horse's movement for top performance of horse and rider in the show ring.
BEFORE THE SHOW
The days before a horse show can be more stressful than the show itself. With a set system of slight organization, a lot of rushed packing time and forgotten items from the tack room can be avoided. A written list of all the supplies you need can be very helpful, and you can add or delete items from this list as you go through the show season. Now is a good time to take inventory of grooming supplies, tack, and other stable equipment to determine what you need to bring or may need to purchase for the show.
The most important items to bring include horse and human first aid kits for emergencies, horse registration and coggins papers (you may need a health certificate if traveling across state lines), plenty of food and water for yourself to get through the show, hay for your horse(s) (grain is needed if you are going to be gone longer than a day), freshly cleaned show clothes, and freshly polished show tack. This is a small list to start your preparation process, and depending on where you are headed there are many more items you may need to plan on bringing.
Checking and rechecking your truck and trailer is also important for traveling to the show. Monitoring the amount of air in all tires can help prevent roadside emergencies. Other issues you may run into include faulty trailers lights, braking problems, and lack of integrity of horse containment structures (rear bars, windows, latches, partitions, etc.).
You may also need to consider sleeping arrangements prior to the show if you plan to be away overnight. Many show grounds offer the option to camp and hook up to a power source. Campers, horse trailers, and tents work great for sleeping overnight at a horse show. There are also usually hotel accommodations near most show grounds. A little research of the surrounding cities and towns may be helpful if you plan to book a room.
Now that the grooming, stable, food and safety supplies are organized and you are headed to the show, there is more preparation ahead. Your first priority when you arrive is to make sure your horse is comfortable and safe with access to food and water. If you are stalling your horse, make sure there is enough bedding in the stall. More bedding will be needed is the ground is concrete versus a dirt floor. A lack of bedding in a concrete stall can lead to a sore horse.
Horse grooming before a show is also very important in your preparation. This usually involves a bath (some horses need more scrubbing than others) followed by banding or braiding your horse's mane. Banding and braiding may take a little practice to get the hang of it, but even the most experienced show goers can remember that first crooked banding or braiding job. Grooming your horse before a show is probably easiest to do the night before. This will allow you to focus on finishing touches the morning of the show.
BEFORE THE CLASS
Class calls announced over the PA system signal that the show is about to begin, kicking your nerves into high gear. The best advice is to stay cool and collected during the course of the show. Not everything may go as planned, despite your best efforts to stay organized. Whatever method works for you to get your last minute jitters under control will help you stay focused on yourself and your horse during the class. After all, you took the time to prepare for this moment with your horse. You've overcome most of the challenges by simply getting to the show and getting your horse ready. This should be just another ride on your horse, so sit back, relax, and do what you came here to do, have fun!