Here are some tips we have collected over the years of running and participating in National Shows. We hope you find them of use.
1) Pre-show Preparation 0-6 months prior to show day
Keep a close eye on the condition of your horse/pony. They should be neither too fat nor too thin and be fit and well muscled up on show day.
Good quality food will show through in your horse/pony’s coat and overall “well being”. If you wish to you can add vitamins, boiled linseed and two tablespoons of vegetable oil daily to your equine’s food to enhance the coat.
Practice and get lessons if required to teach yourself and your horse/pony the skills needed on show day.
If possible, keep your horse/pony covered to protect the coat and use a tail bag to protect the tail.
If you don’t have your own, ask around as there may be other people going to the same show who have transport with a spare spot. A contribution towards petrol costs in this circumstance is usually welcomed.
Read the show schedule and rules prior to the day if possible. Pick the classes you wish to enter that best suit your horse/pony and your combined abilities. Ask for help from an experienced person if you are unsure what the judge will be looking for in each class. This will guide your practice efforts.
If you are unsure where the showgrounds are, take a drive to check it out or get some clear directions from someone who has been there before.
2) Day before – horse grooming
Put aside at least two hours to prepare your horse/pony the afternoon prior to the show.
Put a clean halter on your horse/pony and shampoo the whole body with plain or coloured shampoo (take care not to let coloured shampoo onto white socks and blazes etc). Scrape off water and towel dry if the weather is cold. Put a clean sweat/cotton/wool rug on your horse/pony. Using a bucket of soapy water, shampoo the tail twice scrubbing gently with a brush right down close to the tail bone.
Rinse and flick dry.
Wash/scrub white socks and blaze (if needed) with dazzle shampoo (purple).
Trim long hairs off the back of the fetlocks and lower legs.
Trim bridle path behind the ears.
Trim ears – only the hair that falls outside of the ears.
Pick off and smooth (with medium coarse sandpaper) chestnuts off the inside of the legs.
If you have decided to pull your horse/pony’s mane, pull the mane taking care that it is all the same length including the forelock. If your equine objects to mane pulling, try doing it straight after exercise when they are still hot (a few days prior to the show) as sometimes this can make the hair come out more easily.
Pull your horse’s tail if wanted by taking hair from the top of the tail (sides only).
Trim your horse/pony’s tail. It should be level to halfway between the hock and fetlock joint in a “resting” position. Swish the tail a couple of times and trim to make sure you catch all the hairs.
When the tail is dry, spray with silicone spray/show sheen, brush through with a clean brush and place in a tail bag to protect overnight. If you don’t have a tail bag, plait the tail into one big loose plait and place in an old stocking and secure with a rubber band below the tail bone only.
Place a clean cotton rug under your horse/pony’s paddock cover and turn out into your least muddy, cleanest paddock overnight. If your horse/pony is used to being stabled, stable them overnight.
3) Other tasks the day before
Clean (and oil leather) all of the tack you will be using.
Go through your check list (there is a basic one attached) and pack everything into your vehicle.
Check you have enough fuel in your vehicle and it will start (no flat batteries).
Have a good night’s sleep knowing you are as well prepared for a good day at the show as you possibly can be!
4) Show day
Give yourself more time than normal to catch your equine and put them in your truck/float. Often they know something is up and decide this is the morning they are going to be tricky to catch…
Plan to arrive at the show at least one hour before your first class. This will give you time to:
- Find a nice place to park, ideally near some shade and a source of water
- Unload horse/ponies – don’t get out hay nets until lunch break but do offer them water throughout the whole day
- Take off travel boots, rug and tail bag
- Pick out hooves
- Wash/scrub white socks and blaze etc with dazzle shampoo again
- Register at the Registration Booth for the classes you wish to compete in
- Find out where your ring is located
- Groom your horse/pony with a clean soft brush and spray with silicone/show sheen (but not under the saddle area if in ridden classes)
- Highlight muzzle, eyes, hocks and knees with baby oil and a sponge/rag
- Oil hooves
- Put tack on your horse/pony
- Change into handler/rider outfit
- Put your things away, lock valuables in your vehicle, put a smile on your face and walk/ride over to your ring/warm-up area
Judges are giving up their time voluntarily and have been especially chosen because of their years of experience. Please always treat them with respect.
Regardless of who they have selected for placings in your classes, be gracious in defeat and humble with success. Judges appreciate those who thank them for their efforts at the end of the show day.
Please be punctual for your classes so you don’t keep the judge and other competitors waiting.
Judges can only judge what they can see. Don’t get stuck behind other horses, always ride in the gap. Assume the judge is looking at you always but if you have to scratch your nose or similar, do it when you are certain the judge is not looking.
If you are following and stuck behind a horse/pony that won’t trot out properly, turn a circle to the outside of the ring and then carry on or pass the horse/pony on the outside.
The judge has the responsibility of pulling horses/ponies from their ring that are lame or otherwise not healthy enough to compete comfortably. If your horse/pony is pulled out, leave quietly without disrupting the class. You as an owner also have the responsibility of only competing a horse/pony that is 100%.
Treat your horse with respect at all times. Most people, and especially judges, are seriously unimpressed with handlers/riders/owners taking out their frustrations on their horse/pony. This includes whipping, yelling, jerking on the mouth and jabbing unnecessarily with spurs. This also extends to parents who practice the same behaviours on their kids for misdemeanours in the show ring!
6) Check List (Basic) for a show
- Clean brushes
- Silicone/show sheen spray
- Hoof pick
- Hoof oil
- Horse/pony body shampoo (coloured if appropriate)
- Dazzle shampoo (purple) for white socks etc
- Baby oil and sponge
- Talcum for white socks
- Sharp hairdressing scissors or small electric clippers
- Medium coarse sand paper
- Hay in hay net – then in big bag if possible
- Hard feed
Handler – In hand outfit
Women – skirt or pants, blouse or top, clean sturdy footwear, hat secured with pins, blazer if chilly (remember you will have to run so make sure you can in your outfit, i.e. your skirt and shoes will not restrict you and your hat won’t fall off).
The important thing is that your outfit overall is co-ordinated and gives a pleasing impression that matches your horse/pony.
Men – pants, shirt (with or without tie), blazer if chilly, hat, clean sturdy footwear (remember you will have to run so make sure you can in your outfit). The important thing is that your outfit overall is co-ordinated and gives a pleasing impression that matches your horse/pony.
Rider – Ridden Classes
- Beige or neutral coloured jodhpurs
- Jodhpur boots black or brown (under 17)
- Long black boots (over 17)
- White/neutral coloured shirt with a contrast colour tie and a black/tweed riding jacket. For those over 17, the shirt can also be a white neutral coloured shirt and stock secured with a stock pin.
- Riding helmet – must be to current Safety Standards (your local horse supplies store, e.g. Fiskins, will know what they are) as many shows, especially ones organised by pony clubs, won’t allow competitors to ride if they are not to that standard. Use a black “velvet look” hat cover over your helmet if needed.
Tack – In-hand classes
- In hand show halter – preferably leather with a leather lead rope of the same colour or bridle of black/brown leather.
- Please note stallions must be shown in a bridle only.
- Dressage whip if required.
Tack – Ridden Classes
- Saddle – first choice is black/brown leather show/dressage/GP saddle for flat classes and jumping/GP saddle for jumping classes – synthetic is also acceptable.
- Horse boots are not worn in any of the flat classes but are the norm in jumping classes.
- Saddle blanket – first choice is shaped cut the same colour as the saddle, avoid bright colours.
- Bridle – black/brown leather with cavesson nose band. The brow band can have some colour with ribbon, studs, etc preferably to match the riders outfit, e.g. the tie.
- Martingales, severe bits and any other “gadgets” that give the strong message to the judge that your equine is poorly trained and badly mannered should be avoided in flat classes.
- Martingales are acceptable in jumping classes.
- Money if paying for the entry “On the Day”
- Lunch – coffee – cold drinks
- Change of clothes for after the classes finish
- Sunscreen and hat
- A bottle of wine to celebrate (or commiserate) with your horsey chums at the end of a fun but exhausting day!