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7 Tips to Prepare For Your Next Horse Show

1. Do your research

Do your homework before deciding on what show to compete at. Are there classes available that are appropriate for your skill level and that of your horse? Is there good footing?  What have others that have gone there said about the show?  Does the course designer do a good job of making the course inviting and competitor friendly? If your horse needs to get in the ring prior to showing are you allowed to school in the ring in the morning? The more you know about the show, the better you can manage your expectations and have a positive experience.

2. Show Day Logistics

Are you going to be stabling your horse overnight at the show or working off the trailer? If you are going to get a stall for the show, make sure you either order or bring shavings with you, bring water buckets, plenty of hay, grain , a pitchfork and manure tub/wheelbarrow. Make sure you have reserved your stall prior to any entry closing deadlines. Don’t forget to book a hotel room for yourself if it’s a multi-day show.

If you’re planning on working off the trailer for an all day ship-in show, does your horse need a trailer buddy to keep him calm? Not sure, bring one just in case. The last thing you need is for your horse to be upset on the trailer with hours to go until your class is scheduled to start. If the weather is going to be warm, bring plenty of water from home (some horses are finicky about drinking water at new locations) and a portable generator to run fans off of.

3. Bring a Trainer or Friend

We all need an extra set of hands when we go to a show. If you bring a friend, even if they aren’t well versed in horses, they can help you hold your horse, unload your equipment off the trailer, set jumps in the schooling area and do a last minute boot shine and hoof polishing prior to you stepping into the ring. Your trainer can help you learn the courses (if showing over fences), come up with a plan for how you are going to approach your course and give you constructive feedback following your classes. If possible, spend some time ringside with your trainer watching other riders show. You can learn as much from watching as from actually showing.

4. Be Conscious of Your Budget

Horse showing isn’t for the faint of wallet. Trailering, training and entry fees can quickly add up, so try to get the most bang for your buck. As a rule, schooling shows are considerably cheaper than rated horse shows.  Use these to gain experience in the ring and make sure you are ready for "the big time." Many facilities that host rated shows also host schooling shows; this is a win-win situation for you and your checkbook. You can show in the same rings, over the same jumps at a fraction of the cost, just on a different weekend.

5. Make Sure You’re Prepared

If your horse acts like an orangutan at home, things aren’t likely to change once you get to the horse show.  A change in scenery isn’t going to magically make a horse progress in his skill set.  Likewise just because your horse can jump one 3’6” jump doesn’t mean you are ready to go to a show and do a course of 3’6” jumps.  Know your limitations. It’s much better to show at a lower level and be successful, than to put you and your horse in a situation you aren’t prepared for. Everything you do at home should prepare you for the test of a horse show. If you can’t do it at home don’t try to do it at a show.

6. Make a List – Check it Twice

Your horse show packing list will vary based on what type of showing you will be doing. However there are a few basics everyone should take with them including health paperwork (negative Coggins and/or health certificate), membership cards, grooming supplies, tack, first aid kit for horse and rider, horse blankets/sheets and your show clothes. As things can get hectic the day of the horse show, try to make a list ahead of time and load your trailer and car prior to the early morning rush. If you do happen to forget something don’t worry, most likely you will either be able to borrow from someone at the show or buy a replacement from a vendor.

Horse and rider preparing for next show7. Relax.

Horse shows are supposed to be fun. Regardless of what level you compete at, horse shows demand too much time and money for you not to enjoy yourself. Take a deep breath and relax. You’re enjoying a day off the farm with your horse.

If you’re nervous or stressed out, your horse will pick up that negative energy and be nervous as well. Butterflies in the stomach don’t have to be a bad thing. Turn that energy around and use it to walk in the ring and show everyone what you can do. Take a few minutes before you walk into the ring to visualize how you want your ride to be. You can do this in the weeks leading up to the show. Just remember keep it positive, don’t second guess your decisions once you are in the ring.

What’s Important

Remember at the end of the show day, it’s not the ribbon count that matters! If all you want is ribbons, you can go buy a box full. What’s important is knowing that you and your horse gave your all. Make realistic goals that you will take pride in achieving, no matter how the judge rewards your ride.

Best of luck as you saddle up for your next show!

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