With Cevalo's annual schooling show on Sunday, it seemed like a good time to review what a rider needs to do to get ready for a horse show. Our onsite events provide an opportunity for our students to gain some show experience in a familiar, low-key environment. Although we keep things pretty casual, riders are still expected to take the event seriously and put forward their best effort.
At any show, looks do matter. A well-groomed horse and a nicely-dressed rider show respect for the judges and demonstrate that you’re taking the competition seriously. On the other hand, a sloppy appearance gives the instant impression that you don’t really care. If you don’t care, why should the judges bother to give you a second look?
While the rider with the fancy gear and the flashy horse without a hair out of place won’t automatically be the one who wins the blue ribbon, the rider with the poorly groomed horse and dirty breeches and boots will have to work twice as hard to overcome the judge’s initial negative impression.This doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on fancy clothes and special show tack! Show coats are not required for Cevalo’s schooling shows and most other local schooling shows. Your everyday tack will work just fine as long as it’s in good condition and you’ve taken the time to clean and condition it. Do the best you can with what you have available and your effort will shine through and make a positive impression on the judges.
What to wearAt a minimum, you’ll need the following:
- Light-colored breeches
- White long-sleeved button-up shirt or plain white polo shirt
- Riding boots (rubber boots are fine if you don’t have tall leather boots)
- Hair net (plain drug-store hair nets are fine, you don’t have to have a special pony-tail net)
- Belt (if your breeches have belt loops)
- Gloves (solid black or white)
- Black velvet helmet cover (if you have a plastic helmet or your helmet is showing it’s age)
- Show Jacket
- Stock Tie and Pin
IMPORTANT: Outside shows might have different requirements for allowed clothing and tack. It’s important to familiarize yourself with all of the show rules well before the show so you have everything you need.
Grooming your horse for the showIf you’re going to be braiding, you’ll want to work on pulling the horse’s mane well before the show. Pulling thins the mane and creates a uniform lenghth to work with. It’s easier to do a little bit at a time. It’s also possible to use thinning shears instead of pulling by hand. If you’ve never done this before, team up with someone who has.
IMPORTANT: DO NOT trim manes or tails with scissors of any sort or clip a bridle path unless Diana has given the green light. Some of the horses (particularly Wyck) always go au-naturel.
Give your horse a bath a day or two before the show. If you’ve never bathed a horse before or are unfamiliar with the horse you’ll be bathing, ask Diana to find you someone to team up with. They can show you what you need to do & then you can help them with their horse.
- Groom the horse thoroughly before you start bathing to remove as much loose hair and dirt as possible.
- Wet him down thoroughly with warm water and wash his body with a mild shampoo to remove the remaining dander and dust. You can use a rubber grooming mitt or plastic curry comb to work the shampoo into his coat. Use an old stiff body brush to remove any mud or manure from his hooves.
- To wash the tail, fill a bucket with warm, soapy water and gently pull the tail to the side and dunk it in the bucket to wash it.
- Rinse with plenty of water until there are no more suds and the water runs clear.
- Use a soft sponge without soap to wash his face.
- Use a sweat scraper to remove excess water and rub him down with a towel.
- Carefully comb out his mane and tail. Using a small amount of Cowboy Magic helps with the tangles and leaves the hair nice and shiny.
- Hand-walk until the horse is thoroughly dry. (If you put him away damp, he’ll be itchy and want to roll, which will undo all of your hard work.)
- Before you put him away, make sure his stall is clean and put on a light blanket or sheet to help keep him clean.
- Thoroughly curry and brush your horse. You can use a coat conditioner such as Shown Sheen to help get that shiny glow and repel dust. (Be careful not to get it where the saddle and girth go, it’s very slippery!) This is also a good time to apply some fly spray to keep both of you more comfortable.
- Carefully comb out the horse mane and tail, making sure to remove any bits of hay or shavings.
- If you’re braiding, now’s the time! You’ll need a braiding comb, a sponge or spray bottle with water to wet down the mane, rubber bands, tape, and plenty of patience.
- Pick out the horse’s hooves and clean off any dirt. Top dress the hooves with a coat of polish for a finished look. (Apply the polish with the horse standing on a clean, hard surface or you’ll end up with bits stuck to the hooves.)
- Use a soft sponge to wipe around the horse’s eyes and nostrils.
Show checklistBefore the day of the show:
- Gather your show clothes. Make sure everything’s clean, ironed if needed, and ready to wear.
- Clean and polish your boots. (If they are rubber, wash thoroughly and use
- Clean all of your tack—saddle, bridle, girth, and any other pieces you’ll be using.
- Wash the saddle pads you’ll be using.
- Give your horse a bath.
- Arrive early so you’ll have plenty of time to get you and your horse ready.
- Groom your horse to perfection.
- Wipe down all of your tack to remove any surface dirt.
- Tack up your horse.
- Wipe down your boots to remove any surface dirt.
- Change into your show clothes. If you have long hair, make sure you have your hair pulled back neatly and covered with a hairnet to keep it from flopping about your face.
- Pull your boots on and tuck your shirt in & you’re ready to mount up!
- Have a buddy to give your boots a final wipe once you’re in the saddle to remove any dust.