5 Easy Ways to Feel Prepared For Your Next Show

Spring is right around the corner, and that means horse show season will be here before you know it. If you’re new to horse showing, or attending an event for the first time, here are a few tips to help you feel prepared before you even get to the event.

prepare for your next horse show with these tips.
Avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed by preparing before you attend your first horse show.
Photo by nicole_ciscato/stock.adobe.com

1. Have Your Showbill Handy

Having a copy of your showbill ahead of time will help you better prepare for the day of the event. Are you planning on competing in English and Western events, or just Western events? Many shows have English classes go first, and Western events in the afternoon. If you’re only planning on competing in Western events, you don’t have to get to the show at the crack of dawn to get to the show.

It’ll also tell you the length of any lunch breaks or arena drag breaks. And if you’re attending a show that has multiple arenas available, it’ll let you know if there are any classes running concurrently, what classes they are, and what times they will be going.

It’s nice to have a copy of your showbill on your phone. But you can also print a copy to keep in your truck or trailer to have on hand.

[WATCH NOW: Why Ryan Rushing Practices Patterns at Home]

2. Know Your Patterns

It’s becoming a common practice for horse shows to release the patterns they’re using before the day of the event. Giving riders plenty of time to prepare at home.

Knowing your patterns before you get to the show means you can spend less time trying to find space in the arena to set up your cones and run through your patterns. Giving you more time focusing on getting in the arena and getting your horse ready to show.

I’ve found that with the local shows in my area, they release the pattern one to two weeks before the event. Keep an eye on your local club’s Facebook page. Or sign up for their emails so you can stay in the loop on when they release their patterns. If you have any questions about your patterns, reach out to your horse show manager. They will help point you in the correct position or even ask their judge for clarification.

3. Practice But Don’t Over Practice

With that being said, just because you have access to your patterns ahead of time, doesn’t mean you should drill your patterns so much that your horse starts to anticipate what you’re asking him to do.

Practice your patterns enough at home so that you have a good understanding of the pattern placement. But don’t practice your patterns to the point to where your horse is trying to do maneuvers without you.

Take mental note of the things your horse struggles with in your patterns. So that you can keep working on those maneuvers or obstacles without practicing the entire pattern over and over again. If your horse struggles with the extended lope to slow lope transition, take him off pattern and work on that.

[READ MORE: Matt Mills’ Tips for Confidence in the Show Pen]

4. Get Ready the Day Before

There’s nothing worse than rushing around the morning of the show trying to get everything together to leave your barn. If you’re trailering in to a show the morning of, and plan on tying your horse to the trailer all day, take time the day before to get prepped to make it easier on yourself the next morning. (Plus, the more you get done the night before, the longer you get to sleep in the morning of the show.)

Have your paperwork in order. While you don’t need registration papers if you’re attending a local open show, you do need to have certain paperwork when you trailer your horse. That includes things like membership or association cards, Coggins papers, health certificates, and brand inspection certificates (if you live in a state that requires them). Always keep a digital copy of these things on hand, just in case something goes missing!

Clean your horse the night before! If it’s warm enough out, give your horse a full bath. If it’s still pretty chilly out, opt to washing your horse’s legs, mane, and tail instead. And if your horse enjoys laying in his own poop, have some Green Spot Remover on hand for the morning of. You can also use a slinky and blanket, sheet, or fly sheet, overnight to keep your horse clean. This is also the time to clip your horse’s face and legs, and band his mane.

These last two recommendations are totally up to you. Some people prefer not to band or clip their horse’s legs. Depending on the class, some rules ask that you don’t alter your horse’s natural appearance by banding manes, clipping faces, using fake tails, etc.

If you’re going to be at the show all day, make sure to have plenty of hay. You don’t want your horse to get bored at the trailer. If you have a couple of hay bags handy, fill them all up. That way you can just easily swap them out at the show. A bonus is you won’t have the messy task of refilling hay bags while you’re in your show clothing.

And don’t forget to pack the electrolytes and buckets so your horse has access to water at all times! It’s incredibly important to keep him drinking water throughout the day. If you’ve never been to facility before, do your research beforehand and make sure you’ll have access to fresh water. When there’s no fresh water on the property, pack plenty of water containers to get you through the day. If your horse is a picky drinker, bring water you know he’ll drink from home.

5. Ask For Help!

Going to a horse show for the first time can feel overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Everyone was new to showing at one point in their life, and most people are happy to help answer any questions you might have.

Not sure where the show office is? Head over to your neighbor’s trailer and see if they can point you in the right direction.

If you have a question about one of the patterns, or simply just want to know what the arena rules are before the show begins (for example, some shows will allow riders to longe their horses in the show pen an hour before the show starts, while others ask that longeing stay in the warm-up pens), head to the show office and ask the people running the event.

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