Get Ready to Show!

Prepare for your next competition with these helpful tips and complete show-day checklist from trainer Caroline Wood.

What’s one of the keys to success in the show pen? Organization. Advanced planning reduces stress, allays show nerves, and enables you to fully enjoy competing with your horse.

To help you toward this end, trainer Caroline Wood (of JC Stables in Van Alstyne, Texas) shares the contents of her comprehensive show-prep binder. It includes not only an exhaustive show-day checklist, but also lists of important to-do’s in the days and weeks prior to the event.

Let her organizational secrets help you get off to a good start at your next show.

Note: Special thanks to Genie Haynes for her assistance in compiling Caroline’s show binder.


Show Schedule

• Dates

• Show host (club, association, or other organization)

• Location

• List of nearby hotels, contact information and average rates

• Breakdown of expected costs

Tack, Show Clothing, Supplies

• List of local tack stores, including contact information and hours of operation

• List of online retailers

• List of Facebook groups that sell gently used tack and clothing

Local Show Clubs/Organizations

• Registration information

• Showgrounds address

• Website and helpful phone numbers

• Facebook page

• List of classes/events offered at each show

• Breakdown of age divisions (if applicable)



• Be prepared and be on time.

• Have a positive attitude.

• Know the show rules and regulations.

• Know your classes and study your patterns.

• Be ready for your class at least 15 to 20 minutes before it starts.

• Be respectful toward your fellow riders, parents, horses, judges, show staff, and trainer.

• Be helpful to fellow riders.

• Be self-sufficient.

• Challenge yourself; try something new.

• Don’t make excuses.

• Smile, participate, and have fun!


• Make sure your child arrives early/on time to show.

• Make sure your child is prepared and has everything needed for the show.

• Be supportive of your child and the team.

• Be respectful toward other parents, students, horses, judges, show staff, and trainer.

• Assist other riders on the team (as necessary).

• Maintain communication with trainer.

• Don’t coach.

• Be aware of your child’s needs.

• Don’t enable rider excuses.

• Have fun!


• Maintain a positive and supportive attitude.

• Maintain organization of the team.

• Provide coaching to students.

• Have fun!



• Current negative Coggins report (original copy)

• Registration papers (if applicable)

• Membership or novice card

Horse Health Supplies

• Equine first-aid kit

• Electrolytes

• Any needed medications

• Vet wrap

Horse Prep Equipment

• Halter

• Lead rope

• Blanket (appropriate for season)

• Lycra hood

• Tail bag

• Longe line

• Longe-line chain

• Longe-line whip

• Fly spray

Horse Bathing Supplies

• 2-gallon bucket (for mixing shampoo)

• Two to three sponges

• Body scrubbers

• 6-foot hose

• Sprayer-attachment for hose

• Body shampoo

• Mane and tail shampoo

• Mane and tail conditioner

• Whitening shampoo (if applicable)

• Two to three large towels

Note: Don’t shampoo or condition your horse’s mane if you will be banding or braiding it.

Grooming Supplies

• Plastic tote

• Step stool

• Soft body brush

• Stiff body brush

• Soft face brush

• Stiff hoof brush

• Mane and tail brush

• Hoof pick

• Rubber curry

• Metal comb

• Hoof pick

• Pumice stone

• Sharp scissors

• Clippers

• Latch hook and yarn (for English braids)

• Bands for braiding/banding (bands should match horse’s mane/tail color)

• Hoof polish (black for dark hooves; clear for light hooves)

• Rubber gloves

• Show Shine or Cowboy Magic

• Baby oil

• Show touch-up spray paint (should match your horse’s body color)

• Baby powder

• Mane and tail detangler

• 10 clean rags (small towels/washcloths)

Showtime Grooming Kit

Note: Caroline recommends you prepare a “showtime” grooming kit to keep on hand on in the holding area for last-minute touch-ups, just before you enter the ring.

• Small tote

• Soft body brush

• Stiff body brush

• Soft face brush

• Stiff hoof brush

• Mane and tail brush

• Hoof pick

• Sharp scissors

• Hoof polish

• Show Shine or Cowboy Magic

• Baby oil

• Fly spray

• Clean rags

Tack (Halter and Showmanship)

• Western show halter (leather with silver accents)

• Matching leather lead with chain

Rider Attire (Halter and Showmanship)

• Western hat

• Showmanship jacket (preferred) or Western show shirt

• Black jeans or showmanship pants

• Western belt

• Boots

• Gloves (optional)

• Tasteful earrings (for girls/women; clip-on earrings if ears are not pierced)

• Hair net (to match your hair color) or ribbons for younger girls

• Hair clip for bun

Tack (Western Riding)

• Western headstall with curb bit and split reins

• Western saddle blanket (to match rider’s show clothing)

• Western show saddle

• Cinch

• Number holder or safety pins for show number

Rider Attire (Western Riding)

• Western hat or Western-style helmet

• Western show blouse or jacket

• Undershirt (for cold weather)

• Black jeans or show pants

• Chaps (required for advanced riders; encouraged for all)

• Western belt

• Western boots

• Western spurs

• Gloves (optional)

• Tasteful earrings (for girls/women; clip-on earrings if ears are not pierced)

• Hair net (to match your hair color) or ribbons for younger girls

• Hair clip for bun

Tack (English Classes)

• English bridle and bit

• English contour saddle pad

• English saddle

• Girth

Rider Attire (English Classes)

• English helmet

• Long-sleeved show shirt (short-sleeved show shirt or dickie with rat catcher may be acceptable in hot weather)

• Undershirt (for cold weather)

• Collar or ratcatcher

• Stock pin

• Hunt jacket (black, navy, or gray)

• Breeches (buff, tan, or gray)

• English belt

• English boots (or paddock boots)

• Knee straps/buckles (if wearing paddock boots)

• Spurs

• Gloves (optional)

• Tasteful earrings (for girls/women; clip-on earrings if ears are not pierced)

• Hair net (to match your hair color) or ribbons for younger girls

• Hair clip for bun

• Riding crop (if needed)

Note: Bring both long- and short-sleeved show shirts to all shows. In hot weather, judges may allow riders to show without jackets, but they must be wearing long-sleeved shirts.

Rider Grooming Supplies

• Hair brush

• Hair spray

• Wet wipes

• Bobby pins

• Hair bands (to match your hair color)

• Makeup (black mascara, eyeliner, eye shadow, lipstick)

• Hat-cleaning brush and/or sponge

• Lint roller

• Boot polish

• Jacket or zippered hoodie (to protect show clothing between classes)

Tack-Cleaning Supplies

• Leather cleaner

• Leather wipes

• Silver cleaner/polish

• Clothes for cleaning

• Bit wipes

Note: All tack should be cleaned before leaving for show; these supplies are for last-minute touch-ups.

Miscellaneous Supplies

• Water bottle (insulated best to keep water cold)

• Portable saddle rack

• Hand sanitizer

• Sunscreen

• Tack trunk (or large plastic tub to hold your gear)

• Human first-aid kit (including Band-Aids, ibuprofen, Tums, allergy medication, etc.)

• Camp chairs

• Small tool kit (with flat and Phillips screwdriver, hammer, pliers, leather hole-punch)

• Tissues

• Toilet paper

• Paper towels

• Trash bags

• Dishwashing liquid (for cleaning out buckets, etc.)

• Scrub brush

• Duct tape

• Zip ties

• Flashlight or electric lantern (extra batteries)

• Ice chest/cooler for drinks

• Snacks

• Entertainment for downtime (Kindle/tablet, iPod, laptop, books, magazines, hand-held gaming system)

• Chargers (for phones, devices, cameras, etc.)

• Camera and/or camcorder

• Checks and cash

Note: Most horse show venues only accept cash or checks; be sure to bring enough to cover your expenses.

If Your Horse Will Be Stalled During the Show

• 5-gallon bucket for water

• Food bucket

• Two bucket straps

• Hay bag

• Box fan (for hot weather)

• 20-foot extension cord (for box fan)

• Stall sign with emergency contact information

• Feed for the number of days you will be at the show, plus one (sealed in a bin or bucket)

• Feed scoop

• Supplements for the number of days you will be at the show, plus one

• Hay (preferably in a zippered hay carrier)

If Your Horse Will Be Tied to Trailer During Show

• 5-gallon water bucket

• Bucket strap

• Hay bag

• Hay

Additional Trailer Equipment

• Muck bucket

• Muck fork

• Shovel

• Trailer ties


Before Show Season Starts

• Ensure your horse has a current negative Coggins (provide copy for trainer, if applicable).

• Make sure your horse is up to date on shots and deworming.

• Purchase needed items for your show trunk.

• Check the fit and condition of your show clothing (replace or repair items if necessary).

• Label all of your equipment.

• Register for shows (if advanced registration is available).

One Week Before Show

• Dry clean or wash show clothing (if needed).

• Have your Western hat creased/shaped.

• Clean rider accessories (boots, spurs, jewelry, etc.).

• Have your horse’s fee trimmed/showed (if necessary).

• Wash/clean saddle pads and blankets.

• Make/confirm hotel reservations (if applicable).

• Clean and oil tack.

• Polish any silver on tack.

• Clip horse.

• Pull mane (if necessary).

• Check your show supplies (replace any necessary items).

• Practice, practice, practice!

Two Days Before Show

• Bathe your horse (with shampoo).

Day Before Show

• Pack show trunk (use your Horse Show Checklist!).

• Pack show clothing.

• Load tack and gear into trailer.

• Get cash.

Upon Arriving at Show

• Check in/register with show steward.

• Bed down stall (if your horse will be stalled overnight).

• Set up tack stall (if applicable).

• Groom horse

• Band/braid your horse’s mane and tail

• Bag horse’s tail

• Blanket horse (if necessary)

• Feed horse (depending on time)

Before Your Classes Start

• Longe your horse (preferably 30 minutes before your class)

• Do final grooming touch-ups (Show Shine, Baby oil, paint hooves, etc.)

• Tack up horse

• Get dressed for your first class

• Study your first pattern (if applicable)

During the Show

• Maintain/touch up makeup throughout the day

• Longe horse during lunch break (if necessary)

• Know your schedule and be in the warm-up arena 20 minutes before your class.

• Study your next pattern in between classes.

• For parents: Be alert to your rider’s needs (water, quick groom, hold horse, get coat, etc.).

• As you complete classes, pack items that are no longer needed.

After the Show

• Pick up your ribbons and awards.

• Pack your gear and tack and load it back into your trailer.

• Pay trainer fees.

• Help load horses into trailer.

Back at the Barn

• Unload your gear and tack and store it neatly in the tackroom.

• Assist with unloading your horse and getting him settled.

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