December 18, 2017

It’s Show Time!

            It’s finally here! The day of the show. What do you do? Will you place? What if your horse freaks out? What if you (gulp) fall off? What if your horse rolled during the night and is filthy? What if, what if, what if…

            You can “what if”  all day long and it won’t get you any closer to the show pen or a ribbon. Always focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Here’s a list of things to get you off to a great start. First let’s start with your arrival time at the show. Plan to arrive at least 2 hours before your first class. This is assuming it is a one day show and you aren’t staying overnight on the grounds. So if you are in the first class and the show starts at 8:00 am, you should plan on getting there around 6:00 am. That will give you plenty of time to prepare and you won’t be rushed.

            Second, upon arrival, find a good place to park your trailer. If it’s going to be a hot day, look for shade if possible. If not choose a location close to the entrance gate. Make sure you have room to unload if you are backing into a space. It might work out better to unload the horses first if you have someone to hold them while you park. Once the rig is parked and the horses are unloaded, walk the horses around the grounds to acclimate them to the place. Hopefully this shouldn’t take too long. Then tie them to the trailer with a hay bag filled with breakfast. While the horses are quietly munching away, go find the water and fill your buckets.  Place the buckets within easy reach of the humans, not the horses. You can offer them water whenever they need it, but if you leave it next to them it will most likely get spilled or full of hay.

            Now’s a good time to head up to the entry booth to check in. Bring a notebook with blank paper, registration papers for your horse, entry forms, any other forms you need (PAC) and your checkbook. Fill out entry forms and  ask any questions you may have. Don’t forget your exhibitor number! You must have it to enter the ring.  Find out when the show will start or what class they are on if it is already running. That will give you an idea how much time you have before you go into the ring. Once you have checked in and have your number, look for any patterns for your classes such as showmanship, trail, horsemanship, hunters, etc. Use your notebook to copy down the pattern if copies aren’t available for you to take with you. Be sure you copy it correctly. Have your trainer or a friend check it for you to be sure. You really don’t want to spend a lot of time learning the wrong pattern, do you?

            Next, head back to the trailer. It’s time to lunge if your horse needs it. Remove your blankets but leave on leg and tail wraps. Find a safe place to lunge, preferably in the show pen. After he has gotten all his bucks out, cool him out carefully and return to the trailer. Now it’s time to get really busy.

            Remove all the wraps and begin grooming. Check carefully for braid or banding issues and repair them first. Next, look for any stains and remove them with a good cleaner. Completely groom your horse using only clean tools- curry, dandy brush, soft brush, hoof pick, mane comb. Clean all sides of the hooves, especially the outside walls using a stiff brush and/or a damp towel.  Apply baby powder to white legs. Trot the horse up and down a few times to remove any excess powder. Brush the legs then set the powder with some coat spray or hair spray. Now stand the horse on a carpet or find some cement. Apply hoof polish (black or clear) to the hooves and don’t move the horse until it is completely dry. Once it is, return to the trailer and let your horse finish breakfast while you get dressed.

            Rider/handler should now put on all their show attire except- gloves, hunt coats, and chaps. Tack up your horse for the first class. If you are in a showmanship class, learn your pattern. Practice it without the horse first, then with the horse. Have your trainer or a friend act as the judge while you practice. Use cones just like on the pattern. You did bring some, didn’t you? If you are riding in your first class, tack up and begin your ridden warm-up. Have your trainer or a friend coach you because your nerves might deceive you into thinking you aren’t doing as well as you think. Now is not the time to work on training issues. You won’t be able to fix major issues in the time you have left, so just get a proper warm-up done.

            When your class is called, be ready at the gate. Make sure you have your number(s) on and that you know what it is. Nothing is more embarrassing than having the judge ask your number and you don’t know it. Make sure someone is at the gate with all the last minute supplies. Apply highlighter around the horses eyes, bridle path, on the muzzle and the ears. Spray him with fly spray and top off with coat shine. Both your boots and your horse’s coat should shine! Put on your coat/gloves/chaps, give the horse a final wipe down and you are ready to go! It’s SHOW TIME! And remember to have fun!

          What do you do the morning of  the show? Leave your tips and hints below.  

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Certification Clinic Instructor. She is also an AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted.


Countdown To A Horse Show

            Every year I have students that are heading into the show ring. Some are old hands while others are taking on the show pen for the first time. At our barn, we don’t have grooms. All my students are expected to take care of their own horses. This is something I teach each student when they start taking lessons with me. I believe students who groom and otherwise care for their own horses will become well-rounded equestrians, not just riders. As they progress and become ready to compete, they have to learn a whole new skill set to prepare their horse for the show pen. We begin with small, open schooling-type shows. As they get better, we may move up to PtHA or APHA shows.  Because I have Paints, some of these hints are specific to horses with lots of white. If you horse doesn’t fall into that category, you can ignore that advice. Many years ago, I came up with a list to help them along the way. It goes something like this…

            This list assumes the show is on Sunday. If not, adjust accordingly.

Daily- Groom and work your horse at least 5 days a week. If he/she has stained areas on their coat, mane or tail begin washing these areas daily with warm water and a good shampoo.

Weekly- Manes should be pulled a little every day, or at least weekly. Don’t try to do it all the day before the show or your horse will get really mad at you! Tails should be brushed out, washed, conditioned and bagged. Don’t over brush tails as it will cause breakage.

Monday- Clip all white areas on your horses legs and face. If you have a paint with lots of white, use your discretion on how much to clip. White socks should be clipped with a #10 or #15 blade. Faces, bridle path and ears with a #30 or #40 blade.

Monday or Tuesday- Try on all your show tack. Make sure all the pieces are in good repair and still fit. Horses do change sizes, so be sure to do this while you still have time to make the necessary adjustments. Clean all saddle pads or buy new ones. White English pads need to be WHITE!    

         Try on all your show clothes. Make sure they fit properly and are comfortable to ride in. Take them to be cleaned if needed.  

           Clean all your show tack and set aside. Pack it all into a trunk or trailer so it’s all in one place. Use your checklist to make sure you have everything you need. Purchase items that are missing from your list.

Wednesday- If you need to give your horse a day off, this would be a good one. Don’t give them the day off any closer to the show than 3 days before.

Thursday-  RIDE! RIDE! RIDE! If you are having problems in a particular area, that is what you should work on. Don’t just practice those things you and your horse do well. Practice the things that are giving your trouble, especially transitions, collection and showmanship. Remember practice only makes permanent, PERFECT PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

Friday-  Ride or otherwise work your horse. Rinse with clear water if the weather allows. Clip bridle path, head, legs, ears and muzzle with a #10 blade. Finish mane pulling and spot removal.

Saturday-  Work your horse in the bit you will be showing in. Re-clip muzzle, ears and bridle path with a #30 or #40 blade. Bathe and rinse the horse, even if the weather is cold. Condition mane and tail. Rinse well and rub a detangler into the mane and tail while still wet. Spray horse with a coat spray like showsheen, being careful not to get any on the saddle area. You don’t want your saddle slipping off during your class! Use your hands to rub the Showsheen into the coat. Be generous on the legs, especially if they are white. Dry horse with clean towels, especially the legs. 

      If it is cold, put a cooler on your horse but keep him on a clean surface. Wrap the legs from the cornet bands to the knees. Once the hooves are dry, apply one coat of hoof black or clear polish as a base. After the hoof polish dries, walk the horse until he is dry. Now it’s time to braid or band the mane. If you are putting an English Braid into the tail, do it now and put a clean wrap from dock to the end of the tailbone. Then braid the bottom of the tail and put it into a clean tail bag for the night. Cover the mane with a slinky hood and blanket according to the weather. Make sure you clean the stall before you put him to bed for the night.  

           Do your final cleaning on the bit, bridle, halter and saddle(s). Make sure all your items are packed in your trunk or trailer. Fill hay bags and load into trailer. Go through your checklist again so you don’t forget anything. Have your ice chest filled with non-perishable items. Have refrigerated items in one place and ready to be packed. I put my sun screen in the ice chest as well. It keeps it handy and helps me remember to apply it often. Now go get some sleep! Tomorrow is a big day!

            What do you do to prepare your horse for a show? Let us know what your routine is.

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Certification Clinic Instructor. She is also an AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. We welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted. For more interesting articles from Cheryl go to

My First Horse Show

My First Horse Show

            When I was a kid, my friends and I decided to go to the local playday. We had never been in a horse show before but how hard could it be? I had owned my horse for over a year and we had come a long way from our very dicey beginnings. I looked at the requirements printed on the Playday premium.- Attire- Long-sleeved shirt, tie, long pants and boots. Well heck! I had most of those things already! The only thing I was missing was a tie so Mom took me to the local tack store and bought one. My “show outfit” consisted of my best pair of jeans, my only pair of boots, one of my brother’s old shirts and my brand new bolo tie.  I was ready to show!

            I wanted to go in as many classes as I could. Of course they all cost money, two dollars and fifty cents for each class! I had saved most of my allowance and babysitting money, so I had enough to go in most of the classes. I decided to enter – Bareback Equitation, Western Equitation, Western Pleasure, Trail, Speed Barrels, Texas Barrels, Single Pole, Pole Bending and Keyhole. I got my Mom to sign the entry form. I was all set!

            The only problem was that I didn’t have a clue what to do for each class. I got a book on showing horses from the library and all my barn friends shared their knowledge. The book helped some but I’m not so sure about the friends. We were all pretty much the blind leading the blind, but we had fun! I knew I needed more help so I talked my parents into letting me go to a horse show to watch. My brother dropped me and my friends off early in the morning. After watching the seemingly endless halter classes, we got bored and decided to wander around a little. Then we stumbled onto the trail arena. Now that was interesting! That one class- Trail- fascinated me. I watched those horses and riders for hours. I could do this one! Belle was a great Trail horse! We could go over or through anything on the trail. She would bravely stomp through any puddle or stream, over curbs, logs and sticks on the ground. Trail would be our class! I already pictured the blue ribbon hanging from Belle’s bridle.

            The big day came and we arrived at the show grounds after a long ride to get there. (Yes, we rode our horses to the show. How else would we get there?) After not placing in the first few classes (Wrong leads? What’s a lead?) it was time for the trail class. Finally my chance to shine. The judge carefully explained the course- Walk over the logs and bridge-check, jog through the cones- easy, pick up the slicker and put it down again- no problem, lope left lead from cone A to cone B- hmm that lead thing again-well give it a shot, walk through the tractor tire-simple, side-pass over the telephone pole and you’re done. Ok, fine, all pretty straightforward.  We can do all that. Oh wait-What? Side-pass? What’s a side-pass?

            Some very quick conversations ensued between us stable mates. Together we decided how to handle the side-pass obstacle. I waited, watched and finally my turn came. Belle and I stepped onto the course. She bravely stepped over the logs and onto the bridge-check. We weaved through the cones at a nice, slow jog- easy. After picking up and putting down the slicker-no problem- I cued Belle for lope. Off she went on the left lead! (Not that I knew that at the time!). She stopped promptly at cone “B”. Then we continued on to the tractor tire which proved to be as simple as I hoped it would be. Only one obstacle left- the side-pass. I stepped Belle over the telephone pole, looked at judge and said, “I don’t know how to sidepass.” I then stepped off the pole and walked off the course. This was how my friends had decided to handle the obstacle, not do it at all. I knew I had blown it. My only chance for a ribbon and I hadn’t even tried.

            We all lined back up for the announcing of the awards. I was pretty bummed but we all waited together while they went through the placings from 1st to 5th. When they got to fifth place the announcer called “And in fifth place- Cheryl Rohnke riding Belle Star.” I had gotten a ribbon in Trail! Even after I gave up, I still placed! All my friends cheered and I stepped forward and got my ribbon. I was so happy and proud. All my “work” was paying off after all!  I could win at horse shows!

After the awards were handed out the judge approached me. She said that if I had done the side-pass, I would have won the class. She wished me luck and wandered off to judge her next class. I would have won the class! Those simple words made my day! But of course they did bring about some questions. Why didn’t I at least make an effort to side-pass? Why did I listen to my friends and just quit? I had watched all the other riders’ side-pass. I figured out the cue, so why didn’t I even try?

Because I listened to my friends, that’s why. When you are 12 years old and at your first show without parents, a trainer or anyone but your friends, that is who you rely on. At the end of the day, they would be who I rode home with. Tomorrow we would be back at the barn complaining about who won and figuring out why we lost (Because we didn’t have fancy outfits, of course!). After that, we would be working to improve our horses and ourselves for the next show. And together, we would all learn to sidepass.

Later in life, after receiving lots of instruction, I would train another horse for Trail. Together we ended the year number 2 in the nation. It just goes to show that you can make it if you work hard, do your homework, get the proper help and don’t give up!

We welcome your comments and questions. Tell us about your first competition or a special memory from your first barn friends.

Cheryl Rohnke Kronsberg is a Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor and Clinic Instructor. She is also a registered AQHA Professional Horseman. Cheryl has been teaching riding and horsemanship for over 30 years. Currently she and her husband own and operate CRK Training Stable in Yorba Linda, CA. Please feel free to share this article with your friends, but rights to publish this article are restricted.