December 18, 2017

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

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