Take the stress out of show days and competitions, and turn your horse out beautifully, with these 17 top horse tips and tricks for shows…
Top horse tips and tricks for shows and competitions…
1) To save time and avoid forgetting anything, and to control weight (which is particularly important in 3.5 ton horseboxes), I highly recommend having a dedicated horse box kit – scaled down versions of grooming, wash down and first aid kits, plus a water container, buckets, haynets, (and baby wipes!), etc
2) Wear chaps, waterproof trousers or an old pair of jogging bottoms over your show jodhpurs to keep them clean on show day… this is definitely one of the horse tips and tricks I learnt the hard way, when my first pony smeared his grass covered mouth over my immaculate cream jodhpurs just before a class!
3) Don’t wash the mane before plaiting as it’ll be slippery, wash a few days before (unless you plan to plait it wet, which I actually find easier), and definitely don’t use a sheen spray
4) A standard human hair clip to keep the hair you’re not plaiting out of the way, and some gel or taming spray to control sticking up hairs, are such a help when plaiting!
5) Choose the right type of plaits to flatter your horse. The general rule is 11 plaits along the mane, however, if your horse has a short neck you can create the illusion of a longer neck by having 13. Similarly, a long neck with 9 plaits can help it look shorter (stick to an odd number if you can). Also, if your horse’s neck is skinny, give your plaits some volume on top, or if your horse’s neck is thick, make them tight to the neck
6) Once you’ve measured out the mane into the right number of even sized plaits, you can section them into mini ponytails to make it easier. To make it easier next time, mark the size of the sections on your comb with a plaiting band or marker pen
7) If you have to plait up the night before a show, use a hood to protect the plaits overnight. You can also put an old stocking or a long sock over the tail to keep it clean
8) Quarter marks are a lovely finishing touch and you can create your own with a dense/short bristled brush and small, fine-toothed combs. Use a spray bottle of water to dampen the quarters, brush the coat horizontally, make your quarter marks, then finish off with a sheen spray
9) Don’t clip the day before a show. Clip at least 3-4 days before competing to allow the coat to settle and look its best
10) When practising a dressage test or show routine at home, don’t run through the whole thing too many times or your horse will begin to anticipate the moves. Instead, practice the elements separately and out of order
11) Use chalk or specialist horse whitener, to whiten socks. On show day, take some with you (or even a bottle of white shoe touch-up in a pinch) for last minute emergency touch ups to white socks (make sure you wash it off when you get home)
12) Fix some Velcro strips to the inside of your horse box door for a quick and convenient way to hang up brushing boots (it’ll also weigh less than a box for boots, which as mentioned, is a major factor when packing a 3.5 ton lorry)
13) This is one of the essential horse tips and tricks for shows… Research the class you are entering and make sure that your horse/pony is the right type, and that you have the appropriate clothes and tack. (For example, show horses and ponies are generally finer in type, and should be plaited, whereas, native ponies are left natural. And for show jumping you don’t need to plait and can have coloured boots/numnahs. However, for showing, tack should be neutral, with the exception of coloured browbands in some classes
At the first local Pony Club show my family and I took our first pony to, my parents started chatting to one of the Pony Club veteran mums in the warm up ring, and when she asked what class we were entering, she very kindly let us know that the bright red numnah and brushing boots my pony was proudly sporting weren’t suitable for a showing class – we quickly took them off and went on to win the class, needless to say we were very grateful!
14) If you are entering a class where there will be a ridden judge, make sure your stirrups irons are wide enough, and that your stirrup leathers have plenty of holes to adjust the length (ridden judges will be an appropriate size for the type of horse in the class, so this tip is worth taking note of if you are particularly small or have super long legs)
15) Allow plenty of time to walk the course. For show jumping, walk the strides and find a good line, and look for corners you can cut in a jump off. When walking a cross country course (generally the day before), don’t just walk the straight routes, take time to look at the long routes as you can’t predict how it will go on the day and it is good to know the alternative in case you get a bad stride, or your horse isn’t having a good day
16) Test how your horse reacts to a rosette being pinned to its bridle before going to a show, then if you are lucky enough to win one, you’ll know what to expect – I tend to tuck the loose ribbons through the cheek-piece or around the throat lash so they don’t flap, or for very spooky horses, I attach it to the saddle D-ring, or through the string of my competition number
17) And remember, especially in the show ring, a good attitude and smile goes a long way!
Bonus Tip… each time you win a rosette, write your initials, the name of the horse you were riding, the date, and the class on the back of it – it’s really nice when you look back at them as it helps to remember the day (it also stops siblings arguing over rosettes!)
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