So, you’ve got the date on the calendar for the first show. Now what? In my last post, we covered some horse show vocabulary for the newly indoctrinated pony parent. Today, we’ll talk about all the things you need to do to prepare (read: go shopping) before the first show.
Your pony (whether yours or a lesson pony) should be clean with whiskers, ears, and feet clipped and tidy. Its mane should be pulled and even. Some farms might provide these services to you for a fee. My recommendation would be to have your trainer give your child an unmounted lesson to teach them how to do all of this. Even if your tot is too tiny to do it all on her own, she needs to know what is expected.
If you are not sure what is your responsibility and what your trainer will take care of, please ask your trainer! Most trainers have clear expectations for preparing for a show, but you won’t know if you don’t ask! Ponies are notoriously dirty, and the pony prep can be time consuming. So don’t expect to get to the barn 30 minutes before you are supposed to load the pony on the trailer and think you can get it all done!
Small children are also notoriously dirty, so if possible plan to change into show clothes at the show. If it is necessary for your child to wear her show clothes (the equivalent to her show uniform) to the show, put an oversize pair of pajama pants over her jodphurs/breeches and a t-shirt over her show shirt. Save her paddock boots for the ring, and throw on some rubber boots. Trust me on this!
Riders 12 years old and younger, should wear tan jodphurs (the kind with the cuff at the bottom that goes over the paddock boot), white collared show shirt, dark navy or black (hunter green is acceptable as well) coat (look for the machine washable over the wool – they are a bit more expensive but sure beats dry cleaning every time and they are much cooler and flexible. Worth the expense), clean paddock boots (this is every dad’s moment to shine – teach her how to polish her boots. It’s a bonding moment, so enjoy the moment), brown or black belt, black gloves, and garter straps (y’all, find the elastic pull-on ones. so. much. easier.)
If the pony needs a crop, it needs to be black or brown. Girls’ hair should be worn in 2 braids, usually with bows (there is an entire industry of show bows. If you are craftier than me, you can probably make your own, but there are tons to choose from). Black helmets only.
Children older than 12 have a couple modifications: they should wear breeches instead of jods (slimmer fitting, hit around mid-calf, and designed to fit inside tall boots), tall black boots instead of paddock boots, and their hair should be secured in a hair net and tucked inside their helmet. Everything else remains the same as the younger rider’s show clothes.
Ask your local tack store for help picking out any of these things. They are an invaluable resource and will be happy to help you find appropriate sizes in your price range. My personal opinion, you do not need to buy the most expensive brands so long as they fit and are appropriate. A judge would rather see your child in $30 jods that are the proper length, than in $200 jods that keep pulling up higher than the top of her boots.
Go for classic, clean and no bright colors. The bows being the exception for bright colors – let your tiny tot show her individuality here. We have a small arsenal of bows in pinks and turquoise, monogrammed and printed, sparkly. Just be sure they will not cover up her number when she is in the ring!
This is a sport seeped in tradition and there is not a lot of room for variation. The goal is for your riding to be the thing that sets you apart from the rest, not your purple crop.
Next week in the final installment of this new pony parent horse show guide, I’ll get to the real question about horse showing — why does it take forever? Spoiler alert: clear out your entire day for the show. You’re going to be there a while!