Checklist for Preparing To Go to a Horse Show

Photo © Jump Media

By Sabrina Brashares/Jump Media

Preparing a horse to go to a horse show goes beyond sending in entries, taking lessons, and working on their fitness. There are several important details that have to be completed in order to make the competition experience as smooth and stress-free as possible.

  • Organize Necessary Paperwork: One of the most important tasks when preparing for a horse show is to organize the paperwork. Beyond entries, horse shows require various documents in order for your horse to be eligible to enter the show. The first step is to check with the horse show management or website to see what documentation is required. Make sure to start this process a week or two before the show because it may require a visit from your veterinarian followed by submission of official documents such as a health certificate or proof of a negative Coggins test. If you are attending a breed show, you will need your horse’s registration papers in order to enter. You might also need to provide proof of membership to an association depending on what type of show you are attending. It may be easiest to put all of these papers in one binder, so it is organized and easy to access. There are also several electronic management systems, such as BarnManager, that allow you to organize digital copies of documents. This can be helpful if you have multiple horses, and it is also useful because you can access the paperwork anywhere as long as you have a smartphone, laptop, or tablet with you.
  • Prepare and Pack Grain: Depending on how many horses you are traveling with and for how long, consider pre-making grain for the days that you will be at the show. Put the grain in Ziplock bags and label them with the date and time they should be given to help save time during busy show days. Don’t forget to pack any additional supplements or medications you might give your horse before or after they show. If you are taking a lot of horses or going away for a long period of time, it may be best to pack grain in bulk instead, but bring Ziplock bags so you can pre-make meals on-site if you have a little downtime. Remember to pack some treats for your favorite equine partner as well.
Photo © Jump Media
  • Clean and Organize Equipment: Thoroughly clean your equipment so everything is ready and organized when you arrive at the show. Neatly pack it in your trunk with the most frequently used items at the top. Consider bringing an additional bin for bulky items you might not need as often, like extra towels, bandages, rain sheets, schooling pads, coolers, anti-sweats, and possibly a few extra human clothes for changes in weather. Also, it may be a good idea to bring a couple of extra bits or pieces of equipment so you are prepared if your horse is strong or more energetic at the show. Creating a packing list and checking items off as you go helps prevent items from being forgotten.
  • Check the Weather: Always check the forecast while packing for a horse show. Depending on the time of year, you may want to consider packing a stable sheet and possibly a blanket, so your horse stays warm. If your horse is staying in tent stalls remember they can be much cooler than a barn overnight even during the summer months. Another item to consider, depending on the weather, is a fan to hang on your horse’s stall so they stay cool in the heat or to help them dry faster after a bath. 
  • Trim Your Horse: Depending on your discipline and preference, trimming your horse before you get to the horse show will ensure that they arrive looking their best plus save you from logistical hassles. Finding outlets in tent stalls can be tricky and you may be competing with others to use them, so plan time to handle this chore beforehand.
Photo © Jump Media
  • Prepare for Shipping: Some horses can get stressed while shipping, so it can be helpful to make sure they are on electrolytes a couple of days before the show so they stay hydrated. Also, consider giving them an ulcer-preventing paste before they get on the trailer so they arrive comfortably. 
  • Check the Schedule: Whether you are going to a one-day horse show or a week-long competition, it is helpful to check the schedule ahead of time. Although classes can change and entry counts might not be complete yet, it will give you a general idea of when you might show. This can help you outline when to do things like bathe, braid, exercise, or school your horse, either at home or at the show.

The more organized you are leading up to the horse show, the more relaxed you and your horse will be when you arrive. Prepare things ahead of time so that when you are at the horse show you can focus on competing.

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