Horse Show Arrival Checklist

Horse Show

You’ve made it to the horse show! Now with the drive behind you, you can focus on the show at hand. But wait—there’s still a lot to do before you ride through the gate for that first class—there are horses to care for, and details to tend to. To help you out, here is a checklist of some of the things you’ll need to do in that hectic time after the traveling but before the show starts.

When You First Arrive:

  • Find out where the horse trailer parking is. Is it okay to unload there, or is there a specific location for unloading?
  • If it’s only a day show and you‘re showing out of the trailer, make sure you park a comfortable distance from the other trailers to give you and your horses enough room to work.
  • If you’re stabling overnight, locate the barn you’re in, and your stalls. Give the stalls a check-over for major flaws like nails, sharp edges, weak doors, et cetera. Depending on how much time you have and how quickly you need to get your horses out of the trailer, you might also want to take this time to sweep away cobwebs and even disinfect stall walls.
  • Once things look good, bed the stalls, either with bedding you hauled from home or bedding supplied from the show.
  • Install your water bucket hangers—stalls at show barns rarely seem to have anywhere to hang a bucket. A simple bucket strap can work very well for temporary stalls. If you use a hay net, put it up as well.
  • Some horses don’t like abrupt changes of water sources, so bringing some water from home can be beneficial. If you can’t bring enough water for the duration of the show, mix your own water with some new water from the showgrounds to help with the transition.
  • Many horses won’t drink much while on the road, so get them unloaded and offer them water as soon as possible.
  • Unload your horses, and keep an eye on them for a few minutes while they explore their new stalls.
  • If you’re disconnecting your horse trailer, make sure to go through the proper parking and stabilizing procedures. *Note, some shows require you to present your paperwork (Coggins, etc…) before unloading.
  • If you reserved a tack stall, unload your feed and equipment into it.

Show Office Stuff

  • If you’re not already pre-registered for your classes, now’s the time for a trip to the show secretary’s office (or table) to get signed up, take care of any show or travel paperwork, and get your number.
  • You might also want to grab copies of any patterns (equitation, showmanship, trail, hunter classes, reining, etc…) and try to study them while still doing everything else.
  • Ask where you’re allowed to warm-up, and find out if there are any specific warm-up times.

Pre-Class Prep

  • Is there time to bathe your horse early in the morning? If not, try to get one in the day before.
  • Grooming… You likely cleaned up your horse thoroughly back at home, but there’s always fresh stall bedding or a new stain to take care of at the last minute….
  • …tail
  • …mane
  • …body.
  • Hoof polish?
  • Are you braiding or banding? Leave yourself enough time!
  • Tack up, and be sure that all your gear is legal and appropriate for the class (leg wraps or boots, martingales, and certain types of bits are equipment that are not legal in all classes—always have a rule book on hand.)
  • Give yourself plenty of time to get yourself ready—boots, helmet, hair, show outfit.
  • Don’t get so busy that you forget to eat or drink!


  • Take lots of pictures!
  • Have fun!
  • Hang your ribbons on your show stall or vehicle!

Daniel Johnson is a freelance writer and professional photographer. He’s the author of several books, including How to Raise Horses: Everything You Need to Know, (Voyageur Press, 2014). Dan’s barn is home to Summer, a Welsh/TB cross, Orion, a Welsh Cob, and Mati and Amos, two Welsh Mountain Ponies. Follow him at


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