Show Grooming Countdown

Show Grooming


If you plan to compete, you’ll want your horse at his cleanest and shiniest. It’s a sign of respect to the judge that you’ve taken the time to groom and prepare your horse. When planning your show prep timeline, it helps to know your horse: Is he a mud magnet that won’t stay clean overnight? Also be realistic about your grooming skills. An experienced braider can whip out a mane full of neat, tidy braids in 30 minutes on show day, while a newbie should allow more time.

One Month Out

Start getting your horse’s mane and tail in show shape. Pull or shorten the mane and thoroughly clean, condition and detangle the tail. Practice braiding and banding if your skills are rusty or you’re still learning.

One Week Out

Do a deep-cleaning spa day, including a full shampoo, conditioning and whitening if needed. You’ll bathe again before the show, but this “pre-bath” should make the job easier.

Clip your horse’s legs, face and ears so that any mistakes have a little time to grow out.

The Day Before

Bathing and braiding the day before helps take some of the pressure off when you have a very early start.

For stabled horses, a stretchy hood and stable sheet help keep everything clean overnight. Touch up clipping as needed.

Show Grooming


On Show Day

Five hours: If your classes are later in the day, time is on your side. You may decide to braid or band in the morning, and can bathe your horse again if he needs it.

Two hours: If you have early classes, do as much ahead of time as possible so that on show day, you only have to touch up your horse’s grooming and go. Spot-cleaning shampoo and whitening products can help lift last-minute stains when you don’t have time to go to the wash rack.

One hour: If hoof polish is part of the grooming standard for your breed or show circuit, apply it with plenty of time to dry. Do this in the aisle or over cardboard to prevent shavings from sticking to the polish before it dries.

30 minutes: Last-minute finishing touches might include a quick wipe of baby oil or face highlighter around the eyes, nostrils and lips, plus a dusting of baby powder or chalk on white stockings. On hot, buggy days, an extra mist of fly spray is a good idea.
Ringside: Useful items for a ringside kit include a rag for your horse’s face, a soft brush, tail brush, fly spray and hoof oil. Don’t forget a bottle of water for yourself.

Before going in the ring, wipe any green slobber from horse’s nose and mouth, give his coat a once-over and dust off your boots. Apply hoof oil for the perfect finishing touch. Your preparation will help you shine for the judges in the show ring!

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!


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