- If you haven’t already, attend a show and watch the classes you plan on entering so that you know exactly what to expect.
- If your horse is a greenie, take him to a show and don’t enter any classes; just evaluate how he handles the new surroundings.
- Make a list of everything you need to take to the show; then pack the day beforehand, checking each item off your list.
- Have a friend or family member on hand at the show to help with last minute grooming, giving your boots a wipe before you enter the ring or just providing moral support.
- Before each class, visualize how you want your ride to be—professionals find this technique helpful.
- If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on show clothes, stick to classic colors and avoid flamboyant trends.
- Dress up your everyday tack by using a special pad or blanket reserved only for show.
- Teach your horse to trailer load confidently, well before an event. Show morning is no time to discover that your horse hates straight loads or won’t travel alone.
- If your discipline calls for show-day braiding or banding, start practicing well ahead of time, or hire an expert to do the job for you.
- Bathe your horse for the show, and then cover him up for the night with a sheet/blanket; add a stretchy hood if you’ve braided or banded. If he has white stockings, protect his legs in standing wraps, too.
- School one level higher than you show. That way you can compete with confidence, even when nerves and distractions might get in the way.
- Give yourself—and your horse—plenty of time before your classes start to get accustomed to the showgrounds.
- Know how your horse behaves in the company of others. If he is unruly, it’s probably not time to show yet.
- Warm your horse up, but don’t burn him out. Save his best energy for the actual class.
- Don’t school your horse in gadgets and then expect him to perform in the show-ring without them.
- Clean your tack the day before the show: Make sure it’s in tip-top shape, and polish any silver.
- Know what the show-ring turnout requirements are, and make sure you comply. Poor turnout shows lack of respect to the judge.
- If your horse is having a meltdown in a rail class, head to the center of the ring and just stand quietly. Better to chalk it up to experience than create a dangerous situation.
- Some disciplines have strict rules and regulations about equipment. Study your rulebook closely to be sure that your tack is “legal.”
- Warm-up ring etiquette: Pass left shoulder to left shoulder; if you’re working at a faster pace, stay well to the inside. Keep your eyes on horses that are circling or changing direction.
- Hunters and jumpers: In the warm-up ring, call “heads up” on the fence you’re jumping.
- Hunt-seat riders: Attach your entry number on your back by threading a black shoelace through the number, then through your coat’s last buttonhole; tie off and hide the bow under your coat.
- Western riders: Affix your number to your blanket with safety pins, decorative blanket conchos or a number holder.
- At home, practice any special tests that you think might be added to your classes, such as riding without stirrups, sitting the extended trot or executing a figure-eight.
- Never hold a class up; you could be disqualified. If you are making a quick tack change, or have classes running simultaneously, have someone inform the show steward immediately.
- If you’re new to showing, pay your trainer a rail fee to coach you for the day.
- Dressage riders: Memorize your tests even if you have a caller. Practice the tests in your arena on foot during the weeks leading up to the show.
- Your day isn’t done just because your classes are over. Attend to your horse’s needs before relaxing with friends.
- Ask a show steward if you can see the judge’s scorecard or sheet to gain a greater understanding on how he or she pins a class.
- Don’t forget to close out your check before leaving the showgrounds!
This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of Horse Illustrated. Click here to subscribe.
I have a suggestion for the blue ribbon tips; Take your horse to the show a day early and ride him just to get used to the show grounds. And thank you so much, your tips were so helpful when I went to shows!
These tips are amazing and really work!!
Even though some (not all) of your tips are easy to remember and vary helpful and i love your wabsite. It is my first time on your site and i find it helpful.I am a huge horse fan and i have a 7 year old american paint pony and i think not only she will thank you for the advise,but i will to.
Another tip is to set out all of the items you need the night before you show, so when you wake up early the morning of the show, you don’t forget something or have to run around the house to find it.
I thought the tips were great. I’ll have to try them out in the 07 summer shows since i’ve never ridden in a show, but I have been to one as a groom.
i’m a begining rider and havn’t been to a show yet but i will look at this before my first one for sure. thank you for puuting out simple tips they can be very helpful for people that are not sure what to do.
I added these tips to my list I already have and they are such a big help. We get things togetherv2 days in advance and then double check the night before. I have never forgotton anything by doing this.
I have never showed before, and I am planning on starting hunter so the number tieing technique will be very helpful.
Always be relaxed: if you relax and try your best without being tense, your horse will do the same!
This was VERY helpful! When I go to my first show I will use these tips and hopefully bring home the blue! I LOVE this website and I think that it is a shame that not all people would love horses as much as we horse lovers do! They have to be the best animals on earth. Happy trails every-one!!
wow i find alot of these tips help!!!!!!!!
You do not have to be in shows in order to have fun riding. It is not that I think shows are pointless, it is just that riding can just be to exercise them and go on trail rides. Shows just get people stressed out and sometimes when a horse does not do well in shows, their owner gives the perfectly healthy horse away or sells them to a slaughterhouse. I know this does not happen all the time, but it happens often enough that the strain of competitions can change or hurt someone’s life.
very helpful, i do many of these and they can really lower the stress involved in showing
I really liked the article, it had a lot of good points.
This is a very helpful article. I do many of the things it suggests and it helps things run smoother at shows.
I agree with the the tips…very helpful!
While preparing for a first show, this article really helps to calm your nerves and gives you good advice on how to not only come home with a blue ribbon, but also have an enjoyable show experience.
some of these things will be very helpful. i have showed 3 years before this but the horse i rode didnt want to canter. if i have a problem like that again what should i do?
hi i have a miniature horse and i think these are some great tips but could you add one or two tips on minis?
Its really good but i was looking for something that would prapare for a schooling horse show
I thought these tips were very helpful without them I might notve had that 2nd place ribbon
wow this gave me a better opinion and helped me with show things ,thanks!!!!!!!!
This is a really great article – I’ll be sure to do some of these things before showing in the spring! Thanks again for this very helpful article.
good tips! articles here are really helpful.
this was verrrry helpful!!
these are some great tips. i think next time i go to a show i will use them.
These tips are GREAT! I just started 4-H and I am going to use these tips,
This was very helpful, thank you. Am new to the show ring.
I love these! They can be very helpful!
I have only won a few blue ribbons and I discovered that I am doing a few things wrong. Hopefully these tips will help, calm me and my horses nerves down.
These will definatly help me! Im new in the showing business!
It is good for new rider, wish more horse people know it
Thanks for the great info!!!
It will help!!!
this was very helpful. although a lot of the things mentioned here i learned at my first show, i found a few things out that are going to be extremely helpful when i start showing for ribbons. thanks Horse Channel!
I love these articles! They are nearly always helpfull!
These tips will definetly help win 1st place.
Thank you! I feel ready with a mini checklist at my control!
Very helpful! Thanks a lot
It really touched me.
This was very helpful!!!
items never to forget at a horse show!!
Super glue. (never know when you will need that!!)
Tape. (good to have)
Extra black shoe lace (usually provided for your number, but just in case).
Boot polish (what if they get scuffed at the show)
If it is warm: FlipFlops to rest in after/way before your class.
If it is cold: Sneakers or uggs.
Thanks so much for the tips maybe I may be able to do better during classes in my local shows with my mare Gracie.
Yes this stuff is very true!!! My first show out of my schooling ranch. Tip: If you havent ridden horse in a snaffle for a long time don’t do it on your first show out of your horses confort zone!!! Another tip: just have fun, i know everybody says that it sounds like a bunch of crap. But it is really true!!!!!!!!!
This is a really helpful article!
Thanks, these will help me a lot!!
Blue Ribbons are great and help getting them is always a good thing!!
i had now idea there was so much to them.
thanks that was really good help. I never knew that you could tell the judge that your classes run one after the other and you need a few extra seconds to change tack.
Thanks for the great show tips. 🙂
thanks for the great tips. i’m in my first horse show this weekend. and i’m pretty nervous.
thank you. i am having a show in november and i think these suggestions will help me.
One more tip!
I was just at a show and for the first time my horse and i did terrible but someone reminded me that showing is about having fun and i realized that it was fun and it didn’t matter that we didn’t place!
These are great tips!
GREAT GREAT GREAT tips! (even though I am horseless)
super oober helpful
you forgot one tip. HAVE FUN. if showing wasnt about fun why would you do it.?
I love these tips! I ride saddlebreds so I need these cause I go to many shows!
That article is awesome! but yes they did forget the have fun part!
Great to think about since show season is coming soon! 🙂
Great list but there is also “If your horse does badly, don’t blame the animal. Instead take a look at what you missed in training, practice it, and remember, there is always another show!”
These tips helped me a lot, well will help me a lot! I have my first horse show coming up in May! I hope I do good but since I read these tips I am not so nervous!
Hope they all work this season!!
Gr8 tips, especially when you have a new show horse!
These tips were pretty helpful, but i wished they told more about proper etiquitte such as smiling or clucking to the horse and when and when its not ok to do it. My first show is in 4 days, and its just a schooling show(: overall, great tips, though!
This artical is great but i think you should have included what things are ok to do in the ring like clucking. Great job, though!
Nice tips! Thank u soo much!!!
Make sure to try to warm up and wake up your horse before competing.
Always make sure that you cool your horse out sufficiently and use linement after a big ride!
good article. thanks. I wish they had been a bit more specific but i think they were a) trying to reduce stress–so if you have simple things to do it’s easier and b) trying to address all disciplines.
Every ones got the same tips there good tips dont get me wrong!!! but i wish i could hear somthing new!!! does anyone agree with me!!
I agree, those tips are good but I hear the same ones all the time. it’ gets boring hearing the same ones over and over.
another thing thats important at shows is to stay off of your horse as much as you can, unless he has excess energy, because many riders dont realize how much just sitting on your horse can wear him out. if you want him to last the whole show, get off between classes and loosen the girth, even take off the saddle, if you have time
To some, this might be a boring, done that, set of tips, but to us who have never shown, and are about to start, they are all good sound advice.
Thanks for the tips.
thanks for the tips
Those tips are really helpful! I myself am a neat freak, and when I take my horse to shows, I’m always a nervous wreck that I have forgotten something! But I never thought of the obvious fix, a check-list!!! And all those tips for the actual show, like getting your horse used to stuff before even entering, pure genius!
These comments help so much!! this is my first year in 4-h using a green horse so the show world is new to bith of us.. and the week before shows i am in panic mode!!!! but these notes calm my stress!:) thanks
These are great tips! I have obtained so much info since finding this website i will know so much by the time i get a horse!
Thanks! Great ideas and tips!
I thought the 30 tips were very helpful and made sense. Well done!
I thought that it was useful because I, personally, have never done a show, but will use some of these tips for when I do compete in a show. Thanks for sharing this very helpful information with me today!!
Thanks! I used some of the things on there to pack up our trailer for our state horse show!!
WOW really helpful!
This is really helpful for shows!
if your horse has a meltdown in a showmanship class… youre done. just saying haha. very helpful, thanks!
Those tips were handy! I never went to a horse show, It would be cool if i did! i couldnt go to one, though, even if i wanted to, its because i have an old quarter horse. again, cool article!
i just love this article! i got a new horse, but he is also kinda old. but if i did a lot of practicing, mabye i could enter in dressage! can you enter 28-year old horses in shows? my horse is old, but he still is active! he survived 2 bear chases! again, awesome article!
I hope to use some of these helpful hints at my first show!!This will be very helpful!!