Preparing for a show

Preparing for a Horse Show

Preparing for a Horse Show

Preparing your horse for a show is a fun job, but it is time consuming and requires a large amount elbow grease! There is a lot to do and so much to remember to bring with you – and usually on the day of the show you are running late, scrambling to finish those last-minute plaits or removing that stain your horse has picked up while traveling! That said there are loads of products out there that can help you achieve your immaculate showing appearance, easily and in less time!


Before the show

Clipping and Trimming:

Trimming for definition will enhance the overall look of your horse however some breed societies or organisations do not allow trimming of any sorts, so it is also best to check the rules before removing too much hair.

The main areas for trimming include manes, tails, under the jaw, ears, whiskers, tail and the feathers down the backs of the legs.  The larger areas can be done with small battery trimmers and will give a very close neat finish and definition to ears and jaw line.

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Mane and Tail:

There are many ways to thin and shorten manes or tails that are humane and will cause no discomfort; you can go down the traditional root of pulling using a mane comb or if you don’t want to cause any discomfort but still want the “pulled” finish, then use the Smart Tails or Smart Manes rake and then scissors or thinning knife to level or shorten.

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Bathing before a show is essential because let’s face it; horses love to roll in the mud, grass and manure, especially the day before a competition!

Always use a shampoo formulated for horses. Don’t economise by using washing-up liquid, because it will strip the hair of natural oils, leaving the coat dull. Find an equine shampoo that will naturally enhance the coat while lifting a dirt or grease away from the skin, especially if your horse suffers with sensitive skin (lavender shampoo).

Over time bathing can also tend to dry the skin but there are a few ways to minimise this. If it is not necessary to bath, don’t. Try hot clothing instead, this method provides a soothing and refreshing means of grooming as well as applying extra shine. Alternatively use a coat sheen straight after bathing to moisturise and condition the skin. Its always worth spraying in plenty of mane and tail detangler (if you don’t plait!) at this point. This way it will stay tangle free and prevent any bedding or dirt from sticking to the newly washed tail!

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Stain Removal and Whitening:

Grey and coloured horses look fantastic when they are bright and clean, but it isn’t always easy to get them that way! Using a whitening shampoo will remove any stains or dirt while enhancing brightness in the coat. For extra whiteness, using a blue rinse will add a sheen back to a coat. If you have an extra stubborn stain, massage in a stain remover, leave for 2 minutes and rinse, this will really lift any discolouration.

White socks and legs can really make an astonishing difference to the overall appearance and especially when in the show or competition arena.  The judge will not fail to notice a set of white legs strutting their stuff and this can sometimes distract attention from another area that may not be so good! A whitening powder can be applied as a paste, using a damp sponge or as a powder and then left to dry or bandaged overnight, leaving super bright, white legs that last all day!

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At the show:


One of the best parts about competitions (in our opinion) is seeing shining coats on beautifully turned-out horses. A good coat comes from correct feeding, training and a decent grooming routine however you can always add extra shine to your horse’s coat, mane or tail by using a coat sheen, coat gloss and shine spray, this will also accentuate muscle definition or dark points or dapples in the coat.

Colour and Enhancement:

The use of cosmetics products has become standard in the show ring and are becoming more popular among the other disciplines - though before using them, you need to be certain that you are not breaking any rules. Where they are permitted, they should be used in discretion and moderation. Mixing makeup is a great way of creating the perfect shade for covering scars or blemishes. You could also use make ups to enhance or define features such as around the eyes, muzzle or legs. For an extra glossy finish, apply an enhancing gloss over the make up or it can be used on its own for a more natural finish.

Shiny hooves are a must when competing.  If within the rules of the society or discipline, apply a hoof-shine product to your horse’s hooves, for a clean, polished look. Using a black hoof shine is extremely popular in showing, it is mostly used in show horse or show pony classes, whereas when competing Native ponies, a natural shine would be used.

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While some like to plait on the day of the show, some prefer to plait the night before, in this case, make sure to cover the plaits using a hood or necked rug to ensure they stay in place and free of bedding and hay! The size of your plaits and the way you position them can make a big difference to your horse’s appearance.  Prior to plaiting the mane needs to be clean, but not slippery. If you still need more grip, or require some extra help, there is plenty of products that are designed for this job.

Quarter Marking:

Quarter marks are patterns which draw the eye to a good set of hind quarters. You need to choose which design suits your horse and site the quarter marks correctly. For instance, whilst small squares are appropriate for a show pony or hack, they would look silly on a strapping hunter or cob; the latter would be suited by blocks and sharks teeth. Whatever design you use, experiment with the size and position. Make sure to set your marks in place with a good Quarter Marking Spray to ensure they stay all day, even when standing on the lorry or if a rug has to be put on.


Cleaning, packing and organizing your tack and equipment for the show is also important, so check out our Show Day Checklist to help you get better organized and easily prepare for your next horse show!

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