Endless Tips for a Successful First Horse Show 


The key to a successful horse show is to organize! Careful planning and getting ready in stages keep your first horse show day running smoothly. And to help, there’s a handy (free) packing list to download. You can change the list to suit your horse show needs.   

Here are some more tips for planning your first horse show.


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Prepare in advance


  • And this means practicing everything at home – not just the riding skills.  Practice grooming for a show – including bathing, braiding, chrome boosting, trimming and clipping, and stain removal on show day. 


  • Don’t forget to ride in your ENTIRE show outfit before you are at the show. Many things can change between “add to cart” and “you’re in the show ring.”


  • Prepare your horse at home – ride your horse at different times during the day, in different locations, with varying noises of background, with and without other horses, and in different weather. Also, practice riding in a ring with many other horses doing many different things to mimic a warm-up area. 


  • Organize your support team – trainer, S.O., friends, and cheerleaders. Gather anyone who can help you succeed and not cause added stress while at a show. If a huge team seems overwhelming, stick to your trainer and maybe another person. Having someone ringside to wipe boots, hand you water, and keep tabs on show time is helpful. 


  • Get your trailer ready ahead of time. Has your rig been inspected with safe tires, clean, added shavings, and ready to roll? Pack your trailer ahead of time. You can pack just about anything a week or more before the show if you have duplicates. On show day, load your horse and essentials. Use that list to double-check! 


  • Pack sustenance for you. Horse show food may not be available or suit your preferences. Bring more water than you think is necessary, and pack snacks and lunches that won’t melt.  


  • Have a plan for any show nerves. Even if you are cool as a cucumber 99.9% of the time, have some breathing techniques and relaxation methods ready. Yes, you have to try them at home. You don’t want to rely on untested approaches that may stress you out more. 


  • Know what documentation your horse needs and gather vaccine records, paperwork, entries, etc. before show day. 


washing a gray horse's legs

Bathe in advance, and curry the snot outta your horse to bring back shine. 


Help your horse stay clean


  • You may want to bathe your horse more than a day before the show. This lets your horse’s bloom return. Avoid harsh detergents and shampoos to minimize the natural oil stripped away during a bath. 


  • Horses stay clean when their skin and coat are naturally oily with sebum. After a bath, boost this with an oil buffing session to help repel stains. Sheen products are helpful, too, but some horses get dry coats with excessive use. 


  • Ramp up your curry game between bathing and show time. That is all. That’s the tip. 


  • Use wildly clean bedding and pick your horse’s stall, shed, and outdoor areas more frequently. Nothing creates “horse show panic” like poop being used as a pillow the night before. 


  • Cover your horse in fly sheets and fly boots for stain protection, even if the bugs are not out. Every little bit helps. 


coggins test sign at a horse show

Know what paperwork is required before you show up!


At the showgrounds


  • Pick the most appropriate classes.  If it’s overwhelming when you arrive, you can scratch or add classes as needed. This seems logical but can go sideways in a hurry. One particularly helpful trainer suggested picking classes one notch down from where you are comfortable riding for the first show. You can always move up later. 


  • Choose classes that won’t overwhelm you or your horse. Consider the time of day, ring locations, and number of entries if crowds create stress. 


  • Find these places on the showgrounds:


      • Show office
      • Warm up rings
      • Lungeing area
      • Restrooms
      • Wash rack
      • Farrier
      • On-call vet


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Choose all of your clothes carefully and stay clean


  • It is darn near impossible to stay spotless at a horse show. A change of clothes is helpful, especially if you have a tack stall or space in your trailer to change. Show clothes can be uncomfortable and hot if worn all day. Pack loose-fitting, light clothes to wear around. Don’t forget comfortable and horse-safe shoes.  


  • You can also cover your show clothes with oversized pajama bottoms and a top to collect dirt. Easy on, easy off, and keeps all the dirt away. 


  • Pack some wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and a shatterproof mirror for make-up and hair. The judge may not be able to see melted mascara and dirty hands, but it will boost your confidence to powder your nose before you ride. 

Warm-up ring etiquette 


  • The warm-up ring is often the most chaotic place in the showgrounds. Here are some basic rules of warm-up etiquette to remember for your first horse show and every show after:


      • Pass other horses from left shoulder to left shoulder.   
      • Pay attention to the crowd – if almost everyone goes clockwise, you should, too. 
      • If you must pass a rider in the same direction, pass on the inside.  
      • Look up and ahead. If you are looking down, you will end up there.  
      • Use your voice. Call jumps loudly and indicate “outside” or “inside” if necessary.  
      • Cantering and trotting have the right of way over walking. Sometimes the best place to walk your horse is around the showgrounds if permitted. If you must walk in the warm-up ring, do not find another horse to walk next to. Go single file. 
      • Jumping has the right of way over everything. Do not cross the path before or after a jump. Riders may need to break the “left to left” rule.  
      • If flags are on the jump standards, you may only jump in the direction when the red flag is on the right.  
      • Some show organizations prohibit the use of earbuds while warming up. 
      • Use and look for red ribbons. A red ribbon in the tail indicates a horse that kicks, and a red ribbon in the browband signals a horse that doesn’t do well with other horses approaching head-on.  
      • Leave the warm-up ring to sip water, clean your boots, and touch up your horse.  


horse show tents and vendors in a row

Know where important services are – office, vet, farrier, and lungeing area.


Practice good sportsmanship at your first horse show


  • Keep questionable comments and critiques to yourself. EVERYONE at a horse show is “going through it,” even the Olympians. There is not a single person at a horse show that is not learning something; give yourself and them a break. 


  • Report horse abuse to the technical delegate and/or show office if you see it.  


  • An oft-overlooked aspect of good sportsmanship is to follow your gut. You can opt-out if you don’t think you want to continue with a class, or even when you are in a class. Better to scratch and try again.  


Happy showing and have fun! Please download a copy (show_packing_checklist) and print it to help keep your sanity.  


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Click these links to shop for horse supplies. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases, which are not a penny more for you. I couldn’t be more grateful for your support!


HandsOn Gloves on horse_.jpg

HandsOn Grooming Gloves – also, use code PEG for some free shipping!


double sided finishing gloves for horse grooming

HandsOn Finishing Gloves – code PEG will get you some free shipping



Genuine Cactus Cloth – Natural – 18 X 16-1/2 Standard This is much better for stain removal and spreading natural oils around.

I love Easy Out for touch-up stain removal!


You can also snap up a bottle of the grooming oil I love 


Tiger’s Tongue


The Strip Hair groomer

Hoof picks with brushes are double-duty


A small brush for faces.


A dandy brush

A dandy brush


A finishing brush

Horse hair finishing brush


A hard brush with shorter bristles.

One style of hard brush.


The Wet brush – great for damp or wet hair

I love the WET brand for manes and tails.


JT Tough-1 Fold Up Thinning Knife – my favorite mane blade for making a mane even!

Solocomb By Dh Animal Products – for thinning the mane without pulling.

This is a rake that works similarly.




Handy cloths for all things horse grooming

Larger sponge for bathing and grooming


Tack cleaning sponges


Fiebing’s Liquid Glycerine Saddle Soap for Horse 16 fl oz


Effax Leather Balsam 500 ml

A handy tote for grooming supplies on the go!

The classic wood grooming box.


Tote with stepstool combo!

Magic Sheen, works wonders without all of the added alcohol.


This shampoo, MediCare, has soothing ingredients for sensitive skin.


Everyone’s favorite MTG for all sorts of skin issues.


EquiTone in Black is great for bays and darker horses.


Whitening EquiTone is good for all colors for shine, and whitening for grays. 


Red EquiTone in brightens chestnuts and blood bays.


EquiTone in GOLD works with palomino coloring. 





No. 2 Heavy Oil, just a bit of deeper conditioning for dry winter coats.


ADC Veterinary Thermometer, Dual Scale, Adtemp 422 – For easy temperature taking

3M Littmann Classic III Monitoring Stethoscope, Black Edition Chestpiece, Black Tube, 27 inch, 5803 – For finding heart rate and gut sounds


Wahl Professional Animal Bravura Lithium Clipper – this includes the 5 in 1 blade that goes from a #9 to a #40. Perfect for designs!

Wahl Professional Animal ARCO with 5 in 1 blade


The Chromado, also available in black.


Wahl’s Creativa horse trimmer is also availabe in pink.



The KM10’s are the gold standard for horse body clippers.


The Pro Ion, this is a body clipper that uses 30-15-10 blade system.

The Lister Stars – the best shear-style clippers for horses!


Blades for body clippers, the detachable style.


The 10 Wide blade for body clippers, the detachable style.

A 5 in 1 replacement blade.

Lister Star blades, fine cut.

Uptite Poultice


Sore No More Liniment Bottle – pick your size

Back on Track Limber Up LiniMint Leg and Body Brace



Vetrolin Liniment

Ice Horse Pair of Tendon Leg Wraps for Equine Therapy – Comes with 4 Ice Packs


These ice packs make for easy cooling of your horse’s legs and hooves. They last for hours.

This tall boot can be filled with ice or ice packs to help the horse with laminitis.


These affordable boots can be filled with ice to help your horse.


Fancy quilts


Perri’s Standing Bandages, Pack of 4 – so many colors to choose from


Easy to use Back On Track boots


One style of leg quilts, from Intrepid International


Yet another style of quilt

Back on Track no-bows

Sheepskin fuzzies can help with rubs.

Fleece halter covers

Magic Cushion takes the sting out of hooves


The BEST for winter grooming – a hot water kettle!



This saddle pad has memory foam panels and a contoured topline

A lovely western saddle pad with a contoured topline.

This western saddle pad has a cutout for the withers.

Numnahs also come in contoured shapes.

A basic and affordable contoured saddle pad.

A quilted saddle pad with a contoured topline

Fleece girth cover


This is an evaporative cooling blanket for horses

Another cooling blanket option for horses

Back On Track mesh sheets acts like a warming treatment


Fun colors and fringe for tail bags.


Tail protectors for trailering. 

Scrim sheet


This is a lighter scrim style of cooler


This slow feeder for pellets and grains helps your horse take his time eating. 

Heated bucket


Bucket warmer

Muck tubs can make great waterers

The gold standard in muck tubs, this one.

Small opening hay net

Traditional slow feeder with smaller openings

Vittles Vault 80 lb – many sizes to choose from!


Mattes Liquid MELP – 500ML – for sheepskin goods

Leather Therapy Leather Laundry Solution – for sheepskin, leathers, suede goods


Free laundry detergents may be better for your horse’s stuff



This saddle oil contains fungicides for your horse’s tack.


This fly bonnet is sound dampening.

Turn your horse into a mermaid with this fun fly bonnet.

Ear puffs don’t have to be fuzzy.

Fuzzy ear puffs for horses