Tips for horse show grooming


Getting ready for a horse show can be as simple as your regular routine plus a few things.  Tips for horse show grooming are not complicated, and should not take up much more of your time. 


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  • The mission at a horse show is to be the best you can be, reflecting your hard work at home both in and out of the saddle. If you work at your grooming routine at home, very little needs to change at the show.


  • I’m a big fan of doing a little bit every day, this helps desensitize your horse to some grooming tasks and helps you avoid the last-minute, pre-show grooming blitz when you should be packing, eating, or sleeping.


Things to keep up with at home so horse show grooming is easy:


  • Mane taming. This may include pulling, training to lay to one side, and even practicing braiding. This is a great way to get your horse used to having his mane handled and braided. Show day is no time to find out that he hates being braided!




  • Tail taming. Banging the tail, keeping the tail top tidy with either scissors, clippers, or pulling.  Your discipline will dictate how the tail should be.  Hunters are rarely banged, and most event horses have a tail top that is clipped. 


  • Any manure stain management. Deal with this daily so the stains don’t become impossible to remove.  Part of this is NOT blasting your horse with stain-removing shampoos and detergents.  You want your horse’s natural oil to do the job of stain repelling. 


  • Tack TLC. Keep up with cleaning, conditioning, and safety inspections.




It’s the details!




  • Lower leg clipping, ear hair trimming, and even face clipping. You certainly don’t have to do any of these things, but lower-leg clipping helps chrome pop. Ear hair trimming can be as simple as removing the fly away on the ear edges. Some breeds face their faces clipped for a horse show; it’s optional.


  • Products! Try them out at home so you know how things will go at the show. You may love one detangle for the tail, but a conditioner for the mane works better. This also helps your packing list.


  • Sheath cleaning and udder cleaning. The sheath and udder areas can sometimes ooze out some smegma and create sticky stains inside your horse’s upper leg. Perfect for show-day panic attacks, but not if you regularly remove any build-up. 


Things to add to your normal grooming routine for show day



  • If you have been keeping up, these shouldn’t add a lot of time, but they will make your horse stand out in the ring.


  • Give your horse extra white chrome. Use cornstarch, baby powder, or Show Touch Ups to brighten legs before you meet the judge.  Be warned – using cornstarch or baby powder can get messy with rain and mud.  Show Touch Up spray lasts for days and days. 


  • You can add volume and color to your horse’s tail with Show Touch Up spray, too. 





  • A clean nose and mouth. While I typically wipe my horse’s nose daily, I usually only rinse his mouth before the bit goes in on show day. I use a 60cc syringe to ensure no hay bits are waiting to create green foam that will inevitably flail back and hit white legs, clean saddle pads, or me. For tips on training your horse to love this, look here!


horse-with-syringe No green foam for the show ring!


  • Extra shine. I like to top off show prep with a sheen product. You can also use a smidge of grooming oil around noses. Bonus – some stain protection overnight. You can also use a wisp for massive extra shine, learn to make one here!


  • Super nice (and white) saddle pads. Show pads are definitely separate from everyday saddle pads.  If you have a gray horse, white saddle pads often make grays look blah, so you could opt for a black saddle pad.  Check the rules, too. 


  • Saddle conditioner. At home, I might clean the saddle daily and condition it weekly or so. At the show, you can use a lederbalsam just before you get on. This creates a nice sheen on your tack and some added stickiness for your bum. Both are good to have on hand to impress the judges.




Have fun at the show!


What extra steps does your grooming routine have for shows?




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Thank you!