Congratulations on signing up for your first horse show! As a rider, your first horse show is one that you will always remember. No matter what level or type of discipline you have signed up for, complete preparation is the key to combating your first horse show jitters. Every equestrian has gone through and still goes through feeling nervous, excited, and stressed out over entering a horse show—whether they are new to the show community or a world-class Olympian!
In this article, we will talk about:
- A rundown of what to expect in your first horse show
- Training and other exercises for yourself and your equine
- What you and your riding partner must wear
- Your horse tack box checklist
The leap from spectator to competitive equestrian is quite a big one. Perhaps you’ve watched people riding horses for quite some time now and you think you’ve picked up what fully goes on in horse riding shows.
However, just like in anything, what you see as a horse show spectator is simply the tip of the iceberg. The few minutes that each equestrian has in the show took weeks or months of lessons and preparations. It’s only until you’re on the saddle yourself, being part of the horse show, that you get to know the ups and downs of the competitive horsing world.
One of the reasons why you chose that competition, in particular, is because you’ve watched it before and attended it as a spectator. Since the horse world is quite small, perhaps you know some of the equestrians who join that competition, or you have friends who will also be joining that show for the first time.
Familiarize yourself with the horse show you’re entering so that you won’t be all too shocked by the time competition day rolls around. Pore over video footage of horse shows that are of the same level as the one that you will be competing in. Talk to equestrians who used to compete in the show. The more you know, the more you can create a more detailed and targeted training plan for yourself to do well in your debut show.
Training for D-Day for You and Your Riding Partner
You, your four-legged pal, and your instructor will be working hand in hand to train properly for your first horse show. By now, you perhaps have a personalized plan of action to not just survive the show, but also to have a good showing for a first-timer.
Your training and any additional instruction will depend on the discipline and the level you chose. It’s always the safest and wisest choice that you select your actual level or a level below you because your goal must not be to win right away—that mindset will only bring you disappointment. Aim to instead gain much-needed experience, and that will help you feel less pressured to do perfectly. Rather, it’s better to give it your best.
Equestrian Attire: Your Discipline Dictates It
Each discipline has a particular attire to be followed, and your attire will also depend on the “formality” of each horse show. You don’t wear what you wore in a casual farm horse show when you show in the Olympics!
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, beginners need to start with smaller shows, just to get their feet wet. The smaller the shows, the smaller the requirements, rules, and regulations. Everything you need to know, from what to wear to the different levels, is in the rulebook of your respective horse show. As a rule of thumb, the most basic attire you will need is your helmet, riding shirt and pants, and boots.
What’s Inside Your Horse Tack Box?
From a simple trunk to a bespoke box with designated containers and drawers, a horse tack box contains everything you need to tack up your horse properly. In short, imagine horse tack boxes as a compartmentalized, traveling tack room of your local stable.
If you already have an existing tack box, it’s best to give it a good clean before your first show:
- Empty it and clean the trunk.
- Inspect each item and divide the items into usable items and items to throw out.
- Clean the items that you will be keeping or using for the show.
- Organize the items that you have with what you most frequently use within reach.
- Use storage boxes and dividers to keep everything in your tack box organized.
As a beginner, you are not expected to have a horse tack box overflowing with everything, but you do need your essentials and extras of those items. Your portable tack box only needs the following, but you may add to this list, depending on the competition you’re joining:
For your horse:
Your saddle depends on the discipline that you will be showing. A western saddle is different from an English saddle, and both are used for specific disciplines. For example, it’s a no-no to use a western saddle for dressage, and an English saddle won’t do on a rodeo.
Besides the kind of saddle you need to use, your saddle should be fitted properly on your horse, for both your comfort and safety.
- Saddle pad
Rules and regulations for your first show aren’t usually as strict as say, the Olympics, but they might prefer that you stick to certain colors or sizes. Saddle pads are not only for aesthetics, but they are also essential for the comfort and safety of your horse. If your horse does not have any specific conditions, a basic saddle pad will do. Consult with your equine’s veterinarian or your instructor to check if your riding partner can benefit from specialized saddle pads, such as a half pad or a gel pad.
Another detail that is important to check is if you need a western saddle pad or an English saddle pad, which would depend on the saddle you’re using, as well as the show that you’re entering.
Each event that you go to will have a tack room that will provide any extras, should any of your items, like your equine’s girth, break before the show. But if you can, bring an extra of this, especially if your riding pal is particular about the tack that they use. Also, the cinch or girth will depend on the discipline you will be showing, so double check if it’s the correct one.
While this may be available in the tack room of the event, your equine might be more comfortable using what they’re used to—the fewer changes during showtime, the more at ease they will feel.
Bring an extra halter, should your main one break.
- Other necessary bits
Check if the bits that you will be using are allowed or legal in the show that you and your equine partner will be joining.
- Protective boots and wraps
Your riding pal will need not just to keep warm, but for their legs to stay supported, clean and healthy, without getting in the way of their performance.
- Lead rope
Bring an extra lead rope. Preferably you use one during schooling and one for the show.
- Basic horse washing and grooming tools
Again, any stable will have the basic tools and cleaning supplies. However,if your four-legged pal has specific conditions or is picky about their products, it would be best to bring your own.
- Saddle cleaning supplies
Your saddle and the rest of your tack will also need their own set of cleaning supplies, from metal polishers to leather cleaners. By now, you have probably mastered how it’s like to clean your tack, and that’s a good routine to have—clean tack will last longer and won’t break as quickly as dirty, beaten-down ones.
- Your riding pal’s favorite snacks
Keeping your horse comfortable, healthy, and well-fed gives you a good, happy start to their competitive career!
For the equestrian:
The most important piece you need to keep yourself safe, your helmet should fit you as perfectly as possible. Check also if your helmet is standard issued and approved.
- Hairnets and hair ties
Looking neat for your first horse show is one of the best ways to show the judges that you’re ready and prepared for a great performance. Always have more than one hairnet and hair tie—these always seem to disappear!
- Riding gloves
Several sets of gloves are a must. Use one during schooling or warm-up, and use a different set for the show itself. Match your riding gloves with your entire attire and make sure that it’s suited for the show you’re joining, and for the weather.
Your first horse show might be causing the jitters, but we hope that it won’t overpower this momentous occasion. It’s a big deal that you have decided to take the leap into competitive riding! You always remember your first time—make it count, and may you have a great time!
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