Essential Horse Show Prep—and 20 must bring items


By Sally O’Dwyer

Win the preparation so that you can do your best at the show.  Reduce your stress and have more fun.

The internet is stocked with horse show checklists to download and print-out.  Select one to use as you pack so you have what you need. 

Here is a sample list from Valley Vet.

Packing and Planning Strategy: More Than a Checklist 

Assuming you are going to a multi-day show, here are a few suggestions:

Before the Show

Start packing for the show at least a week in advance.

Review tack and clothing to make sure that they meet USDF/USEF requirements.  Try everything new out before the show—including saddle pads, helmets, tack, etc.

Check supplies to make sure spray bottles, etc. are full.  Also, check that braiding bands have not rotted during the off-season.

Upload all documents and send them in beforehand.  Keep copies and store in the trailer, just in case.

Label everything with your name. 

“Toterize” Your Stuff

Travel with plastic totes with lids to stay organized.  Stay disciplined and avoid the Pandora’s Box syndrome by labeling your totes with what is in them (packing similar items together). During the show, force yourself to keep things in their rightful place.  Clear totes are best so you can see what is in them, and Ziploc bags work for keeping smaller items together.

Invest in a high-quality wheelbarrow.  They are great to transfer stuff from the trailer to your stall and to clean stalls. Five-gallon buckets and lightweight trunks with wheels are also great. In fact, anything on wheels is helpful.

Bag up grain per feeding into individual Ziploc bags. Bring more hay than you think you will need.

Get to the show early to have plenty of time to set-up. Better yet, go the day before the show so you and your horse can get accustomed to the show grounds.

Really, do not bring too much stuff

More stuff means more mess.  And the more you bring, the more you need to haul home.  Once at the horse show, only bring out the essentials and keep the rest in the trailer.  Load the trailer in reverse-so the stuff that may not be needed is in the back.

Split a tack room with others and share items, such as wheelbarrow, pitchfork, broom, pan, etc. Bring an outdoor rug to put down in the tack room, and a broom and pan to keep it as clean as possible.

For bedding, I usually order 4 bags to fill the empty stall.  I then add one extra per day (except for the last day).  Plenty of bedding may encourage your horse to lay down at night.

Do Not Leave Home Without the Items Below

These items may or may not be on the checklist you have. Many of the suggested items below can be picked up at the thrift shop!

1. Dry erase board and markers to record ride times-place in a visible area.

2. Folding table—Toss in a tablecloth too to glam up your digs.  This is your command station where all important items will reside.  Bring a bowl to designate for keys, phones, and glasses.  Put your people and horse treats on your table as well.  Make this inviting—one of the reasons we go to shows is to meet people.

3. Cooler with bevies and healthy snacks.  Do not bring junk food and end up feeling unwell.  Bring lots of drinks and avoid dehydration.   There may not be time to get food at a concession—avoid becoming “hangry.”

4. Several black trash bags.  Hang one out each day for trash and be diligent about keeping the site clean and tidy.

5. Comfy folding chairs.  Totes and five-gallon buckets can serve as ottomans to put feet up on!  Bring extra for guests! At horse shows, there is a lot of down time, so make sure you are comfortable and can relax.

6. Four Kits-grooming, braiding, and bathing kits for your horse. You need a personal care kit for yourself as well, that includes hairbrush, hairspray, hairnet, etc.  Do not forget to bring a mirror to hang somewhere for you to check your beauty.

7. Saddle stand and stall hangers for bridle, halter, etc.  Keep stuff off the floor—no piles allowed.

8. Extra double sided snap clips, zip ties and bailing twine to tie up buckets and other things.  Do not forget the duct tape.

9. Extension cord with multiple outlets for fans, phone charger, and speaker.  Play some soft calming music.

10. Four buckets:  One for feed, two for water, and one for bathing.

11. Hose and sprayer—use a five-gallon bucket to contain this.

12. Cleaning rags that can be used and tossed out.

13. Clothing – all kinds of weather and bring layers.  Aside from show clothes, bring clothes you do not care about!  Avoid heat exhaustion by taking shade breaks and wear a hat and use sunblock.

14. Fans (for horses AND people) or heaters (for people only) -as the weather dictates.

15. If possible, a fresh pair of white pants for each show day.  Also, bring an apron or long skirt to wear to avoid getting dirty.  Hang clothes in a clothing bag.

16. A good luck charm.

17. Pillow from home to help you sleep in the hotels.

18. Arts and crafts—make a stable sign for your beloved—include emergency contact numbers.

19. Good camera. This is a special event so take lots and lots of pictures.

20. A friend.  Even with COVID restrictions, you can check with show management and inquire if someone may accompany you.  A pair of extra hands and a cheerleader will make your show experience the best.

See you at the show.  May you stay organized and have all that you need at your fingertips.

And, of course, have a good ride!

About me. I am an adult amateur dressage rider, living in Boulder, Colorado.  I have horses and enjoy learning and competing in dressage.  I hope to encourage others to GO FOR IT!

Leave a Reply