Packing and prep advice for those thinking of trying an “away” show
By Susanna Newsonen
As I was packing the trailer ahead of the weekend, the butterflies in my stomach were going wild. I hesitantly eyed everything I had squeezed in and pulled out my packing lists for one last check. With these nerves, my mind was barely able to focus. I hoped I would feel better when I got to the show venue.
My stress was completely self-imposed. After a decade of competing in one-day dressage shows, I had taken the leap and entered a two-day show. This meant that my horse, Mickey, and I would be staying overnight at the show grounds—something we’d never done before. We would arrive Friday and compete Saturday and Sunday. It was equally exciting and terrifying.
Thankfully, as a planner and control freak, I had prepared well. I had packing lists for me and my horse. My own list included:
My usual competition gear (jacket, hat, boots, shirts, breeches, white gloves, stock, stock pin, hair net, boots, spurs)
Wallet, phone, and phone charger
Black gloves and gray breeches for our Friday schooling ride
And for Mickey:
Tack, including two white saddle pads for show plus a schooling pad
Snaffle bridle and lunge line
Three days’ worth of feed
Hay and hay net
Travel shavings fork
Carrots and apples (very important!).
With everything loaded, it was time to go. I loaded Mickey and set off on the road. After three hours, we arrived at the show grounds. I’d checked our stable assignment online beforehand, so I was able to inspect the stall before unloading. While Mickey settled in, I posted my name and number on his stable door in case of emergency.
When I rode Mickey and he felt his usual self, I started to enjoy our weekend away. I wasn’t allowed to enter the competition arena but was allowed to walk around it. Mickey spooked at the flower decorations, but after passing them a few times, he settled. This was promising.
That evening, I had dinner with my trainer and some of her other students who were also there for the weekend. It was nice to have support alongside me. Around 10:00 p.m., I did the night check, which included giving Mickey his overnight hay. Then I went straight to bed, visualizing the next day’s ride before falling asleep.
I woke to my alarm at 7:00 am and gave Mickey his morning hay and feed. I left him to eat in peace while I ate what little breakfast I could get down me. I then took him for a 20-minute hand-walk around the grounds. He was a little frisky, but he listened to me. I was starting to get excited again; I think we both were.
After the walk, I groomed Mickey and braided his mane. I changed into my competition gear before tacking him up. We were ready. Mickey felt great in the warm-up and proceeded to perform a beautiful test. In fact, it was so beautiful we ended up winning! I was equally ecstatic and shocked. Maybe overnight shows were the way to go.
Then I went straight back into grooming mode, topping up Mickey’s hay, giving his next feed, and mucking out his stall. I cleaned the tack so it would be ready for the next day, and I took him for an evening walk and graze. He seemed even more relaxed than before and also increasingly curious. It was nice to see. The same routine of the evening before followed, as did the next morning. We had another great ride and finished second. I couldn’t have been more pleased.
As we headed back home on Sunday afternoon, I was exhausted but so fulfilled. My first overnight show had been a success and made me want to do many more. If you’re tempted to do the same, here is how to make the most of it.
1. Be prepared. Make packing lists, pack as much as possible the day before departure, and check that you’ve got everything before you set off. Write a schedule for each day of the show so you know what you’re doing and when. It will help you worry less about what’s going on and enable your mind to fully focus on your performance.
2. Take your time. Being well-prepared means that you don’t need to rush. Instead, you can take your time with every task, without stress. Don’t get lost in the hustle and bustle of the show. Stay mindfully connected to your own inner calm.
3. Spend as much time as possible with your horse. It’s educational and interesting to watch the other rides, and it’s nice to soak up the competition atmosphere. But don’t forget that this is a weekend away for you and your horse. Spend plenty of time with him, even outside your grooming and riding duties. He will appreciate your presence in this unknown environment, and you will enjoy bonding with him through some extra cuddles.
4. Go with a team if possible. You can totally do it on your own, but it is much more fun to show with a group. That way, you can help one another in the warm-ups, film one another’s rides, and debrief together afterward. It is also nice to have company in the evenings for dinner, to get your mind off competing for a bit and simply relax with good food and good company.
5. Breathe. You’ve got this. It’s just like any other show day, just with some extra grooming duties and a bigger packing list.
Susanna Newsonen is a freelance writer and amateur dressage rider who lives in France. Her new book, Horse Girl, will be released this fall. Her website is SusannaNewsonen.com.