Spring Cleaning: How to Prepare for Horse Show Season (5 Tips)
Ready for the snow and ice to melt away and for shows to start up again? Spring is just around the corner and for many riders, that means a chance to get into the competition ring. But rather than leaving everything to the last minute, why not take advantage of the downtime before shows start to come thick and fast?
The “in-between” period of the weeks leading up to when the show season really gets underway are valuable in terms of preparation. And as we know, preparing properly is crucial when it comes to anything horsey!
Here’s how you can use those few weeks of “in-between time” to make sure you’re show-ready this Spring.
1. Organize your show wardrobe
Got a new horse? Lost weight, changed shape, grown taller? Organizing your show wardrobe means checking that your show outfits still fit and are in good condition, making sure everything is together, and replacing any odds and ends you might need.
Hairnets, stock pins, and riding crops tend to go to the same place that lost socks do – so you might need to buy an extra one or two online.
It can be helpful to store things neatly and together. For instance, hairnets and bobby pins can be kept in Ziploc bags. Your show helmet and gloves can go in a helmet bag alongside spurs. Your jacket and stock tie can be kept in a proper jacket bag along with your show shirt and hung up neatly. It’s even useful to have an “odds and ends” tin or bag with things like bridle numbers and other miscellaneous items. And when it’s time to leave on the morning of the show, a huge tote means you can put EVERYTHING in together.
2. Wash everything!
If your show gear has been gathering dust for a few months, it’s probably time to get it all clean and sparkling in preparation for show season. Dry clean your show jacket (or chuck it in the washing machine if it’s safe to do so), brush out those saddle pads to get rid of any loose hairs, throw them in the washing machine, and avoid frantic cleaning of everything the night before you compete.
Here are a few other things you should think about checking and cleaning if needed before you enter your first show:
- Tack, of course!
- Your horse’s show brushes and cloths
- Travel blankets or sweat sheets
- Horse boots or bandages
- Show helmet lining or inners, if applicable
You’ll feel good knowing everything is clean, washed, and ready to go. And in the process, you’ll realize if there’s anything that needs replacing or repairing.
Which brings us to our next point…
3. Fix and clean tall boots
This might not be applicable to you, but our show boots are often different to everyday boots. If they’ve been stored in a less-than-ideal way, you might notice that a zipper is a little sticky or they need a good polish. If your show boots and everyday boots are the same, they’ve probably taken a beating this winter.
To avoid having a zip failure or a seam splitting while you trot down center line, give your boots a thorough clean and inspection, and take them to have any small faults fixed if you find any.
4. Plan your show schedule
Once your gear is ready to go, it’s time to actually plan your show schedule for the next few months. Think about what your goals for the year are, what you need to do to get there, how much ring mileage you need for it, and so on.
If you can have a solid plan for the next 2-3 months outlining which shows you’d like to attend, what classes you want to do and where you’ll go up a level (if applicable), you can plan your training around that. It also means you don’t enter shows last minute and arrive unprepared, or that you accidentally compete three weeks in a row and then go 4 months without any other shows.
Plan your lessons or clinics in advance with your show schedule in mind. For instance, maybe you want to make sure your twice-monthly lesson will happen the week before you do your first second-level test. But not the day before, because your horse will be exhausted.
Preparation is key!
5. Consider whether you have additional needs
Need some help to reach your goals? While there’s still some downtime, why not consider doing a rider confidence or sport psychology course or session? It can make a huge difference to your attitude in the saddle and might be some of the best money you spend.
Another often-overlooked area of show preparation is rider fitness. Riding at a show tends to be more tiring as there’s lots of running around, traveling, early mornings, and so on. Plus, your horse might be fresh and need more riding than usual – and you might be full of adrenaline! Focusing on improving your fitness and strength in the run up to show season will serve you well when you hit that competition ring.
There’s nothing more rewarding than getting out to go and compete after the long, hard slog of winter. Spring shows are one of the best parts of equestrian sports. What are your rituals and preparation tips to make sure you’re ready to get in the ring this Spring? Let us know by leaving a comment!