18 Aug Horse Show Checklist: All the Essentials
Your first horse show will be fun, exciting, and nerve-wracking! When I first started going to horse shows, I almost always forgot important items that I needed and would have to borrow them from someone else. Having a horse show checklist and being aware of what should be included on that list can save you some stress on show day. Here is my personal horse show checklist!
Negative Coggins Test
Perhaps the most important thing to add to your horse show checklist is a negative Coggins test. Each year, your horse should be tested for Equine Infectious Anemia, a very contagious, dangerous, and incurable disease. Horse shows require documentation of a negative test to keep all the horses at the competition safe.
In order to even get into the show grounds at most competitions, you must present your horse’s negative Coggins test. This documentation will be given to you by your veterinarian after they’ve run the test. I recommend making extra copies of the document in case you were to ever lose the original.
Before your horse hasn’t had a Coggins Test in over a year and you’re preparing for your first show, you should schedule the vet out a month ahead of time so that they can run the bloodwork and get the results back to you beforehand.
If you’re planning to show your horse at an association-specific event, you will need to have your horse’s breed registration as well as your member association card on hand. Without proof of registration, your horse won’t be able to show in these specific shows.
Hay & Hay Nets
Horses were meant to be grazing for the majority of the day, and traveling and competing can tend to throw off that routine. Providing your horse with hay during travel and slow times during your competition can help keep their routine in check.
The Derby Hay Bag (see the price on Amazon) is a great durable hay net to use to give your horse hay. Bring an extra hay bale or two with you on show day and offer your horse hay throughout the day.
Buckets & Water
Horses need between 5 – 10 Gallons of water a day. (19 – 38 L) When a horse is traveling, competing all day, and dealing with the stress of trailering and shows, horses can become severely dehydrated if their water intake isn’t monitored.
Having a water bucket on hand, like the Friendly Swede Collapsible Bucket With Lid (price on Amazon) will allow you to transport water while trailering your horse. If you’re traveling long-distance to competition, your horse needs to be offered water every 2-3 hrs while on the trailer. This rule should be followed while you’re at the show grounds as well.
Like I mentioned previously, horses can get stressed at competitions which can make them not want to drink water. Check out our article, How to Get a Horse to Drink Water: Complete Guide, to learn some tips to help get your horse to drink.
Speaking of water, including electrolyte supplements, like Horse Health Apple-Dex, in your horse’s feed will cause them to want to drink more water. If you plan on showing regularly, adding electrolytes to your horse’s regular feeding routine is a good idea.
When you’re trailering your horse, you should always use a breakaway halter to tie them. A breakaway halter has a leather strap that can snap if need be, freeing the horse. In the case that there is an accident or your horse falls down in the trailer, the halter should break away and keep your horse from serious injury.
The Intrepid International Break Away Halter (link to Amazon) is a great halter to use for traveling that will give your horse security and safety in trailering situations.
Shipping boots help to protect your horse’s legs while trailering. The Amigo Travel Boots are great shipping boots to use on your horse. Shipping boots cover your horse’s entire lower leg to protect from kicking and offer extra support for the vibration of the moving vehicle.
Ahhh, there’s nothing like washing and brushing out your horse’s tail just to put them in the trailer and have them poop up against the wall and stain their tail green. Out of personal experience, I highly recommend getting a tail bag for these instances.
Tail bags go over your horse’s tail to keep them from getting dirty. Check out these tail bags on Amazon.
Bridle, Saddle, Girth
Your tack is one of the most important things to remember when it comes to horse shows. If you forget a piece of tack, you won’t be able to compete! Make sure that you pack your bridle, saddle, and girth into the trailer ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it later.
To check out some of our recommended tack pieces, click here to see our recommended products page.
I always bring a saddle cover when I compete or when I trailer my horse off-property. Saddle covers are fabric pieces that fit your saddle to provide cover and protection when need be. The saddle cover will keep your saddle from getting dirty while you wait for your class to start or it can keep your saddle safe from moisture if it starts to rain.
I recommend the Derby All-Purpose Nylon English Saddle Cover (link to Amazon) for English saddles and the Tough 1 Nylon Saddle Cover for western saddles. I have a pair of saddle covers that I always keep in my trailer for traveling.
If you’re an English rider, you may have a separate shaped saddle pad that you use specifically for competing. Shaped English saddle pads can offer you a clean and proper look that will catch the judge’s eye. If you’re looking for one of these pads, check out the Intrepid International English Saddle Pad on Amazon.
Always bring extra stirrup leathers. Stirrup leathers can be used for a number of things: to string your stirrup through, to sling up an injured arm, and to belt up loose pants. You can never go wrong having an extra few of these handy!
There have been many times when I’ve gotten to the show grounds just to realize that I forgot a piece of tack! Having extra tack pieces on hand can be a lifesaver. Bringing extra saddle pads, girths, bridles, and stirrup leathers can help you feel at ease when it comes time to compete.
Many competitions and activities require an ASTM-approved riding helmet to be worn by all competitors. If you don’t have a helmet, then you can’t ride. Click here to see a list of my favorite helmets.
In English show classes, your presentation of you or your horse can determine whether or not you’ll place. Hairnets help to keep your presentation spotless, keeping your hair tucked under your helmet without any flyaways. Find hair nets on Amazon by clicking here.
Riding gloves are another aspect that can add to your overall presentation as well as helping you keep a grip on your reins. The last thing the judge wants to see is a rider who has to keep adjusting their rein length because the reins are slipping through their fingers. I personally like these Noble Outfitters Riding Gloves.
In the English world, a light-colored shirt, usually white, with a high collar is the norm. This shirt can either be worn under a show coat or simply by itself in a more relaxed show environment. Check out the TuffRider Show Shirt on Amazon if you’re looking for some show clothes.
Show coats are probably the staple of English show classes. Show coats, like the R.J. Classics Ladies Sydney Show Coat, can complete your presentation to the judge. This is essential to your competition wardrobe, and I recommend keeping the coat in your trailer so you’ll always have it on hand.
Another signature to the English competitor is the tan or white breeches, like these ELATION Show Breeches (price on Amazon.) Have you ever wondered why many horse riders wear breeches? Check out our article, What Pants to Wear Horseback Riding.
Even if your riding pants fit you well, a belt is another staple to your show attire. Make sure you have a belt that matches your boots and tack.
Tall boots will help you look like you have it together when it comes to the show ring. They officially complete your show attire. If you need tall boots, I recommend the TuffRider Belmont Field Boot (link to Amazon.)
First Aid Kit
Keep a human and horse first aid kit nearby at all times when competing. Riders still fall off at horse shows and horses can still get injured. Even if you’re not the one in need, having this on hand can be a great help. Check out our recommended equine first aid kit on Amazon by clicking here.
Pillow wraps are puffy small-looking blankets that wrap around your horse’s lower leg and go under polo wraps. They help to support the leg in the case of an injury or recovery. Check out the Cashel No Bow Pillow Wrap if you need these on-hand.
Polo wraps can be used for a number of different things. These wraps can also add extra support in the case of an injury or recovery, but they can also add support when riding. You may notice jumpers and dressage horses wearing these wraps on their lower leg.
If you’d like a pair of polo wraps, check out the Rural365 Polo Wraps on Amazon.
Many times at competitions, horses compete in multiple classes and can get a full day’s worth of riding time. Giving your horse Absorbine Bute-Less Performance (link to Amazon) in their feed during the competition will help to keep their muscles from feeling sore or getting inflamed.
If you’re competing in a particularly demanding event, like jumpers, eventing, or endurance, having Absorbine Veterinary Liniment Gel can do wonders for your horse. Rub the liniment into your horse’s muscles after your ride to help increase the circulation and prevent soreness.
An aspect of horse shows is having a well-groomed horse. You can groom your horse at home before the show, but chances are they’ll mess something up on the trailer ride over. Have a brush set specifically designated to stay in your trailer for horse shows. This grooming kit on Amazon is a great buy for a brush set.
Sometimes, a braided mane is required in the show ring. Having braiding bands on hand to fix any last-minute mane mishaps can be a good idea. If you need braiding bands, check out the ones that I found on by clicking here.
Cowboy Magic is a lifesaver when it comes time to show day. Cowboy Magic is a spray you can use on your horse to detangle tails and manes, wipe away manure stains on their coats, or just to add a sheen to their look.
Having a hoof pick on hand is pretty self-explanatory. Picking out your horse’s hooves before you go into the arena will keep your horse comfortable. Horses may tend to hobble if they have a rock stuck in their hoof and this would look bad to the judges.
Rags are usually an important yet overlooked item when it comes to competition planning. Rags can be used to wipe the mud off your horse’s hooves, wipe the dust from your saddle, and wipe boogies out of your horse’s nose. Always have extra rags on hand!
Let’s face it; flies are annoying! They can also ruin your class by pestering your horse. Having fly spray on hand to dowse your horse with can make your showtime more enjoyable for both you and your horse.
Extra Halter & Lead Rope
I can never say this enough, but bring an extra halter and lead rope. I’ve been in many situations where this has come in handy. I’ve had to either replace broken halters or catch escaped horses. Lead ropes are a piece of equipment that can literally be used for a number of different things; that’s why I always have extra!
I always take a lunge line with me to competitions in case my horse is feeling fresh before showtime. When horses arrive in a new place and there’s a lot of activity going on like at shows, they tend to get worked up. Lunging your horse for a few minutes when you arrive can help them settle into their surroundings.
Check out the Tough 1 Lunge Line if you need a lunge line.
Likewise, I always have an extra lunge whip in my trailer if need be. (See lunge whip here.) I keep this around for lungeing or if I need to encourage a horse to get on a trailer.
When you’re at the show grounds, there may not always be an aid to mount your horse. Bringing along a lightweight mounting block can not only assist you in getting on your horse, but also act as a stool if you need to braid manes or reach your saddle on the highest rack. Here’s the mounting block that I’ve always kept in my trailer.
Why shouldn’t you bring treats to a horse show? After my horse has tried its heart out for me in my classes, there’s no better way I like to reward him by giving him a treat. My horse prefers these treats from Amazon.
Change of Clothes
Growing up, our entire lesson barn would ship out to the show grounds. From 7 Am to 4 Pm, the lessons kids competed in classes throughout the day; however, the majority of my classes were always in the morning.
Bringing along a change of clothes can be a great relief after a few tiring classes. Getting out of our rigid show clothes and into a breathable outfit can make the day much more enjoyable.
If you’re competing in the colder seasons, have a cooler sheet on hand, like the TuffRider Cooler Sheet. In many cases, horses can work up a sweat when in the show arena, even when it’s cold. Throw the cooler sheet on them after your ride to help wick away moisture and keep them from getting chilled as their muscles cool back down.
Maybe you’ve shown on lesson horses but never on a horse of your own. Maybe it’s time that you’re getting a new horse! Check out our article, New Horse Owner Shopping List (Everything You’ll Need) to see the products I personally recommend.
I’m a lifelong horse trainer and horseback rider who’s passionate about teaching others about the things I’ve learned. I grew up competing in numerous English horseback riding disciplines and am now a certified equine massage therapist. I currently own three horses.