Summertime is horse show time, and while you’ve probably been to a few competitions as a spectator, you’ve now decided to put aside any doubts and take on the challenge as a competitor.

While it might seem daunting at first, horse shows are a fun and rewarding experience for both horse and rider. We’ve put together a useful guide to getting you through your first horse show, and on the way to becoming a seasoned competition rider in no time.

What you’ll need

Before you sign up for a horse competition, you’ll need to ensure that the horse you intend to enter with is at a certain level of fitness, responds well to your commands and that you’ve built up a good relationship with your horse.

Your instructor will be able to guide you in terms of which type of competition to enter, as well as assisting you with the preparation for that class.

If you aren’t riding with an instructor, consider getting a lesson on two. The insights and guidance gained are well worth the expense, and will go a long way in assisting you with tackling your first horse show with ease.

Different showing classes

Most local competitions will have a few categories in which to compete, so it’s a good idea to establish your area of interest and work towards competing well in that class.

As this is your first time at a horse competition, think of it as an introduction to the experience, rather than a shot at gold. You’ll probably be a bit jittery on show day, as will your mount – go easy on yourself. It’s a good idea to sign up for no more than two classes, making sure they are spaced apart to avoid you rushing from one event to the other. If you’ve entered a jumping class, bear in mind that these generally have at least two rounds, and can run on for a few hours.

Most horse competitions that have jumping classes will have a ‘clear round’ event. This is a great place to start for newcomers, as it isn’t a competition as such, but merely a chance to challenge yourself and your mount in completing the course without knocking down any poles.


When it comes to horse competition, preparation is half the battle. Do your research well beforehand with regards to the documentation that you may be required to have with you on the day such as insurance and Coggins test.

You’ll also need to make arrangements to trailer your horse to the show. Getting this buttoned down ahead of time will go a long way in eliminating some stress.

Make sure you’re familiar with what tack and attire are required. You can usually find well cared for second-hand tack, which is a great place to start, and will help to cut costs as well. You may also find good quality used apparel as well, but it’s worth noting that some items such as boots can be expensive and tough to find a good fit, so allow for enough time to source these.

An important part of preparing for your first show is to attend a show to get a feel for how the show runs, as well as to gauge how your horse and abilities stack up against the competition.

If your horse in not familiar with show conditions, it might be worth taking your horse along to a horse show competition to see how he or she reacts to the environment.

Pre-Show Prep

Ensure that your horse is given a good bath and grooming before the competition, making sure that hooves are trimmed, neat and clean, and the mane and tail are even and free of tangles. Braiding isn’t essential, but if you choose to braid your horse’s mane or tail, do this the night before.

Give your tack a good cleaning before the time, and remember to take along some polish and leather cleaner for last minute touch-ups on the day. Other items you should take along with you on show day include grooming supplies, snacks for yourself and feed for your horse, and most importantly, any documentation that you’ll be required to have.

It’s always a good idea to pack the night before your first horse show– competition-day-nerves can lead you to forget important items.

Show day

On your first show day, you’re likely to be somewhat nervous. If you have planned carefully and completed your preparations, there’s not much to worry about but the safety and wellbeing of you and yourself. If you find that your horse is feeling a little jittery too, why not try Vetrocalm to steady his nerves? This calming horse supplement offers supporting ingredients to help your horse remain relaxed and steady.

Once you’ve settled your horse in at the show grounds, find the registration table where you’ll collect your number. You’ll be required to pin this on, so make sure you have some pins with you. 

Spend some time grooming your horse and making him or her feel comfortable and relaxed in the new surroundings. Allow for plenty of time to take your mount through a thorough warm up.

When it’s your time to shine, remember to smile (you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget!), and always be polite and friendly to the judges and other riders.

There may be long stretches during the day where you could be waiting around; make sure that your horse is well tended, and most importantly, well hydrated.

In all the planning and preparing, it’s easy to lose sight of the real purpose of horse show competitions – to raise the level of riding and to have fun. See your first few competitions as a chance to learn the ropes, have a good time, and build your confidence.