Download the PDF at the bottom of this article for a printable Hunter/Jumper Show Checklist you can use!
Horse shows are a beautiful exhibition of the sublime connection between equine and equestrian: a test of athleticism, training, and preparation that helps to advance and improve equine sport. But they can also be pretty stressful too.
The best way to minimize the stress of showing is, in principle anyway, pretty simple: be prepared. And not just for the expectations of the judge or class, but being prepared for what your day will bring, too.
Preparation is more than just making sure you remembered your number – it’s about making sure your mind is ready for the ring, as well. With that in mind, we’ve prepared the Ultimate Hunter/Jumper Horse Show Checklist to help you take control of your show day- from what’s in your tack box to how you’ll stay calm and focused before you enter the ring.
We can’t promise you’ll end up in the ribbons, but you should at least make it home with your sanity (mostly) intact.
Reduce Show Ring Stress
Being prepared means having what you need, but also being able to find it when you need it.
Make a list of everything you need (Hint: the lists below are a great guide!), and keep a copy with your show equipment, on your phone, in your tack box – wherever you might need it.
When it comes to packing your show gear, here are a few tips:
- Label everything Especially important if you’re bringing several boxes. If you’re shipping multiple horses, color-code each horse’s equipment.
- Prepare to stack Look for rugged containers with lids that you can stack on top of one another. Avoid flimsy containers like cardboard boxes and grocery bags.
- Start early Start compiling and packing your show supplies well in advance of the show.
- Pack with unpacking in mind Pack logically, in the order you’re likely to use things. If you know you’ll need a lead rope and bucket right away, don’t pack those at the back of the trailer. Make sure your first aid kit is always readily accessible.
If you show regularly, consider investing in “show only” supplies – a kit that stays with your trailer or packed away in a kit that only goes with you to shows.
Show Tack Checklist
Pack everything your horse usually needs to do his job. If you have spare tack (even if it’s just your old stuff) consider bringing that along as well in case of an emergency or accident. This is especially true for thinner leather goods, such as bridle pieces or stirrup leathers. Even if you never use it, you might be able to help a less-prepared barnmate in a pinch.
Here’s what your show tack checklist might look like:
- girth cover
- martingale (if allowed in your division)
- show bridle
- extra bits
- schooling saddle pad for warmup
- show pad
- sheepskin half pad
- underpad, riser, non-slip or therapeutic pads (if used)
- ear net
- reusable bridle numbers
- jumping/ splint boots
- polo wraps
- bell boots
Horse Equipment Checklist
What exactly you need to bring will depend on the duration of the show, as well as how far from home you are. Here’s a sample list for a 1 to 2 day show, away from home.
- blanket(s), depending on weather
- show sheet or dress sheet
- leather halter
- shipping or spare halter
- extra lead ropes
- first aid kit
- tack cleaning kit
- quilts/ no bow wraps
- stall or standing wraps
- liniment or poultice
- stud kit (if used)
- lunging equipment: lunge line, whip, cavesson
- paperwork: immunization record, proof of a negative Coggins test, passport or registration papers for larger shows.
- grooming kit – curry, stiff mud brush, body brush, finishing brush, grooming mitt, hoof pick, hoof polish, etc. (check out our step-by-step grooming guide here)
- braiding kit – mane comb, clips, yarn, elastics, pull-through, seam ripper, scissors.
- bathing kit – bucket, body and face sponges, shampoo, conditioner, detangler, sweat scraper, towels.
- ring bucket – hoof pick & brush, finishing brush, 3 towels (a dry one, a wet one, and one for slobber), baby wipes, small scissors, shine spray, treats, water bottle, plus extra sunscreen, spare sunglasses, or anything else you tend to forget.
- touch up clippers
- fly spray
- baby powder or cornstarch for white markings
- shine spray, like Showsheen
If stalls are provided by the organizer, they should be safe and well maintained. However, it’s smart to be prepared to do a bit of cleaning (or decorating) yourself:
- bailing twine or wire (for hanging up those ribbons!)
- staple gun and staples
- multi-head screwdriver
- duct tape
- zip ties
- extension cords
- horse-safe fans
- fire extinguisher
- hose and nozzle
- lock (for tack room)
- stall ties or cross ties
- stall guard
- saddle and bridle racks
- shavings fork or pitchfork
- wheelbarrow or muck hopper
- box curtains for tack room or nervous horses who get stressed at shows
- cleaning solution to disinfect the stall (preventing infectious diseases at horse shows has never been more important. Read our article for more advice on how to keep your horse healthy at a show)
- water buckets
- feed pan
- hay net
- stall card with your horse’s name and your emergency contact info
- plenty of hay, feed, and water from home to last the entire show
Rider Apparel Show Checklist
If it’s been packed away since last season, try on your show outfit and give it a quick once over for repairs or alterations that might be needed. Then, pack your expensive show duds in protective cases or garment bags, where appropriate.
Here’s what to pack, from head to toe:
- hairnet or barrette with attached net
- show shirt
- show coat
- body protector (for cross country)
- breeches (pack a spare pair in case of a muddy fall. Or coffee spill.)
- boot socks, plus spares
- spurs (if used)
- extra spur straps
- boot pulls
- boot jack
- rubber boot covers
- rain coat
- rain pants
- barn clothes for dirty work, like mucking or bathing
- lint roller
- needle and thread
- stain remover stick
- extra buttons that match your show coat and shirt
- laundry bag
- sun hat or visor
- extra hair ties, bobby pins, etc.
- safety pins and string for your number
Rider Equipment for a Horse Show
You keep your horse comfortable, hydrated and rested between rounds – don’t forget to do the same for yourself. Pack what you need before you head out for the day if it’s a local show, or pack a cooler (and ask for an in-room fridge) if you’ll be staying overnight in a hotel.
Make sure to bring:
- healthy snacks
- lots of water
- folding chair
- step stool
- phone charger and spare battery or battery bank
- baby wipes
- toilet paper (you never know when the port-a-potty will run out, and you never want to be caught without this!)
- cash and credit cards, as there will probably be fees in addition to your registration fee
- your cheering squad! Showing is supposed to be fun above all. Sharing your show experience with family, friends, and barnmates, and maybe enjoying a little healthy competition along the way, is what showing is all about.
Mental Preparation for Equestrians
You’ll be hard at work preparing your tack and your horse for the show, but don’t forget to prepare yourself as well.
Before you head out, practice getting mentally focused at home. Building your ‘mental toolkit’ of techniques and strategies to stay calm and focused on show day will help you stay focused. And when you’re calm and focused, you can help your horse stay relaxed as well.
Here are three mental practices to perfect that will help you be a more successful competitive equestrian. Practice these at home, just as you’d practice any other skill you need to use at a show.
What’s your goal for this show season? What is something you’d like to achieve that will make you a better equestrian?
Avoid setting goals that are out of your control, like first place or class champion. Instead, focus on more personalized priorities, like “increase my confidence over 3’6 jumps”, “perfect my lower leg position” or “give Junior a positive first show experience”.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, focusing on the one thing that you’re really here to achieve can help quiet unhelpful mental chatter.
Now that you’ve got the “why” sorted, focus on the “how” – techniques that you can use to help you stay calm and focused on show day. Two that many riders swear by are mindfulness and visualization.
Mindfulness for equestrians often includes deep breathing and focusing on the present moment. Practice box-breathing, a fancy sounding name for a simple breathing method:
- inhale for a count of four
- hold your breath for a count of four
- exhale for a count of four
- hold the exhale for a count of four
This slow, rhythmic breathing can help reduce blood pressure, calm anxiety, and minimize hypertension. It can feel a little unnatural at first, so practice it at home first. Use it before you enter the ring, or when faced with anything else that makes you nervous or tense.
Visualization for equestrians is popular in the hunter/jumper world, but can apply to any discipline. Before you enter the ring, imagine jumping the course perfectly. Clearly visualize every detail you can; every stride, takeoff, landing and lead change, perfectly in sync. The greater the detail, the more effective the visualization. If you can see it perfectly in your mind, you’ll be that much more likely to achieve it in real life.
Visualization can also be a great memory tool as well, especially if you struggle to memorize new courses. If you have the opportunity for a course walk, you’ll naturally be doing some visualization as you imagine his strides, takeoff and landing points.
Practice memorizing strange courses at home, visualizing the flow of the course, more so than a list of jumps and numbers. You can find lots of great course ideas on Pinterest, or swap courses with friends and test each other’s memory.
Practicing mindfulness and visualization at home may feel funny at first, but they’re useful skills for any serious equestrian. Knowing how to keep yourself calm and focused before you get show ring stressed will help keep you, and your horse, primed to perform.
Now that your tack, show clothes, horse and barn supplies are ready to go, there’s one last to-do on your horse show checklist – to make sure that you’re ready. It can be challenging with all the excitement of a show, but try to:
- get plenty of sleep the day before
- eat a healthy breakfast, but avoid overdoing it on the caffeine
- maintain your regular morning routine as much as possible. If your body is accustomed to a run, yoga, or meditation session in the morning, try to stick to that if you can
- keep it positive! You and your horse are here because you deserve to be. You worked for it, you earned it, and you deserve it. Every great equestrian has missed a distance, knocked a rail, or had a less-than-ideal takeoff. But the important thing is to keep looking towards the next obstacle.
- ride your own ride. As much as everyone wants to win, the real goal of horse shows is improvement. So while you’re worried about that hard-to-beat time or intimidated by that super-fancy hunter class, remember: for all you know, there’s probably a rider wishing she was as calm, polished, and put together as you are.
Now Entering the Ring…
Horse shows can be a ton of fun. The hard work of preparation, the excitement of show day, the thrill of achievement and the friendships built in and out of the ring are all part of the experience – the ribbons are just souvenirs. A little preparation can go a long way towards a more enjoyable, less stressful experience.
You’ve earned your time in the ring – now go enjoy it!
If you want your own handy Show Checklist, just download and print the one we’ve made for you below!
Let us know…
Did we miss anything? Is there one show-ring must-have you can’t go without? Sound off in the comments below.