I’m a planner. Probably to the point of obsession – but it lets me sleep at night knowing exactly how my day will play out. When it comes to horse shows, I have to know how each MINUTE will play out. I’ve made a lot of errors estimating how much time something will take me. I can’t tell you how many times I’m scrambling to get on my horse and into the warmup ring, even after carefully planning out my prep schedule. And the “10 minutes per class” average? It doesn’t hold true with every judge. If your judge is running 9 minutes/class, and you’re in the 20th class, you’ve lost 20 minutes without even trying.
So how do you plan your day at a horse show to ensure you get in the ring on time, perfectly turned out, without the added stress of last-second rushing around? Lots and lots of planning and practice.
I recently showed my horse at the IASPHA Spring Horse Show, so this is a recap of the two days where I showed. Fortunately for me, I had a person there to help both days, but even so, things still had to be planned down to the minute.
Qualifier – Friday Evening, 14th Class
Since I pretty much had all day, things weren’t as rushed as they were on Sunday, where I showed in the morning session.
7:00 am: Arrive at show grounds. Feed and water my horse, clean his stall.
- 7:30-noon: Work. I set up a table in my tack room and bring my wifi hotspot and laptop, and spend the day working. I eat breakfast and lunch while working.
- 12:00-1:00: Work my horse. Since we were working through some issues from a prior show, I wanted to get in a ride before my first class. It was a fairly short ride, but helped me see how he was doing.
- 1:00-2:00: Wash and dry his tail and white legs. Tail put up in bauble. From this point forward, every time I walk past his stall, if there is a pile of manure, I pick it out.
- 2:00-2:45: Clean tack, put number on suitcoat, dunk and pick out tail switch, cut shoe strings, make sure everything is ready to go.
- 2:45-4:00: Work.
- 4:00-4:10: Feed and water my horse.
- 4:10-5:00: Go to dinner.
- 5:00-5:30: Do my hair and makeup.
- 5:30-6:40: Work.
- 6:40: Put horse on crossties and remove sheet and tailset. Black and braid. While feet are drying, put in tail switch (my tail switch is braided in, so I can do it quite early).
- 7:00: Class #1 goes into the ring. From this moment on, my sense of time switches from the clock to the class numbers.
- Class 4: Horse is completely groomed, oiled, and ready to go by this time. I get dressed in everything but my coat, hat and gloves.
- Class 7: Saddle my horse.
- Class 8: Put on tail brace. If I was doing this alone, I would allow one additional full class.
- Class 12: Bridle my horse. Put on my coat, hat and gloves. Run around like a crazy person because I forgot where I put my mounting block.
- Class 12 Reverses: Get on horse and head to warmup ring.
- Class 14: Enter show ring.
Championship – Sunday Morning, 4th Class
- 6:30 am: Arrive at show grounds. Feed and water my horse, clean his stall.
- 8:00: Wash and dry his white legs.
- 8:15: Spritz tail, unbraid and pick. Put up in bauble.
- 8:50: Put horse on crossties and remove sheet and tailset. Black and braid. Put in tail switch. Groom horse.
- 9:20: I get dressed in everything but my coat, hat and gloves.
- 9:40: Saddle my horse.
- 9:50: Put in tail brace. If I was doing this alone, I would allow an extra 10 minutes.
- 10:00: Class #1 goes in.
- Class 2: Bridle my horse. Put on my coat, hat and gloves.
- Class 2 Reverses: Get on horse and head to warmup ring.
- Class 4: Enter show ring.
As you can see, my routine is very much the same regardless of when I show – things are just spread out more when I have more time to prepare. The compression of time is what causes me to rush and forget steps, or my fingers to fumble when I’m trying to put on the tail brace. But if I leave too much time, then my horse is standing on crossties too long or has his tail brace on too early. It’s a very delicate balance and I’m still fine tuning it.
If you’ve got a horse show coming up and you don’t have a lot of experience doing this on your own, sit down and make a list of everything you have to do before you go in the ring. I mean everything. Don’t leave out the small things – because those are the things that will end up costing you time you didn’t realize you needed. I always forget that I have to put my gloves on BEFORE I put my coat on (long cuff gloves go under your shirt cuffs!). Taking off my coat to put my gloves on takes extra time. So don’t miss any steps. And then give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. Even if you know that it takes you 8 minutes to pick out a tail, give yourself 15. Because if you don’t, your horse will take that moment to break his crossties and spill his bucket of water all over your saddle (ask me how I know?).
After you have your list, put it in order of how you want to do it. Then practice, practice, practice!
But whatever you do, don’t stress too much. Horse shows aren’t “life or death” situations. They’re fun. Yes, they’re jam packed with a ton of work in a very short period of time, but they are supposed to be fun. That’s why we do this!
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