Basics for Show Box
- Rags / Towels – wipe out nose boogers and eye boogers, clean dust of your horse, wipe down tack and boots before you enter into the arena
- Rubber Curry Comb – shed hair, remove sweat marks and mud
- Stiff and Soft Brushes – brush out dander and dust. Use the soft brush on the head and sensitive areas, final dust off with show sheen product with the soft brush
- Hoof Pick – clean out hooves, scrape off mud and manure from the outside of the hoof
- Show Sheen type product – detangler, dirt and green spot repellant.
- Fly Spray – find a spray that works for you. Spray your horse’s legs and underline for Showmanship and Halter – this helps to discourage them moving after you’ve squared them up. Use sparingly on the body for the halter and showmanship classes – most fly sprays act like a dirt magnet.
- Baby Powder / Corn Starch – helps to whiten and let markings. Be sure to brush the powder into the skin and then brush off the excess (pro-tip – don’t back the hooves right before you use these products – it’s a mess)
- Baby Oil – grease your horse’s muzzle, bridle path, and the top of their eyes. Can also be used to tame flyaway in the forelock and mane
- Safety Pins – Always, always have extras! Pinning on numbers, emergency pants/shirt repair etc.
- Mane & Tail comb – something wider toothed so you don’t rip out as much tail hair, smaller toothed if you are going to band your horse’s mane.
- Shampoo / Conditioner – something mild.
- Hose - In order to bath or to fill water buckets.
Basics for the Trailer
- Buckets - always bring your own buckets for water. This helps to minimize spread of disease – as much as we like to share in 4-H, only let horses that live together drink out of the same bucket.
- Hay & Feed - Always bring extra. If you use a bag or net, or pans, bring them as well.
- Extra Halters & Lead Ropes - Things happen – if you have a horse set back and break a lead, it’s nice to have a backup.
- Shavings & Bedding - Unless the show you are going to doesn’t allow for outside bedding. Check with the show manager before you leave.
- Stall Fork & Muck Bucket or Wheelbarrow - Keep you stalling / trailer area clean. This helps keep you and your groomed horse clean and helps to keep the flies down.
- Health Certificates / Brand Inspections - Just good to have with you, some shows will require this at time of entry.
- Hair - Like all of your 4-H animals, coat condition isn’t in a bottle – it starts with good nutrition and worming program, as well as some elbow grease on your end. The rubber curry comb is used more than just for shedding out hair. Use the rubber curry in a circular motion to remove sweat marks and long hair. At this point in the summer, your horse should be shed out, so instead, use the rubber curry in straight strokes – this helps to shorten the hair shaft, so that it lays flat. It also stimulates skin to produce natural oils so your horse’s coat has better shine in the sun.
- Bathing - When washing your horse, use a small bucket with a little bit of shampoo mixed with the water and a brush to wash the body – just like you may do with other livestock. Scrub them down and make sure you rinse completely. Pay special attention to the fronts of the hind cannon bones on Geldings and the back of the hock and cannon bones on Mares. Urine mixed with dirt and sweat makes for a funky mess of skin and hair. Be watching for your horse to be rubbing their mane and tail. When washing the mane and tail, don’t dilute the shampoo and be sure to wash clear down to the skin on both the tail head and mane bed, but also make sure you get all the shampoo out. Left over residue will also encourage rubbing. Use a good conditioner on the mane and tail. Leave it in unless it’s right before a show. You can make a conditioner rinse by mixing the conditioner and water in a small bucket and use a sponge to apply to the rest of the body in order to keep the skin from drying out.
- Clipping - Wash your horse a few days before the show, body, mane and tail. Do not do a conditioner rinse on the body and be sure to wash all the conditioner out of mane and tail. Leaving the conditioner in will dull your clipper blades and attract dirt. Once they’re dry, now is the time to use your clippers. A #10 will do great to trim the hair around the coronet band, feathers around the fetlock and any white markings that you would want to “boot up” (this is clipping the white leg markings to a shorter length so dirt doesn’t stick to them as much). The #10 will also do well to trim under the jaw to clean up that long hair from the throat latch to the chin. You can knock the muzzle hairs, bridle path and the long hairs over the top of the eye (NOT the eyelashes) with the #10. The day before the show, use a #40 to clean up the muzzle stubble (or a razor – just be careful about nicks) as well as the bridle path. If you are so inclined to clip their ears, the night before the show is not the time to do it the first time. Getting horses desensitized to clippers, especially in their ears, is a process and you should work with someone like an older 4-Her, leader or Agent, to help you with this process. If you can get a set of battery operated smaller clippers, these work great for ears. They are a lot more manageable down in the crevices of the ear and are quieter.
- After Clipping - Spray your horse down with a “show sheen” type product, just don’t use too much on the saddle and girth area as this product can potentially cause your saddle to slip. But do a heavy application on any white leg or body markings, but not the face. You can use a light sheet and/or slinky (think of a horse sized lamb tube) to help keep your horse clean overnight before the show.
- Mane & Tail - How you want to style your horse’s mane is up to you. When clipping the bridle path, start no further forward than the top of the poll. Trim either just enough for your halter/bridle or 4-6” back (the length of the horse’s ear). Some folks pull the mane short (2-4”) and band it (think of 40 tiny pony tails that lay flat against the horse’s neck). If you decide to do this, DO NOT cut the mane straight across with a pair of scissors. Bands should lay flat, and be evenly spaced. Practice this technique now so you are comfortable for the night before the show. Otherwise, leaving your horse’s mane long is fine. You can shape it a bit, using a technique called “pulling” so that the longest length of the mane is at the point of the shoulder. Never cut the forelock, but brush the tangles out and band it if you desire. If you have one of those horses that actually grows a tail, LUCKY YOU! Trim it straight across the bottom. This is called a “banged” tail. The length will depend on your horse. An inch or so from the ground is good for most horses. Reiners and cutters who are more inclined to step on and rip out their tail, trim about even with the hind fetlock.
- Hoof care - Clean your horse’s hooves with your hoof pick. Make sure clinches are tight and in good condition. If you want to use hoof black or clear coat, that’s up to you. If you use black, be sure that you trim the coronet band hair, otherwise the long hair will wick up the black and it’s just not that fun to get out. Use clear coat on horses that have breed characteristics associated with striped hooves (Appaloosa) or with horses with white feet. If you have a horse with one white hoof and the rest are black, be consistent. Either black all 4 hooves or clear coat all 4.
- Saddles and Tack - In an ideal world, we all wipe down our tack after we use it to get sweat and grime off of the leather. In reality, make sure you clean your tack before county fair. First, it shows respect for yourself as an exhibitor, your horse, and your judge. Second, this will actually prolong the life of your tack and equipment! Use a good saddle soap and a conditioner Personally, I still use the yellow cake soap and neatsfoot oil on everything. This can darken light colored leathers, so look for something that won’t darken the leather if you are concerned about leather color. Make sure that you also condition the bottom side of all you saddle flaps, fenders, skirts etc. When cleaning your tack, be sure that you put everything back together so you don’t have an unpleasant surprise when you get to fair. I see people all the time that forget to reattach a curb chain or a back cinch hobble.
Agriculture, Horticulture, Natural Resources
and 4-H Livestock Agent
Colorado State University Extension
A big Thank You to contributor Kali Benson for this great blog. For all those horse exhibitors out their, keep your heels down, your head up and your hands level, and have a great fair.
Kit Carson County
Golden Plains Area
Colorado State University Extension