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10 Horse Show Tips: AQHA

By Tara Matsler in The American Quarter Horse Journal

Horse-show competitors have a lot to juggle. From the grooming and prep, warm-up and time in the show pen, it’s quite a full plate.

I’m always on the lookout for tips and tricks to make my life simpler yet at the same time enhance my horse-show experiences with my mares. With that in mind, I gathered up some of my favorite horse-showing tips.

1. Organize your horse trailer. Make the most out of the space under the mangers, in the tack room or in a spare stall, with space-saving tricks like plastic garden hose holders, 5-gallon buckets, toolboxes and totes.

2. Keep your brushes clean. Grooming goes a lot quicker when you aren’t battling dirt buildup on brushes. Soak your brushes for 10 minutes in two gallons of water containing a quarter cup of bleach. Rinse, then put the brushes in the sun to dry.

Before heading into the show ring, master your horsemanship patterns with the help of AQHA’s “Horsemanship Clinic” DVD with AQHA Professional Horseman Brad Kearns.

3. Back-up horse necessities. Storing an extra lead rope, set of reins and halter in your trailer can save you if something breaks at the last minute. Scrambling to borrow or buy new items can leave you stressed out and distract your focus from the show ring.

4. For a simple, affordable, yet classic look, try a button-down shirt and scarf. And when you add a scarf, be sure to tie it right for a seamless look.

5. Shape your hat to your face. Truly, a $50 hat shaped to your face and head in the show ring will look better than a $500 hat that wasn’t shaped correctly at all. A hat needs to create balance for the facial shape and bone structure of the person wearing it, so take time to have a professional help you find the perfect shape for you.

6. Finish your look, if you have long hair, with a tight bun. Having a tight bun, fitted shirt and well-shaped hat pulls the look together. The essentials for the perfect bun are hair spray, bobby pins, hair bands and a good hair net.

Take your horsemanship patterns to the next level with AQHA’s “Horsemanship Clinic” DVD. AQHA Professional Horsemen will help you develop a productive relationship with your horse and prepare for competition.

7. Bling it yourself. Quality crystals are the key to beautiful show outfits. But if your budget is limited, try blinging a nice shirt yourself. It’s surprisingly easy and fun.

8. Get the right fit on your horse’s slinky for optimum results. If you plan on banding or braiding your horse’s mane for the show, using a slinky is a great horse-showing strategy to keep the braids flat, but it has to fit correctly. Wrinkles in the slinky on the horse’s neck tell you that the slinky is not going to do its job. It won’t hold your bands in place because the fabric is not snug enough.

9. Strengthen yourself out of the saddle so you’re a powerhouse in the saddle. Many times, bad posture in the saddle starts with muscular weakness. The best way to be become a stronger rider, of course, is to ride more. But for competitors with limited access to horseback time, try exercise routines that build muscles needed for riding.

10. Practice “away from” the pattern. Don’t practice the pattern so often that the horse anticipates what’s coming up and gets ahead of you. Get the pattern as early as you can and practice it one time. Determine where your weak spots are and practice those weak spots away from the pattern.

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