1. Grab a pair of clippers and defuzz your horse a few days before the show. Clip a tidy bridle path and trim her muzzle hairs. Remove wispy hairs from under her jaw. Trim the hair that sticks out of her ears for a neater look. If she goes out in a field every day, don’t remove all of her ear hair—she needs it to keep bugs from bothering her. Clip her hairy legs too. Unless she’s a Gypsy Cob or a draft horse, clip your horse’s feathers for a neat, professional appearance.
2. If you want your horse’s tail to look its best—leave it alone! Brushing a horse’s tail every time you ride breaks the hair and can make it look stragglier in the long run. Only brush your horse’s tail right before a show. Wash it, condition it and wait for the hair to dry before you tackle it with a soft brush. Always start by detangling the hair at the bottom of the tail and work your way up.
3. For extra coat shine, spray a shine product all over your horse, avoiding places where the girth and saddle sit. Why? If you spray it in the saddle area, you could find your saddle pad slipping all over the place! Let the spray dry for a few minutes and then grab a clean, dry brush or cloth to buff your horse until she sparkles. You can use a shine product on your horse’s mane and tail too to help untangle the hair and make it extra shiny.
If you plan to braid your horse’s mane and tail for a show, wash them a few days before the show—not on show day. Hair is easier to braid when it’s not completely clean. Don’t use a coat shines on the mane and tail if you’re braiding because it makes the hair slippery and hard to braid. There are special braiding sprays that make hair more tacky and easier to braid.
4. If your horse has white leg markings, brighten them up before you enter the ring by using grooming chalk. You can buy blocks of grooming chalk from catalogs, online stores and tack shops. Shampoo your horse’s white markings with a whitening shampoo and let them dry for a while. When the markings are still damp, rub in the chalk and brush off any excess. If you can’t find chalk, some people use baby powder or cornstarch.
5. If your horse has a case of the mane and tail frizzies on show day thanks to static electricity, dampen a dryer sheet and rub the hair with it. You can also grab some hair gel, apply it to a damp cloth and wipe the cloth on the frizzy hair.
6. Ask a friend or your mom or dad to bring a small bucket with a few clean, damp cloths and a soft brush to the ring with you. The cloths are great for wiping clean your horse’s eyes and nose and removing dust and mud off your boots. Buy the cloths in bulk in the car care section of your local discount store or use cheap washcloths or dish-drying cloths from the dollar store. Spray a damp cloth with a coat-shine product and use it to remove dust on your horse’s coat before you enter the arena.
7. If you braid your horse’s tail before a show, always wrap the tail with a bandage to make sure your horse doesn’t rub out the braid in her stall or in the trailer.
8. Invest in a lightweight turnout sheet that covers your horse from her ears to her tail. Bathe your horse the day before the show to avoid rushing around on the morning of the show. Put on her sheet and turn him out in her field or stall. In the morning all you’ll have to do is hose off her legs and sponge off her face if they’re dirty.
9. If you’re determined to use oil on your horse’s face at a show, use it sparingly and spend time blending it in. Too often, show horses look greasy. Instead of baby oil, try a highlighter made for just for horses and see if you like the results.
10. Ask your helper to apply your horse’s hoof dressing right before you go in the arena. If you do it back at the stall or at the trailer, your horse’s hooves will look dusty and dirty before you even enter the arena. If you use hoof polish, apply it while your horse is standing on concrete or some other clean surface. Don’t do it in a stall where straw or shavings will stick to the polish. Wait until the polish dries and buff it with a dry, clean cloth.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Young Rider Magazine. Click here to subscribe!