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Prepping for first show - looking for advice and constructive critiques please!

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    Prepping for first show - looking for advice and constructive critiques please!

    My mare and I are looking to test the waters in an upcoming schooling show. This will be the first show either of us have been to. I am equally excited and nervous, have been doing lots of research on what's expected and how best to prepare. I have so far decided we will enter the hunter hack, dressage suitability and English pleasure classes. At home while schooling we are going to work on our transitions, head carriage (she sometimes gets tossy and will enter "giraffe mode") and working the hunter hack pattern over fences. Anything else I should be focusing on? I usually keep a flash on her since she gets gapey and plays with her bit while thinking, but it looks like some of the classes might not allow a flash, any tips for encouraging a closed mouth without the use of an aid? I am also spinning on what to wear the day of, it is a small schooling show so there doesn't seem to be major dress code requirements. While there is no penalty for attire I want to make an effort to look professional and serious. I know none of my schooling clothes are good enough for a show, but I also can't drop hundreds on a new outfit top to bottom. I have some good consignment stores in my area I am going to start lurking in, but what I am able to get will depend on their selection. Looking for opinions on what things I should splurge on and where I can cut back. My initial thought was to go with a nice new set of tan breeches, look for a good second hand show shirt( either soft pink or white), tall boots and a show coat if I can find them used and affordable. If I can't find the tall boots I will look for some nice newer half chaps and clean my paddock boots up nicely. Thinking I can skip the show coat if I can't find something appropriate and cost effective. My helmet is in good shape, I only just bought it this fall and hairnets will be easy. My tack is in ok shape, it's worn but safe. It does match fairly well, all darker brown leather. I will make sure it's cleaned and oiled prior. I have a white shaped fleece pad, or a soft pink all purpose pad that are both in good shape, would just need a wash. We do need a new girth as our others are either too small or worn/faded. Since this is her first show and is green to English and shows should I put the green ribbon in her tail? Am I missing anything? Suggestions? Critiques? I appreciate any and all feedback!

    It sounds like you'll be doing an "open" schooling show, which usually includes a variety of disciplines. This can be a fun, low-key way to get started showing.

    As long as your tack and attire are clean and well-fitted, there's no need for fancy. Use your shaped pad, and do find an inexpensive coat if you can. It'll complete your look. As for the green ribbon, I'd skip it (and braids, unless you do them really well... a neatly pulled mane is always better than a frizzy, uneven braid job.) No flash.

    If you're comfortable and in-control at w/t/c in a group lesson at home, you're ready to show. Have fun!
    Patience pays.


      As to attire, clean tan breeches and a nice sweater (thin type, not a big bulky one) in a dark color worn over a turtleneck if cold, maybe a show shirt or even a polo with the buttons all done up would be very appropriate. Do you know if everyone wears hunt coats or is this a more casual show? Can you ask?

      Concentrate on not over preparing (sounds weird). Just make sure you are both comfortable in all three gaits, and know what each class asks of you. No one likes to go in the ring and be surprised by what's happening.

      I've never heard of a green ribbon. Just stay heads up and aware of your surroundings--stay back from horses, give plenty of space in the ring.

      Have fun!
      Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


        Have you taken her off-property before? Since this is her first show, I would also take along the attitude of being ready to not actually show if she is overwhelmed Get there early so she can look around and get used to the sights and sounds.

        Apparently I'm old-school because I have used a green ribbon in a greenie's tail before, and it certainly won't hurt. Some people won't know what it means, but some will.

        I also suggest asking about what attire usually is. I'm not sure where you're located, but it's freezing cold winter up here so at our winter schooling shows it's more relaxed: winter breeches (so don't have to be tan), paddocks and half chaps, sweaters/jackets. There is no way we would survive in regular show attire!
        I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted.


          For a local, open show, you certainly don't need to spend a lot of money on an outfit. Go, have fun, and be safe. These types of shows can be excellent learning experiences, sometimes of what not to do!

          That being said, neatness and turnout are important. I agree with Melissa, do not braid the mane or tail unless you can do a superb job. Bad braids look far worse than no braids. Do be sure your mare's mane is neatly pulled and her face and legs are trimmed.

          Be sure your tack is scrupulously clean and well-oiled and use your fitted saddle pad. Also, be sure to practice riding in your show clothes before the show. Don't use a flash, you can use a standing martingale in over fences classes but not in the under saddle classes.

          I would try to get a show coat, but if it's a really low key event a fitted polo shirt might be fine. Most tack stores have a good selection of used boots, but make sure they fit! Badly fitting boots will ruin your day.

          Good luck! Be sure to report back


            I would either look for photos from previous editions of this show or contact the show organizers to ask about the expected rider attire. You don't need the added stress on the day of wondering whether you will be dressed appropriately.

            As far as the ribbon goes, I've never actually seen a green one in use at a show, and when I've used a red one at lower-level shows, I actually had more people coming up behind the horse to look at the ribbon (they thought it was just a decoration) than when he wasn't wearing one. I wouldn't count on a green one encouraging others to give you extra space.


              Original Poster

              Thanks everyone! So the shaped saddle pad it is! I will be phasing out the flash and praying she acts like a lady. We cannot use any martingales in our classes, that's why I am just going to take some extra time asking her to focus on her headset. The show isn't until the end of March so there is ample time for practice and prep. We have started working on pulling mane, hers is quite long pretty sure it's never been pulled before, but I am a decent braider! I will be taking her over early in the day, I want to be able to walk her around the grounds and let her sniff about if possible. There might be a possibility of getting her a stall there so she can just hang out and soak it all in. I have not done group lessons with her, she lives here at home with me so most of our riding has been in our fields. But her previous barn was pretty big and busy and she was often in arena with others. I will keep updating and adding pictures!