First Horse Show

How to Compete in Your First Horse Show?

Ready to take on your first horse show? Follow our step-by-step guide for a successful and rewarding experience.

You’ve been working hard and training for years, and you’re now ready to take the leap. You’re finally ready to compete in your first horse riding show!

There’s nothing more exciting than being handed a trophy or colorful ribbon at the end of the competition. That’s a memory you will never forget! However, winning a horse show takes a lot of time and hard work!

Here are some simple steps to consider in order to properly prepare for, and compete in, your first ever horse show.

Choosing a Show

Ideally, choose the show you want to attend 3-4 months beforehand. This ensures you have enough time to prepare for it properly. Consider the following factors when finding your first show.

  • The location – how close by is it? For your first show, try and find an arena that’s nearby. This means less traveling for you and your horse
  • The level – if it’s your first show, you might want to start off at an easier level
  • The cost – what is your budget and how much are you willing to spend?

Pre-show Training

Your pre-show training involves creating a program that you will follow on the day. Make sure you memorize the pattern and have it firmly in your head. When you get to the arena, it might feel a bit disorientating as the layout might be different from where you’ve practiced.

Run over your program again and again so both you and your horse know it inside and out. Ask your teacher or a friend to watch and film you so you can see where improvements could be made in your performance.

Gather Your Equipment

There are some essentials that you need to make sure you have before your show. You need to ensure you have all the right clothing and accessories for a successful ride.

You also need to consider how you’re going to protect your clothing from getting dirty or creased on the journey to the arena. Will you need a change of clothes for the journey? Are your competition clothes brand new and do you need to try them on first?

Next, double-check you have all the right equipment for your horse. Do you have your English bridle parts, a sturdy saddle, strong stirrups, and high-quality reins? If not, make sure you purchase some as soon as possible!

Preparing for Travel

Travel is often overlooked by many first-time riders. However, if the arena you’ve chosen is quite a distance away, you need to consider your preparation for the journey.

Is your horse used to travel? Practice loading and unloading the trailer until both you are your horse are happy and comfortable with it. It’s also a good idea to take your horse on a few short drives so they can get accustomed to the motion of being in a moving trailer.

Organizing the Paperwork

The not-so-fun part of horse shows is the paperwork! The various documents you will need vary depending on where you’ve chosen to compete, but here are some of the common pieces of paperwork you might have to complete.

  • Riding license
  • Horse license
  • Insurance certificate
  • Driver’s license for the trailer

Make sure you bring everything you need to show to issues when you arrive at the arena!

Last Minute Grooming

The day before the show is the time to do some last-minute grooming. You might want to wash and groom your horse, polish your riding boots, iron your clothing. Lay out everything you need for the day of the competition so there’s no last-minute worrying!

Preparing in the Arena

Once you’ve arrived at the arena, focus on getting both you and your horse ready. Plait and brush your horse’s hair. If your horse is feisty, you can place a red ribbon on them to inform other competitors.


Once you have registered at the arena, take some time to warm up. Keep the warm-up short and simple so as not to wear yourself or your horse out before the show. Make sure you are aware of the rules of the warm-up arena before you enter.

Enjoy Yourself

When it’s your time to perform, make sure you are standing by the entrance just before your name is called. If you’re late, you may be disqualified. Try and remain calm. You’ve practiced for weeks or months for this moment, so be confident in your abilities. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!

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