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How to start showing your horse

Updated on August 27, 2011
Me & Boadie at an open show in Melbourne, FL
Me & Boadie at an open show in Melbourne, FL

But I don't even know where to start...

If you've ever owned a horse (or would like to own or lease one in the future), there may come a time when you would like to competitively show him. You may have heard your other horse friends talk about attending a show, or have seen a video on, or just want to try something new - whatever your reason, you've come to the right place.

So where do I start?

  1. Go to some local shows (in the disciplines that you are interested in - dressage, western pleasure, barrel racing, etc...) and watch as many shows as you can. This will help you see what types of horses are winning, what they look like, what type of tack they are wearing, what the riders are wearing, and how the horses are trained.
  2. Once you've attended a few shows, you've probably got a good idea of who is winning, and more than likely, you'll see that the same people a few times. Get to know who those people are and pay them a visit after the show. Ask them if they are associated with a particular barn or trainer and get their info. If they can't help you, they can point you in the right direction.
  3. Get in contact with the barn/trainer. Ask them to evaluate your horse and you and see where you're at. If they are real professionals, they will be honest with you about your abilities and your horse. They may recommend that you take more lessons and/or that your horse needs more training to show competitively. Don't take it as an insult, because the trainer doesn't want you to invest the time and money that it takes to show, only to be disappointed if you get there and you don't win. They want you to be prepared, and some training and lessons might be in order.
  4. Most barns will have a list of shows that they will be attending, and depending on your budget and time, you can opt for the shows that will be right for your schedule and pocket book. Some trainers may encourage showing three times a year, some may encourage once a month, but you have to decide what's right for you. 

What will I need?

Owning a horse itself is a pretty expensive endeavour. But the added expense of showing can be financially straining. Here are some items that you will need to show:

  1. Correct saddle and bridle for your discipline.
  2. Proper show attire for your discipline.
  3. Other horse tack (such as boots for your horse if your are jumping, breastcollars for barrel racing, show pad for western pleasure, etc...)

What other expenses can I expect?

  1. Trainer fees. Most trainers will charge a "day rate" for their services and guidance during the day of the show. Your trainer will be spending the entire day at the show helping you, giving you advice, coaching you, etc...
  2. Show prep. Depending on your discipline, your horse may need to be properly fitted out before you get to the show. Your horse may require his mane banded or braided, his face and legs clipped, or his entire body clipped. Your trainer will inform you as to what needs to be done to your horse and will help you with fitting your horse out for a fee.
  3. Trailering fees (if you don't have your own trailer). Most trainers will be hauling their own horses and/or other client horses as well and will also help arrange to haul your horse as well. Fees are normally charged by the mile.
  4. Show fees. If the show grounds have stalls, you will be charged a stall fee per day or a weekend rate. Each class you enter will also cost a fee, but some shows may offer a flat fee to show the entire day/weekend. These fees may also include a grounds fee, a judge's fee and possibly a "drug" fee if you are attending a breed show that requires it.
  5. Hotel fees. If you don't have your own living quarters horse trailer, you will have to stay in a hotel. But with the help of the internet, book your room online before hand on a site like to try to save a few bucks.

Boadie & I at a show in New Smyrna on Oct. 2010
Boadie & I at a show in New Smyrna on Oct. 2010

In conclusion

So what do I get out of showing?

  1. Satisfaction. There's a great sense of pride and satisfaction from showing, even if you don't place or win in every class. Showing helps you work towards a goal, it gives a sense of purpose to ride your horse everyday and work towards a finish line. It also helps you determine how you are doing as a rider by having a judge acknowldge your hard work by placing you in a class. And if you don't place, you can always ask the judge why he/she didn't place you and ask for opinions on how you can improve and then work harder in those areas for the next show.
  2. Increase in value. By attending horse shows, mainly breed shows, you can accumulate "points" for your horse which helps increase the value of your horse. By having a show record of your horse, you have validation that your horse was good enough to win those points and proves that your horse is trained in those disciplines at which you showed him in.
  3. Prizes. In smaller shows, you will only receive ribbons when you place in a class. But at larger shows or for "series" shows, you may be able to win bigger prizes such as buckles, blankets, saddles, and even money!

Krystal & Toothpick
Krystal & Toothpick


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