Minimal grooming routine for shows

I would love to know what you consider the minimal equine turnout for showing, both schooling and recognized shows. I’ll be showing for the first time this year (mostly schooling, maybe 1-2 recognized shows) and not to come across as a total underachiever, but my schedule is really tight so I am looking for recommendations of must-do routines, must-have supplies, etc.

I don’t usually braid for unrecognized shows, but otherwise the horse’s turnout is pretty comparable-- routinely keep it trimmed up and mane/ tail pulled (or roached or not pulled if that’s your thing), good nutrition to keep it shiny, and just get it as clean as is possible.

How little you can get away with will depend on your horse-- I have a liver chestnut with no white who rarely needs more than his tail brushed out and is ready to go in 5 minutes. OTOH, the dark bay is always dusty and needs a bath, so 20-30 minutes. And the mostly white paint mare needs a BATH with multiple scrubbings and rinsings which takes more like an hour. Doing fat button braids with rubber bands adds another 20 minutes.

Practice your braiding skills before hand, more than a few times. You’ll then learn what/not to do and how long it takes you. You don’t have to braid the forelock nor the tail.

Blankets are your friend and lots of clean bedding the day before you leave. If you have a stall at shows, clean it often.

Have a set of show brushes that are new, clean and you know work well.

Standing bandages the night before/in between classes as needed : keep the swelling away and the chrome stay!

Always carry a small wet towel.

Clean tack.

I am a minimalist. My horses get their bridle paths clipped, and any long fetlock hairs, but that is it for clipping. I rarely bathe them, but I will wash their tail and then braid it overnight so that it is easier to get the shavings out in the morning.

I use show sheen on the hocks and sometimes the tail to shorten grooming time as well. Day of the show I use baby wipes to help get the dust off my horses’ coat.

I braid for any level of dressage show for the practice, but I make sure the mane is properly prepared so that the mane is easy/quick to braid.

I would say that minimal turnout includes trimming the fetlocks, washing/trimming the tail (washing weather permitting) and the dock, pulling/trimming the main and forelock and bridle path. I don’t trim whiskers but I’ll trim around the ears and the jawline to make a cleaner picture. Weather permitting, I bathe the horse the day before or the day of, depending. I also curry curry curry and dandy to bring the bloom of the coat out.

For a simple look, consider roaching the mane or cutting to only 1" or so. No braiding, easy to maintain and it can look good if your horse has a good neck between the withers and poll. Alternatively, don’t braid for a schooling show. The more you braid, the easier it gets though- using mane color-matched rubber bands makes braiding easy.

I like to wash my brushes even a week before the show, and I agree that being anal about cleaning your stall at a show will keep your horse clean.

For schooling shows:

I make sure the mane is tidy and the bridle path is trimmed. Goat hairs along the jowl are trimmed.

As a matter of routine he’s hosed down after rides to get the sweat out of his coat (but no shampoo to strip the oils), so I generally don’t bathe. I might hose him the morning of if he had an especially good roll overnight. Socks do get scrubbed the night before or morning of. Tail is washed and deep conditioned sometime the week before and banged if scraggly.

I don’t trim fetlock hairs–my horse is very prone to scratches if they are trimmed. I don’t clip socks, ears, or whiskers. I don’t braid.

At the show, I groom normally except that I’ll do one last pass on the horse with a fleece mitt or slightly damp towel to pick up the last of the dust. The only extra thing I bring is rubbing alcohol to spot-clean socks.

It’s very little extra time for me, and most of that is tidying up the mane.

Newbie question - must I braid for recognized shows? My reiner cum dressage pony has a midlength natural mane and I’ve no desire to pull/cut it. Or can you do big buttons with a 12" mane?

You can do a running braid with a longer mane. If it’s too tight along the crest, it will restrict the horse’s ability to stretch, so play with it–there are plenty of instructions out there on ways to help with that.

Another option is scallop braids (Google for examples).

I give a bath the day before (unless it is really freezing in which case shopvac), whites get done with Quiksilver day of, spot clean with rubbing alcohol as necessary, rub lots with a towel. Showsheen in the tail. Peanut oil for the feet. Clean up legs, ears and nose with clippers if necessary.

Keep mane, bridle bath, forelock, tail and heels tidy regularly. I bath a week out and hose sweat and dust off after work, washes dirt out but keeps the shine.

Mine has white legs, I have a Tuppaware container with Curash baby powder made into a paste. Legs are washed with Glowhite shampoo, towel dried and the Curash paste worked in with a toothbrush. Bandaged over and removed shortly before the class, excess brushed out.

Silicone spray the tail after plaiting. Mines tail is shaped using a mix of scissors, trimming clippers and horse razors. I always sew my plaits as I can do them quicker than trying to use plaiting bands.

Baby wipes are great for wiping faves and bits, boots and anything else that’s got grubby.

I have a show grooming kit that is washed after each show. Pick up dung ASAP, keeps bed and horse cleaner.

One of things I do sometimes do when away at a show for a week is to have a 4litre pump spray for washing. I boil the kettle and have hot water handy for washing dirty patches. Goes further and makes less mess. Shampoo is diluted in the water beforehand.

This is a tough question to answer since everyone has their own limit. I come from breed show standards, so my horse has to always be fully turned out, while lots of people don’t even bother with clipping and just do simple braiding.

I think a lot depends on breed/color of the horse as well.

No, you do not have to braid. The rules state the braiding “is permitted.” You rarely see an unbraided mane at a recognozed show, but it is not required. For an unpulled mane, however, I would recommend a running braid.

Running braid is MUCH easier if you want to keep the mane long.

For the mare: bath day before the show (sometimes two baths spaced a few days apart, and I leave her mane alone the second time because it holds the running braid better if dirty… you do not want to braid a “slippery” mane!) If it’s not too hot I’ll put a lightweight (no fill) turnout blanket on her – she lives outside and loves to roll! Generally use Cowboy Magic rosewater shampoo on her, and QuikSilver on her socks, which are white, and her mane and tail, which are a mix of cream, gold, and black hairs but mostly cream.

Lots of brushing always helps and we carry a towel for last minute cleanup – of horse and rider.

I trim the hair that sticks out of her ears (Pony Club folks call this the “taco cut” BTW). I will trim along her jowl line if it’s furry, and trim her legs but not super closely if she has feathers (she doesn’t, for the most part, in the summer.) I leave her whiskers alone. For the most part I don’t do anything to her tail other than bang the bottom if it’s scraggly. Will use Canter conditioner in it about once a week to help detangle.

Depends on the show. The gold shows run locally always put braiding required in their program (although roached manes are permitted). So although not an association rule, it may be a show rule.

I find if I keep my horse routinely groomed/ trimmed it is easier to get ready for a show. My horse lives out 24/7 and in the winter, just do a really good grooming. If I was showing routinely thru the winter would probably body clip to make it easier to keep horse clean. Even for a schooling show, my horse is clipped: muzzle, bridle path, ears. I also trim the hair at the coronet band to make a neater look. Clean and shiny coat, clean nose and inside ears( I use baby wipes inside ears). Clean tack and saddle pad. The most important thing is lots of brushing or rubbing coat with a towel. Makes for a shiny coat.

Thanks! I have a bay Arab (pretty much wash and wear) with three white socks and a natural mane. Currently he has no bridle path, as I let the regulation halfway-down-the-neck bridle path grow out and like it better this way. I’m debating whether I should shave one back in. I won’t pull/cut his mane (prefer it long) and am going to experiment with button/dressage braids. I don’t want to shave whiskers but will probably trim his ears and jawline.

Right now he is shedding his winter coat, so by the end of April (our likely first show) I am hoping that he will be nice and sleek. We will be going to an Arab sport horse show that I am guessing people will be a bit more cleaned up for but luckily I’m going with a crew of experienced Arabian people so they will be able to help me fit in with the rest of the herd.

You’re in Canada, so the rules must be different. The OP is here in the States, and I was quoting USEF rules.

If you take some time, roaching a mane can/should make a neck look better. You don’t have to just buzz it off; I know some people, older guys especially, for whom roaching a mane is almost an art. Leaving it little longer in some areas, shorter in others can enhance the neck.

My horse is always show ring ready, so all we have to do before a show is bathe and braid. I keep his mane short, bridlepath, tail top, and legs clipped, goat hair under the jaw trimmed, etc. His tail always has conditioner in it so it doesn’t get tangled and break. I keep his chestnuts peeled down, but i don’t cut them or sand them.

Recommendations – DEFINITELY learn to braid WAY ahead and practice, practice, practice. Use a #40 blade to do the bridlepath and tail clipping – it lasts longer – but use a 15 on the legs so you don’t scalp him. If you’re showing Saturday and Sunday and trailering in on Friday, bathe Thursday night. It gives the oil a little time to come back and he will really shine. Also, don’t give any colored treats or carrots prior to the warmup, except maybe a little sugar. You want his lipstick to be white or slightly green from hay, not pink, not yellow, not orange. DO NOT wipe the foam off of his mouth, but if he gets some on his chest or legs in the warmup, DO wipe that off.

Best of luck!

I don’t have a real clipper - I have a set of Wahl clippers for cutting human hair that I bought for something like $14.99. This is what I used in the past for bridle path and fetlocks. Is that insanity?

If I don’t shave in a bridle path will that look hideous?