How to Get Organized for a New Year of Horse Shows
By: Kathy Keeley
By the time December rolls around each year, we all get slightly crabby during those first two shows of the month. We really need this time to regroup and maybe even celebrate the holidays! So, traditionally we’ve taken off from mid-December to mid-February. The horse, the trainer, and the rider all need a break from a tough show schedule.
This break is also a great time to regroup and reorganize. We take a complete break for two weeks with almost no riding or jumping. Our horses get to go out to the pasture, roll, get dirty, and just be horses. We sleep late (no 4:30 mornings!), my daughter catches up on her homework, and we just take rest and relax and go to movies or to the mall, or my daughter spends time with her boyfriend. Eventually, we even start to feel like normal people with a normal life!
Then, reality sets in when the trainer starts talking about the winter circuit being only six weeks away and we go into training mode. We are riding daily, six days a week and two lessons a week, and begin planning for our trips.
We do not clip our horses during this time. Between the extra stall lights that are on for five hours a night and blankets we have to use, the horses do not get fuzzy. Because we live in the southeast and experience varying temperatures during the winter months, that means using winter blankets one day and sheets the next. My job is to keep the show blankets separate from the barn blankets as the teenagers whiz through.
In late January, we start organizing lists and beginning to plan what has to be done for the upcoming season. We start sorting, cleaning, and reorganizing our show items. Since I am working with a teenager, my first step is to engage her in a discussion of what we need to do to prepare for a show. At this point, we can develop joint lists and distribute the work. When she was younger, I did more of the organizing and would give her tasks. Each year, however, she has taken on more responsibility.
The Daughter’s View:
Getting ready for a show can be more stressful and time-consuming than the show itself. I usually spend a week doing nothing but talking to my teachers and getting all my horse stuff in order. When I’m speaking to my teachers, I begin telling them about the shows and how many/ which days I’ll be missing class. Because of my extended absences, I usually have to take quizzes and tests ahead of schedule and have to turn in projects/research before I leave, which always really sucks! But I still get to rub it in my friend’s faces that I get to miss so much school.
Getting the horse stuff ready is especially crazy. I usually have the entire front of my barn floor filled with stuff while I’m trying to get my tack trunk and other stuff organized. I have to decide which coolers to bring, what needs to be washed, which pads to bring, and pack all the grooming supplies.
The next step is getting the horses ready, which means I am extra hairy at the end of this process. I clip their ears, noises/throats, legs, bridle paths and pull manes. I think this task is the easiest and fastest thing I do to get ready for the show. Last, but not least, I have to pack myself. Some of my most important items include the tall boots, the tall boots socks, jeans, sports bras, to name a few.
No matter how much I double-check and go over in my head of what I have packed, I always forget something. On one of my trips I forgot all my show clothes! Yup, I couldn’t believe it. But thankfully my mom (the best mom in the world!) brought them down with her! Another time, I forgot my saddle!! We discovered that fact when we were seven hours away from home. It meant a call to Dad and delivering the saddle to a friend who was coming down a day later. Dad was not too happy! The whole process of getting to me was crazy and involved lots of extra driving — it wasn’t a good time.
Our Shared Perspective:
We both share in these duties:
— Put steel shoes on the horses to give their feet a break. Our farrier is thrilled when we put on steel for the two months off.
— Clean out the tack trunk — take everything out and vacuum out all the hay and dust. This is a daughter project with my mom inspecting.
— Check all the tack cleaning supplies and make sure we have sponges, soaps and oils.
— Check the show clothes — determine what fits and does not as well as what needs cleaning, mending, or selling at the used tack store. (My daughter does this from the angle of starting her list of what to buy at her favorite stores at the shows.)
— Check the reins, martingale, bridle and other tack for any tears, weak spots or repairs needed. Check the girth and clean it well.
— Get the boots professionally cleaned and make sure there is a supply of good black shoe polish in the trunk.
— Wash all the show collars. We keep ours in a plastic box in the trunk. Twice a year I wash all of them.
— Toss the hair nets and replace them with four new ones.
–Wash all the show pads and check them for wear, and cross your fingers that a whole new style will not be in style in the upcoming year.
— Wash all of the polo wraps, shipping bandages, and leg boots. Clean the leather ones.
— Order feed, supplements, and any other supplies needed for the immediate show.
— Get a tune up on the golf cart and make sure that it is in working order. Check the trailer that hauls the cart to make sure the brakes and lights are working.
— If you drive your own truck and trailer, now is the time to have a tune up. Check out the tires and brakes on both and get a tune up for the truck. Wash and wax both. We strip out the inside, hose it down and scrub the sides with a brush. We usually have something broken and take a trip to our repair place. Last year we had a window broken by our new horse.
One week before the show:
— Wash all the blankets, coolers, rain sheets, quarter sheets, and stable sheets. (Ever ask yourself how one animal can have so many coats???)
— Take the wool coolers to the dry cleaners — and write yourself a note to pick them up.
— Check to make sure there are still spurs and functioning leathers, a riding crop, and a clean show helmet in the tack trunk. (How many spurs can you lose in one year?!)
— Wash out all of the water buckets with a mild bleach solution. We use three per stall at a show and they get grimy by the end of the year.
In order to be as prepared as you can for show season, start assembling your lists of what you are going to take well before the season. Don’t forget to include a trailer list and a horse/rider list. Oh – and don’t forget the horses, the feed and comfortable chairs!
Copyright (c) 2007 Kathy Keeley
Veteran show mom Kathy Keeley is founder of ShowMom.com, the first online community created especially for horseshow mothers and daughters who want to learn how to successfully navigate the horseshow circuit and maintain a great mother-daughter relationship. Sign up for our free email newsletter, The Savvy Show Mom, at ShowMom.com .