Show season has arrived for many of my blogging friends!!! Hooray you! While I’m not showing until after graduation (grumble grumble) I did gather a few horse show hacks last year that I feel are worth sharing. My life philosophy is “cheap is good, free is better!” and if there was a way I could bring this to already-expensive showing, you can bet your ass I was going to do it. So here are a couple of things I’ve done in the last year or so that helped me out with my showing. They are all cheap or, better yet, free!!
Bathe your horse with baby shampoo
What has super sensitive skin yet still needs to be bathed and get clean almost every day? BABIES!! I actually got this one from the Groom Secrets account on Twitter, but it makes a lot of sense. Baby shampoo is gentle yet effective, and has left Murray’s hair very soft when I have used it on him. Better yet, it’s cheap! I got a bottle last year at Target for around $4 (I honestly don’t even know what I paid, but it can’t have been significant if I’ve forgotten!) and it has lasted well into this year. Now, I’m not a prolific bather, or anything, but I’m willing to bed you’d get 20 baths out of that bottle — and that’s on my fussy, squirmy, irritating 16 hand noodle. You could definitely get more on a more reasonable (or pony-sized) bath-time citizen.
Apple cider vinegar + mineral oil body rinse
This tip I picked up from a USEA podcast interview, and is actually supposed to help get rid of “Florida Funk” (whatever that is?), but I use it as a general body rinse/conditioner, especially in Murray’s prone-to-dandruff mane. Basically, in a gallon of water you add a couple of good glugs of apple cider vinegar (they recommend organic, and I happened to have Bragg’s on hand at home so that’s what I used, but I reckon you could go el-cheapo and still get good results) and a tablespoon of mineral oil to a bucket, and use it as an after-shampooing rinse for your horse (I make this up in a mason jar with 1 cup apple cider vinegar to 1 tbs mineral oil, and dispense into a 3-gallon bucket as needed). The slight acidity of the apple cider vinegar will help strip mineral deposits from your horse’s hair, which is especially useful if, like me, you live in a region with hard water. In addition, apple cider vinegar is purported to have all kinds of mystical properties, including suppressing fungal infections and other miscellanea. I personally like the way the mineral oil makes Murray’s skin less dandruffy, and it’s easier for me to put on his dock and base of his mane than conditioner (because he is bad at baths). The podcast I listened to said they use this daily in Florida, I use it once every three months or so when I bathe because I’m a filth monster.
(PS Mineral oil is just unscented baby oil, in case you’re wondering. It’s not organic, but it is effective!! It will also moisturize the crap out of your hands if you have dry barn-hands like I do.)
Use a yarn sewing needle to sew your braids in
I will not claim to be a braiding expert by any means, but I’ve braided a few horses for shows now, and Murray always looks like his life isn’t worth living afterwards. What can I say — he hates being beautiful. More to the point, after pondering various methods (rubber bands, yarn, string), I decided to take our assistant trainer’s advice and do a combo approach. I braid yarn into the braid, and then sew it in like one would do with thread. Because of this hybrid approach, I have to get the yarn to go through the knot I’ve created, and that is just not possible to do (neatly) with a pull through. I’m also absolutely terrified that if I use a braiding needle I will stab Murray’s neck causing him to throw his head up and whip it around, and the needle — now thoroughly stabbed into the meat of his neck, of course — will stab me in the eye. Not only will we careen around the show grounds joined like some kind of Frankenmonster, but I will be blinded and Murray will never accept braiding again.
Irrational fear, meet child-safe yarn needle! The price is right on these puppies, ringing up at something like $2.80 at Jo-Ann fabrics, they are essentially disposable. They aren’t going to hurt my precious pumpkin if I accidentally hit his neck with one, and they go through even a tight braid quite smoothly. The large eye makes them super easy to thread, and you can use a variety of products with them — I imagine they would sew dental floss just as well as they do yarn.
Take a leaf out of a bedazzler’s book and use a bead organizer to sort little show items
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate when I get to a show and I don’t have enough safety pins to properly affix my number to my self or saddle pad. Then I lose some during the show and I end up with only one safety pin attaching my number to my pad during stadium and that is just not okay. I also keep all the safety pins from every show ever, if I can, (why, no, I’ve never found two rusted, old safety pins attached to a show pad from prior to my trip to Africa before… never), as well as bobby pins, hair nets, and other little items. I used to keep them all in a little toiletries-bag like thing, but then I discovered these handy-dandy little crafting storage containers!
They usually lock quite tight to keep everything you need inside the containers (if I were a crafter I would lose my shit over beads going everywhere), and have neat little compartments for you to keep your safety pins, pre-dressage-test tums (some for you, some for pony), sugar cubes, bobby pins, spare hair nets, spare yarn strands, bridle charms, and probably everything else you could ever need in one place.
Tums before your dressage test
One for you, two for pony. Who needs to deal with extra acid sloshing around in their stomach?!
(Some people swear by this, some don’t. If your horse will eat them, I’m sure it can’t hurt.)
Pre-made faux baby wipes
Baby wipes are incredibly useful little bastards, but I just can’t get over the waste associated with them. So instead of using baby wipes, I use wash cloths (older are often better, because the new ones can be a little too fluffy and sometimes leave lint) that I’ve pre-moistened and put in a ziplock bag to maintain their dampness. To avoid them molding and becoming gross, I usually just do this the morning of or the night before a show. I fold up 2-4 wash clothes and get them appropriately damp, then seal them in a gallon ziplock. When I need to wipe out Murray’s boogers, clean up my bridle at the last minute, or wipe down my own fevered brow, one of those damp wash cloths usually does the trick. If I can’t fix it with that, there’s probably not time anyway.
Damp cloth, then show sheen, to remove dirt
When I was a kid I would always read in fantasy novels that people were rubbing their horses down until they shined or stopped sweating or majikally sprouted wings and took flight. I always kinda wondered what this rubbing down was for because I never rubbed anything down at riding camp… Anyway, sometimes I’ll be grooming my horse with my impeccably clean brushes and somehow — somehow — overnight he became so deeply filth-rodden that the dirt is evading all of my best attempts. It turns out that if, after you’ve gone over and over and over and over the hair with your best brush and the dust is still clinging to the hairs, you run a damp cloth over the hair it will pick up the little dust particles that are just clinging to the surface there. I apply show sheen the same way, actually — spritz on a cloth and then rub the cloth over the hair.
Are there any show season hacks you reliably use? I’m into anything that will simplify my routine or get things cleaner, quicker, faster! Especially if they have a basis in fantasy novels — those are the best tips.