how do you show prep?

If it seems like Camelot Equestrian Park Horse Trials are the only think I can talk, write, think, or dream about at the moment, it’s because they are.  Seriously.  Coming up on my first rated horse trials has my brain whirring and I am all about it.  I’m super, super, super, super, super, super excited.  It doesn’t help that my brain is in total summer mode which means I’m thinking about all poniez all the timezzzzzzz and that’s really all I want to do all day errey day.

As I’ve spoken about a bit before, I do have a plan for show prep.  And to be honest, I feel a little bit silly that I’ve gone into “show prep” mode and that it’s so different from my every-day riding.  But it is different.  I don’t ride every day to do dressage tests — lots of the exercises I do in my every day are for strengthening and suppling and not really for perfect circles and crisp corners.  Maybe I should be riding perfect circles and crisp corners all the time?  I dunno.  But the things I like to do every day in my dressage rides (a little more counter canter each week, working on the haunches in, etc.) are not the things that need to be polished for a good dressage test.  Likewise with jumping — no placement poles in the stadium arena!  Those things are super useful, but they are not going to be present in competition.

These don’t show up at BN. They just don’t.

So here it is.  My show prep.  And I want to know what YOU guys do for show prep so I can see if I should do those things too!

Dressage Prep

Dressage requires by far the most prep for me.  This year, I’ve been prepping by riding a lot of tests on Murray, and reminding him (and myself) that just because we’re inside the white plastic thingies does not mean that either of us can get away with slacking.  I want transitions when I ask for them, and that means requiring that I prepare for them well in advance and let Murray know they are coming.  It also means that he must listen to me when I ask for those well-prepared-for transitions.  (They are our biggest struggle — for real.)

I also do a full dress rehearsal.  Yeah.  Like in theatre.  I get up in the morning (or the afternoon or whatever — I try to approximate my ride time) and I groom and braid Murray like I would at a show, and tack up.  I also time myself, so I will know how much time I need.  Then I change into my show shirt and coat (I always groom in my breeches with coverup pants on.  More on that later.  If I’m even a little sweaty I really struggle to get into pants.),  warm up, and do a test ride.  I’ll sometimes do a second test ride if I feel like we both need it.

The dress rehearsal is important to me because it let’s me ballpark how long I will need to get braided and ready.  I really can’t trust Murray not to rub out a braid, and I’d rather occupy him with treats or hand-grazing after he’s braided than put him back in his stall.  I guess I could get a sleazy on him but… nah.  It’s also important for me to feel how I move in my dressage breeches and coat and how that influences my riding.

2014-07-10 12.17.26Why did she do this to me?!


I think preparing for stadium is the least different from my regular rides than any other phase.  In stadium away from home I want Murray the same as I want him at home — brave and forward.  I am a little more nitpicky about my position and the way Murray responds to me.  I demand balance in the corners and listening.  But for the most part, I do those things on any day.  The real prep for me is that I like to have one, bigger-than-I’m-going-to-show jump lesson about a week out from the show.  I warm up like I would at a show — jump an X, a vertical, and an oxer a little below or at height — and then do a course cold.  I used to have this weird issue where I would ride in warm up and then stop riding on course, and obviously that led to issues.  So I practice like I would at a show to get myself in the right mindset.  In the fall I coursed 3′-3’3″ for the first time right before a show and it put me in SUCH a confident place.  In the next week and a half or so I’ll probably try to do that again in a lesson (building up to it): warm up like at a show, jump a 2’7-3′ course cold, then move the fences up if we’re feeling good.

crop1I hope we’ve got this.

Cross Country

I will admit to being a little nervous about cross country this time.  When Murray and I were showing at intro, it didn’t matter if we approached something badly because I knew I could get him turned back towards it and step over it if we needed to.  Camelot is known for having gnarly courses, and it has been no different in the past.  And in prep for their rated event, they’ve been turning all their fences into magnificent works of art.


This joyous moment came about because of that stone wall in the background.  I didn’t realise it at the time, but Murray was terrified of it.  And this was our first time to Camelot, so we didn’t school it, so he never got a good look at it.  And as I’ve since discovered, when my pony is scared he goes to his happy place.  And his happy place is rolling in the dirt.

That wall in the background?  Camelot calls it “the dragon wall” for a good reason.  Now it’s bright green and covered in sparkly scales.  It has a head.  IT HAS GIANT ASS WELDED WINGS.

We are completely possibly a little fucked.  I really hope their footing is soft because I cannot afford a new saddle right now.

Anyway, so I’m not sure how I’m going to prep this.  We’re schooling Camelot this weekend, the last weekend before they close the course, and will hopefully get a good read of what beginner novice fences are out there.  We have schooled almost all the BN fences and a handful of the novice fences, so I know that physically, we can do it.  Whether or not I ride like we can do it… well, that’s another story.

My goal is to not come off.

IMG_1627Is glitter goo too gaudy for events? I really wanna glitter him.  And this fence is almost guaranteed to be on our course and it is way bigger in person. Part of it is hidden by the rise in the ground here.  It’s a completely maxed out fence and a few years ago (at my first event) it was at the bottom of a hill and it was terrifying.


Okay, finally something I can COMPLETELY control!

I like to pack early and pack often pack once.

I start by making checklists.  I find the act of checking things off extremely gratifying.  I list out every possible thing Murray and I could need for the show.  And then about a week out, I start packing them.

I start with silly little things — making sure all our show pads are clean, washed, and put in a plastic tub of some kind.  I like to pack in tubs instead of bags because I feel like they stack neatly in trailers and trucks.  Nobody else seems to do this though, so my stackable desires are mostly left un-met.  I pack grain, I pack extra electrolytes and barley, and I pack extra magnesium.  You can never pack too much magnesium.  I get my garment bag packed early too, and put my optimum time watch, arm band, extra hair nets, etc. in there.  All my show clothes for the weekend — and spares — are in one place.  I pack all my braiding supplies in — you got it — a tiny tub.  I put my first aid supplies in a tiny tub.

I pack snacks.  I pack a lot of snacks.  I fear being hungry and cranky and in a place where the only food available is a hot dog or hamburger or chips and a grease bomb in my stomach is liable to make my poo my pants on my saddle because of nerves.  Yeah.  I said it.  But admit it.  Nobody wants to shit on their saddle.  I clean my tack early and pack extra things that might break.  Mostly reins.  I pack a lot of reins and halters.

And then I make lists of what’s in the tubs and tape them to the outside and fret about whether I put enough stuff in my tubs.  Everything in the tubs is in smaller tubs.  It’s tubception.

2013-05-19When it doubt, make your dog pack too.

So, how do you prep for a show?  What do you pack?  What is your routine?  How do you get comfortable for the questions you will be asked?  Share your secrets with me!!

15 thoughts on “how do you show prep?”

  1. Show prep is a fickle mistress. In my experience, it’s a balancing act of epic proportions where you want to work really hard on some of the things you know you’ll have the most trouble with, but at the same time you have to be so careful not to fry your horse mentally or physically before the big event.

    It’s always been trial and error for me, figuring out what works best for me and my horse. And to be completely honest, it’s changed a lot since I first got Miles. And I still change it!


  2. My show prep has become increasingly “Less Is More” over the years. As much as my perfectionist self wants to drill things like dressage tests and movements and do hours of ring work every day, Dino is not down with that. He gets cranky! So even the week before a show, I keep things varied to keep him happy. I’ve been trail riding him two days out from a show and giving him off the day before, and he’s really done well with that this year. I like to do one jump school with a few fences above competition height, and at least one dressage school where I practice my test and iron out any kinks in the movements. I will do one conditioning ride early on in the week, or two weeks before depending on schedule/weather. On a daily basis I’m riding with the ultimate goal of competing in mind, so everything is geared towards improving myself and my pony to that end. When we get down to the week before a show, while it’s good to practice the questions we’ll be asked, I’m not about drilling or doing anything differently. Either the skills are there, or they’re not! You can’t ‘cram’ for horse shows IMO. But similar to you, I LOVE making lists and am sure that I am thoroughly packed a couple days beforehand!


  3. 1) Holy shit your show prep is so intense it’s actually making me nervous. LOL 2) Anything goes for XC so if glitter goo makes you happy, goo away. 3) The only things I really do are plan my rides so that he has a couple of less intense days and a day off before we leave. I also have a packing list and pack the day before. I have to have a list, otherwise I’d never remember anything. 4) Don’t overthink it. You and your horse already know how to do everything you’re going to have to do on show day. At some point, all this overthinking only serves to work yourself up. One last jump school at an exact height or one last dressage school drilling some exact movement isn’t going to do a damn thing for you. Relax and have fun!


    1. Yeah, writing this out I was like “I’m insane.” I think it’s my inexperience showing through, trying to control all the bits and pieces. But I stand by my full dress rehearsal. I need to practice on that stupid coat!!


      1. I wipe my horse off with a towel, pick his feet, and brush his tail. That’s it LOL. And it takes me 30mins to braid, but I usually do it a couple hours before my ride time just to get it out of the way.


  4. 1! Yikes that roll!!! Two, I think for me the biggest thing is you can’t be prepared for everything but you can try, and at least try to make sure you have all your equipment (that one has taken me a bit)


  5. Glitter!!!

    That is all.

    Good luck, friend! Just remember to keep to KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Not that you’re stupid but you feel me. Also, in the words of JayZ, you’re gonna “ball so hard muhfu*ckas wanna fine you” ❤


  6. i make my show routine as similar to my regular routine as possible. this is seriously aided by hauling out for lessons weekly – the packing process is almost identical. notable differences include more hay and water, chairs, and grooming equipment. and show clothes, obvi haha. sometimes the horse gets bathes. sometimes not…

    as far as riding prep – it’s a little fuzzier. lately i’ve had approx one zillion lessons – so most of my riding is supervised, meaning i’m being held accountable for riding to the best of my ability. isabel approves of this lol. we’re showing really often right now tho so it’s a tricky balance!

    anyways i love your tub ideas and am so excited for camelot (except that dragon omg). you guys are gonna be amazing!!! glitter all the things!


  7. Wow my prep looks like a joke next to all of this! Maybe because I really only have O/F or flat classes? Anyway, the weeks before I might train with more intention or take some extra lessons, but I try not to overdrill anything. I just show up, prep the white hair body parts to be clean, warm up, and memorize my courses and bam. There’s the show!


  8. Your show prep is extensive and thorough … I’m kind of just in awe over here … BUT eventing is a completely different animal from jumpers and some of the stuff you mention I pay someone else to do (that’s just how a lot of H/J barns are). As far as rides before a one-day show, I jump a few courses with my trainer a few days before and lightly ride the day before and lightly school in pre-dawn twilight on the show grounds before my classes.


  9. Wow you’re on top of your shit! Me, not so much. I only tend to use lists if I’m going overnight, which almost never happens due to finances and so many one day dressage shows around here. The night before a one day I just think about what I’m wearing and put it in a bag and grab my braiding kit, camera, and tack.

    For riding, I do absolutely nothing different. I test ride relatively regularly in my normal routine and tend to be the sort of person that brings a lot more to a test than I do at home. Basically if I can get it about 50% of the time at home, I will nail it in the test 90% of the time.

    GOOD LUCK!!! Can’t wait to totally stalk you on starbox.


    1. OK I wish I could just pack what I needed for the day! I’m clearly too neurotic.

      I’m glad you’ll be stalking me but also kinda freaked out at the same time!! A rated event and record!!


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