How We Do Shows

Now that I’ve been to a couple rated shows with my trainer, I figured I’d share how things tend to go over the course of the week. With a few caveats:

  • Things may be slightly different for the hunter riders since they have a whole division every day. I don’t know, I don’t pay a ton of attention to those rings haha
  • I won’t claim that this is the “best” way, there’s plenty of ways to have a safe and successful show! This is just how we do it, and it runs pretty smoothly!


Discuss which classes to enter- pretty easy for me since I just do my division over the course of the weekend. Jumpers at our barn tend to do 1-2 classes each day so we plan around that (since each class requires a separate warmup and the courses are so long, each class involves almost as much jumping efforts as a full hunter division. Hence the limited classes.).

Trainer checks on grooming and lets us know what’s necessary- do we need to pull manes? Trim fetlocks? Other assorted grooming tasks? I tend to outsource this to a working student/Assistant Trainer since they are waaaaay better at this than I am. I can practice when it isn’t show season. We also give a bath the night before leaving to create a base clean.

Pack our trunks. For me this means completely unpacking my trunk, then repacking with ONLY what I need for the show: standing wraps/pillow wraps and tack (including open-fronts). When the weather cools down, we’ll include a cooler. Basically we don’t want to cart anything there that isn’t totally necessary.

Make sure all show clothes are clean and packed. Polish boots. Pack ring bag.

Set-up day:

Haul to the show. I don’t have a trailer, so Frankie rides with Trainer in one of hers. They often haul the day before I get there, so I miss out on all the loading and unloading and setup (oh no, woe is me…).


Horse stalls: Each horse gets two water buckets, a tonnnn of shavings, and hay. Grain buckets come in and out at meal times. Rider trunks go in front of their horse’s stall (locked). Wrap “bags” in barn colors get zip-tied to stall fronts to hold standing wraps when they’re not in use.

Feed stall: hay, grain, shavings, extra buckets go here. Sometimes our mini-fridge goes here too, and rider trunks if they don’t fit in the aisle. I also tend to leave my backpack/bootbag here during the days. We’ll set up some hooks to hold helmets, half-chaps, jackets, etc.

Grooming stall: rubber mats, shelving units with brushes, saddle pads, towels, fly spray, show sheen, and everything else we could possibly need. Wall-box with safety pins, emergency numbers, rider numbers, strings, pens, random useful stuffs. Crossties. TONS of hooks/saddle racks to hang tack on.

Miscellaneous: tack-cleaning station with a variety of soaps and conditioners and small bucket of water. White-board to track who needs to be in what ring to do which class when, and which horses need to be braided on any given day (and by default, who needs to leave a check for the braider. Hooray for jumpers not needing braids!). If we’re at a show with temporary stalls (i.e. pretty much anything under a tent), we’ll move panels around to create a dressing room to change in.

The pretty stuff: we have draperies with Trainer and Barn name on it. We also have a pew to sit on, a couple chairs, flowers, table, etc. Depending on location, we’ll put mulch down and hang flowers from the tent.

ocala_stall setup

Pick up numbers from show office. Trainer usually grabs mine for me and makes sure I’m entered in all the right classes. She’ll add/scratch anything for the next day.

Horses get a training ride. Since we usually get there the day before we actually show, the horses all go for a hack. Riders are encouraged to ride their own, but ammies like me who are stuck at work like chumps tend to have Trainer or Assistant Trainer hop on.

Trainer reports on Pony’s behavior and lets us all know what time to show up the next day.

Actual show days:

Show up about an hour before the first class is supposed to walk (if the website says my class is walking around 10:15AM, that means showing up at 9:15AM. Even though we all know that in reality my class probably won’t walk until noon.). Put gear down and give Pony smooshes and snuggles.

Smooches from EVERYONE

Go learn my course. If I can sneak into an earlier course walk, fantastic. Put my name in the order of go if Trainer hasn’t already (spoiler alert, she probably has).

Chill for a bit. Watch some rounds going in whatever class is running. Hang out with fellow riders. Say hi to people I recognize from last show. Try not to make eye contact with the intimidating woman running the in-gate. Have a protein bar. Drink my weight in water.

Call Trainer/Assistant Trainer when it’s time for my class to walk. Walk it together and discuss strategy about how best to ride the course.

Stay and watch 2-3 rounds go while Trainer finishes up in another ring. OR if early in the order, forego the watching.

Go back to the barn and finish getting dressed. Assistant Trainer and assorted working students/barn rats/awesome people have already tacked up Pony using one of our barn’s logo saddle pads and polished his hooves and he’s napping on the crossties.

Hop on and head to the warmup ring. Flat around to get muscles moving. Trainer shows up and claims a jump. Do whatever she says while trying desperately not to cause a major collision. Easier said than done.


Head to the in-gate. Tell Trainer the course one last time and take a deep breath. She says, “Go have fun.” Enter the ring.


Exit the ring. De-brief with Trainer. What worked? What didn’t work? What do we need to do differently next time? Go for a short walk to cool out Pony. Call Mom and Dad to gush over how cool Pony is.

De-briefing session means Francis gets to chill for a sec

Get back to the barn and hop off. Working students/barn rats/awesome people take Pony to untack and hose him off if he’s done/has a long break before his next class, or untack and put him in his stall if it’s a shorter break.

If I’m not done for the day: go learn the next course, walk it, repeat the whole process.

If I am done for the day: change into more comfortable shoes and a less sweaty shirt. Throw on a baseball cap, you bum, your hair is disgusting.

Go cheer on our other riders- hold their horses, film their rounds, wipe their boots, whatever. Visit the vendors and bleed out more money. Go to the show cafe and get something greasy and covered in cheese.

Check for ribbons and freak out

At any point before leaving for the day:

Confirm classes for the next day. Add/scratch if needed.

Clean and condition all tack. This includes hosing down and sun-drying boots, scrubbing bits, etc. Put all tack away in trunk and lock it.

Re-wrap pillow/standing wraps so Assistant Trainer can wrap the horses that need it. She does really aesthetically pleasing wraps.

Trainer sets up the whiteboard for the next day. This is basically our bible. Ask her what time to be there the next morning. If she says anything earlier than 8am, try to convince her she’s wrong. Begrudgingly admit she knows what she’s talking about and agree to be there early.

Last day of show:

Once done with my last class, get Pony and tack cleaned up and squared away.

Go to the show office and close out. Subtly check bank account on phone when they hand me the bill. Pray. Cry quietly as I sign the check.

Break down the setup: all trunks go on the trailer, hoses, buckets, draperies, chairs, mini-fridge, ALL OF IT. Make sure hay nets are full and trailer is ready to receive the steeds.

Put Pony on the trailer with his buddies.

Follow the trailer home.

Unload Pony and toss him in his stall to chill for a bit while I help clean out the trailer- depending on the length of the journey, this ranges from picking the poop to stripping the shavings. Get new shavings and re-load hay nets so trailer is already set to go for the next use.

Unload all gear- laundry to the laundry room, other stuff to….other places. I dunno, I just follow instructions at this point.

Take care of Pony- hose off if needed, bath if needed, grooming if needed. In general this is pretty light since he was taken care of at the showgrounds. Usually toss outside to play since he’s been cooped up for a couple days. He can prolly just hang outside for like the next 3 days before asking him to work again.

Unload trunk- hang tack back up in the tack room and throw all my garbage back in my trunk. Put trunk back where it lives.

All tucked away in its home

Head home, have a glass of wine and go to bed at 8pm because yes, tomorrow is Monday and the real world is waiting.

What do you do differently?


19 thoughts on “How We Do Shows

  1. Centered in the Saddle 10/11/2016 / 11:11 am

    2. My schedule isn’t too different than yours other than it includes braiding. Yeah…I braid my own horse and usually anywhere from 1-3 other horses too. Makes for some late nights and early mornings but also offsets some of my bill for the weekend so I don’t cry (as much) when I check out!
    3. Also I’ve been doing the hunters so my day/weekend usually ends up including some version of this exchange:
    Me: Is it time to get ready?
    Trainer: Not yet.
    Me: How about now.
    Trainer: Not yet.
    (Repeat several times.)
    Announcer: We’ve moved the ponies/adults/some divisions into the other ring.
    Trainer: Go get ready and be quick about it.
    Me: OMG OKAY!! *Mad rush to get dressed/tacked and sprints to warm-up ring*
    1 hour later: still waiting to show


  2. Monica V 10/11/2016 / 2:24 pm

    I bought a separate smaller travel/show trunk so that I don’t have to transfer things, because I am lazy AF that way.

    Also we have never mulched the stables. Then again, eventers don’t do that and as a recent HJ transplant, I think I should get used to stall decorations yes?


    • hellomylivia 10/12/2016 / 12:54 pm

      Dude lean into the stall/aisle decorations. Some people get SUPER into it- planting flowers in the ground, setting up water features, it’s no joke.


  3. Karen M 10/11/2016 / 2:51 pm

    Pretty much sounds like showing with a typical h/j barn to me! We don’t have square pads with the barn logo right now, though … I miss those.


  4. Stacie Seidman 10/11/2016 / 3:03 pm

    Sounds much like how we do things! Up until a few years ago though, I did EVERYTHING my self. So that was a little challenging with two horses. I also braid my own hunters. I’m exhausted just thinking about it…


    • hellomylivia 10/12/2016 / 12:55 pm

      Oh goodness I can’t imagine having to do all of that yourself!! How did you have energy to show?!


  5. Heather 10/12/2016 / 8:16 am

    Man. I really miss doing big shows with a big show barn. The only difference in my experience is that I was the working student/barn rat who skipped school Wed-Fri to hack/lunge/possibly show the horses to have them ready for their juniors and ammies, and I got everyone tacked up with the help of the barn guy that sometimes got dragged along. Oh and I usually fed in the mornings. And did stalls. OK my experience was really different. But I’m dying for the full ammy experience now that I’m not so poor!


    • hellomylivia 10/12/2016 / 12:56 pm

      Yesss the ammy experience is cushy, enjoy it!! You’ve most definitely earned it 😉


  6. Abby F 10/12/2016 / 7:06 pm

    Our routine is pretty similar except that I groom for myself (including braids because apparently, I like to torture myself), set up my own stalls, and ship my own horses, so I pack my trailer. I get exhausted thinking about it, and it makes for some EARLY mornings and late nights, but it saves me a ton of money since I show two horses. We also have a really busy show schedule, so the show bills really rack up! The only show that I don’t take care of them myself is WEF, since I travel back and forth, but I do ship them to and from Florida myself. I was a professional groom for years, so I do have the routine down and it makes it a bit easier. However, I don’t have a regular people job ( I manage our farm), so it makes it easier to do it myself.


    • hellomylivia 10/17/2016 / 10:31 am

      Oh man just thinking about the logistics there is overwhelming. More power to you for doing all this!


  7. Hillary H. 10/12/2016 / 9:20 pm

    I am kind of a control freak and don’t think I could ever really happily do this. I would probably annoy everyone by hovering. My barn owner and I have a pretty good set up and work well together. As we don’t have a in house trainer it works out for us to just do our own thing show set up wise and meet whatever trainer at the shows. Some Hj show set ups are ridiculous. We have a banner and chairs but that’s about where we draw the line. No mulch or planting!

    It saves us a ton to do our own care etc as well. I wouldn’t have been able to do half the stuff I did this year if I didn’t do my own care. Having a trailer of my own obviously helps though! Interesting to hear how everyone does it though.


    • hellomylivia 10/17/2016 / 10:33 am

      There’s such a range in how people do it! Also OMG yes some of the setups are INSANE, like water features and paved paths and everything. I secretly love it.


  8. Micaylah 10/14/2016 / 12:08 pm

    I’ve always wanted to be apart of a big show barn. And I LOVE the barn caps. Last year for showing was pretty lowkey. But I’m also poor and take care of pony myself (plus just another girl with me, no big show barn). So a lot less watching and waiting. We normally compete against eachother lol


  9. Tracy - Fly On Over 10/28/2016 / 9:03 am

    My routine is pretty similar, although some things I do more of myself since we have a much smaller program. I always do all my own grooming and riding… and we’re responsible for setting up our own stalls and tack stall. Although typically all of the clients help out with these tasks (but again, it’s usually only 3 or 4 of us)

    Liked by 1 person

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