You have worked your butt off in riding lessons, clinics, hours of practice and have finally entered a show! But wait—you want your horse to look as shiny as Neville Bardos with braids as tight as Cylana. You can turn out your horse just as nicely as the professionals without the price tag. And who knows? When your barn friends see your horse looking beautiful, you may score a job braiding or bathing. Aside from making sure your saddle pad (I recommend the Horze Crescendo Hadia VS Saddle Pad) is bleached white, your tack is pristine, boots are polished, the trailer is packed, and so much more, it’s time to make your horse stand out in the crowd. I like to make a show checklist to ensure I do not accidentally arrive at the show and realize I forgot to trim Herin’s whiskers (first world problems, I know).
Again, as with anything in the horse world, there are countless products. To bathe your horse, you can use anything from Vetrolin, to Mane and Tail, to Tresseme. The major trick in bathing is to use a curry comb instead of a sponge. I apply the shampoo directly to the curry comb or the horse. This allows better scrubbing and eliminates that never-ending rinsing of the soapy sponge.
Once you have sufficiently scrubbed your horse, use the leftover soapy water to dunk and clean the tail. Another trick when bathing is to use a sweat scraper to scrape off all the suds from the soap. This saves water and cuts down on how long it takes to rinse your horse. After you rinse the shampoo out of the tail, apply conditioner and rinse (or let it sit if you would like to deep condition). Wait until the tail is completely dry before combing. If you attempt to comb when wet, it is just going to be more frustrating than it is productive.
Trim Whiskers, Ears, and Fetlocks
Once your horse smells like a salon, you can use clippers or scissors to trim their muzzle, ears, fetlocks, and even the tail dock. Personally, I like to leave an inch or so of whiskers on the muzzle as it helps the horse feel their surroundings. You may not need to trim too much, if any at all, on the ears or fetlocks, depending on your personal preference and discipline.
If you have never braided before, fear not. The previous post will give you a detailed “how to” on braiding. I strongly advise doing it yourself no matter how badly you think it will turn out. The only way to get better is to practice, practice, practice. Being able to turn out beautiful braids yourself is what I consider a mandatory skill all riders must have. As with wound care, turning out your horse also contributes to being a well-rounded horse person. Now your horse is shiny, braided, and ready to go. Don’t forget, have fun! Stay tuned for our next post on how to calm horse show nerves!
From one horse crazed human to another – Maria Holman