Skip to content Skip to navigation menu

Getting a horse ready for a show


As with any horse, it is important that you feed your show horse a well balanced diet. This can be achieved through buying a ready mixed horse feed specific to conditioning for shows. Supplements and additives to improve the horse’s coat, such as linseed oil or cod liver oil, can be advantageous. There are also a number of herbal remedies that might be useful for highly strung or nervous horses.


The show horse does not need the same level of training as a competition horse. However, the horse should be trained such that he is supple, balanced and straight in all three paces. He should respond to your aids, without getting overly excited or bad tempered and should be working in an outline.

Show horses also need to remain calm and collected in what can sometimes be an overwhelming and noisy show environment. You can prepare young potential show horses for the stresses of the show ground by taking him or her to small events such as local cross country events, pony club meets or gymkhanas. Playing the radio in the stable at home, placing scary looking objects around the arena and getting your horse used to children and other animals being around will also help.

Trimming and plaiting

Most show horses and ponies, unless they are a native breed, are expected to be trimmed and plaited for the show ring. Although there is some debate over whether trimming is humane, most professional show people trim out the ears, whiskers, jaws and heels. The aim is to create a sharp, streamlined appearance.

Manes should be pulled and then plaited, using thread that is as close to the colour of the mane as possible. Rubber bands can be used but look less professional. Clever plaiting can improve the look of a bad neck and can help to disguise conformational defects. 


The use of cosmetics has become very popular in the showing world. Petroleum jelly around the eyes and muzzle will help to enhance the horse’s features. You can also buy black make-up, specifically for horses, from many tack shops.  Although this can take some practice to perfect, it can look stunning when subtly applied around the eyes, muzzle and just inside the ears. Horse make-up, which is available in a variety of colours, can also be used to cover up any marks or scars. A sheen spray can are also be applied to make the coat shiny.

Chalk powder can be added to any white socks and washing the tail with conditioner if it is looking a little on the thin side. The best thing you can do is give your horse a good wash a few days before the show and then a thorough groom the day before the show.