"Top Tips for success in the showring
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"Top Tips for success in the showring

Horses
Grooming & Hygiene

Aren’t there just some people whose horses are immaculate...even greys and they always seem to look the part too so how do they do it? Here are some top tips to get you looking fabulous this season.

  • Always turn out correctly for type and level, if you are not sure whether it really should be tweed or a solid coloured jacket then ask someone in the know. A good source of reference are the showing pages of Horse & Hound, have a look at what everyone else is doing, if they are good enough to make it into the magazine then they are bound to be winners
  • Read your show society’s rules carefully. For example, some show societies ban jewellery and that forgotten about pair of earrings could cause you to lose costly marks in the ring unnecessarily
  • Pay attention to detail. If you should be wearing a tie pin then make sure it fits with the class. There are some lovely blingy tie pins around but they would be frowned on in hunter classes for example where something more traditional is appropriate
  • If you are working to a colour scheme then try and ensure it is consistent, everything should match but don’t overcook the look
  • If you can bear the cost, try and keep a show hat for best and opt for one with a flesh coloured strap as that makes a huge difference to the overall picture
  • Some show societies and classes are more traditional than others, you might feel that you are just wearing the same as everyone else, a bit like a uniform but you don’t want to stand out for all the wrong reasons
  • When it comes to getting horses clean, that job actually starts weeks ahead of the show date and there are no short cuts to elbow grease. A white tail that has been washed twice a week for several weeks will be a lot easier to prepare than one that hasn’t been touched. You can just use a basic shampoo in the weeks leading up to the show and a show shampoo the day before. But even clean, white hair can go a bit yellow as it ages, at the bottom of the tail. There are plenty of products which will whiten the tail, so called purple shampoos, similar to the purple rinses for old ladies at the hair salon. This takes away the yellow colour and will whiten the hair, if you use more of the product, then you can gradually change the colour to silver. As with any product always patch test first before you use it
  • White socks and stockings can be treated to the same shampoo. There is also a corn flour based paste which can be painted onto the legs wet and left to dry. This brushes out to a chalky substance which leaves a brilliant white finish. For traditional cobs and heavy horses with a lot of white feather, it is a question of washing the feathers until they are as clean as possible and then combing through talcum powder or French chalk when they are dry. Baking soda mixed with water is another trade secret to sparkling white markings
  • Travelling horses and keeping them clean presents another unique challenge. Stretchy hoods are popular to keep plaits in place and necks free of stable stains both the night before and when travelling
  • Use hairspray to just tidy up any loose or stray mane hair
  • Stable or travel bandages will protect legs and keep them clean and dry
  • Tails can be bandaged and then plaited out of the way and covered with a tail bag during travel. Remember, you shouldn’t leave a tail bandage on for more than four hours at a time
  • If you are new to showing or new to that society, go along and watch some classes first to see how people turn out for them and how they are structured
  • Start with small shows and work up, that’s what the top producers do with their young horses. Most shows can be entered on the day although it is usually cheaper to pre-enter but county shows, due to their size, always close their entries several weeks before the show date
  • Practise makes perfect – if you are not good at plaiting then practise until you are. Most people are happy to share their expertise so find someone who can help you and who would be prepared to give you a master class in how to do it. There are also lots of helpful explainer videos on YouTube
  • The two main ingredients to successful turnout are preparation and hard work, there is no substitute for either of these, unfortunately, and elbow grease is not available in a tin!
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