If you missed Parts 1 and 2 of the Getting Started at AHA Shows series, covering the basic requirements and process of entering as well as abbreviations and disciplines, you can check them out on the Arabian Horse Life blog.
After plans are made and entries are mailed, preparations for your first show can begin. Like most trips or activities, good planning can make the experience easier and more enjoyable.
Packing efficiently while making sure you have everything you need is a skill that develops with practice. Lots of horse show packing lists can be found online and provide a starting point for you to customize to your needs. The basic necessities to consider include your horse’s maintenance items (hay, water buckets, grain, blankets), your show tack and attire, and your own provisions for the show and trip. Other less obvious items such as first aid kit are also important - be sure they are on your list.
It’s usually a good idea to check your rig before you leave, especially if you’re going long distances, to an unfamiliar area, or if it’s been a while since you last hauled. USRider offers a Pre-Trip Checklist, which makes for a good starting point to ensure your rig is ready. If your horse doesn’t travel regularly, practicing loading well in advance of the show will make the day of departure, and the subsequent trip home, much less stressful. This is also a good time to double check your horse has everything he needs to travel, including coggins paperwork and sometimes health and vaccination certificates. Extra hard copies of these stored somewhere safely in the truck can act as a back-up if others are misplaced.
It can pay to overpack a little, especially at first. You may never need that spare halter and you don’t necessarily have to unload it at the showgrounds, but it could end up being very useful in a pinch - for you or someone else. Some shows have mobile tack vendors who usually carry a good range of essentials, though it’s best not to rely on this. The Arabian horse community is supportive and welcoming - other exhibitors and trainers can be a great help in times of crisis. It’s not uncommon for equipment to be loaned or a helping hand offered, especially if you let someone know you are new to breed shows and are having an issue.
Similarly to packing ahead, it pays to have the logistics of your trip planned out in advance. This includes hotels or RV hookups, meals and budget, routes to and from the show, and expected travel times. Roadside assistance offers additional peace of mind and is worth considering particularly for long trips. US Rider is one provider that offers this service specifically with the equestrian in mind.
It’s important to either plan your arrival to coincide with show office hours so you are able to collect or purchase shavings for your horse, or to call ahead and make sure your shavings will be available. Typically on arriving at the show, most exhibitors will unload their horse and belongings and set up at their stalls, which are usually assigned on a stall chart provided. Once unpacked, or at the next available opportunity (sometimes the morning after if you arrive late at night), head to the show office to check in and collect your back number. This is a great time to get more information, such as the number of horses in each class (this helps you anticipate what time you will show) and any changes to the schedule. If you are unfamiliar with the layout of the showgrounds, ask someone in the office to point you in the direction of the rings where you will be showing. Finding these beforehand can save stress on show morning.
While your horse settles in, it helps to familiarize yourself with the facility and make a schedule of how events might unfold on show day. Use the start time of your session to decide when you need to arrive back from the hotel or RV. It’s best to give yourself lots of time to prepare. Plan for feeding, bathing and braiding if needed, as well as hair, makeup, changing into your show clothes, and warming up your horse. Check your equipment as soon as you can after arriving at the show. If anything is missing or forgotten, the more time you have to replace it, the better. If you have questions or concerns, speak to the show office and try to get everything clarified in advance to avoid extra stress. The show office can also tell you if there are exhibitor events (ice cream socials, dinners, entertainment or barn parties). These are great opportunities to meet other owners, trainers, and Arabian horse lovers and to enjoy the community.
When show day comes around, your careful preparation should pay off. Try to relax and enjoy your time in the ring with your Arabian or Half-Arabian horses!
If you still have questions about getting started, contacting AHA or the club or person hosting the show can be helpful. Additionally, you can reach out online through the number of social media communities for Arabian horse lovers, or through your local club.