When you’re at home, consistent grooming helps keep your horse’s coat looking sleek, healthy, and shiny. At the show, those same habits come in handy for a different purpose all together. When you and your horse look neat, clean, and professional, you’re presenting the absolute best version of yourselves to the judge long before you start your pattern or turn to follow the rail.
The way you look in the show pen can be just as important as the way you perform, according to Wendy Huss of Scottsdale, Arizona-based Huss Performance Horses.
“In my experience, it makes a difference to the judge when someone comes into the pen and they’re really turned out well,” Wendy says. “My theory is that so much can happen when you go through that gate, whether you’re running a reiner in or riding a pleasure horse down the rail, that you should control everything you can before you enter the pen. And that includes how you present yourself and your horse. You only have one chance to make a good impression. To do otherwise is a disrespect not only to the judge, but yourself, because you represent yourself and your trainer.”
Dan and Wendy Huss train and show reining horses at Smoking Roosters Ranch, and whether she’s grooming a horse for a non-pro class or to enter the pen at the World Equestrian Games, Wendy says it’s all about the details.
“When our horses go into the reining pen, they’re pretty close to how they’d look going into a showmanship class. We’re pretty serious about making sure every horse is clipped, oiled, and sprayed,” Wendy says.
Adding an extra layer of shine to an already spotlessly groomed horse is part of trainer Keith McDonough’s pre-show grooming routine as well, and with good reason. Along with business partner Mark Jensen, Keith trains and shows all-around horses at Palm Desert Quarter Horses in Palm Desert, California. With years of experience turning out horses for the show pen, Keith knows the value of making the best first impression possible.
“The importance of having your horse impeccably groomed is you only have one chance to make a first impression,” Keith explains. “It’s vital to make a good impression on the judge by catching his or her eye in a positive manner the first time you enter the ring.”Tools of the TRADE
The first step to keeping your horse looking his best is stocking your grooming kit with the right tools. From brushes and clippers to oils, sprays, and chalks, find the products that work best for your horses and your program. For Wendy, curry combs and electric horse vacuums are ideal for everyday use.
“Our daily practice isn’t that much different than what happens at the horse show,” Wendy says. “We curry every horse all over and use vacuums every day.”
Brushes. Stock your kit with rubber curry combs, body brushes, soft brushes, hoof picks, and towels. If you travel often, designate one kit for your trailer and one for your barn.
Clippers. For legs, bridle paths, ears, and whiskers invest in the best pair of clippers you can afford, and maintain them on a regular basis. Oil and sharpen clipper blades for best results.
“Before every show, we clip our white legs with a #40 blade,” Keith says. “It’s a close clip, but it means that white legs look nice and clean without an added product like cornstarch.”
Vacuums. Electric equine grooming vacuums can be a lifesaver at home or at the show, especially if you invest in a smaller model that’s easier to haul. Before using a vacuum for the first time, take care to desensitize your horse to noise and suction.
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