Behind the Scenes of Horse Show Grooming and Presentation

Getting your horse ready for the show ring can be a huge undertaking. It doesn’t have to be, though, if you keep on top of grooming and trimming as part of your daily routine.

Bathing and Trimming

Professionals spend months grooming and conditioning their horses to create a healthy, shiny coat. They also feed their horses a special diet to promote coat bloom.

On the day of the horse shows Chester County PA, the groom will start by brushing the horse thoroughly to remove any dirt or dust. Next, they will apply a coat of dressing or oil to make the hair glossy. The horse will be sponged down, and the face, ears, eyes, tail, and dock will be cleaned using wet wipes or separate sponges.

Some show disciplines require that the horse be braided. The mane may be left long or pulled and banded (small rubber bands put around small sections of the mane). Lastly, lower leg clipping and ear hair trimming help to make the chrome pop. These steps can take a while, so it is important to begin grooming the horse early.

Plaiting and Polishing

For those who compete in a discipline that requires show attire, fitting and polishing are crucial to getting ready for a horse show. Trainers like Keith ensure horses are bathed, clipped, and groomed extensively before the show to ensure they look their best in the ring.

Once exhibitors get to the venue, they must adhere to a standard dress code dictated by the show and breed organization. This may include wearing a specific style of clothes, braiding the mane, or having it banded (small rubber bands placed around sections of the mane).

Exhibitors will then be led into the ring one at a time and work through a pattern that must be memorized. A judge will then evaluate the exhibitor and horse based on their grooming, cleanliness, and turnout. Exhibitors are also asked to answer questions about the breed and care of the animal and demonstrate their handler’s ability.

Boots and Wraps

Boots offer additional protection for a horse’s legs in specific areas. Generally made of breathable materials with easy-to-use hook and loop closures, they can be machine-washed and dried. Correct wrapping creates a custom fit and helps keep dirt from getting against the soft tissues of the legs.

Some boots are pre-molded to a shape for support, while others are wrapped around the leg and then fastened with velcro straps. Some have a hard outer shell with a softer inner layer like sheepskin, neoprene, or shock-absorbing gel.

Skid boots are popular in disciplines like reining, where the horse must slide and turn on his front limbs. Tendon boots are worn on the horse’s back legs and come in open or closed-front varieties. Typically thick, they wrap the fetlock and pastern and may have extra strike pads for cushioning. Shipping boots protect the horse’s hocks, fetlocks, coronet, and heels while in the trailer.


A horse is then brushed to remove any remaining dirt and to give it a soft, shiny appearance. Often, the mane will be pulled, although this is not a necessity. It is also a common practice to spray the horse with a show sheen or an aerosol coat highlighter for added shine and gloss, especially on the legs and face (although these products can be very toxic if misused).

Finally, all crevices of the hooves are cleaned, particularly the sulci between the frog and bars, as these areas tend to trap debris and develop thrush. The hooves are then picked to remove all dirt and debris, preferably without jabbing the horse’s feet or causing discomfort.

Often, the exhibitor will have a question or an oral reason to discuss with the judge. They will then be asked to show their horse in a particular way, usually by entering one of the four numbered squares of the ring.