What Do I Need to Do to Get My Horse ‘Show Ready’?

It’s showtime! While there are many last minute items to check off your list, including packing the float, preparation for a successful show often begins a few weeks in advance. In this article, we discuss the five steps to your best show season yet.

When you step into the show ring, all eyes are on you and your horse. But, what does it take to make you two a winning combination? If you truly want to turn heads this show season, then you must consider your horse’s health, nutrition and coat.

  1. Daily grooming

Grooming should be part of your horse’s daily regime. A daily groom stimulates the hair follicles and massages the skin, releasing natural oils and creating a brilliant shine.

  • Start by using a curry comb over the muscled areas, including the neck, shoulders, mid-section and hindquarters, to remove dust, dirt and hair.
  • Then, follow with a body brush over the entire body. You may also need to use a dandy brush to remove any mud from your horse’s lower legs.
  • When brushing your horse’s tail, focus on the dock area to promote hair growth. Using a comb, gently remove any knots and burrs from the mane and tail.

2. A well-balanced diet

A glowing coat begins from the inside out. Your horse should receive a forage-first diet, with added vitamins, minerals and protein, to support optimum health and muscle development.

  • However, forage sources may be deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. A well-balanced complete feed or ration balancer may be necessary, but be cautious of unwanted calories.
  • For added shine, there are a number of quality plant-based oils that can be safely fed to horses. Stabilised rice bran, vegetable, canola or coconut oil are recommended.
  • Ensure your horse also has access to unlimited fresh, clean drinking water.

3. Regular health care

Often, a dull coat is the first sign of ill-health. Any horse in poor body condition as a result of parasites, malnutrition or an underlying health problem simply isn’t ‘show ready’.

  • Throughout the year, your horse should receive regular de-worming and any required vaccinations, along with professional teeth and hoof care.
  • Prior to the show, check the vaccination and any interstate travel requirements to ensure your horse is protected around unfamiliar horses. 

4. Mane and tail care

With correct mane and tail care, your horse’s locks will be the envy of everyone in the show ring! In addition to daily grooming, regular conditioning and rugging will promote soft, healthy hair.

  • When grooming your horse’s mane and tail, use a detangler to remove knots easily. This will prevent hair breakage and make grooming more pleasant for your horse.
  • A mild conditioner can be rubbed into your horse’s tail every few days to soften brittle hairs. Use a tail bag prior to the show to protect their tail from any new debris.
  • Harsh shampoos, sprays and soaps deplete your horse’s coat, mane and tail of natural oils. If bathing is required, use water and a soft brush to remove sweat and dirt.

5. The final preparations

The day before the show is your last chance to clean and clip your horse!

  • If your horse requires any clipping around the face, ears, throat, bridle path or hooves, this can be done the day before. However, muzzle hairs should not be removed.
  • If your horse is white or has any white areas, such as socks, mane or tail, use a whitening shampoo the day before, then apply leg wraps or rug as needed.
  • Lastly, bathe your horse the night before so they’re ready to go straight onto the float the next morning. Use a lightweight rug and tail bag to keep their coat clean.


  • Dr Louise Cosgrove

    The founder of Exclusively Equine Veterinary Services, Louise is driven to support horses in their recovery from injury or illness. A graduate of the University of Queensland, with international equin...

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