There are plenty of situations you can walk into without a plan. Horse showing just isn’t one of them. Whether it’s a quick weekend away or a two-week-long extravaganza, “Working Equestrian’s” Kate Severson has the pro tips you need to make sure you never leave home unprepared.
1. Make a list.
I love lists! They make things so much easier, especially if you’re packing for several horses or for a long show. Generally speaking, I don’t always work off a list for a regular show. I’ve been working at my current job long enough to know exactly what I need to take and what I don’t, but if we’re going on a particularly long trip, then I do find it very helpful. I love this list from my friend Liv over at Pro Equine Grooms! I’ve also made up my own which you can find here. Mine is mostly geared toward jumpers and dressage horses, so feel free to just use it as a guideline and add to it if you need to.
2. Know your trailer.
Do you have a step-up or a ramp? Lots of space in a gooseneck or a smaller dressing room in a bumper pull? Do you have an area in the rear for saddles or do you have to find another way to store them? Know how much room you have and how much you can comfortably fit in your trailer! If you’ve got room for several horses but you only take one, you can utilize some of the area where the horses go if you have a lot of extra things you need to take. It’s also a great place to store hay and shavings and even bags of grain if you have them well secured. Two of our three trailers at work have ramps that I can use to load the gooseneck, which makes a big difference because I can pack things that are a bit heavier since I don’t have to physically lift them. Keep that in mind if you’re packing by yourself!
3. Get a good storage system.
A lot of the top hunter/jumper show barns use wooden trunks, which look really nice, but in my opinion are a real pain in the rear. They’re heavy and cumbersome and take up a lot of room, so unless you have a lot of extra help packing and setting up at shows, I’d steer clear of wood trunks. When I pack for a show, I use the heavy duty Husky or Stanley trunks to store a lot of things. They’re lightweight, good sized, and they have wheels and a handle so I can easily maneuver them by myself. When I get to a show, I set up my groom stalls, unpack the trunks, then load the empty trunks back onto the trailer to reduce clutter. If I have an extra stall just for feed, I’ll sometimes leave them in with the hay so I can use them for dirty laundry or other miscellaneous storage.
We also have a large, rolling show trunk that I absolutely love because I can use it to store almost all of the tack and work out of it at the show. (Really, I can fit it all if I’m desperate, but I try to utilize a Stanley trunk for tack as well if given the choice.) It also locks easily and has a separate “safe” that I can also lock. I generally keep it chained and secured to a stall if it’s sitting in the aisle, or I chain and lock my grooming stall at night if it’s inside.
4. Pack with a plan.
As you start to load your trailer, load it up in a logical way! You’ll probably need to get to your wheelbarrow, manure fork, utility box, and water buckets first, so make sure they’re easy to get to. Try to be very aware of how you want to set up when you arrive so that you can pack accordingly.
5. Get a head start.
If I can, I like to have some essentials packed pretty consistently. I almost always have the fans and my utility box for shows packed and in the trailer already. Buckets are also easy to quickly clean out at the end of one show and repack into the trailer. If you have specific saddle pads and coolers only for shows, those are easy to launder after one show and repack well in advance of the next one. Ideally, all my packing is done the day before I go to the show, so that in the morning, I’m not scrambling around trying to throw things in the trailer last minute!
6. Check the weather.
Checking the weather a couple days before you leave can really help you out a lot. If you’re showing in a questionable season (like fall or spring), checking the weather can mean the difference between needing to pack extra fans and needing to pack heavy blankets!
7. Do a once over.
As I’m packing, I try to mentally (or physically, if I’m using a list) check off what goes in the trailer. Always before I leave, though, I try to do a quick once over of what’s in the trailer, and what else I might need to pack last minute. Usually, the morning I leave, I pack the hay nets and put them in the trailer. I also pack any hay we’re taking with us for the show into either an empty slot in the trailer, or the bed of my truck.
8. No clutter, please!
Try to minimize clutter. No, “Well I might need this. I mean, I know I haven’t used it in months, but what if I want it at the show?” If you haven’t used it in 6+ months, chances are, you won’t want it at the show. There are some things of which you can always use extras, like towels, duct tape, double-ended snaps, etc. But I’m a huge fan of paring down packing if at all possible. I don’t want a bunch of random things that I might want but ultimately probably won’t touch. It just takes up space and makes it harder to fit everything I’ll actually need.
9. Have fun.
Packing can sometimes seem tedious, but it’s not all that bad! I really enjoy packing for shows and will sometimes make an evening of it by ordering pizza and putting on music while the girls and I go through things and load the trailer.
About the Author
Kate Severson is a young professional working at a training and sales barn in Texas. She currently shows some young dressage horses as well as jumper sales horses, and her blog Working Equestrian is her way of providing in-depth insight into what it’s really like to work in the horse industry.