How to Groom a Horse for a Horse Show

If you are attending a horse show you want to capture the judges eye. Many people shampoo their horse and clip the bridle path, brush it, and apply Show Sheen, and stop there. If you want to get attention and make your horse look like a star there are other things to do.

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In the weeks prior to the horse show the more grooming you do the more shiny the horses coat will be. Lots of brushing will remove any loose hairs and improve the horses skin tone, thus making the coat shine fully.


Sometime in the week prior to the show you can begin sanding the horses hooves. This should not be done unless you have been shown how. Start with a rougher sand paper and progress to a fine one, removing all the ridges from the horses hoof. This is typically done with an electric sander. Sanding the hooves will make the hoof smooth and shiny when you later apply hoof coating/polish at the show.


Clipping can be done one or two days prior to the show, trimming the horses white markings (face, legs) shorter, clipping the ears (only clip inside the ears if it is a summer show, or your climate is warm year round). Leave a little diamond at the tip of the ears. Trim the bridle path, muzzle, under the jaw, and so forth. Trim the legs, removing any excess feathering if not specifically desired on the breed.


Bathing should be done the night prior to the show, or even that morning. Use proper horse shampoo, and horse conditioner. If the horse has white areas on its legs (or is a gray horse or pinto) a trick to making them more white is to use a tiny amount of “bluing” (a product sold in the laundry section of stores). Add only a few drops to a bucket of water and shampoo (too much will turn the horse blue), sponge onto the white areas and let sit for a few minutes before rinsing. Show Sheen can be applied while the horse is still wet but should not be put on the horses back (where the saddle goes) unless it is being shown in the halter division only, and not undersaddle. Show Sheen should not be used on the mane and tail if they will be braided (as in hunter classes and so forth).


To make the tail slightly wavy you can braid it loosely while wet, otherwise wait until it dries and braid it loosely to prevent tangles from forming (especially when bathing the day before).


Wash all bushes and pack supplies, and extra rags, to take to the show.

At the Show
File:Arabian horse 4H showmanship.JPG  An unfortunately blurry picture, but note the hooves shine well even in this indoor arena.


Stand the horse on a clean surface. Prepare the hooves with steel wool, polishing them further in a circular motion. Then rub in shoe polish, use black shoe polish if the horses hooves are black, clear polish if they are white or have stripes. Use a clean cloth to wipe away excess shoe polish and then paint the hooves with hoof polish, again, black for black hooves, clear for white hooves or those with stripes.



Many breeds do not allow coloring to be applied to the face, however some breeds do allow it and there are special products to use for this purpose, otherwise baby oil is generally used. Apply the baby oil in the horses ears, on the top of the bridle path, around the eyes, and muzzle. *You may want to practice this before the show so you know how much to use.



Baby oil may also be put under the dock of the tail, around the rectum, and on the sheath (gelding/stallion).

Gel (hair gel as for people) may be used to hold the forelock together, and to smooth down any problem hairs on the mane.

These grooming tips also apply to making a horse look better when for sale, or for photography.

Although the horses in the pictures are Arabians the grooming tips apply to all breeds of horse or pony.

Related Links

The Beauty of the Arabian Horse

Winning Isn’t Everything at a Horse Show

Unique Horse Breeds

How to take Better Horse Pictures

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  1. Posted August 20, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    another brilliant and well researched article on how to groom a horse. the horses, after grooming and bathing, appear alot happier and have a natural shine on their coats and their hooves are nice and properly shaped. i liked this very much. thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Posted August 20, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Wonderful share…

  3. Posted August 21, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Typical you. I haven’t read your posts for a long time. Thanks for this latest offering.

  4. Posted August 21, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Thanks for sharing

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