Horse Showing at "The Bigs"

How to survive your first trip to a major horse show (and enjoy it, too).

The American Quarter Horse Journal

You’ve set your goal to attend a big show for the first time. Maybe it’s the All American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio; maybe you’re heading to Oklahoma City and the AQHA World Championship Show for the first time; or maybe you’ve saved vacation time to head to the Florida circuits or to the Arizona Sun Circuit.

Regardless, the big ones are an adventure, a little overwhelming, and definitely different than the weekend shows you attend all year. But don’t worry! We asked AQHA judge Dolly Chayer of Sperry, Oklahoma, for advice on how to negotiate that first big show. Here’s what she recommends:

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At Home, Before the Show

For me, preparation and organization are the keys to surviving the big shows. I begin three weeks ahead in planning and packing my trailer.

    • First on my list is the medicine kit. I make sure to have flunixin (Banamine) in case of colic and Epsom salts on hand to get through the three weeks of All American Quarter Horse Congress. I also get health papers on the horses going and make sure their Coggins papers are current. Before the Congress and AQHA world shows, I also vaccinate the horses going to the show, just to help protect them.
    • Everything gets washed - sheets, wraps, pads, show pads, towels. I count out my buckets for water and grain, make sure I have everything I need to hang them, and I wash them, too.
    • Equipment is all cleaned and checked, truck and trailer tires checked and the truck serviced, if necessary. This is where “To Do” and “To Get” lists really come in handy to keep yourself organized.

Stalling Office

Your first stop upon arrival at the show will be the stalling office. You might already have your stall assignments in hand or you might get them when you check in.

Unlike many smaller, weekend shows, bigger shows offer - and recommend - that you pre-order bedding ahead of time for faster unloading when you arrive. If you haven’t pre-ordered your bedding, bring your checkbook so you can order it on arrival. Even for the prepaid orders, you might be required to bring a check or a credit card to leave open on a tab for additional shavings while you are there.

The stalling office can also advise you of the parking situation, where to drop your trailer or direct you to the RV park.

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Settling In

Once I find my stalls, I spread the bedding and hang the water buckets before unloading my horses. Then I unload all of my tack, equipment and feed before parking the truck and trailer. Then it’s time to organize the tack stall.

Be sure to mark your stalls with your name and emergency contact number; if one of your horses gets into trouble, you want people to be able to get a hold of you.

The long drive from Oklahoma to Ohio can be hard, so I plan the first day there as a day of rest for my horses whenever possible. After my horses are settled, if I’m at a new venue, I find the arenas and get the lay of the land. I check the ground in the show arena, and locate the warm-up and longing arenas. Other places to scout out include the farrier, the vet, the trade show, the concession stands and, of course, the restrooms.