Top Tips for Hosting a Horse Show

Updated December 8, 2022
Horses and riders in an outside schooling ring at a hunter jumper horseshow.

There are a lot of things that go into running a horse show, and with each show you run, you learn how you can make the next one even better and run more efficiently. We’ve put together a to-do list of all of the different things that go into the planning of a horse show.

What to Do Before the Horse Show

  1. Pick the date of the show! If you’re running a rated show, apply for the dates you want and pay all the associated fees. If you’re not running a rated show, try to choose dates that will conflict the least with other local shows.
  2. Decide what divisions and classes you’ll include.
  3. Hire judges, stewards, an EMT, a show secretary (if you’re not planning to do it yourself), an in-gate person, and an announcer.
  4. If necessary, line up a farrier and a veterinarian to be on call or hire them as well.
  5. Make a plan for the show grounds. You’ll need a show ring, warm-up ring, trailer parking, car parking (if different than trailer parking), secretary’s booth, judge’s booth, announcer location, bathroom facilities, and access to water.
  6. Come up with the class list and prize list. The prize list will be jam-packed with details like class specifications, show information, an entry form, and the show rules. Don’t underestimate this task – it takes a long time. Remember that it will most likely need to be approved by organizations that are associated with it (if any).
  7. Print out and mail copies of the prize list to local barns and trainers. Posting on social media to get the word out is a good idea, too.
  8. Hire a food truck.
  9. Order ribbons.
  10. Order numbers for riders (and string if necessary).
  11. Plan and order prizes for class winners and champions (SmartPak’s sale section works great for this!).
  12. Order or make judge’s cards or tests and add/drop forms.
  13. Rent or purchase walkie-talkies – they’re very helpful for quick and easy communication between all the show staff.
  14. Get insurance. This is a must no matter how small of an event it might be!
  15. Rent a PA System if the announcer or show grounds is not providing one.
  16. Purchase secretary supplies, including paper, pens, and clipboards.
  17. Make copies of the prize list, class list, add/scratch forms, and entry forms to have on hand.

What to Do the Day Before the Horse Show

Dressage arena set up for a show.

  1. Drag and water the rings.
  2. Clean and repaint any jumps, poles, or obstacles, as needed.
  3. Design the courses and set up the course in the show ring (if the show includes jumping classes) or set up the dressage ring and letters.
  4. Set up jumps in the warm-up ring (if the show includes jumping classes).
  5. Set up the secretary’s booth. You could use a clean horse trailer for the secretary or the announcer. Be sure to have the judge’s cards, add/drop forms, prize lists, class lists, and entry forms ready to go. Carrots for horses and candy/sweets for exhibitors are always a nice touch, too.
  6. Set up the judge’s section with chair(s) and a table. Keep in mind that shade is always appreciated when you’re picking the judge’s spot. One idea is to use a truck attached to the horse trailer/secretary’s booth, and a secured pop-up tent as an easy way to provide shade.
  7. Put out trash cans.
  8. Leave muck buckets and pitchforks out to help keep areas clean.
  9. Be sure to have extra toilet paper!
  10. Set up hoses for water for the exhibitors’ horses.
  11. Set up chairs or stands for exhibitors to use to watch.
  12. Block off any areas that are off-limits to show exhibitors.

What to Do the Day of the Horse Show

A hunter course set up at a horse show.

  1. Post the courses, test times, and/or trail near the ring entrance.
  2. Set up a clipboard for the judge (may include the judge’s cards/tests, prize list, class count sheet, courses or rider times, and a walkie-talkie).
  3. Wipe off any chairs/tables/etc. that are wet with morning dew.
  4. Station parking attendants where necessary.
  5. Bring ribbons to in-gate.
  6. Pass out walkie-talkies to anyone who needs one.
  7. Be available to answer questions.
  8. Have fun watching exhibitors enjoy the day!

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.

Originally published April 3, 2017