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  • Writer's pictureLiz Moorman

Navigating Your First Breed Show: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Embarking on your first breed show is an exhilarating step in your equestrian journey. The thrill of competition, the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts, and the chance to showcase your equine partner are all part of this exciting adventure. Join us as we guide you through what to expect and how to prepare for this unforgettable experience.

All American Quarter Horse Congress

Setting the Arena

Choosing the Right Show:

Begin by researching and selecting a show that aligns with your horse's breed and your skill level. Look for shows that cater to novice exhibitors, providing a supportive environment for your debut.

Consider these novice-friendly associations like the West Virginia Quarter Horse Association, Northern Ohio Quarter Horse Association, Indiana Quarter Horse Association, and Ohio Paint Horse Club. Additionally, Pinto shows are an excellent choice for novice exhibitors, offering a welcoming environment and diverse competition. Explore these associations to kickstart your breed show journey with a supportive community and exciting opportunities!

Understanding Classes:

Familiarize yourself with the various classes offered. From halter and showmanship to performance classes, and the various levels. Gain a clear understanding of these classes to determine which ones you and your horse qualify for.

For example, for AQHA, the leveling works as follows:

-Leveled by exhibitor record: youth, amateur, Select amateur, halter, and cattle classes
-Leveled by horse record: open division classes (excluding halter and cattle events)

Preparing Your Horse

Grooming Essentials:

Invest time in grooming your horse to perfection. A well-groomed horse not only makes a positive impression on judges but also enhances your overall presentation. Pay attention to mane and tail care, coat conditioning, and proper trimming which can all be accomplished at home with elbow grease.

When arriving to the show, if you are not well versed to banding or braiding, pay a professional to finish the polished look before entering the pen. However, some at-home practice can save the day for your next outing.

Training and Practice:

Prepare your horse for the specific class requirements and rules found in the association's rulebook. Whether it's mastering a showmanship pattern or refining some finishing touches for the rail, consistent training is key. Hauling around to familiarize your horse with the show environment is also crucial for a smooth show experience.

Indiana Quarter Horse - New Castle

Assembling Your Show Kit:

Show Attire:

Ensure you have appropriate show attire, adhering to the rulebook of your specific breed association. This may include a show shirt, jacket, chaps, breeches, hat, hunt cap, and suitable footwear. Confirm the rules regarding rider attire for your particular class(es).


Create a checklist of essential items such as grooming supplies, tack, and show-day musts! Double-check that your tack meets the rulebook specifications and that you have all necessary documentation, including registration papers.

Note: Following the trends of the most expensive tack and show clothing does not matter. Having proper fitting clothes that go with your horse and show pad, and having clean but used tack, coupled with good rides, will put you at the same level.

The Show Day

Arrival and Set-Up:

For most folks, arriving early before show day allows time for settling in. Familiarize your horse with the surroundings, and set up a comfortable space for both of you. Check the schedule for your classes and plan your warm-up accordingly.

Tip: Getting your own tack stall can eliminate stress by providing your own space and ensuring quick access to everything you need. While it may cost more, the convenience is worth it. On the flip side, splitting a tack stall with others is a great option too. Being in a group setting with a trainer is a great first experience, or if you're a DIY amateur looking to meet people, the Add More Leg - Breed Show Amateurs Community is an excellent way to connect with others to show with. They also have several group events at shows for social hour, so be sure to join a group for all Amateurs!

Embrace the Experience:

Remember that your first breed show is as much about learning and enjoying the experience as it is about competition. Embrace the camaraderie of fellow exhibitors, seek advice from seasoned participants, and most importantly, have fun!

All American Quarter Horse Congress

Reflecting on Your Debut

Post-Show Evaluation:

After the show, take time to reflect on your performance. Consider what went well and areas for improvement. Use the experience to set goals for future shows and continue refining your skills.

Embarking on your first breed show is a remarkable milestone. With thorough preparation, a positive mindset, and a genuine love for your equine partner, you're bound to create lasting memories. Best of luck on your debut!

1 comment

1 Comment

Jan 31

Please note: ApHC also offers a full complement of novice classes, both youth & adult as well as walk-trot classes and is a very friendly & welcoming environment

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