Cookies on the Ollard & Westcombe website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the Ollard & Westcombe website.

Our blog


How To Plan For Your First Show

Deciding where and when your first show should be is a daunting feat for most people, and not a decision that anyone takes lightly. Hopefully this will help as a guide to help with that decision.

First things first - you need to choose a discipline! There’s a plethora of activities you can undertake as an equestrian, ranging from the more common disciplines such as dressage, showjumping, showing & eventing to the perhaps lesser known archery-on-horseback. Doing a bit of research on the type of discipline you’d like to undertake before you have a go is paramount. Try things like searching for different hashtags on Instagram to gauge where your interest might lie. Use the knowledge of more experienced riders around you to ask questions about their chosen discipline and why. Also think about the type of discipline you might be interested in based on your interests - don’t like jumping? It sounds obvious, but showjumping and eventing probably won’t be something you want to aim for at the minute! Really enjoy harmony with your horse and feeling elegant? Dressage may be a good shout. Do you crave an adrenaline rush, want to go as fast as you can and jump over big hedges? Team chasing and hunter trials is probably going to be a good option to try. When choosing a discipline for your first outing, it’s key to remember that you’re having a go, you’re not making a decision that you have to stick with forever. I personally consider myself to be an all-rounder because I never just do one thing at any one time - this year alone I’ve done dressage, showjumping, hunter trials and showing, and I aim to do a one day event before the end of the year. For your first show, you just need to find something you *think* you might enjoy, and throw yourself in at the deep end.

Once you’ve found a discipline, the next item on the list of considerations is what level should you enter at? If you are your horse already do fairly complex moves on the flat, entering dressage at intro level (walk & trot only) may not be challenging enough for you. At the same time, if you aspire to jump Grand Prix level but are currently training at 80cm at home, you need to be realistic about your starting point. Something else to bear in mind when choosing a level is that competing at a show is materially different to what you’re doing at home. For example, at home I was jumping courses of 80-90cm with Sprite and individual fences of about 105-110cm, but that by no means equates to the same at a competition when my horse lacks experience and there’s so much else going on. For my first showjumping competition with Sprite, I entered at 60 and 70cm and got eliminated from both classes, because although she can jump very well, the atmosphere was too much for her, she lacked focus and was so busy worrying about where the other horses from the warmup had gone. However with my old horse Lexie, she was more independent and confident, so I started her at 70 and 80cm and that was an appropriate level for her at the time.

After you’ve shortlisted some disciplines and had a think about rough levels you may want to start at, the next thing to consider is venue. If you live in the middle of nowhere and don’t have your own transport, you need to think about how you will actually get there. If you have transport, think about a time limit if your horse isn’t used to travelling - with Sprite, I initially didn’t want to travel more than 30-45 mins in the trailer as she isn’t that used to travelling, whereas now I would go further afield because she’s plenty used to going out in the trailer now. This will give you an idea of areas to search for venues. I live in Cheshire, so used the website Cheshire Horse to find events local to me - if you google ‘events in [insert county here]’ then you should be able to narrow it down. Consider how large the venue is, how good parking is, what the atmosphere might be like for your horse, and find the dates that they’re holding shows for your chosen discipline.

Lastly, you need to think about equipment that you’ll need. It’s not just a case of turning up on the day - different disciplines will have a different list of required items, and there will be other things you may not have thought about that will be useful on the day too. You have your obvious things like appropriate, well-fitting tack, and rider-wear, but also things like important paperwork, cleaning supplies, extra miscellaneous items. For example, in showing, the rider wear differs between class types. In a hunter class, the rider would be expected to wear a smart tweed jacket, however in a show hack or show riding type class, you would be required to wear a navy or black jacket, and a numnah that matches the colour of your saddle. In dressage, there are ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ bits, so you need to make sure you have appropriate tack for the level you’re competing at. You also may be required to wear bridle or saddlepad numbers at dressage, so would need to find out before competing. In eventing and most hunter trials, you’d be expected to bring your own number bib, and print out your own numbers ahead of the event.

Here is a handy checklist of things to consider packing for your chosen discipline:

  • Paperwork - without exception, if you’re travelling a horse, you should take it’s passport with you, including an up-to-date record of it’s vaccinations. Do you also need entry forms, lorry/trailer parking passes, rider numbers, any other paperwork that your chosen show requires you to take?

  • Tack - appropriate tack for your discipline. Check it’s well fitting, there’s no damage, and that it’s clean - regardless of the discipline you should always clean your tack ahead of a show in my opinion! Is your bit correct? Do you need boots of some description - overreach, tendon, brushing, xc? I always take a spare set of reins and stirrup leathers as both have broken on me before. I also take a spare leather head collar, in case the leather head collar that Sprite wears for travelling breaks - I insist on leather for this reason, so that it will break if she gets caught. She has broken her head collar before and I had to tie it together with baling twine for the journey home, so always take a spare now!

  • Rider wear - do you need a normal show jacket, or a tweed jacket? If it’s cross country, you won’t be allowed to wear a fixed peak hat - you will need a jockey skull and a body protector. Do you have show jodhpurs/breeches in the correct colour (if in doubt, go beige, you can wear it for everything)? I ALWAYS forget gloves, and you need them for literally every discipline, so it’s a good idea to add those to the list!

  • Cleaning supplies - for showing and dressage this is imperative, but I like to stay clean and have a well-maintained appearance for any show I enter. I will always take items like baby wipes, a sponge, saddlesoap etc to always be ready with cleaning tools if Sprite gets poo on herself or on me!

  • Turnout - other items I may take include turnout products, such as stain remover, chalk, black gloss makeup for showing, coat shine of some description, hoof oil etc

  • Horse care - essential items on the list include the obvious like a full water canister and a bucket, maybe some treats, a full haynet for travelling and if they’re going to be stood around for a while - horses shouldn’t go too long without eating so always good to give them something between classes. I like to sponge Sprite off afterwards if she’s sweaty, so I take a separate bucket and sponge for that, plus a sweat scraper. You may want to take cooling clay/ice boots etc if you’re doing xc/eventing.

  • Miscellaneous - rider bib, bridle numbers, show cane? What extra items are required for your chosen discipline?

  • A good sense of humour - shows don’t always go to plan, so always be prepared to laugh instead of cry when your horse has a stop, or spooks at the white boards. Try not to take your first show too seriously!

I hope that was useful to provide some planning tips. Stay tuned for part two - What To Do At Your First Show!

Latest news & updates

Company No. NI037318
VAT Reg No. GB 749037513