Getting to the stage where you can go out and compete with your horse is incredibly exciting. All the long hours, dark training sessions during winter, sweat dripped, tears cried and money spent finally comes into the arena at the competition venue. Not uncommonly, the two or so minutes you have will not go to plan or how you envisioned it the night before. Unfortunately you cannot control the outcome of your test, what the judge saw in you or how your horse reacted to the scary flower pots but what you can control is the way you present you and your horse on the day. You may be surprised that being clean, tidy and well dressed will actually give you a boost of confidence (often well needed on show day) to allow you to perform more confidently and show yourself what you can achieve.
Being organised and planning you and your horses outfits is a must. You do not want to be running around at 4:30 am trying to find your newly purchased show shirt. Set out your outfit the night before, or even better have it packed in the lorry or car ready for show day.
A dark coloured jacket is the best look for the dressage arena. Try and stick with black or dark navy and avoid anything to tightly fitting that will allow you to ride without restriction. A crisp white shirt or pale colour for under your jacket (or during summer without your jacket) is best with either long or short sleeves, in combination with a simple stock tie. Pre tied stocks are readily available making it easy for you to do yourself quickly and easily. Clean white breeches and polished boots in black or dark brown are best. Always be sure to clean your boots, it improves your presentation immensely and is something that everyone can and should do before show day. Finally a helmet which is up to all current safety standards is a must. Although more and more helmets are coming out with bling and sparkles it is certainly not essential nor will it improve your dressage score. As long as you are wearing an approved helmet that is what counts!
Despite the fact not legally required, plaiting is the best way to classically present your horse for your class. To get the perfect width plaits this handy plaiting comb will assist you and strong bands that hold well are a must. Where possible try and use bands that blend into your horses mane - white for white and black for dark colours. If you're unable to wash your horse the day before competing be sure to have your grooming gear organised and ready to use the morning of the show. Spraying the tail with tail spray the night before will help with brushing through in the morning. To give the final coat a good polish over before loading or tacking up the Haas Diva brush is the perfect choice.
For your horses tack, use a clean white or light coloured saddle pad. If your horse is sound sensitive a soundless ear bonnet can be very beneficial, but be sure to use this at home before going out and competing in one. Be sure to clean your bridle, girth and saddle well the day before competing. If you'd like to use protection on your horses legs when warming up, be sure to use something like brushing boots which can be quickly and easily removed in the warm up. Bandages are great and have their place but you'll be stressed enough without trying to quickly remove four bandages and pads.
Without spending enormous amounts of money you can have you and your horse looking clean and presentable which will give you all the confidence you need to ride into your class with your head high. Don't forget to breath and enjoy being out competing with your best friend!