Horse Show Ring Ready Horse - Grooming Tips from Sydney Lewis

Tips & Tricks from a Professional Groomer

No matter what level of horse showing you do, a well-groomed horse is key to catching the judge’s eye. We had a chat with Sydney Lewis, a Professional Groom turned Schneider’s employee, to hear her take on successful horse show grooming and more. Sydney shares her favorite products to use, important steps to groom at a horse show level, and general horse show tips to have a successful weekend! This blog is filled with insider knowledge that you can use to have the best-groomed horse at your next horse show.

Q: Can you tell us some of your favorite grooming products that you use for horse shows?

Using Vetrolin Spray on Horse

A: Most of my favorite products for shows, are also what I like to use at home. They are the tried-and-true products that never let you down.

  • Body Shine: Vetrolin Shine Spray. It adds shine, conditions, helps detangle tails, and protects from UV rays. I like to spray the horse and then wipe down with a microfiber glove. It helps remove the surface dust/dirt. A microfiber glove is also great to have on hand if your horse dislikes spray bottles. You can spray the glove and then wipe the horse down.
  • Detangler: Cowboy Magic. We always added a bit to their tails after every bath/hose down. It can get a bit built up if you don’t wash their tails very often. So, you might need to rinse their tails out occasionally.
  • Shampoo: Now this is a very controversial topic. I’ve worked for/with people that say dish soap is fine and all you need. Others prefer the specific shampoo for each color of horse. It’s really up to you and what your horse’s skin prefers. If you wash your horse a lot, I’d suggest finding one specifically for horses that helps replenish their natural oils.
  • Liniment: Sore No-More®. This is a great product for sore muscles (human and equine). We used to: apply directly to sore muscles, add it to a bucket of water for an after-bath rise, and add it to soaking boots.
  • Braiding: Ultra® Mighty Bands™ and Super Bands™. These were always my favorite rubber bands for jumper braids. I never used a quick braid product, just water, but my braids usually only had to last one class.
  • Hoof Care: I’m going to defer to farriers on this one. Chat with your farrier about what they’d recommend the next time you are preventing your horse from nibbling on them.

Q: What are the important steps to grooming at a horse show level? What do I do before the show? During the show?

A: Before the Show:

  1. Prep before you leave for the show. Bathe your horse, clip, and trim/pull manes if needed. Take a set of clippers with you for touch-ups. But, lighting can be dim at shows, and you don’t want to discover that you missed the inside of one leg on your way to a class. *Side bar: if you’ve pre-arranged for a professional braider, see if they’ll prep the mane for you. Most of the time, they’d rather have the mane the way they like it, rather than trying to clean up your mess.
  2. For Hunter-Jumpers, and other disciplines that braid, DO NOT use conditioner or detangler in manes. Your braider will be very upset if you do.
  3. Practice braiding if you plan to do your own braids. Professionals won’t need to, but if it’s been a while, it might be a good up to loosen up the finger joints. Time yourself so you know how long it will take you at the show.
  4. Check your tack. Make sure you have all the bits, reins, and tools you/your rider might need. Make sure it is all in working order and give it a good scrub if needed.
  5. Prep and pack any supplements, meds, ointments, etc. that you might need. Make sure you are stocked up before you go, or that you can buy what you’ll need at the show.

During the Show:

  1. Let the horse be, and don’t bug them, when you both have down time. I know it might sound counter intuitive, but don’t poke and prod them too much. By the end of the show, you’ll be sick of each other.
  2. Try to plan what the next day will look like with your rider, trainer, and braider. Horse shows are notorious for not following plans. But it’s better to know the general game plan so you know when you’ll have time to prepare for your classes.
  3. After feeding and cleaning stalls, I like to give them a good brush down/groom to get ready for the day. That way if you have a minute to hand walk/graze, or if they need to be ridden suddenly, you’ll just need to dust them off. If you have a grey, you’ll probably need to take a trip to the wash rack. Even if you wrap them in Sleazys/Slickers and Stable Sheets, they’ll still find a way to get stained.
  4. Organize your tack for the day. Set out your boots, pin numbers to saddle pads, organize your backpack, etc. That way if you suddenly get moved up 10 in the order, you’ll just need to dust off your horse and tack up.
  5. Pick stalls throughout the day. Even if you just toss the nasty bits in the corner, it’ll keep everyone cleaner and help extend the life of the bedding.

Q: What grooming practices do judges love to see at horse shows?

A: I think it’s safe to say everyone wants to see a healthy and happy horse. The following will go a long way towards showing that:

  • A Clean, Shiny Coat
  • Bright, White Markings
  • Uniform Braids (or well-maintained mane)
  • A Full Tail
  • Well-Fitting Tack
All breed standards and disciplines are different. Consult your association’s regulations regarding clipping and other grooming practices. Stewards are a great resource; their job is to know the ins-and-outs of your discipline and what standards judges are looking for.

Q: How do you manage a sweaty coat in the show ring?

A: Prep: If its wintertime, and you are at an indoor show, I’d suggest doing at least a trace clip. Less hair is always more manageable and helps prevent overheating. A full-body clip is probably in order if you are traveling to a warmer climate, like Florida.

If you are planning to use fly spray, check if it is oil based. Those types tend to bring dirt to the surface when horses begin to sweat. You’ll have to periodically wipe your horse with a towel to remove the dirt.

During the horse show, make sure you have water, a towel, a good brush, and shine or liniment spray. Oh, and a nice shady tree. Preferably one without birds in it. Skrims can also help keep the sun off your horse. If you have enough time between classes, give your horse a rinse to help them cool down.

Q: What are some grooming “hacks” you learned for horse shows? ?


  • Microfiber dusting glove (or a towel). I talked about them earlier in this blog, but they are great for wiping off the top layer of dirt.
  • Baby wipes. Bad for the environment, but great for wiping dirty faces and snotty noses.
  • Leather wipes are great for leather boots.
  • After you are done with morning chores, roll your wraps. You’ll thank yourself at the end of the day when your horse is ready to be put away for the night.
  • Seriously, pick your stalls during the day.
  • • Bubble Baths: add a giant squeeze of soap to a bucket and then add water (at high pressure) to make lots of bubbles. Your bucket should be 20% water, 80% bubbles. Use a sponge and scrubby glove to lather your horse. Dunk their tail in the bucket to get it nice and sudsy. I regret all the times I've squeezed soap directly onto a horse, even though I still do it when I’m being lazy.

Q: What are your best tips for dealing with stains at a horse show?


  • If the weather is cool enough, Sleazys/Slickers and Stable Sheets can help keep most of your horse clean for the night.
  • Pick stalls at night check. Again, just tossing the muck in the corner under their feed bin or water bucket can really help keep the stall cleaner.
  • Be careful with the Purple Shampoo. If you don’t dilute it enough, you might end up with a purple horse. If I’m bathing a grey horse, I put a decent amount of the bucket then then add water, making it nice and sudsy. If I’m just washing a white leg, I put a dollup on a scubby glove and apply directly to the leg.
  • Cowboy Magic Green Spot Remover is great at removing stains. Give your horse a good curry and brush first, removing as much of the actual dirt as possible. Spray with the green spot remover, sometimes I let it sit a bit, and then wipe away with a towel. If I have to use a lot of the spay, I like to dampen a towel to help remove some of the excess spray.

Q: Are there any common horse show grooming mistakes?


  • Trying a new product the day of the horse show. This can be unavoidable if it’s an emergency and you buy whatever is on hand. But try to do a practice run at home.
  • Bothering your horse too much. Close their door and let them have some down time if you can. Maybe sneak them an extra flake of hay too.
  • Over/under pulling a mane. If you have a professional braider, consult with them about mane maintenance.
  • Overbathing your horse. If it’s hot and you can’t avoid a trip to the wash rack, consider only rinsing them off, no soap. For darker horses, we tried to use soap only a few times during the week.

Q: Do you have any other tips & tricks for successful horse show grooming?

Using Cowboy Magic Detangler on Horse


  • What's in my wash rack bucket: Shampoo, scrubby glove, sweat scrapper, Cowboy Magic Detangler, and a good sponge that doesn't disintegrate.
  • What's in my ringside bag: Hoof pick, towel, treats, vaseline, vet wrap, back boots, water bottle, stud kit and extra studs, body brush, and hoof oil.
  • ALWAYS have a towel.
  • Invest in waterproof shoes. Or, multiple pair shows and socks to keep your feet dry.
  • Have a wide brimmed hat. I don’t care if they don’t look good on you. The UV rays are harsh.
  • Always supervise your horse while using magnetic sheets, neck covers, etc. We all know they like to break expensive things.

What are your favorite horse show grooming tips and tricks? Comment below and tell us!