Professional Dressage Groom's Top Ten Grooming Items for Horse Shows

Professional Dressage Groom's Top Ten Grooming Items for Horse Shows

By: Justin Ridgewell

- Over the past six years I have been a professional groom and working student to the elite dressage training facility Oakcrest Farm. I have had the great opportunity and pleasure of traveling across Canada, the USA and even to Europe with grand prix dressage competitors Belinda Trussell and John MacPherson. I pride myself on my ability to prepare for a horse show. I will admit however I do not travel lightly. Packing supplies for one or two horses is a pretty easy gig. Packing for fourteen horses at an away show is a whole other ball game. I have compiled what I think to be my top ten groom ‘must haves’ to take with me to every show in no particular order:


1. My braiding kit: As some of you are aware horses are not required to be braided for a dressage competition; however, it is highly recommended. At our farm we always compete our horses with a beautifully braided mane. For that reason I always travel with my own set of braiding tools. In my braiding kit I have: brown and chestnut elastics, waxed thread, a seam ripper, many large metal dull tipped yard needles, a small metal mane comb, sharp scissors, hair gel, hair spray and a pair of leather gloves ( I always tend to stab myself with that darn needle ). I will get into my braiding techniques in another article.


2. Ring side bag: Whether it be an old back pack, a plastic bag, or an extra water bucket you have laying around always try to have something to bring to ring side. I personally use an old canvas bag stuffed with my ‘must haves’ at ring side. Inside my ring side bag i carry: a few old rags for last minute clean ups, the all mighty test book to refresh your memory moments before entering, a body brush, hoof pick, sugar cubes, bottle of water, and a small jar of Vaseline. Having a bag or bucket there also gives mom or dad a place to throw those dirty polos and boots just before swapping jobs as groom to camera man.


3. Small jar of Vaseline: This may sound a little different to some people but there is a method to my madness. I carry the Vaseline in the ring side bag for one reason: the ‘wow effect’. Justin’s tip of the day: rub a small amount of Vaseline onto the bridle just minutes before entering the ring. The sun will catch the vaseline and give the bridle a great shine. Even if your tack is as clean as it can possibly be, this little tip will just give it that little bit more.


4. A shoe shine kit: You can purchase a shine kit already put together for you at your local shoe store or shopping mall. Main items you will need are: black shoe polish, a brush for the polish and a soft cloth. Remember not to polish the inside of your riding boots! They may look good all black and shiny but I bet you will not be happy with how they feel. The polish will make the inside of your boots very slippery.


5. Rain gear: Anyone that has competed before knows how important rain gear is. A simple rain coat and water proof boots are all you will need. You don’t want to be caught digging trenches around the stable area to keep the rain water out while still in your running shoes. Trust me you will be happy you brought it.


6. White board: I must be prepared and in the know when at horse shows. For this reason I always travel with a small white board and some markers. I like to go over the next days events and write them out. That way everyone involved can view things such as: ride times, warm-up times, feeding schedules and any general information needed. Having the white board came in extremely handy when we had fourteen horses from our farm competing at the same show… Talk about busy schedules.


7. Updated test book: Always bring an up to date test book with you to a horse show. You never know when your memory will decide to give you a run for your money and go blank.


8. Show Sheen: The day of a competition is one of the only days I like to give the tails a full brushing. I highly recommend using some type of sheen spray in the horses tail prior to combing it through. My favorite product to use is the Show Sheen gel. More to come on tail maintenance in an up coming article.


9. Snacks and water: It is very important to stay hydrated and to eat while at a horse show. Being out in the sun all day really does a number on your body so try to have some healthy snack options and water available.


10. Last but definitely not least I never leave home with out my hammock! After a long day of grooming at a horse show it is great to just sit back and relax with friends and what better place to relax then in my small string hammock.



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Comment by Stefanie Reinhold on March 5, 2015 at 8:57am

Excellent tips! I'd like to add one of my favorites from 'the old days' (groomed professionally in the 1970's): Have an old 100% wool sweater? Wash hot in the machine, put in the drier and cut into 2 large rags. You can even turn the sleeves into smaller rags. You can make this look neat by using a zig-zag scissors. Take along ringside for last minute touch up of the horse's coat and to polish up boots. 

The modern alternative is the "Diva Exklusiv" brush by Haas, available at This is a lamb skin (Mattes!!) brush with bristle edge and great for the last minute touch up and gloss effect!

Comment by Geoffrey Pannell on March 9, 2011 at 4:03pm
white board and vasaline packed in the truck as we speak. Realy good idea with the vasaline on the bridle!

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