We horse people easily perplex the rest of the world. We take the horses, a former source of transportation, and transport them around the country and pay other people to look at them and tell us which ones are the prettiest. We spend gobs of money to pretty our horses up, and kill ourselves with the amount of time we put into prepping our horses for the show pen. And at the end of it all, we may get to take home a $0.50 ribbon for our troubles. Despite the obvious neurosis we must suffer to partake in this crazy scheme, I can’t imagine a better way to have spent 3/4 of my life. I blew off senior prom and high school graduation for horse shows, and missed plenty of parties and trips in order to wake up at 3:0 A.M. to throw my pretty pony in the trailer and drive across the state. After showing for 20 years, I’ve discovered that there are quite a few products that show riders just can’t live without.
The first, and most important of these products is the show bow. Take yourself back to the 1990’s. Vests and tuxedo shirts with rosette ties adorned the majority of women at every AQHA, APHA, ApHC, and 4-H show across the country.With this carefully constructed wardrobe, one couldn’t have a sloppy ponytail detracting from the shiny threads adorning these vests. What could a girl possibly do with her giant wod of hair? Enter the show bow! At one time the show bow was so readily available in any tack store and catalogue that riders could easily match their hair helmet to the color of her chaps. R.I.P. show bow.
Next our agenda brings us to a very particular piece of tack: the show saddle. Now, hunter jumper has its roots in the hunt field. Riders still today dress in the same attire that fox hunters have worn for the chase for more than a century. Horses in the hunter ring should emulate those on a hunt –they should be quiet and easy to ride with nice ground covering gates and a careful, scopey jump. Not only do riders still dress traditionally for hunters, but they also use very similar tack. Western pleasure horses have their roots on cattle drives in the old west. Cows never run fast, so WP horses have no need to run fast either. And the saddle is so handy. Cowboys need a horn to tie a rope off on in case they have a need to tie something. Now I’ve not had an occasion to tie something to my horse in the show pen, but the need may arise, so I’m glad I still have the option available. And don’t forget the shiny silver trim. Like a fish, I’m attracted to all things shiny. Every shiny saddle satisfies the 12 year old girl still in me who loves all things that glitter.Who cares if the saddle has to live in a cushioned case and stay in a temperature controlled environment? A fancy schmancy saddle that can only be used a few dozen times a year is well worth the investment.
While we’re discussing shiny tack, let’s discuss the beloved Chicago screw. It’s so much more efficient than an awkward buckle. Who wants a clunky buckle that’s stitched firmly into the leather of a headstall? Better to have a screw that can collect corrosion, requires a screwdriver for every time you want to change out your bit, and can work its way loose as your horse chews the bit. That’s really only a problem when the screw pops out while you’re riding, and even then it’s only a problem if your horse decides to spit out the bit.But hey, you’ll look really good right up until you’re riding a horse with no bit or reins.
Now let’s talk about grey horses. Have you ever showed one? It’s rough trying to keep up with a world of bays and chestnuts. Brown horses hide dust and scuffs so efficiently. It’s like they came camoflaged for the show ring. Grey horses, on the other hand, show every speck of dust that accumulates on their meticulously groomed hides. Oh, and they also have suicidal tendencies, so if you allow these crazy beasts any turn out at all, they will manage to scar their expensive selves up. And don’t forget the explosive diarreah that occurs on the trailer ride and again seconds before your gate call. It’s hard being grey horse girl living in a bay horse world. But two important products exist to help combat these pesky problems. Shapley’s touch-up paint formulated specifically for horses has hid many a boo-boo on Ghost and Bear over the years. It’s important that you buy both the grey and white paints so that you can combine for an exact match of your horse’s hair tone. Hopefully you can minimize the amount of touch-up paint needed by keeping your delicate dust magnet covered from head to tail right up until the time they you begin competing. A Sleazy Sleepwear Hood is an essential item for keeping your grey clean as long as possible. And as a bonus, you can look really obnoxious in the schooling ring of bays and chestnuts while you hop around on your purple and blue steed.
The last go-to item you’ll find me carting to horse shows comes in the famous white bottle: Absorbine Show-Sheen. This stuff can polish and shine a coarse haired donkey. On a regularly groomed show horse, it’ll turn their coat into greased lightning. Don’t believe me? Obviously you’re not one of the geniuses who shined your horse up diligently for halter and showmanship, then realized what a mistake you’d made once you tried to keep your saddle in place later in the day. There’s nothing quite like having your girth and pommel riding around on a slip and slide. There’s always the option of not using Show-Sheen, but I’m just not sure that it would feel like a show without the aroma of Aborbine products wafting from my stalls.
Five years have gone by since I last rode into a show ring. I’m sure a lot has changed in that time. I’ve heard rumors that dark oil tack and long manes are back. Can someone do a check for me to see if show bows have been resurrected yet?