Posted by: shannonc | September 1, 2012

The show bag

I confess, I love getting ready for an event – traditionally, I make the day before into as grand a ritual as time allows.  Bathing, braiding, cleaning tack, packing up…the day before a show, I enjoy them all.  And with a couple of horsey occasions on the horizon, starting this very weekend!! – miraculously enough, considering the 9-month-old at home and everything else that’s happened in the past year and a half – I’m getting so excited!

I am by no means a highly organized person, but over the seasons I’ve developed a list of supplies to carry along on horse outings that seems to work pretty well for me.  Which is to say, I’ve been the victim of my own packing fail enough times to have learned what I imagine are most of the available lessons.  Experience – the thing you get just after you needed it, right?

Today, in preparation for the clinic this weekend – my dry run for next weekend’s event, prep-wise – I dug my event duffel out of the basement to wash everything and check content.  Here is my first tip:  whenever possible, keep all this stuff together in its own space.  It is a giant pain to be looking for your show shirt in your shirt drawer (and where is that stock tie?), your overpants (yes, you need these) in your pants drawer, etc.  Especially if you, like me, (a) would otherwise be doing the sifting the night before the event when you should be sleeping, and (b) have to rotate winter and summer clothes in and out of your bureau for easy accessibility – is the long sleeved xc shirt in with warm or cold weather stuff?  Nightmare.  Oh, and not to mention that in my case, all these things were last seen in 2010!

I actually have two bags for take-along:  the duffel, and the coat bag.  The coat bag contains the dressage and sj coats and the xc vest, and has a giant pocket in the front where I keep umptybillion sets of gloves (most of which have a hole along the seam of the left ring finger – thank you, Blue), hairnets, hairbands, stock pins, bobby pins (try not to use too many of these under your helmet…ow), extra helmet covers, hairbrush, ball cap, belt, and half a dozen other items I can’t call to mind without looking in it.  It’s in the trailer, so it doesn’t get to be the focus of this post :P

I’ve found it’s easiest for me to keep all the show day clothing in the duffel, including what I’ll put on that morning.  A few items it contains:

  • 2 pairs of breeches.  For a one-day horse trials I’m one of those people who doesn’t often change my breeches.  There’s usually not a lot of time to spare, and I also don’t savor peeling off the first sweaty pair, and yanking and squeaking the second pair on while still sweaty.  This means that your breeches have to be a light enough color for dressage.  I like white, but a lot of people don’t.  I feel like when I wear beige, it looks dirty against the white ponies (next time, I swear, bay!).  For an event over more than one day, you need more pairs of breeches and thus have more color choices.

That being said, you absolutely need that backup pair on hand.  Let me count the ways you can ruin the first pair:  get slimed.  Spill your coffee.  Rip them (this never seems to happen where the rip would be covered by your boots).  Fall off.  Get rained on (a special kind of fun with white breeches).  Segue to…

  • Underpants!  By all means, go with a neutral color here (nude actually works better than white, IMO).  This wisdom would seem self-evident…but it’s not.  The purple polka dotted bikinis will be no end of trouble after you fish yourself out of the water jump and make the walk of shame to catch your horse.  You are already the center of attention, you know?  Personally, I’m a bike shorts type.  NB:  you need an extra pair of undies, for the same reasons you need an extra pair of breeches.


  • Dressage shirts.  Two short sleeved, one long sleeved, in white.  This way you never have to repack for weather.  I like the zip up kind, but if you are anti-jacket, pack a polo because you need a fold-down collar.  Some people prefer a bib under the jacket over any kind of shirt.  Adjust as needed.


  • Stock ties and chokers.  I pack two stock ties and a choker collar.  What the heck, they don’t take up much space, and you never know when someone might need to borrow one, or one comes out of the bag with a weird stain.


  • Stadium polo, in case you go sans jacket for this phase and aren’t in your xc gear yet.


  • XC shirt.  Recommendations vary here but I like mine to be collarless – I feel like a collar is bulky and irregular under my vest.


  • Socks!  Boot socks (2 pairs if you use the runnable, Sox Trot type), and 2 or 3 pairs of whatever type of sock you wear with sneakers.  These are almost guaranteed to get wet on that early morning xc walk if you don’t have on Wellies.  Nothing worse than having to wear wet socks.  Yuck.


  • Overpants.  Unpadded ski or snowboarding type pants work well for this, and have the side benefits of being waterproof and of having zippers on the sides so you don’t have to take them off to get your boots on (or take your boots off to get them on).

Those are a few of the basics.  My bag has boot pockets on the sides, so I put my boot stuff in there too – boot pulls, jack, polish, Saddle Tite (because I always forget and polish the inside of my boots), and my infamous Futis, which brought my friends endless humiliation when I wore them in public.  The pockets on the ends also contain sunscreen, hand lotion, people bug spray, and of course…wrapped up in its original tissue paper…the Coach flask my friend Chris gave me on the occasion of moving up to Prelim!

Because, trust me, if you go there, you will want one.

Final tip…take along an extra, empty bag to put all your laundry in as you go along.  No muss, no fuss.

Happy eventing!



  1. Sounds like you know your stuff!! Happy and always safe eventing to you!

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