5 Secrets to Staying Clean at Horse Shows

5 Secrets to Staying Clean at Horse Shows

Whoever thought white was the “it” color for apparel around horses,  (and let’s be honest, even tan for everything else) obviously didn’t realize how messy equestrians are or how messy horses can be! We are always one good horse sneeze away from disaster at competitions.

I mean come on, how can you expect us to keep a piece of snow-white clothing clean all day when we basically just look at a horse for a minute and somehow end up with a stain somewhere?? I am a stickler for being properly turned out when I head into the ring so read on to learn all my secrets for staying clean at horse shows!

Obviously, the easiest way to stay clean is to avoid putting on your show clothes until the last minute, but that’s not always a realistic option for riders. Sometimes the day is just too busy… or if you’re like me, you can’t stand the nearly impossible task of trying to wrangle yourself into breeches once you’re already hot and sweaty! But not to fear, there are still a few ways to stay clean while wearing your show pants at the same time!

1. Organization

The key to staying clean at shows, really comes down to staying organized and aware of what your ring is up to. Not knowing where you’re gloves are or rushing because the ring was moving through classes faster than you anticipated will increase the likelihood of a spill or stain.

If you don’t already have a coat or gear bag, a highly recommend getting one. The front pocket is very handy to keep small items from wandering off. I like to put my stock pin, stock tie, gloves, crop, hair nets and my ‘good’ ( aka ‘lucky’) crop and an extra c02 cartridge into this pocket. Inside the coat bag I keep my jacket, an extra shirt and my air vest. I put my helmet over the hanger and set it with my boots.

Everything is in one place ready to go. The system isn’t perfect but most weekends it works for me. I also keep a stain stick handy in my gear bag – if the inevitable happens keep a wipe or stick handy can at least help thwart a permanent stain.

2. Be Proactive!

Planning for the inevitability of getting dirty, is one of the best ways to stay clean!  Wearing an extra layer over your show clothes is a great way to stay clean. I’ve seen some riders get away with a grooming apron. This probably would not work for me, but I know plenty of riders who use one!

One of my biggest hacks is wearing an extra light weight layer over my show clothes, like a barn tee and a pair of sweats or solid color pajama bottoms.  I’ve seen some riders use medical scrubs, which is absolutely genius!

Scrub bottoms do a great job protecting you from slobber, purple shampoo, manure, etc. while being super lightweight and not overheating you as quickly. Plus, you get the bonus of pretending you’re in Grey’s Anatomy! Then when it’s time to show, you just peel them off and BOOM, your whites are still looking pristine, and you’re ready to SLAY in your classes!

And if you’re looking for an even quicker and more convenient option, find yourself a pair of snap off basketball pants! These pants are popular with basket ball players who like to keep their muscles warm at the bench, but need to be ready to play at a moments notice. I’ve found these handy pants are light weight, breathable and you can have your breeches and boots all ready underneath, and then right before you get on, just snap the pants straight off and go!

3. Take Off Your Boots

Another tip that I can not stress enough is DO NOT polish your boots while wearing them! Even if you are the master of polishing boots, the likelihood of you ending up with polish somewhere on you is high (trust me, I have first-hand experience in this department). Instead, get into the habit of polishing your boots every night after you’re done showing. You may feel exhausted and say “oh I’ll just do it in the morning”, but if you get into the habit, it will become second nature, and your boots will always be freshly polished for the next day of showing!

4.  Post Ride Tack & Horse Care

Keep those layers handy! I try to always keep my “pre ride” show clothes handy, right on top in my trunk for when I get back to the stall. My horse is spoiled and I do let him rub his head after I take the bridle off putting my show shirts at risk of pony slobber stains.  When I get back to the barn, I hang my vest and show coat and throw on my barn tee. Once I have his bridle off he is free to rub and slobber up my tee shirt.

Once his halter is on,  off come my boots right back into their storage bag to keep clean and I swap my breeches for some barn worthy bottoms and hang my show shirt. Then we are ready to hit the wash rack for a good hosing and a liniment bath before he gets standing wraps and I clean my tack.

5. Keep Stain Gear Handy 

You may not be aware but baby wipes need to LIVE in your tack trunk! They are perfect for quick messes on you or your horse!  Plus they are great at removing a wide variety of organic stains.  Another great product to keep on hand is Tide To Go stain sticks or Shout Wipe N Go stain wipes.

These pieces can be life savers when a curious pony knocks over a red sports drink on your favorite breeches, or your adorable grey has a random green stain of unknown origin that needs to disappear STAT!

It may also be helpful to know that Essex show shirts as well as Ariat Tri-Factor, Tredstep Evolute and the Equiline Ash breeches are all designed with stain resistant fabrics. Not stain proof, but I’ll take whatever I can get!

Even with all the preventive measures in the world, you will most likely end up with a stain at some point during the day. But don’t worry, most stains will come out if you act fast enough.  These are just a few simple tips you can use to stay a little cleaner at your next horse show, hopefully! If you have any other “secrets”, “tips and tricks”, or “hacks” for keeping those whites clean, let us know in the comments below!

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The painters jump suits are good for protecting clothing and are large enough to allow free movement.

Wendy L Elwell

Excellent article and tips! Thank you. The struggle is real with the post ride rubbing and slobber stains.


Use Fels Naptha on stains.


I love wearing a scrub top over my show clothes because of all the pockets.


I love reading your posts! We have learned some very useful tips and hacks. Keep them coming.

Tonya Pemberton

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