As spring arrives, many equestrians turn their thoughts to the coming show season. Competition schedules and prize lists begin to arrive in the mailbox and riders get excited about the prospect of showing off their horses' abilities and competing with their peers.
Then they take a look out in the pasture and wonder if nature has played a cruel joke on them. Last year's sleek, glossy horse has been transformed into an out of shape, hairy monster.
Horse owners can take heart in the fact that most people are in the same situation, with the exception, of course, of professional show barns, who keep their horses blanketed or under lights through the winter to prevent the excessive growth of winter coats. For the rank and file rider though, steps will have to be taken to transform that hairy monster into a once again sleek show mount.
Whether you trim the feathers around your horse's fetlocks, pull his mane and tail, trim his whiskers, etc., depends of what sort of showing you plan to do. If you're entering breed classes, you should follow the guidelines set down by your breed association. Some breeds are shown au naturel with flowing manes and tails, with other breeds, judicious clipping and trimming is required.
If you're entering performance classes, check with your association for their guidelines also. Hunters are turned out differently from dressage horses, who are turned out differently from western pleasure horses. You can get a good idea of the acceptable turnout by visiting a show as a spectator and watching some of the classes.