Horse Previews Magazine website - Posted on 07/09/2001; 2:00:00PM.

HORSE SHOWS ON A BUDGET: How to Camp Out at Horse Shows

by Leslie A. Brockman * Cheney, WA

Horse show expenses can add up, especially when the shows are out of town. But there are tricks of the trade that can make out of town shows possible and even somewhat affordable. The best money saver is camping out instead of staying in a hotel. You don't need a camper or even a dressing room in your horse trailer. You can camp out in the back.

First, make sure you've got your faithful steed tucked away in his lovely stall filled knee-deep with fluffy shavings, his brightly colored bucket filled with sparkling, clean water, and a fresh pile of sweet smelling hay in the corner. Adjust his cotton sheet (purchased just for the occasion) so that it is straight and free of hay and shavings, and be sure to give him a few carrots to calm his fears. Before leaving him, triple-check the stall latch and adjust his little forelock one last time. To help with the separation anxiety, give him one more carrot to make you feel better.

Now that your horse is in his living quarters that you may have just paid $100 for, it is time to prepare yours. First, clean out the urine and manure from the horse trailer. Otherwise, you'll have a little lump or two sticking in your back (this is the horsewoman's version of the Princess and the Pea). Hopefully, you should have clean shavings left over in there that will serve as a cushion on which to sleep. There may be a few spots of manure on the walls of the trailer as a result of your horse's nerves. Ignore them. They're probably dry anyway. Once the bedding in the back of the trailer is free of manure and urine, and leveled a bit, spread a blue plastic tarp down. On top of the tarp put down your sleeping bag. When you unhitch your trailer, make sure the end where your head will be is slightly higher than your feet so that you're comfortable. If the center divider is adjustable, move it to one side for more room.

For sleeping comfort, take a comfy pillow with a washable pillowcase so you won't have to sleep with a rolled up pair of Wranglers under your head. A sweatshirt or t-shirt and sweatpants are comfortable to sleep in and are suitable attire for tip-toeing through the stable area at midnight, two, and five o'clock in the morning to check on your little darling and give him another carrot to make you feel better.

For privacy and warmth, close the back doors of your trailer and enter and exit through an escape door. Do not attempt to do this gracefully. It won't happen. Try to keep the windows closed, except at night, to keep the flies from sneaking in and driving you insane with all that buzz, buzz, buzzing ...

To calm horse show nerves, take along a small radio with headphones or a book with a simple plot. You'll probably be reading the same sentence over and over anyway. For light, use a small flashlight. If there are shower facilities on the grounds, take along towels and a pair of flip-flop thongs to wear into the shower. Do not look at the floor. For a place to set down toiletries or clothes, take a muck bucket and turn it upside down like a little table outside the shower. At the end of a hot, dusty day this shower will feel like heaven. If the horse show grounds do not have shower facilities, take along medium sized buckets for sponge baths. Don't worry about hair; it will be plastered down with hair spray anyway. Be sure to cover it with a ball cap, however, so you won't frighten your friends. For brushing your teeth, be prepared to swish and spit right there onto the ground, and hope that you'll look more elegant as you ride into the arena than you do standing by your trailer wiping you mouth with your arm.

Probably the best part about camping out on the horse show grounds, other than saving money on hotel bills, is that your horse is nearby. Once you've become accustomed to this, you'll never want to leave him to go to a fancy hotel ever again.

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