Many horse people are also devoted dog people, and dogs and horses have been companions throughout history. Travelling with your dog to horse shows can be a fun and exciting experience all around. In order to ensure that the show is fun for everyone involved, you’ll want to make sure you and your dog are prepared.
Before the Show
At the very first, check your show program to make sure that dogs are allowed at the show and for any other rules pertaining to your canine companion. At the bare minimum, your dog will need a collar and leash tagged with your cell phone number and your dog’s information. You should also ensure that your dog’s rabies tag is attached to his collar and that he is up to date on all required vaccinations. Most shows require that your dog be on a leash or confined at all times on the show ground.
As you prepare, make sure your dog is horse-friendly. While it might seem like a no-brainer, if your dog is not familiar with horses in general, taking your dog to a horse show is not the place to introduce them. Familiarize your dog with daily barn activities at your home barn in gradual steps. Keep in mind that not all horses will appreciate the interest of a dog, and not all dogs will appreciate horses either. Remember, an ill-behaved dog is not likely to be welcomed back on the show grounds and may cause the show to prohibit all dogs.
You’ll also want to make sure that your dog is able to handle large crowds and lots of stimulus. A good place to introduce them to crowds is to take them to your local pet shop that allows dogs. It is also a good idea for your dog to know and respond to all the basic commands, including sit, stay, heel and come before going to the show grounds for the safety of your dog and the safety of horses and riders.
At the Show
For your dog’s first foray into the world of horse shows you’ll want to be either a spectator, or have a human travelling companion who can take care of your dog while you are competing. Dogs should not be left unattended on the show grounds even if they are tethered. Just like for your horse, you’ll want to ensure that your dog drinks plenty of water, especially if the day is warm. Because dogs can be particularly sensitive to water changes, you’ll want to bring water from home rather than relying on water available on the show grounds. If the sun is beating down, you’ll also want to make sure that there is shade and protection for your dog. If the weather is especially hot, leave your dog at home; there will always be more shows to attend. Keep note of how long you expect to stay at the show, if you will be staying past the time when your dog normally eats, you may want to bring his kibble along.
As shows can be stressful, it may help to bring along your dog’s favorite toy, or a dog bed/throw, that you can sit in the shade by your trailer while you’re getting your horse ready. Depending on the venue, and the time of year, insect control may also be a factor. There are a few different types of horse fly sprays that can also be used on dogs; having a good fly spray that can be used on both of your animals is also a space-saver. If, on the other hand, the weather is cold or damp, a dog blanket may be in order.
If the show spans multiple days, there are a number of other considerations to take into account, such as housing. An increasing number of hotels are now pet-friendly and allow well-behaved dogs to stay, but many of these hotels do also charge additional fees for pets. For information on which hotels in your show’s area are pet-friendly, as well as restaurants and other activities, resources such as Bring Fido can be a great help.
Taking your dog to a horse show can be a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone involved, but it does take time and preparation.