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Tack Trunk Must-Haves

Four people involved in equestrian competition break down what equipment they take to horse shows—and how they get it there.

by Emily Girard | May 7, 2024, 11:07 AM

Whether they are riding, grooming, or training, most people involved with equestrian sports take a tack trunk to events. The supplies in these trunks can vary, but all trunks contain the necessary equipment for horses and equestrians to perform at their best.

Rafael Hernandez Carrillo leads Clarc at the 2023 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival Week 3 CPEDI3*. Photo: Taylor Pence/ISG

“All the items I'm bringing in my grooming box are a highlight,” said Rafael Hernandez Carrillo, who has been grooming horses for over 25 years across the para dressage, jumping, and dressage disciplines. “It's like a hairstylist. You have to bring all your tools to perform your work the best.”

Jackie Holland has been riding horses since the 1980s, with experience in reining and hunter/jumper competitions. She currently competes in dressage and Paso Fino divisions, and she is also the director of the Northern Kentucky Horse Network.

Holland usually has two tack trunks packed, as her equipment varies based on the horse she is competing with. However, Holland emphasized that “a horse is a horse,” and all horses need the same baseline equipment, such as water buckets, feed, hay nets, coolers and blankets to relegate temperature, and groom boxes. Holland also carries a first-aid kit in case of emergency.

“I know those seem like basic things, but each person is different with what they bring,” Holland said. “I always have an extra halter, an extra lead rope, an extra girth for my saddle. My horses are two different sizes, so I have two different saddles.”

The saddle is not the only piece of equipment that varies based on which horse Holland is riding.

“I have specific brushes; my (Paso Fino) gelding likes a very soft brush for his face and his hair. He's a little bit more sensitive to the touch than my dressage gelding,” Holland said.

“Many grooms have their own little gadgets to perform the best they can and to make the work better for everybody,” Carrillo said.

The equipment also changes based on the disciplines featured in an event, as well as the weather.

“I would say on para dressage, what I’m doing right now, I need to have elastics to attach the boots to the stirrups. I have to have a spare set of reins in my backpack and a spare of leather stirrups,” Carrillo said. “Sometimes I also have to bring, depending on the weather, a bucket with ice to refresh a horse.”

Shayna Simon, a dressage and para dressage trainer from Loxahatchee, Florida, also has multiple trunks packed on a given day.

“We have the trunks that we have the tack in; we always have a spare bridle and a spare halter. We always bring a lot just in case something breaks. And then we usually have a trunk for all of the grooming equipment, the show sheen and the fly spray. Then we have a bandage trunk, where we have all of the standing wraps,” Simon said. “We have so many trunks with different stuff in them. You basically take your whole house to a show.”

In addition to making sure they are bringing all the necessary equipment and grooming products to a show, equestrians must also make sure the products they bring are permitted by show regulation.

The USA Stables during the CCIO4*-S - FEI Nations Cup. Photo: Libby Law Photography

Particularly at the FEI level, Carrillo said, competitors and grooms must be careful not to bring or use a product or even a horse treat whose ingredients might result in an accidental positive drug test.

Trunks are also not the only way to transport equipment to a horse show. Sarah Aparicio, who competes in U25 combined driving with her pony SF Spice Girl, keeps her equipment in several Milwaukee-brand toolboxes instead of a traditional trunk.

“I like them because they have wheels,” Aparicio said. “It's not very traditional, but I really love it. They all clip together in different ways…They come with compartments that you can move around and change. In the grooming box and the first-aid box, it's all in compartments.”

What does Aparicio keep in her toolboxes?

“Peppermints, got to have them. Chapstick, always, because my lips get so chapped; my braiding kit; sewing kit; stopwatch. You gotta have snacks. Black electrical tape, emergency first aid, baby wipes, sanitary products, Tylenol, extra gloves,” Aparicio explained. “Everything has labels. Everything's where it should be.”

“You can improvise and still get keep your things organized in a big toolbox,” added Holland, who also stores her equipment in a tool chest at times. “It's lightweight and plastic, and you can have your small grooming tools in there.”

Though some equipment, such as fly spray and brushes, consistently appear in most people’s tack trunks, there is uniqueness to be found among what equestrians bring to shows.

“Everybody has their own tools, their own little gadgets that they can use to make their life and work a little bit easier,” Carrillo said.

Simon’s barn, for example, carries extra nose pads they call “fluffies.”

“We put (them) in front of the bridle, and we have different colors to match different outfits,” Simon said. “We'll have navy blue or black or whatever matches the show coat.”

At the start of each show season, Holland checks and replenishes her nonperishable equipment to ensure she always has what she needs. She also keeps some of the equipment that she takes to horse shows in a wheeled trunk, which she sets up in front of her horse’s stall.

“Sometimes the shows will let us purchase tack stalls. When we go to national (competitions), there's always a couple of U.S. competitors that go together, and we buy a tack stall together,” Holland said. “When you have a tack stall, it's easier to keep things organized, because when you just go to a show and have to pile everything in front of your stall, that gets kind of unorganized and chaotic.”

Aparicio and Simon also stressed the importance of keeping tack trunks organized.

“We are huge believers in our label maker. We bring it everywhere because things are always getting changed around. Print out a label, slap it on,” Aparicio said. “When you have five minutes to get to the warm-up and you're rushing, you don't want to be looking for your other glove. You start tearing everything apart, and it just looks like a tornado. If you have it super organized, then it kind of cuts down on the tornado a little bit.”

Shayna Simon pets Sixth Sense at the 2023 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival Week 3 CPEDI3*. Photo: Taylor Pence/ISG

“We want to be efficient and work quickly. If there's a horse that is about to go into the show arena, we know exactly where everything is,” Simon added. “That's why we do different trunks, so that it's not just kind of all shoved in one, and you have to take stuff off in order to get to other stuff.”

In addition to ease of access to her equipment, organization provides Holland and her horses with an extra level of safety.

“Inevitably, a horse is going to break loose from somebody or escape from a stall, and if things are sitting out in a way that they can either get into or trip over and get hurt, that's not good,” she explained. “It's good to keep your things organized and locked up in a box of some sort.”

Simon added that there is a lot of collaboration involved in the trunk-packing process.

“When you're traveling to Europe or big events, there's a lot of organization that goes into it. I can't tell you how many checklists we have of everything,” Simon said. “Some of the stuff you can’t even get in Europe; you have to bring it from the States. It's a full-time job, to be honest, packing the trunks for the competition.

Holland also makes a list before she goes to events, making sure she doesn’t forget anything. However, mistakes do happen, and Holland explained that those around her are always willing to help.

“Sometimes it takes a couple shows, if you've never shown before, to realize what you really need. Usually at horse shows, everybody's very friendly and more than willing to lend a pair of scissors if you forgot, or something like that,” Holland said. “Most of the horse shows that you go to, no matter the breed, you have a horse family.”

Overall, a streamlined organization process and support from “horse families” result in a more fulfilling competition experience for many, including Carrillo.

“To watch these people riding makes me see life in a different way,” he said.

Receive 5% off a Flexi Equine tack locker or trunk with code USEF5.