The ringside bag is a handy, organized backpack or tote that can be taken with you from your trailer or where your horse is stabled to the show ring. A well-packed bag contains every item you might need during your warmup or right before you go into the ring, like extra tack or grooming tools for emergency touch-ups.

Having a ringside bag is essential for amateur and professional riders alike. They come in handy whether you’re a career groom, just volunteering for your barn or riding organization, cheering on your child or friends, grooming for yourself, or if you’re simply the one who always ends up down at the ring, holding everyone’s stuff!

Here are a few tips and key items to help you prevail against showground chaos this season.

How to Pack

There are many different styles and brands of ringside bag on the market, but you can also use any sturdy, preferably waterproof bag. A backpack is generally more popular because it’s hands-free and has more room and pockets.

When packing, avoid having loose items floating around your bag. Instead, buy a few zippered pouches from a dollar store or reuse old makeup bags, mesh bags, or other miscellaneous bags you have lying around the house to organize items into groups. Smaller bags also help to keep dirty boots and spurs separate and can even be tied to the outside of your bag.

Personalizing your bag can be useful, but it can also be fun and show team spirit. Don’t forget to add your lucky keychain or other talisman.

What to Pack


Towels occupy their own category because they are far and away the number-one ringside item of choice for professional grooms. If you bring nothing else to the ringside, bring a towel!

A towel can be used for a quick wipe down of warm-up ring dust. It’s a great way to rub off mud and sand from the undersides of the girth and your horse’s belly, and also from boots, your saddle pad, helmet, or jacket. It can be used to scrub off foam and slobber stains on horses’ necks and chests or around the bit.

Bringing several towels of a small-to-medium size or cutting a large towel into sixths or eights is more convenient than one large towel, and can be used on many different areas without the worry of spreading dirt.

Smaller, wet rags in a sealable silicon or plastic bag are also great to include. Dampen the towels, drain the excess, and seal the bag to prevent them from drying out. If you can, store the towels in a separate pocket or compartment outside the bag to make them quickly accessible.

Mini Grooming Kit

The most important item for your ringside grooming kit is a hoofpick (and a spare) for general maintenance. Horses often have to walk on gravel paths to and from the ring and feet need to be picked out constantly.

Another necessity is an all-purpose medium brush that can be used to fix any grooming oversights you may have made on your rush to the ring. A travel-sized version of your favourite spot-remover can also be very helpful. A quick rub with a clean fleece can also magically erase any minor dust that has appeared in your warmup, without the need for water.

Include scissors and your favourite tape for dealing with all contingencies.


The tack you bring will be dependent on your specific needs, but one of the must-have universal pieces of tack for your ringside bag is a spare lead rope with a chain that can be safely clipped through the bit.

Many people bring extra gloves and spurs, an extra bridle, or different bits they may need for the ring.

Don’t forget to leave enough extra room for bulky items that are only worn in the warm-up, such as wraps.

Personal Necessities

If you’re a working groom and won’t be dropping off your bag at the ringside, it’s often best to keep your wallet, phone, and car keys handy throughout the day because you never know when you’ll get a chance to get back to the trailer or visit the concession stand. It’s also a good idea to keep a copy of all relevant paperwork, your passport, your dressage test omnibus and so on in a separate waterproof courier case or compact folder. You will feel calmer knowing these items aren’t floating around the trailer floor or somewhere in the tack room stall when you desperately need them in a crunch for time.

If you’re a rider grooming for yourself and need to leave your bag somewhere safe while you ride, you can ask a friend, your coach, or parent to watch it during your warm-up and run. If you’re showing solo, you might opt to leave irreplaceable valuables in a safely locked tack stall or vehicle. Avoid leaving your bag completely unattended alongside a busy warm-up ring.

In a separate pouch or pocket, pack mini versions of fly spray, sunscreen, a collapsible hat, lip gloss, aspirin, extra socks, sunglasses, hair ties, bandaids, and anything else you need to feel like a human in any weather conditions. If you can fit a rain slicker or a rolled-up windbreaker or vest with a hood into a side compartment, even better.

It’s important to bring nutritious food that will not be squished, melted, or spoiled, like protein bars, nuts, dried fruit, or rice cakes. Bringing reusable water bottles and/or a thermal coffee mug is also a great idea. Plastic bags or a reusable grocery bag can be very helpful to carry extras or keep things dry.

You will also likely be recruited to hold someone else’s car keys, gloves, power snack, phone, etc., and it doesn’t hurt to have a designated pocket or pouch for this, too!