Behind the scenes: Packing the tack trailer

The smaller, locally traveling trailer.

Ever wondered how vendors at shows transplant what seems like their whole store to a show? Me either, until I became personally involved in what is a very complex process!

The tack store where I’m employed has two mobile units: the dressage trailer and the local trailer. The dressage trailer travels around the country (mostly on the East Coast, though it’s headed to Texas after the Wellington circuit wraps up). The local trailer makes the rounds at Oklahoma (and sometimes Kansas) hunter/jumper and dressage shows.

Dressage trailer has its own tents. Jealous!

The dressage trailer keeps its own separate inventory, which makes for a lot of paperwork headaches here at headquarters, but certainly makes life easier for the dressage trailer staff. The local trailer, however, pulls all its inventory from the store. That means it has to be packed up before every show it attends.

The curtained off area is a small changing room with a mirror.

Chemicals- our general term for everything from equine shampoo to tack cleaner- are the first things to go in. The trailer is generally packed from front to back; chemicals go on the shelves at the head of the trailer. We carry many, many varieties of horse and leather care products, so it can be difficult to determine what should come on the trailer and what should stay behind. In general, we aim to take three or four containers of three or four different brands. Carrying this stuff from the store to the trailer and fitting it neatly into shelves is maybe the longest part of the whole process.

Some bottles refuse to fit on the top and middle shelves, no matter how much you swear at them.

Grooming tools, like brushes, braiding supplies, and hoof picks go on next. They’re hung on hooks on gridwall that’s mounted to the interior trailer walls. This is another category that has a lot of items, so we try to take two or three of each brand and style of brush. I take one style of hoof pick, because if you need a hoof pick at a show, you’re going to take what you can get.

The configuration gets changed frequently throughout the loading process!

The next things to go on are items that will hang on the gridwall just back from the grooming supplies. This usually includes gloves, whips, stock ties, hairnets, etc- anything that can be hung on a hook! There’s a big gridwall that runs from the trailer’s ceiling to floor which divides the front area; that’s where long items like reins, martingales, breastplates, and girths are hung. Halters and bridles are hung in this area, too. Bits and bit accessories are hung behind the counter, where they’re less likely to walk away.

Bits and such.
You can see the glove wall and the reins here. Halters and bridles are to the left of the reins.

Show apparel and breeches are the next things to go on; I think it’s definitely the most fun part. The type of show determines the type of things we take. For a dressage show, we only take full seat breeches and tights. For a hunter/jumper show, we leave the four button show coats at home. If a show offers both types of riding, we’ll bring both. Everything is arranged by size and breeches are arranged by type. We try to carry a wide variety of sizes, but since we’re limited on space, you might find only one pair of size 36 breeches and three pairs of size 28 breeches, since we sell more of them.

Show coats and show shirts- dressage & H/J gear are combined.
Full seat breeches & tights
Knee patch breeches & tights
Kids’ stuff- show shirts and coats, jods, breeches, and tights.
Helmets, paddock boots, half chaps, and tall boots are next. They all have cubbies they’re stuffed into. At shows, we bring mostly Charles Owen helmets and Ariat boots, since they’re our best sellers.

Socks and horse clothing are almost last. If it’s summer, we’ll bring fly masks, fly sheets, and lightweight dress sheets. For fall shows, you can find turnout blankets and coolers.

Socks don’t ride well on their hooks, so they get to ride in a box.
Shaped pads, half pads, fly masks, fly sheets, etc.

The penultimate step in packing the trailer is loading the gridwall. These heavy, black metal grids are what we use to display and hang items that are outside the trailer. You can see it in the top two pictures. We’ll take anywhere from 12 to 20 sheets of gridwall, depending on the length of the show and how much merchandise we plan to display.

Gridwall in our storage room.

Casual clothing is the last thing to be loaded. It’s transported on rolling racks; once at the show, it’s taken off the racks and hung on the gridwall. Every night, it’s reloaded onto the racks and the racks are reloaded onto the trailer. It’s a huge pain, but it’s hard for thieves to steal items that are locked in the trailer!

One rack of new clothes, one rack of last season’s clearance items, both kid & adult.

Various other items get added to the loaded trailer- a table, the coffee equipment, tubs of miscellaneous items (bell boots, stirrup irons, etc.). Forgetting something isn’t a huge deal if the trailer is going to Tulsa- I drive past the store every night on my way home and can stop in and get anything that’s been missed. If the trailer is heading to the 2 week H/J show in Oklahoma City, though, that’s more problematic.

It’s hard work to pack and load the trailer for a show, but well worth the effort! I enjoy working at shows; they give me a chance to meet new horse people, get out of the office, and spend the day at a horse show!

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

19 thoughts on “Behind the scenes: Packing the tack trailer”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, this is super interesting! I always wondered how vendors packed trailers full of wonderful goodies 🙂

    1. That's my biggest struggle, srsly. Since I get a discount on everything, I am constantly looking at things and thinking, "That saddle pad would look good on Gina." or "Moe needs a new halter." or "Those breeches look cool!" and I have to stop myself from spending my entire paycheck at the store. 🙁

  2. Dang lots of work us normal folk would never know about 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!

    BTW I think selling tack at a show sounds like an awesome job lol

  3. Very good read. Thanks for posting! I like the idea of all the organization and thought that goes into setting something like this up and maintaining it.

    1. There's a lot of thought that goes into setting it up for sure! Maintaining it is tricky, as during a busy month, we'll be swapping out items during the week- for example, after this weekend, all the dressage stuff will come off and more H/J stuff will go on for the the big spring H/J show. Then THAT stuff will come off and the dressage stuff will go back on for a USDF show! It's kind of exhausting when it's busy lol

  4. Daamn! That looks like a lot of work, but I bet you guys do a pretty good business. I know on-site tack trailers usually do a pretty good business, even if it's just selling tons of gloves and lead ropes to people who forget/break theirs. 🙂

  5. I always enjoyed working at the shows! I miss it now. Although our trailer we only used to deliver things so everything had to be packed and then put on metal display walls, ect! Huge pain in the butt

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