Best of HN: Essentials for a Properly Packed Ring Bag

If I am not sitting on a horse at a horse show, I am sporting my husband’s Drago military backpack at all times.

People make fun of me, sure. I have been called Dora and I am used to people walking behind me singing, “Backpack Backpack,” but when things go south (and at horse shows they can go south rather quickly) I am the first person they come running to.

Why? Well, I am a bit over prepared for any and every situation. I can’t help myself, I adore organization and the files in my desk at my big girl job are all color coded and beautiful. With the unpredictability that comes in the horse world, a good ring bag is ESSENTIAL.

I typically don’t buy the standard ring bags at the tack store. Don’t get me wrong — they are so very nice, but I need lots of room for storage and optimal organization. My mom bought my husband a Drago backpack this past Christmas to use while hunting and I immediately stole it for my own purposes. It has multiple compartments and lots of loops and clasps that can house all the bits and bobs you need for ultimate organization.

Notice all the loops and Velcro patches that I can attach things too. And the pockets … sooooo many pockets! We even were able to attach the face of an old watch upside down to one of the straps so that while I am running around I can just look down at my strap to catch the time. Photo by Wayne DeLisle.

First things first — the essentials. My spurs are AT ALL TIMES hanging from one of the loops on the side of the bag. Easily accessible and ready to hand off to any rider whose first trip lacked a little life, keeping your spurs on you can make a quick difference in the way that the day goes for someone from your barn. And trust me, I am waiting by the gate when their class is over and taking them off their feet before they even dismount or else I would never get them back. I don’t carry a crop, but if you buy a bag similar to the one I have (er, borrowed) then you can easily secure it in one of the loops on the side as well.

Spare hairnets are a must: I do this mostly for myself because I am bad about thinking I stuck them in a pocket only to have them fall to the ground and never to be seen again. Chapstick, extra deodorant, gum, an extra pair of gloves and a fully charged juice pack for my phone are all stored in one of the smaller compartments.

Keep a class list on you at all times. If you are paranoid like me, you can print it out before the show and laminate it at home so it won’t get crumpled up at the bottom of your bag (yes, I told you I have a problem). I can’t tell you how many times I have heard someone cry out in a panic, “wait, is my class next?” It is also nice to keep boot polish and leather cleaner, a few spare rags, and a hoof pick in a separate compartment so that the oils and dirt doesn’t get on your other items.

Now, the things that earn you bonus points. You can save some serious lives here, people. If you have an extra pair of nice quality reins, fold them up neatly and tuck them in the bottom of the bag. It won’t happen frequently enough to justify carrying them all the time, but it will happen one day and you will be glad you have them. Extra white rat catchers for show shirts (those things just waltz off), Neosporin and bandaids and an extra bottle of water that you haven’t already been drinking out of will be nice on a given day as well (super mega bonus points if you have a place to tuck away teeny little Dixie cups so that spare bottle of water goes a long way with more than one rider).

If you know how to braid, keeping rubber bands, a thread hook, and some yarn in your bag can help in the instance of a loose braid. Heck, even strap a bottle of show sheen in there (I have been known to pour some in a travel sized spray bottle). A notebook and pen can come in handy if you are obsessed with writing down class placings as announced to ensure everyone grabs the right ribbons. Extra feminine supplies are a nice addition as well.

I have an unhealthy attachment to this bag and I don’t care. I can fit SO MUCH STUFF in it. Photo by Maddy Gemison.


The stuff people will make fun of you for …. Snacks. Snacks of all kinds. Fruits, gummies, those little packets that go in your water. People will call you a walking pantry — THAT IS, until they get hungry and then suddenly you are besties. Extra number strings are easy to tie to the outside of your bag and trust me, at some point someone will lose theirs. Peppermints for all of the good ponies. A little nail kit because hang nails happen and hurt like heck. A spare set of keys to my vehicle if I am driving, because seriously, who wants to get stuck at 8 PM when the horse show finally ends and you lost your original set? Emergency contact list for myself and any of my riders who aren’t laughing so hard at me that they can choke out their answer. What can I say? I like to be prepared.

You can always carry one of those breakable ice packs that only get cold once broken and pray no one needs it. Baby powder and baby wipes are helpful for naughty horses who like to lay in poo for pre-ring touch ups. Disposable razors (stray hairs on a muzzle drive me nuts!) Scissors are the one thing I cannot ever find and always desperately need. But don’t be cheap, buy a little safety pouch for them to hide in so you don’t go stabbing yourself while digging around in your bag.

Yes. I fit all of these goodies and more in my ring bag, and YES I sound like a walking Christmas tree jingling and jangling about. In the case of an emergency, though, I am the girl to go to. And another thing — when I go to a horse show I never take a purse. Throw my wallet in the ring bag and I am good to go. That being said, if we happen to dine out at a fancy restaurant all that junk usually winds up going with me…

What’s in your ring bag? Share your tips in the comments section!