...but revisiting because I find it such an important topic. :)
Getting the horse prepared is really a simple task, it just takes elbow grease. Plenty of good grooming leading up to the day before the show, then it becomes prep time.
Clipping, hoof sanding and bathing are the three big "to-do's" on that list, and are a must do for your horse to look his or her best. Now, before someone goes on another rant about sanding hooves (and I have no doubt there are a few who will ~ save your comments, unless they are productive and constructive, please), nothing harmful or debilitating to the horse is done when we sand. I have heard it all before, I am not concerned about my horses' health being compromised and they are all healthy, sound and happy.
For clipping, I like to begin with legs, trimming the coronet band upward to take off the hairs that fall over the hoof itself, then run the clippers downward on the pastern and fetlock. Some folks prefer to shave the leg up to the fetlock or even the knees/hocks, but I want my clipping to look as natural as possible. Trim the longish hairs at the back of the knees, over the hocks and any strays you notice, so that the legs are smooth. Then I'll move to the head, where I'm going to drop the halter around the horse's neck so I can smooth the jawline and sides of the face. All of the above is done with a size #10 blade. After that, I make a "diamond" pattern on the horse's forehead, shaving with a #15 blade. Unlike some, I do NOT shave outside the eyes or below the cheekbones, I merely blend. To me, it looks far better and I like less sharp lines. I do use a #40 blade to clip the bridlepath, muzzle and around the eyes, but on the muzzle and eyes I spend more time blending than anything, looking mainly to remove the long whiskery hairs. Finally, I use a pair of small cordless finishing clippers for the ears, shelling them totally inside and then rimming the outside edges, leaving a small, diamond shaped tip with fuzz. My clipped ears have been called masterpieces by more than a few folks...I think that might mean I'm doing it right. ;)
To the controversial topic of sanding hooves, yes I use a power sander (quarter sheet) and prop the hoof on a hoof stand like a farrier uses, beginning with lightly taking off any roughness with a 60 or an 80 grit, whichever I have available, then lightly running a 150 grit and a 220 grit over them before finishing up with a 400 grit. Afterward, I very lightly buff with a fine steel wool and finish the hooves off with a coating of Kiwi shoe wax, black for the dark hooves and neutral for the light hooves. It's not as if we are taking layer after layer after layer off the hoof, literally grinding it down to nothing ~ the entire process for four hooves takes maybe 10 minutes per horse. On show day, cleaning them off with a wet rag, buffing with steel wool again and wiping with a clean, dry rag before applying hoof polish and a spray enhancer makes for stunning feet on your horses.
Now, baths vary depending on whether the horse is light or dark, and their markings. Grey horses, Pintos (or Paints) with a lot of white, Palominos or any of the dilutes and all white markings get a whitener shampoo like Quik Silver. For the rest of the horse, I use Salon Care shampoos from Sally's Beauty Supply. They have neat "flavors" like Wild Cherry, Passionfruit, Luscious Kiwi and Apples & Pears that make your horse smell fabulous in addition to clean!! I will wash the mane and tail first, then scrub the body, down to the legs and finish off with the face, using a harder scrubber for the body, a soft scrubber for the legs and a soft sponge for the face. After rinsing, I liberally apply conditioner (I generally use TREsemme` instead of the Salon Care, because I use far less of it and like their "dry damaged hair" formula) to the mane, tail and forelock, followed by a final rinse. After scraping excess water off, I'll towel dry the horse and ultimately spray the entire horse with Show Sheen, avoiding much contact with the back of a performance horse. Then once the tail is nearly dry (though still with just a hint of dampness) I'll wrap up my tails, and blanket/hood the horse before putting him or her away.
At that point, my horse(s) will be ready for the big show day, and I can concentrate on cleaning tack and getting the truck and trailer packed. More to come in the next few days!