The Shires have long been used a harness horses by different breweries across the United Kingdom to take beer and ale to the local pubs and restaurants. This tradition is far less common today, although some breweries still maintain teams of Shires for ceremonial deliveries and advertising. By far the greatest number of Shires in the United States and the United Kingdom are now used for show purposes as well as light agricultural work and even as riding horses.
The Shire is typically shown in-hand or in halter classes or shown as a team in either a pulling event or as a show team. All types of shows highlight the natural beauty, strength and gentleness of this breed of draft horse. Preparing a horse this big for show does take some time and advanced preparation but it is will worth the effort. Since the Shire has a dark coat and white face and legs, there is a lot of contrast on the body that can be used to draw attention to the clean lines and excellent musculature of the breed.
To show the Shire there is some definite preparation tricks. The first one is to wash the horse thoroughly and allow drying at least a day before the show. This will give the natural oils of the hair a chance to coat each individual hair strand, resulting in a natural shine and glow to the coat. For bay, black or gray Shires a dappling pattern is common that can also become more pronounced when the hair is completely clean. Always use a good quality horse hair shampoo and follow with a show conditioner to bring out the natural luster to the coat. There are a wide variety of specialty shampoos and conditioners for different coat colors and these can add highlights and gloss to the horse's coat color, especially for a bay or a dark brown.
The white hair on the face and legs can be treated with a special whitening shampoo that will make the hair lustrous and brilliant. After shampooing and conditioning the longer hair on the legs, known as the feathers, completely dry and treat with a mane and tail conditioner. Lightly wrap the legs with the hair flat against the legs, which will give a smooth presentation the next day when they wrappings are removed prior to the show.
In many shows the mane and tails are plaited or are pulled to give a good, clean presentation. Manes may be braided and place in knots, and tails can either be put in a French braid for natural tails and in a Scotch knot for docked tails. Each club, association or registry will have different show standards so be sure to check the show rules to ensure you have the Shire properly presented. Typically the nose and lower jaw hairs are trimmed as are the ears to give a clean profile of the face and head. In Shire shows the hooves can be treated with a clear polish or dressing but cannot be made artificially black or white. Most Shires over the age of two will be shown shod.