If you went to a Pacific Northwest “A” circuit horse show this year, you may have noticed a new phenomenon; large audiences surrounding the hunter ring. Hunters, not known for their spectator draw, have found a new niche – the Hunter Derbies, and, with exciting option jumps, beautiful fields to ride in and a lot of money to win, not only are some of our best hunters showing up to ride, they are performing in front of ever increasing audiences. So what happened to the jumper ring in our area? The classes known for excitement and drama are being out shown by their quieter cousin. So how do we put the splash back into the jumper rings?
Morgan Carr, the WSHJA Jumper rep and Owner of Encanto Valley Farms, in Auburn, WA pointed to the largest necessity in our jumper rings – sponsors. If we want to encourage an audience to come watch, we need to have something to show off, and the most exciting thing to show off is fantastic horses and riders competing over tough courses. In order to get those horses and riders, we need an incentive, and that incentive is money. In order to be able to put up cash that is competitive with the larger venues close by we can’t rely solely on our local barns for sponsorship; we need to reach out to the surrounding community and shop our sport out to more sponsors.
When we consider sponsorships, we have to keep in mind the “circle of sponsorship”. In order to generate an interest in sponsoring a class or division, a sponsor needs to know that they will have some sort of return on their investment; sponsors need to know that they will reach an active and interested audience. The best way to get an interested audience is to have something exciting to watch, which leads us back to sponsorships. Our issue lies in which comes first, and the reality is, we have to get them all simultaneously. Meaning, that we, in the riding community, need to reach out to the businesses that we are connected with and start creating an interest in our “non horsey” friends.
When shopping for sponsors, we have to know our audience – the groups that make up the majority of people attending the shows include: Riders/Horse Owners, Trainers/Barn Owners and the Equestrian Enthusiast (aka: our fans!). Although sometimes one person falls into more than one category, each category has differing shopping needs and can, therefore, appeal to a larger variety of sponsors. Riders/Owners may be shopping for anything from the high end Mercedes to new tack for their favorite horse. Trainers/Barn Owners might be looking for a new tractor or supplies from the local hardware store and the fans – the folks that come just for the horses – love anything representing the equestrian world and the beautiful horses that are the sport– creating an overall large and diverse group of people.
In order for us, as riders, trainers and equestrian fans, to be able to continue to improve our shows and the hunter/jumper sport in our state, we need to reach out to the business community to ask for their support. Talk to people in your place of business - your hair dressers, auto mechanics and favorite resturant owners. Tell them about what you spend your time doing – the ups, the downs, the excitement, and, most importantly, the great chance for them to advertise to a captive and willing audience. The more interest we can gain for our industry, the more we all win. We can bring in exciting riders and their horses. We can get better jumps and prizes, and have more flexibility to do what we want within our own shows as we continue to bring money in from outside sources instead of relying solely on our own, smaller, community. By reaching out to the general public we can help bring the resources in not only to improve our shows, but help gain good publicity for the horse world in general – something that could spin out into the community around us – helping us get better horse parks, trails and a greater sense of commitment to a “horsey” way of life – something that benefits us all.