What makes a horse show great

What makes a horse show great
A lovely setting makes a fun horse show

As we near the end of the show season in the Pacific Northwest, we have the opportunity to look back over the year and evaluate what makes a great show. Following are some of the ideas from the past year:

  • Footing: this was the number one issue raised by trainers. This issue was at the top of the list – especially for the horses doing the larger classes. Footing – or a lack there of – was a reason that a trainer would or would not consider going to a show again, and a prime consideration as to which shows they would put on their yearly schedule.
  • Scheduling: all show participants quote scheduling as a major player in a well run show. Dianne Johnson, who has been professionally managing shows since 1982, said a good show ran from 8am-5pm, and not beyond, except for special classes. John Turner, of Thumbs Up Farm, mentioned posted schedules at the show as well as online the night before, with scheduled times for each class that would be held to during the show day. By posting the schedule, exhibitors and trainers could plan for the time allowed and make sure they were able to attend their classes while keeping the show running smoothly and on time. Moving classes was a concern – but everyone acknowledge that there were times when changes happened, however keeping them to a minimum was a huge plus.
  • Prizes: Jumper riders tended to be excited about the ability to win cash – with several mentioning add-backs as a huge incentive. The ability to earn points was mentioned, whether in the WSHJA for local riders or for the World Championship Hunter Rider Awards for riders showing outside of WA. Several riders said at the larger shows they expected better prizes and many riders enjoyed the ability to choose their prize by earning tickets for winning rounds.
  • Location: Whether for the ability to run a successful show in a “resort” town, or, as Judy Wise, from Fairway Farms in Vancouver, BC mentioned, the ability to “get out of the weather” back home – taking horses to a sunny location so they had a chance to get out of the barn and work.
  • The show staff: The attitude of the show staff – how friendly the office staff was and how smoothly the office ran was a big factor. A show office with a staff that was helpful and positive when the inevitable problem occurred made the overall show experience better. The ability to move from one class to the other without incurring a lot of add/scratch fees was also a huge plus - shows that allowed more movement for fewer fees came in at the top of the list.
  • Show atmosphere: it was hard to define sometimes, but the feeling an exhibitor or spectator got when they walked onto the show grounds ranked high with riders. Shows that provided exhibitor parties, benches for spectators and vendors for shopping and eating, were popular. Riders were willing to pay more for a burger in order to have the chance to sit and chat with fellow riders at the end of the day – saying the opportunity to talk about the day with “comrades” was a refreshing event. Exhibitors said having a beer and wine bar and a place to eat while watching was great not only for riders, but for the friends and family that came out to cheer them on for the day.

Several other items made the list as well: Judges for the hunter rings, “AAA” rated shows vs. “C” rated shows, and being able to see where the money went – if there was a charity or improvements to the show, showing it off to the exhibitors so they could see what they donated to with their fees. Good show management was a perk which meant working with the counties to hold the shows, handling the date restrictions from the USEF and limiting show and stabling size to fit the venue and the day’s schedule, as well as promoting the show to the general public in the show’s area to promote spectator involvement.

Although there were ups and downs, everyone had things that they loved about the shows, and things they wanted to improve. Fortunately for each of us we have a great opportunity to get involved. Most shows, from the local schooling show to the top “A” system show rely on volunteers and majority of volunteers come from only a few stables. If each barn made it a goal to have at least 2 members volunteer for that barn’s favorite show system every barn would have the chance to give their input on what really does make a great show – and, with everyone stepping in to help, we can bring in the changes we want to see in order to create the best show possible.

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