Hunters Do It For Show. Jumpers Do It For Dough!

by Katherine Wade-Easley October 4, 2011 in Member Article

If you’ve been to an “A” circuit horse show lately, 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. However, 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, and how to reach out to companies, 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 – in other words, they need to know that they will be able to reach an active and interested audience. To get an interested audience, you have to have something exciting to watch – something exciting means top horses and riders challenged by tough courses and those horse and riders all come for the money, which leads us back to sponsorships. Our issue lies in which comes first, and the reality is, we have to get them all simultaneously –something which seems impossible. However, if we, in the riding community, can reach out to the businesses that we are connected with, we have a chance to start the funds rolling, thereby bringing in the riders and then the audiences.

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 over all large and diverse group of people.

WSHJA currently has a sponsorship committee who is charged with recruiting sponsors of all levels. These members take our sport to the business community and show them how involved horse people are in terms of buying power. Once we get sponsors (and for the ones we already have), the WSHJA sponsorship committee acts as a concierge dedicated to the sponsors—greeting them at the shows, ensuring their promotional materials get properly placed and noticed, and making sure that they have the schedule of events—all giving each sponsor the feeling of being “special”, and making the sponsorship experience that much more enjoyable.

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 – and the WSHJA is asking for your help in doing just that. Talk to people in your place of business, the managers of the businesses you visit -- your hair dressers and auto mechanics. 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.

If you are interested in helping in any way with sponsorships, or if you have any other ideas, please contact the WSHJA at sponsor@wshja.org or, if you would like to become a sponsor, check out the sponsorship links at www.wshja.org