Your Input Is Valuable Your Involvement Is Impactful

As we head into the winter,  WSHJA is beginning the search for new board members. This is the time, for all members, new or old, to get involved.

Both during the show season and off, your WSHJA board has been striving to improve your experience as a WSHJA member. To that effect they have taken your suggestions and comments and made changes to your local shows – including rule changes impacting points, tickets for prizes and class expectations – such as all 3’0” classes and above being held in the indoor ring at Monroe. All of these changes (and more!) have come about due to member input and, as we look back over the year, we have the opportunity to revisit the shows – pros and cons – and continue to work toward an even better experience for next year. 

Sponsorship has been a large area for discussion. The WSHJA has representatives that are in charge of caring for, and catering to, sponsors at horse shows, as well as trying to elicit more sponsorships from the community. However, we face a challenge when it comes to encouraging sponsorships from outside of our local barns. As an industry, each of us needs to take this charge up on our own. We must, in order to continue to improve shows and increase an interest in our sport, bring sponsors in from outside of our smaller circle. Our shows offer several different layers of sponsorship, so there is something for everyone, and the more people from outside our show world that we can get involved, the more attendance, revenue and excitement we can generate.  Also keep in mind that WSHJA is a not-for-profit organization, which means all sponsorship monies go directly into the shows.

Once we get sponsors, shows need to start considering scheduling in terms of not only trainers and exhibitors, but audience members as well. Changes to schedules such as putting a timed start to classes at which you hope to draw an audience, would be one way to encourage attendance.  Everything from the Mini Prix to the Hunter Derbies could apply. Classes that can highlight riders and horses doing technical and challenging courses can be something that anyone could watch and find exciting and if they have a set time schedule, we know when to invite those people to attend. Nothing is more frustrating than the “hurry up and wait” that the horse show is already known for, but for someone who comes to watch, that agenda can be a killer. You would never go to a movie if you knew it could possibly take 2-3 hours to get started, and the same can be said for horse show classes as well. For someone who wants to come watch a particular class, it is an excitement killer and, let’s face it, can be a deal breaker. If we want shows that can draw sponsorships from outside our community, then we have to make certain classes a priority on the schedule.

Other scheduling ideas involve balancing classes – where do we draw the line between having all the classes we want vs. scheduling vs. making money. Shows need to be profitable in order to keep running, and need to be able to offer enough classes so that a lot of people want to come to the show. The same can be said for trainers, who are more likely to participate in a show where more of their students can ride vs. one where only a few can go and play. However, we have to balance that against the need to preserve our footing from too many rides and the ability to get it all done within a certain time frame. If we want to put things on a time schedule to encourage audiences to come, we have to be willing to drop classes or consider moving pro-days. Suggestions have included lengthening the shows so Tuesday and Wednesday are Professional-days and amateur rides could use Thursday and Friday, with the weekend saved for specialty classes; the pros being the ability to set a more defined schedule for the weekend, with cons being a longer show schedule.  Other ideas involve night classes; the excitement of riding at night under the lights can be a special event for riders and spectators and can be easier on the schedule for show management. It also provides a great excuse to make the show “formal” for the evening – encouraging spectators to dress for the event, rent boxes to sit in, enjoy wine with friends and make an evening of it. By promoting a special event, more “non” horse people might have more interest in attending, and riders not participating won’t be at another ring during the big event so the show would have a chance to continue to try and promote a sense of community – another great reason to come to the horse show.

Classes need to be exciting as well. As horse people, we can appreciate the subtle differences in hunter rounds, or applaud the effort of a beginner rider over a small jumper course, but non-horse audience members need splash. We need to provide excitement in the rings and that means colorful and different jumps, energetic announcing and the personalized touch of getting to know the horses and riders. Announcers need the time to talk up horse/rider teams – telling the audience something different about them so that when they are on course the audience knows which horse they want to root for – the one that only eats organic apples or the one that likes to sleep in late..? By adding a personal touch, audience members that may not know all the riders/horses will be able to get behind their favorites and cheer them on, bringing an extra element of excitement to the show. As an addition to that, riders could do meet and greets – walk through the patrons tents and take 5-10 minutes to talk to sponsors, answer questions and chat about the ride.
Other ideas involved limiting class size, having programs with riders and horses in them for the big classes and having benefit shows for larger charities – ones that are known throughout the main stream community – to help raise funds and increase the advertising base for the show.

Lastly, the main concerned raised by horse owners, riders and trainers alike, is the horse. As much fun as the horse show is, none of it is worth it if we don’t take the horse into consideration. Footing, stalls and schedules all have an impact on our equine athletes and, as Lynda Case, an owner at Encanto Valley Farm, and a life member of the USEF/USHJA since 1971, said “I do this because I like the horses…. It would be insane to break them (because) I want a ribbon”. Shows are supposed to be FUN, and no one is having fun if their horse is hurt or unable to perform because the venue or the schedule can’t accommodate them. Shows need to be aware of their own limitations – both in venue and in location, and plan their shows accordingly.

In the end, what the WSHJA needs is your help. You, as members, have a great opportunity to have your voice heard and you have a board that wants to hear from you! Whether you like an idea, or hate it, this is the time to speak up and get involved. Our shows have the chance to continue to be better if we continue to put the work into them and now is the time to do it. So, whether you want to become a board member, or know of someone who should be, the nomination process is in full swing and now is the time to get on board!