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Top Tips for Hosting A Horse Show

I am fortunate enough to own a small farm and recently starting hosting horse shows. There are a lot of things that go into running a horse show, and with each show we run, we learn how we can make the next one even better and run more efficiently. I’ve put together a to-do list of all of the different things that go into the planning of a horse show. If I missed anything that you do, be sure to share your tips in the comments section below!

What to do before the show:
1. Pick the date of the show! If you’re running a rated show, apply for the dates you want and pay all of the associated fees. If you’re not running a rated show, try to choose dates that will conflict the least with other local shows.
2. Decide what divisions and classes you’ll include.
4. Hire judges, stewards, an EMT, a show secretary (if you’re not planning to do it yourself), an in-gate person, and an announcer.
5. If necessary, line up a farrier and a vet to be on call or hire them as well.
6. Make a plan for the show grounds. You’ll need a show ring, warm-up ring, trailer parking, car parking (if different than trailer parking), secretary’s booth, judge’s booth, announcer location, bathroom facilities, and access to water.
7. Come up with the class list and prize list. The prize list will be jam packed with details like class specifications, show information, an entry form, and the show rules. Don’t underestimate this task – it takes a LONG time. And remember that it will most likely need to be approved by organizations that are associated with it (if any).
8. Print out and mail copies of the prize list to local barns and trainers. Posting on Facebook to get the word out is a good idea, too.
9. Hire a food truck.
10. Order ribbons.
11. Order back numbers for riders (and string if necessary).
12. Prizes for class winners and champions. (SmartPak sales section works great for this!)
13. Order or make judge’s cards and add/drop forms.
14. Rent or purchase walkie-talkies – they’re very helpful for quick and easy communication between all of the show staff.
15. Get insurance – this is a must no matter how small of an event it might be!
16. Rent a PA System if the announcer or show grounds is not providing one.
17. Purchase secretary supplies, including paper, pens, and clipboards.
18. Make copies of prize list, class list, add/scratch forms, entry forms to have on hand.

What to do the day before the show:
1. Drag and water rings.
2. Design the courses and set up the course in show ring (if the show includes jumping classes).

3. Set up jumps in warm-up ring (if the show includes jumping classes).
4. Design courses.
5. Set up the secretary’s booth. We use our horse trailer for both the secretary and the announcer – I had to purchase special sized tables to fit in there. Be sure to have the judge’s cards, add/drop forms, prize lists, class lists, and entry forms all ready to go. Carrots for horses and candy/sweets for exhibitors is always a nice touch, too.
6. Set up the judge’s section with chair(s) and a table. Keep in mind that shade is always appreciated when you’re picking the judge’s spot. We use the truck that is attached to the horse trailer/secretary’s booth, and a pop-up tent is an easy way to provide shade.
7. Put out trash cans.
Leave muck buckets and pitchforks to help keep areas clean.
8. Be sure to have extra toilet paper!
9. Set up hoses for water for the exhibitors’ horses.
10. Set up chairs for exhibitors to use to watch.
11. Block off any areas that are off limits to show exhibitors.

What to do the day of the show:
1. Post the courses and/or trail near the ring entrance.
2. Set up a clipboard for judge (include the judge’s cards, prize list, classes count sheet, courses, and walkie-talkie).
3. Wipe off any chairs/tables/etc that are wet with morning dew.
4. Station parking attendants where necessary.
5. Bring ribbons to in-gate.
6. Pass out walkie-talkies to anyone who needs one.
7. Be available to answer questions.
8. Have fun watching exhibitors enjoy the day!

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