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Organizing a show

From: Clarissa

Dear Jessica, you are the best. I know there are a lot of horse sites out there, but every time I get impressed with one, I start to notice how much wrong information there is! Yours is different, I can always trust you. Thank you. I don't have a horse problem at the moment, but I do have a question for you. I am the President of our local riding club, and the members have voted to have a show this summer. It will be the first show since I have been President, and I wasn't here when they had the last show a few years ago. I would like to do things right so that everything will run smoothly, but I am concerned that there are just "too many cooks" involved here, if you know what I mean by that! This is a big club and there are about twenty people who want to help with the show. I already have a planning group of five other people. I don't want to turn anyone down, but the club is very big and we have lots of volunteers, and I don't want to have too many people involved. I have some idea of what is involved, but I'm not certain what I ought to do myself and what I should try to delegate! Can you help, please? Thank you very much for all your wisdom and assistance. Your fan, Clarissa

Hi Clarissa! As you know, putting on a successful show means doing a great deal of work, so the earlier you begin your planning and delegating, the better. If the "core group" of people helping you can each run a committee, that will free you to do other things. But don't turn anyone down. You're going to need as much help as you can get. There is no such thing as too much help with a show, especially a big show. There IS such a thing as disorganized, ineffective help, and that's what you can avoid by delegating. If I were you, I'd start with your core group. There are a lot of different responsibilities associated with shows. You can divide those into rough categories, then let the committee chairmen be responsible for subdividing the categories. That way, everything can get done, everyone will be useful, and you won't have to spend all of your time assigning and tracking specific tasks.

So, just what IS involved in planning a show? Here are the major categories and responsibilities.

1) Money and Paperwork - this would include such things as finance (how much will go into the show, and how much will come out of it?) publicity (press releases for the local newspaper and radio stations) entries program and prize list

2) Supply and Logistics trophies and ribbons venue/facility (rental, insurance, and management on the day, plus jumps, judges' stands, on-site transportation, etc.) portable toilets, etc. (you can never have too many porta-potties)

3) Show Officials and Staff Judge(s) Announcer Show secretary (who will need assistants if the show is big) Scorer (who will need runners)

You can divide and subdivide those categories, make other categories, reassign tasks... the important thing is to create SOME sort of organization chart and then start delegating jobs. There are usually more jobs than individuals, so plan ahead in case one person needs to wear more than one hat.

If the show is large, you'll also want ring clerks and additional scorers. If it's a dressage show, the judge will need a scribe, and someone to check the bits. For a dressage or combined training competition, you'll need runners - people to collect each rider's score-sheet and take it to the show scorer.

If the show is large, you'll need a farrier and a veterinarian. Even if the show is tiny, you'll need to know how to reach a local veterinarian.

Even a small show will need an announcer, and the announcer will need a sound system. Can yours be moved around? Are there enough speakers hooked up to let everyone, everywhere on the grounds, hear the announcements?

You can never have too many people working at a show. Staff jobs would include selling programs, selling tickets, and assigning stalls to incoming horses. Someone needs to be at the gate to direct spectators to spectator parking, and someone else will need to be in charge of trailer-parking for participants. You'll definitely need someone to check that each horse has a current negative Coggins test - and this should be done before the horse gets off the trailer.

Other jobs associated with shows: Concessions! People at shows expect to find food and beverages for sale. Where there are people and food, there will be litter... you'll need a large supply of well-marked trash cans, and you'll also need maintenance crew, even if they also have other jobs. You'll also need a ring crew - people who can move the jumps around for jumping classes, rebuild fences that horses knock down, rake the arena during the lunch break, etc.

If you are going to go all out with flowers and flags and such, you'll probably need some people assigned to do the decorating. If you're lucky and they are very nice, you may be able to persuade the same people to act as your maintenance or concession crew.

You're not through, though. A show is an event, and events create a need for various forms of protection. Careful checking of Coggins tests is one legal precaution you already know to take, but there are others. There should be a first-aid station at any show. If your show is small, then you probably won't have an ambulance waiting, but you should have quick access to emergency services. Be sure that everyone on staff can find the telephone is at the venue, and post a sign with the numbers of the local emergency services and directions to the venue, so that in case of an emergency, anyone could ring for an ambulance and give accurate directions.

Fire and police protection may be necessary - you can ring your local services and find out whether they are required, and what you will need to do if they are.

Regardless of what else is involved, even a small show will need to carry liability insurance. If you are putting a great deal of time and money into this show, you may also want "rain insurance" so that you can recoup your expenses if the show is rained out. Your club's insurance may cover a certain number of "event days" each year, but it would be a good idea to talk with your insurance carrier and find out exactly what is and isn't covered.

It takes a lot of work, and a lot of people cooperating, to put on a successful show. Do you still think that you might have too many volunteers? ;-)


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