This week we are taking an inside look at what it takes to be the horse show manager of the National Western Stock Show. Kendra McConnell, Colorado native, is the lucky woman that currently holds the title of horse show manager at the National Western Stock Show organization. Kendra says that her daily tasks change every day throughout the year. One day it can be contract negotiations and the next day she’ll be posting the Invitational Ranch Rodeo winners on the NWSS Horse Exhibitors Facebook page. Since the Stock Show is the premier rodeo, livestock, and horse show in the nation for a variety of breeds, Kendra stays busy year-round.
The National Western Stock Show is the ultimate representation of how diverse the agriculture industry truly is. In 2018, the Stock Show saw an attendance of over 705,000 people. It showcases livestock, education, and the best part, the horses. Throughout the 16 days in January that the event takes place in Denver, CO, there is everything from Hunter Jumpers to Ranch horse shows taking place. The goal of the 16 days is to showcase top equestrian talent in a variety of breeds and disciplines to the public. Not only are there horse show classes, but the event also hosts a Wild West Show and an Evening of Dancing Horses. The Horse Show department hosts 13 ticketed events during the Stock Show and are preparing to add more in the future. It takes a team to make sure that all of these live production events go off without a hitch.
Kendra got her start in the horse show world with Arabian horses. Both her parents were involved in the equine industry, her dad with Grand Prix Hunter Jumpers, and her mom’s family were involved with Paint horses in Arizona. When her parents met, they merged their two worlds together and the Arabian horse was the outcome. Kendra was a youth member of the Arabian Horse Youth Association and showed at Youth Nationals her entire Arabian career.
“I saw someone with roses and told my parents, I will get some of those,” Kendra said.
Not only did Kendra have success in the show ring, but she also saw success out of the ring. She worked her way up through the Arabian Horse Youth Association board. She started as a Regional director and during her last year as a youth member, was the AHYA President. During her year as President, Kendra was able to travel to a variety of locations including Anchorage, Alaska! Kendra said that she went everywhere and learned a ton as President. She even gained the honor of being named youth of the year by the Arabian Horse Association.
After her time with AHYA, Kendra attended Colorado State University and earned her Bachelor’s degree in business marketing with an emphasis on athletics. After graduation she had a variety of jobs with non-profit organizations and professional athletics that included gaining experience in media relations, public relations, marketing and much more that helped her to be successful in her position with the National Western Stock Show.
“It all worked out with perfect timing,” Kendra said about getting the position in 2015 with the Stock Show.
Being a horse show manager was something that Kendra never thought she would be doing. She knew she wanted to be in Colorado and the timing of the position couldn’t have been better. She’s always had ties with the National Western and her whole family has been involved with the event for years. Kendra said that her position as horse show manager has combined all the skills that she has learned in the past.
“I’m glad I had those other positions to prepare me for this position and be totally ready for it,” Kendra said.
Kendra describes her role as three major parts. Her top priority is planning all the horse show events that take place during the National Western Stock Show in January. With 16 days of fun, it can take a while to make sure that everything is organized for the event. The second part is being a major part of the construction and design of the new National Western Center facilities. She mainly focuses on the equine building, but knows that the building is going to overlap into a lot of other non-equine events, so it is important that she stays involved in the layout and construction of the building. The last major part of her role is to be somewhat of a liaison for the third-party events that take place at the National Western Complex throughout the year. Since she is the manager of the host facilities, Kendra has to make sure that she is available to the managers of the show that is taking place. Although these are the three major parts of her job, Kendra said that the day-to-day responsibilities are always changing.
The National Western is unique because of the variety of breeds and disciplines that are present. One day the arena is filled with Hunter Jumpers and the next day Freestyle Reining is running. Kendra said that this is the favorite part of what she gets to do. She gets to dabble in a variety of organizations in the industry, the connections are limitless.
“There is no limit to the equestrians I get to know,” Kendra said.
Of course, with limitless opportunities comes limitless challenges. Over the years as the industry evolves so do the challenges of managing such a large event. The National Western is a live production event and as we all know; the sport of equestrian is a precarious sport at times. Injuries happen to horse and riders, announcers say the wrong line and somebody isn’t in the right place at the right time. Kendra has learned how to deal with challenges and says that learning the skills necessary to handle a variety of situations is important.
If you think an exciting career as a horse show manager is for you, Kendra advises take every opportunity available to you to learn. If you want something, go out and get it. Calling someone and asking can open doors for you to build your resume.
“Take every opportunity, don’t wait for the opportunity to find you,” Kendra said.
If you are interested in learning more about the National Western Stock Show visit their website here: http://www.nationalwestern.com/. The National western offers a variety of internships in many of their divisions. To have a successful production of the event requires a team of great people to make it happen. Visit their website for more information on internships and don’t forget… if you want it, go get it!
Stay tuned as we continue our career series and explore new avenues that are available to make the career you want. Thinking about a career that you want us to explore more? Comment below and let us know what careers you want to know more about.