As someone who grew up showing horses and being an exhibitor, I’ve always wondered what went on behind the scenes of putting these great shows together. Well, throughout these past few months I’ve gotten to learn what it takes to plan and run a horse show. As the president of the Michigan State University Horsemen’s Association, I got to be a part of the planning of our annual Green and White Fuzzy Horse Show. Over the planning time and after the show that took place this past Sunday, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve learned a few things. Keep reading for a few tips and tricks that I found helpful throughout the entire process of managing the horse show.
1. Communication is Key
In my situation, there was a village of people that helped plan the Green and White show. The best thing I could recommend when having a group of people plan a horse show is to have great ways to communicate with one another. We used a Facebook group message to share things that were happening throughout the week when we didn’t have a meeting. The one problem we ran into when using Facebook messenger was that not everyone regularly checked the group message. Collaborating with everyone on your first meeting to decide what would be easiest for everyone to use could be a way to avoid that problem and get the maximum productivity out of a group chat.
Throughout the entire process, we had meetings every other week. Since this was a student run and organized show, it was easy for us to have a set time to meet in person. If that is not feasible for you to plan, then consider using a video call program to meet. Some commonly used programs are Zoom and Skype. Both platforms offer a great free account version.
Lastly for communications, don’t be afraid to speak up and voice your opinion. This can be especially true if this is the first time the show is being held. Adapting to new situations and trying new things are what make a horse show run over many years.
2. The behind-the-scenes of the behind-the-scenes
We are extremely fortunate to hold our show at the MSU Pavilion right outside of campus, and the pavilion staff provides a lot of support throughout show day. The venue staff are vital, especially for show day. Whether it’s making sure the trail equipment is at the correct arena, or that the arena is dragged when needed, venue staff are the true behind-the-scenes of the behind-the-scenes. We found that communicating with radios to the pavilion staff – well in advance of when we needed something – was the best way to keep everyone happy and the show running smoothly.
Volunteers will become your best friends on show day. Whether it’s running an in-gate, out-gate, checking people in, or entering classes into software, volunteers are what make the show go around. Make sure to provide snacks and a lunch for volunteers. If the volunteers don’t have water in their hands, then something is probably wrong. No matter if they want water or not, always make sure they have something.
3. The power of social media
Using social media to advertise our show, especially Facebook, was a great way for us to reach potential exhibitors. Creating an events page to hold all show information was a great way to organize the information that was posted. We were also able to communicate with exhibitors on show day and during haul-in to remind them about certain bits of information. Using a Facebook events page was also a great way to advertise to the rising, popular Facebook groups.
4. Take notes
As the show is progressing, make notes for things to change in upcoming years. Interacting with exhibitors is a great way to find out what worked and what didn’t work. What may seem to be working to the show staff might be perceived differently by the exhibitors. I found that taking walkthroughs around the stall areas was a great way to talk with exhibitors and show goers. They were also extremely appreciative that we were asking for their feedback. So, make sure to get out and smile!
5. Have fun
Of course, this is the most important part. Have fun during the planning process, the late nights, and of course on show day. No matter how many bumps occur in the road, I promise you will get through them. Take lots of pictures to capture the fun moments. As stressful as the day maybe, it’s the fun times that will make you say to yourself “let’s do it again next year!” Throughout the planning process, you will grow as an individual in so many ways. Your organizational skills will be improved, and you will learn to love coffee. You may even create a new obsession with double shot espressos. Don’t forget to smile, even in the 14th hour. The night after the show will most likely be the best night’s sleep you will ever have, and when you wake up the next morning, you’ll get to do it all over again. If you are planning a one-day show, the next morning is bittersweet. You think about the good and the bad, making mental notes of what you want to do differently next year. So, I wish you happy horse show planning and if all things are falling apart around you on show day, just keep smiling.