Make Every Show Worth Your Money

Before you sign the entry check, ensure you have all your questions answered so you can get the most out of every dollar at your next horse show.

By Megan Arszman, Photos by Kaycie Timm

The process of entering a show can stir many emotions in even the most experienced exhibitor. Maybe you start excited, but that can turn to uncertainty as you go through the process, which in turn can affect your sanity and memory for entering the right classes and being able to enjoy that particular show. 

Woman in show office types on computer
Focus your energy on competing instead of getting anxious about entries. It’s possible with this advice.

That said, you want to ensure that you get your money’s worth at each show. So, how do you make sure a particular event is worth your time and money? Keep these considerations in mind when making your choices.

Consider Your Level

Amanda Brumley and her Brumley Event Management team has handled NRHA events of all sizes and prestige, notably the successful Run for a Million in Las Vegas last year. She advises that you consider your level when looking at what shows to enter in 2020—are you still trying to get experience in the show pen, or do you want to push yourself by stepping up?

“If you’re getting your foot in the door and becoming comfortable in the show pen, the best place to go is one of your local affiliate shows,” Brumley advises. “[Many] affiliate shows have good ground and quality management that can give you a good experience off the bat without a lot of pressure or expense.” 

Most times your local affiliate shows are a great way to get some in-ring training (for you or your horse) and get a feel for showing a reiner, hopefully with some success, without costing an arm and a leg. (See the next point to manage costs.) 

Look at Your Budget

Your budget is likely one of the key—if not the main—parameters for showing your horse. While exhibiting at a show under the bright lights of Las Vegas might get you excited, it might not be the best fit when you have to cover all the expenses to show in one or two classes. Instead, use those prestigious events as a motivational goal and work toward that as you gain experience and knowledge.

Once you identify the shows within your area and price range, see what levels they offer, so you can get as much bang for the entry fee as possible. If the show also hosts breed association classes, paid warmups, or even a free clinic or seminar, it’ll allow you to do more with your time off work and away from home. 

Remember Your Eligibility

One issue entrants often have during the first shows of the year is eligibility. Before you start entering, be sure you know your level and which classes you’re eligible for as well as your horse’s eligibility in terms of levels and classes. 

“That is a big one,” Brumley says. “We see this at the Cactus Classic a lot, and the riders don’t do it intentionally. It could be like two 

dollars that they’re out [of a level]. But, make sure you know you’re eligible for each of those divisions that you enter.” 

Brumley points out that there are still moments of questioning eligibility through the first half of the year, especially if you purchase a new horse. 

“It’s not the responsibility of the show staff to say who’s eligible for what; that’s your responsibility,” Brumley points out.

Put Yourself First

When you’re selecting shows to attend, there should be one big consideration: You. 

Look at individual shows and what they have to offer, closely examine your show budget, know what expenses you can and cannot afford, and know your expectations for each show you plan to attend. 

Now that you’ve made all these considerations, it’s time to make sure you’re entry- booth ready, making sure everything is smooth, including your pattern.

Be Entry Booth-Ready

Brumley and her staff have processed thousands of entries and seen it all, from the over-prepared showman to someone who’s completely spaced every detail. 

“I think it even starts before the entry point, when you’re coming to a show,” she says. “If you’re leaving the state, you need to make sure you have your health papers and updated Coggins that’s correct and up to date for that state and horse-show requirements.” 

Have a paper trail. Organize a binder with your horse’s veterinarian papers, copies of registration and competition licenses, and association membership cards. Brumley recommends carrying copies instead of originals for all documents in case they’re lost. 

“We don’t require the originals,” she points out. “And, if we’re not co-hosting a breed show, we won’t require you to have the breed papers, just a copy of the competition license.”

Boxes full of folders with paperwork
Keep your original paperwork organized and safe at home. Copies suffice in almost all cases for show management needs.

Don’t get in a panic if you’ve purchased a new horse and still need to send a transfer before heading to the show. Thanks to a recent rule change, show secretaries can make changes to the owners on competition licenses, and they can take new memberships. 

“That has helped tremendously,” Brumley says. “Show secretaries can make the change on the competition license, but that’s one time we’ll need to have the originals so we can submit the originals with the transfer to NRHA.”

There’s no additional fee on the horse-show side of it; it’s the same price as if you went through NRHA. 

Don’t forget about submitting your tax information. The show secretary is responsible for sending 1099 forms for all the earnings from each show, and if they don’t have your tax identification number, they can’t send the tax form. Without the tax form, you can’t get your money. 

“It’s the owner’s and exhibitor’s responsibilities to be accountable for themselves to get the tax forms back to the show secretary so the forms can be submitted,” Brumley says. “It’s not the show management’s responsibility to chase you down to get your tax information—you send it in with your entries.”

Ask questions. There’s never a stupid question, and show secretaries want you to know that it’s OK to come into the office and ask questions. 

“When we have new people in the show office, they need to understand that just because they don’t know and they haven’t experienced it before, it doesn’t mean we won’t help them,” Brumley offers. “My staff is always ready to help with the entry form, stall form, etc. People should never feel that they’re asking stupid questions just because they don’t understand or don’t know because they’re new to the sport.” 

Confirmation is comfort. To avoid frustration, Brumley suggests that when you come into the show office to pick up your number, always look at what classes you’ve entered. Understand that show secretary’s process and rules for adding or dropping classes, and realize that if you want to add classes, you must do so before the deadline. 

Woman in horse show office types on computer keyboard
When you pick up your number from the show management staff, double-check which classes you’re entered in so there’s no confusion.

Sorting stalls. Any show manager will probably tell you the biggest pain in organizing and managing a show is making stall reservations. Brumley says the best and most efficient entrants submit one stall form that lists the horse’s name, owner’s name, and number of tack stalls needed, and then pays for it all with one check. If you’re stalling with your trainer, communication is key to avoiding problems.

“I’ve seen stalls paid for twice, so a trainer shows up and has too many stalls, and I’ve seen trainers show up without enough stalls,” Brumley says. “It’s a communication issue.”

Brumley recommends trainers have a clip board by their tack room at home and tell their clients that if they plan on attending a certain show, they must write down their name, their horse’s registered name, and how many stalls are needed, and enforce a solid deadline for reservations. This provides accountability, which helps the trainer have more accountability for his or her barn.

Be sure to consider these stall questions: Do you need a grooming stall? Storage stall for your grain and hay? Even if you’re going to a show by yourself, you need to think about all of these factors. 

Start Off Strong

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the show’s management team prior to the show with any questions or confusion. The management team wants provide a positive experience for each entrant. Just remember to take a little time to consider pertinent questions and review your checklist so you can have a strong show season.

Reining in Asia

NRHA staff, affiliate leadership, and professionals work together to promote the expansion of the sport of reining in Asian countries.

By Kaycie Timm

Woman in Elsa costume rides red horse with man in white shirt and cowboy hat on a palomino horse
NRHA Professionals Sharee Schwartzenberger of Longmont, Colorado, and Toru Tamaoki-McCoy of Japan performed a Frozen-themed freestyle routine at an event in Anping, China.

Most reining enthusiasts understand the amount of effort that goes into an incredible freestyle routine—from choreography to costumes and everything in between. NRHA Professional Sharee Schwartzenberger of Longmont, Colorado, has performed her share of freestyles, but before last October, she’d never put together something quite like this.

When she was invited to showcase the sport of reining with a special performance at the World Horse Training Congress and International Horse Show in Anping, China, Schwartzenberger started developing ideas. After the long flight to China, selecting her mount, and riding for only a few days before the first show, Schwartzenberger joined Japanese-native NRHA Professional Toru Tamaoki-McCoy to perform an Elsa-themed Frozen freestyle routine.

“The group organizing the event wanted an American female to come demonstrate a freestyle performance,” she said. “When Doug (Milholland) called and asked if I would be interested in performing, I couldn’t say no. It’s been interesting to learn about all this, because reining is really new to China. It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for sure.”

As one of 20 invited professionals who represented various disciplines from nations around the world, Schwartzenberger rode a horse provided by local reining enthusiasts trying to grow the sport in China.

“Growing up going to shows with my dad [NRHA Professional Steve Schwartzenberger], I frequently showed horses I’d never ridden before. Now, as a professional, I’ve learned even better how to adapt and adjust to other horses,” Schwartzenberger shared. “The mare I used [in China] was one of their best, but since reining is so new, they’ve let everyone ride her. She was confused and frustrated at first, but she tried so hard for me.”

For Schwartzenberger, the experience in China marked her first time to witness reining in Asia. Her freestyle partner, Tamaoki-McCoy, on the other hand, has been an active proponent for the sport’s growth in his home country and surrounding regions. From 1993 to 2008, Tamaoki-McCoy spent five years living in Castle Rock, Colorado, and almost 10 years in Whitesboro, Texas. During those years, he worked for NRHA Professionals Craig Johnson and Scott McCutcheon, then started his own training business, McCoy Stables, Inc. While living in the States, he frequently flew back to Japan, where he competed successfully in shows including the All Japan Reining Championship. 

However, he soon learned the majority of reining events in his home country didn’t meet NRHA standards for management, have approved judges, or use standardized purse schedules. Tamaoki-McCoy dreamed of developing a better system—one that could lead to the formation of an NRHA-approved club that hosted frequent shows. After moving back to Japan in 2008, he put that dream into action, starting with education about NRHA’s standard procedures and rules. 

In 2014, his years of work proved worth the effort when his team spearheaded the first NRHA-approved show in Japan. But the effort was far from over. The shows had few entries, due to lack of trained reining horses and limited locations to practice, which kept them from turning a profit—or even breaking even. Determined to see their goals come to fruition, Tamaoki-McCoy and his team contributed their own funds to keep the shows running. 

“I have a passion for reining, and I want to help others in my country with that same passion,” Tamaoki-McCoy shared. “I try to explain everything I’ve learned about this sport from showing in the U.S. People are starting to understand how having approved shows is important for all the competitors and horse owners.”

Now, his efforts and those of others, including Tim Shelley who has continuously supported reining’s growth in Japan, are paying big dividends. Tamaoki-McCoy traveled the globe hosting clinics in Asia; rode at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina; assisted at the inaugural Global Youth Reining Cup in Italy; and more.

Last spring, he also had a chance to meet with NRHA representatives Samantha Oldfield and Kristen Liesman when they traveled to Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, and South Africa. During their trip, they enjoyed meeting with various affiliates and local groups, aiding with seminars, and more. As they focused on planting seeds of future growth, Oldfield and Liesman also spent time with members of one of the newest NRHA Affiliates, NRHA Thailand. 

“We were so impressed with the level of professionalism in Thailand,” Oldfield recalled. “We were overwhelmed by their generous hospitality, remarkable organization, and the progress they’ve made in such a short time since creating the first Thai affiliate.” 

As reining continues to increase its prevalence in Asia, the future rests in the capable hands of forward-thinking leaders and grassroots supporters who continue to promote good practices and explore new areas of potential growth.