Make Every Show Worth Your Money

Before you sign the entry check, ensure you get the most out of every dollar at your next horse show.

By Megan Arszman, Photos by Kaycie Timm

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

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. 

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 typing 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.