Top Tips for Hosting a Horse Show
Updated December 8, 2022
There are a lot of things that go into running a horse show, and with each show you run, you learn how you can make the next one even better and run more efficiently. We’ve put together a to-do list of all of the different things that go into the planning of a horse show.
What to Do Before the Horse Show
- Pick the date of the show! If you’re running a rated show, apply for the dates you want and pay all the associated fees. If you’re not running a rated show, try to choose dates that will conflict the least with other local shows.
- Decide what divisions and classes you’ll include.
- Hire judges, stewards, an EMT, a show secretary (if you’re not planning to do it yourself), an in-gate person, and an announcer.
- If necessary, line up a farrier and a veterinarian to be on call or hire them as well.
- Make a plan for the show grounds. You’ll need a show ring, warm-up ring, trailer parking, car parking (if different than trailer parking), secretary’s booth, judge’s booth, announcer location, bathroom facilities, and access to water.
- Come up with the class list and prize list. The prize list will be jam-packed with details like class specifications, show information, an entry form, and the show rules. Don’t underestimate this task – it takes a long time. Remember that it will most likely need to be approved by organizations that are associated with it (if any).
- Print out and mail copies of the prize list to local barns and trainers. Posting on social media to get the word out is a good idea, too.
- Hire a food truck.
- Order ribbons.
- Order numbers for riders (and string if necessary).
- Plan and order prizes for class winners and champions (SmartPak’s sale section works great for this!).
- Order or make judge’s cards or tests and add/drop forms.
- Rent or purchase walkie-talkies – they’re very helpful for quick and easy communication between all the show staff.
- Get insurance. This is a must no matter how small of an event it might be!
- Rent a PA System if the announcer or show grounds is not providing one.
- Purchase secretary supplies, including paper, pens, and clipboards.
- Make copies of the prize list, class list, add/scratch forms, and entry forms to have on hand.
What to Do the Day Before the Horse Show
- Drag and water the rings.
- Clean and repaint any jumps, poles, or obstacles, as needed.
- Design the courses and set up the course in the show ring (if the show includes jumping classes) or set up the dressage ring and letters.
- Set up jumps in the warm-up ring (if the show includes jumping classes).
- Set up the secretary’s booth. You could use a clean horse trailer for the secretary or the announcer. Be sure to have the judge’s cards, add/drop forms, prize lists, class lists, and entry forms ready to go. Carrots for horses and candy/sweets for exhibitors are always a nice touch, too.
- Set up the judge’s section with chair(s) and a table. Keep in mind that shade is always appreciated when you’re picking the judge’s spot. One idea is to use a truck attached to the horse trailer/secretary’s booth, and a secured pop-up tent as an easy way to provide shade.
- Put out trash cans.
- Leave muck buckets and pitchforks out to help keep areas clean.
- Be sure to have extra toilet paper!
- Set up hoses for water for the exhibitors’ horses.
- Set up chairs or stands for exhibitors to use to watch.
- Block off any areas that are off-limits to show exhibitors.
What to Do the Day of the Horse Show
- Post the courses, test times, and/or trail near the ring entrance.
- Set up a clipboard for the judge (may include the judge’s cards/tests, prize list, class count sheet, courses or rider times, and a walkie-talkie).
- Wipe off any chairs/tables/etc. that are wet with morning dew.
- Station parking attendants where necessary.
- Bring ribbons to in-gate.
- Pass out walkie-talkies to anyone who needs one.
- Be available to answer questions.
- Have fun watching exhibitors enjoy the day!
Originally published April 3, 2017