by Sara Engel

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – The National Horse Show Commission once again hosted horse show managers from across the country at the Cool Springs Marriott to update and inform them off all the ways to put on a successful horse show. The experience level of show managers present ranged from the newly appointed to the very seasoned veterans, so all were able to discuss back and forth their questions, concerns and opinions.

The meeting began shortly after 10 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 5, 2008, with Ty Irby starting off the meeting by welcoming everyone and a round of introductions of all those in attendance. Dee Cantrell was the first speaker of the morning and gave a wonderful demonstration on the Majority Opinion Scoring (MOS) System. This system is used when a three-judge panel is used and is often a very misunderstood and difficult system to comprehend. A short step-by-step education session was also conducted to teach everyone the proper way to score and tie a class using the MOS system. Cantrell also brought to the attention of the show managers that there is a new computer software program available that incorporates all the necessary horse show office features. Cantrell recently tested out this new program at the Delta Fall Classic Horse Show and said it was wonderful. The program can be used for accounting purposes, entries, the MOS system and many other features. It can also be used as a whole program, or only for the MOS portion.

Cantrell finished out her presentation by taking questions from the audience and then once again turned the microphone over the Ty Irby. Irby went on to the next item of the agenda, which was discussing the most popular classes at the shows and how to properly select the right classes to bring in the most entries. With the growing pleasure divisions, Tommy Hall of the Walking Horse Owners’ Association (WHOA) recommended one-night shows should look into offering more than just a country pleasure or trail pleasure class. These classes can be broken down into country pleasure, youth country pleasure, trail pleasure, youth, trail pleasure, and even further into junior classes for those horses under the age of four. Those exhibitors that then came to the show to exhibit in the country pleasure or trail pleasure class would have more classes to enter in. Many are willing to enter into all available classes; it is just a matter of them being offered. Hall also commented on how important one-night horse shows are to the industry.

During the discussion on classes, Rachel Reed, secretary and treasurer of the National Horse Show Commission, brought up the importance of keeping the NHSC and all media outlets informed off class changes as soon as possible. The NHSC posts a show’s class sheet on their web site as soon as it is received, so if changes are made and not reported, the public might not be informed properly. The topic of making sure the public along with trainers and exhibitors were informed properly of what new classes are all about was also brought up. Todd Fisher of the Gulf Coast Charity Horse Show brought up the example of the Amateur/Amateur class. He explained that at first the class was not attended, but the following year, once people understood the concept of the class, the entries grew.

The next topic of discussion was how to handle a protest. Protests are to be made no later than 30 minutes after the last class of the show in the show office. If a protest is made at the show, the cost is $25. From there, the show management will do all they can within their power to try and resolve the problem right there, including re-tying the class in question. If a formal complaint is made to the NHSC, the cost is $200. If the $25 protest fee was paid to show management at the show, but cannot be resolved at the show and has to be handed over to the NHSC for further investigation, the $200 formal protest fee will not have to be paid. With many protests that were experienced being in regards to the measurement of 15.2 and under horses and ponies, it was discussed that is the responsibility of the show management to measure the horses, not the NHSC DQPs.

The discussion then moved on to how show managers are to stay abreast of rule changes. Reed reported that hopefully around the first of the year, the entire rulebook should be available on the NHSC web site ( Reed stated that a press release is always sent to every media outlet along with it being posted on the NHSC web site when a rule change has occurred. Tommy Hall informed everyone that it is the responsibility of WHOA to send out rulebooks for those wishing to obtain one. The cost for each rulebook would be $15 with $10 of that going to the NHSC for the cost to produce the book and the other $5 to cover the mailing fees. Every NHSC judge and affiliated horse show does get a rulebook in his packet.

With the economy troubles, a large portion of the meeting was spent discussion how to obtain and retain class sponsors. Each show manager offered his suggestions about what worked best and what did not work in his area. Todd Fisher brought up the idea of contacting local radio stations as sponsors and trading out with them for airtime. The radio stations would then announce the show and/or their local sponsors in return for being a class sponsor. This not only builds a relationship with the radio station and other local sponsors, but it also informs the local public about the upcoming event and hopefully encourages them to come out.

A couple of show managers brought up that some shows need extra helpers during the event for things such as concession stands, parking, ticketing, etc. The idea was raised to contact local schools since organizations such as football teams, cheerleading squads and student councils are always looking for ways to raise funds. In the past, a few shows have used one or more of these types of organizations and in return for their time, they have donated part of the proceeds from the show to that organization.

The issue was also raised about sponsors not paying their commitments to horse shows. Reed did bring up the fact that if people do not pay their fees for things like stall rental or have a returned check to a horse show, they can be put on suspension through the NHSC until that commitment is fulfilled. She also that it would be possible to do the same for people in the horse business who commit to a sponsorship, but do not render payment.

The last guest speaker of the meeting was Jeffrey Howard, publisher of the Walking Horse Report. Howard came in to discuss the growing WHTA Riders’ Cup program. He explained how the program works, how it benefits horse shows that elect to join the program, how to join the program and how the program pays out at the end of the year. Some concerns from the audience were raised about the cost of holding a Riders’ Cup class being a minimum of $400 payout. With many one-night shows already struggling to obtain sponsorships for all their regular classes, they thought the Riders’ Cup class sponsorships amount was slightly high. It was also brought up that many shows outside of Middle Tennessee elect not to participate in the Riders’ Cup program, thus trainers in that area do not have the realistic opportunity to compete for the year-end awards. Another area of concern was that owners were feeling the brunt of the Riders’ Cup program with none of the incentive payout at the end of the year. The idea was discussed about a Riders’ Cup program involving owners, or combining them with the existing Riders’ Cup. Howard is scheduled to meet with the board in charge of the Riders’ Cup program in January and he promised to take all the concerns to the board for discussion.

As the meeting was drawing to a close, Reed expressed that the NHSC is there to help all show managers in anyway possible. If any questions or concerns were raised, the NHSC would be more than willing to find answers and resolutions.

The final event of the meeting was for the drawing of the door prize. Martin Spears of the Gallatin Lions Club Horse Show was selected to receive the full-page ad in the Walking Horse Report to aide in their advertising for the 2009 show season.