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Show time!: Volunteers are key to success

by Rebecca Colnar, Article donated by the mane points horse resource center.

Putting on a community horse show is not as daunting as you might think at first. "Think that this is going to be a fun, successful, team-building experience," says Sue Mullins. The Richmond, Va., horse show director for the state's Atlantic Rural Exposition recommends teaming up with a charity and making the event a fund-raiser. This brings in additional publicity and volunteer help.

Next, round up the volunteers. "It's important to find enough volunteers so nobody is overwhelmed by the chores," says Mullins. Appoint someone as the show chairman. Keep that title honorific, if you can - in other words, not-for-pay. "Small shows don't need to pay anybody except, perhaps, the judge. Even that might not be necessary," Mullins explains. "Offer the judge an honorarium. Often, if the show is raising funds for a charity the judge firmly believes in, he or she may forgo the honorarium," she says.

A one-day pleasure show requires a manager, judge, ringmaster, announcer, recording secretary, entry-booth secretary, gate keeper and ring crew. A "floater" - someone to give others a break or cover a no-shows - is necessary, too. "You can usually find some kids to hand out ribbons and be on the gate crew," Mullins notes.

Picture of a group of people setting up a show ring

Sit down with your group and brainstorm who should receive the prize list. "You need to build a good mailing list. Of course, the first show is the hardest. After that first one, you'll have the names and addresses of all the participants. But for the first one, form a think tank," she recommends.

Figure out what classes you'll have, the fees and the prizes.

Posting the prize list in tack shops, local gas stations and feed stores along with running a few classified ads will let people know of the upcoming show. Notify your local newspaper and appropriate equine publications.

Then, figure out the cost of producing the event. Mullins suggests starting with the hard costs, such as ribbons, ring rental and the public address system. "Get a rough idea of your expenses. Then set out about 90 days ahead of time to find class sponsors. Don't set the stakes too high."

Plan to get there early on the morning of the show; if the show starts at 9, your volunteers should be in place at 7, with the entry window opening at 8. "It's better for everyone to get there early and be ready than to be behind," Mullins advises. She rattles off a list of "must-haves" for show day, including entry forms, pencils and pens, stall cards, revised prize lists with sponsors' names, clipboards and refreshments for the volunteers.

Following the show, send the results to your local newspaper and send thank-you letters to volunteers, officials and sponsors. Update the entry lists for next year's event.

Read the next horse show informational article on Horse Show Crowd Safety.
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