“Hello friends! Show season has officially ended here at New Point Farm. We had a nice year and were successful, qualifying every single horse we showed for All-American and, having earned our first Cart Championship. Not too bad for a farm that is only three-years-old!
Recently there have been many articles on the web and in horse publications that horse show entries are down. The question being asked now by many is: What can be done to increase participation and to accommodate all ability levels? Earlier this year, the American Quarter Horse Association Executive Committee appointed a task force to review and address AQHA's show initiatives, with an eye toward increasing participation in AQHA-approved events. I suspect that many other breed organizations will do and should do the same and I applaud them all, although I can tell you that a blue ribbon panel is not really necessary to get to the bottom of why people just aren’t showing horses this year.
To find out why show attendance is down, all you have to do is look around and talk to exhibitors. Recently several really good articles have been written about the business of showing horses. Two of these articles that immediately come to mind are The Trouble with the Arabian horse community, written by Bill Addis, a copy of which can be found on our website under “library”, and Horse Industry Insiders: Are we killing our own future? by Bob Avila. Both gentlemen try and address what has gone wrong with showing horses today.
Like many folks, the economy has been difficult for us here in the U.S. We have been fortunate in that we have been able to enjoy our horse business and the steps that we have taken to make our farm profitable have been mostly successful. We made a decision this year, in large part due to the economy to be judicious in the shows that we would attend. I have a feeling that we were not the only ones as, entries were down at many of the draft shows in the country. How did we decide what events to attend this year?
First and foremost, because our time and resources, both physical and financial were limited, we wanted to have a good time at the shows we went to. If it wasn’t fun, we weren’t going! Next, because the economy is so poor, we wanted to get the most bang for our buck. One show we attend, The Ohio State Fair, was over $500 in entry fees alone, not inclusive of hotel, food and fuel expenses or the cost of Coggins and health certificates. This is a big nut to swallow but we went to the show. Why you might ask? Because of some seemingly simple things this show gets right! They offer porters to help unload your rig, a hospitality room serving breakfast and lunch to exhibitors every day for the cost of a donation, folks who run the show are super nice and no request that we have ever had has gone unanswered . Taking all these factors in to consideration, that show entry is money well spent.
In Addison, Vermont, the show had looked at other shows and had decided to increase their premiums this year. Admittedly it was not a huge increase however; it was the gesture and the acknowledgement that in these economic times, they wanted to do something to help attract exhibitors to their show. Still another small show in Pennsylvania offered a travel allowance for the first time this year for all farms that hitched at their show. Many times only the big hitches, those who hook a six, get paid to hitch their horses. I have always said that a show with only six horse hitch entries may be exciting but it would be a short show indeed and, that show managers should understand that the small farms are the bread and butter of many shows. We also encountered a show that offered free bedding. At most shows bedding in the form of straw, our preferred bedding at shows as opposed to the shavings we use at home, can cost $7.00 a bale. Several bales are usually needed to bed a stall so you can see how that expense adds up.
Judges too make or break a show. We had the good fortune of showing under some really great judges this year. They all gave great feedback and seemed to really enjoy their judging assignments. There are judges that we will not show under in any circumstance no matter where the show is. Our criteria for a great judge? Give everyone the same look and do not play politics!
On the other end of the spectrum, there are shows we choose not to attend.
One show has footing in the ring which is horrible and has been subject of complaint from many exhibitors over the years. The show site in unwilling to spend the money to remedy the situation as, many other activities take place in that ring over the course of the year making a fix for one small show cost prohibitive which is somewhat understandable in these tough economic times. The flip side to that is that, over time, the show has seen a decrease in show hitches. This year sadly, there was also talk of a “boycott” of the show by some farms due to personal feelings about some, but not all, of the folks involved with the running the draft horse show.
Another show went off our list two years ago. The barns are old and stalls small. In one draft horse barn, a good rain will leave you soaked as the roof leaks and has for years, becoming somewhat of a joke to folks forced to stall there. The entry fees are outrageous and, given the condition of the barns and stalls, if you ask a premium in stall fees, in my opinion, your stalls better be worth it. Having said all this, did we accomplish our goals of having fun and being fiscally responsible with our show dollars? We think so. Every horse that went out on the show road was 2010 All-American halter qualified. We obtained the aforementioned cart championship against some well-seasoned veteran, successful farms.
The horses all stayed healthy and happy while on the show road and while in training. We won some premium money and some championships. We had the opportunity to connect and visit with family and old friends in other parts of the country. We made some terrific new friends and purchased some great new show horses based on the strength of our integrity and willingness to help our fellow exhibitors. We are thrilled that we picked up some new sponsors for 2011 based on this year’s show records and successes. And most importantly, we spent time together as a family and yes, we really did have fun. Until next time, here’s hoping that your show season is going well! Please keep up with us on our website, www.northpointfarm.com, which has had some major updates, or follow us on Twitter.”