This month I helped to organized a local rated one-day event, as part of a team who was given only four months’ notice to pull the event together. The circumstances were not ideal, but they were what they were, so we busted our butts getting everything together, and managed to hold a very successful event.  I learned a lot in doing so, and not the usual “it takes a village” – we all know it takes a village to run an event.

Sometimes people do really strange things

Whether it’s show stress, forgetfulness, or flagrant disobedience of the rules, we saw people doing some really odd things at the show. Things like untying the ropes that cordoned off an arena (not merely unclipping or opening a gate, but untying the cords) to warm up in there, getting on unregistered horses and riding around in the arena as if they were that person’s competition horse, and riding on through the dressage judge’s 45 second bell at a casual walk. There really isn’t too much you can do about rule-breakers except call the TD, and if people insist that they are not hearing a whistle when it’s blown while they are directly next to it, well, I’ll chalk that up to concentration.

If you ride at shows but never contribute to them, you are an asshole

Tied back in to the whole “it takes a village,” we also all know that a show venue cannot be run without volunteers. We relied on volunteers to jump judge, act as ring stewards, run our warm ups, help riders stay on schedule, collect scores, and keep our judges and ground jury fed, watered, and happy. A one day event is very volunteer heavy, but all events require masses of volunteers, both on the days of the show and leading up to the show – quite possibly more than all the riders who show up to compete on any given day.

So, knowing this, do you contribute to your local show venues where and when you can? Because they need you to. If you can’t, maybe a friend or parent can? And if you can’t offer time, you can offer money – there are lots of expenses that show venues must continually take on year after year, things like buying replacement flowers, replacing poles and standards, feeding their staff and volunteers. So be sure to contribute to your local show venue in some capacity – otherwise, you might be an asshole.

Show organizers and officials really are trying to help you

Our event was so shockingly popular that 40 riders more than we could accommodate entered. Our entire show organizer team was absolutely freaking out over this – first of all, we had no idea we’d be so popular. Second – how could we dare to disappoint those 40 riders?! With some creative thinking and a nice long tape measure we figured out that we could open up a third dressage ring in one of the warm ups, and suddenly we could let all those people in. Then I had the dubious honor of setting up ride times for all the divisions, and after bumbling through a bit and making some mistakes, we had a tight but functional schedule.  And after ride times went up the mayhem started.

There were riders who had entered incorrectly, accidentally marked themselves as juniors when they were seniors, or wanted or needed to be changed to a different division. There were instances when a coach needed to ride at a different time so he could coach a student, and instances where riders had two horses and I had quite literally placed them as far apart as possible and they still didn’t quite have enough time to get both horses ridden. I and the show secretary did absolutely everything short of slowing the rotation of the earth to get an extra hour in our day to accommodate all of these changes – making phone calls and sending emails until late into the night before the show.  On the day of, our dressage judges went without breaks to make sure everything ran well.

So if your request can’t be accommodated by the show organizers, don’t take it to heart. For us, we quite literally could not accommodate a single additional rider, and couldn’t move ride times any more than we did. We want you to be able to have relaxed, fun rides, not ones that are filled with the stress of wondering if you’ll make it to your next horse – but sometimes there is absolutely no wiggle room in the schedule.

Running an event is so much fun

I had one of the best possible jobs of all time on the day of the event – head jump judge.  So I got to watch all of the cross country divisions run as I drove around the course in my golf cart picking up score sheets, feeding and watering our jump judges, and providing relief where needed. It was magnificent. I got to watch both friends and strangers have great rides, see how our whole course ran, and appreciate all the horses there for the amazing creatures they are. I had an absolutely amazing day, even if I did get sunburned on just one side of my legs and didn’t see a bathroom from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

It takes a village

I know, I know.  I said I wouldn’t say it, but a show venue quite literally becomes a village over the course of the show – the vendors, plumbing (for both potable water and portable potties), spacing, and sheer number of people certainly qualify the location as a small village. Per Wikipedia, a village is a clustered human settlement, bigger than a hamlet (around 100 people), smaller than a town.  So we quite literally made a village.  Even if it is just for two or five days.

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