Monday, July 13, 2015

The show must go on

I, like most competitive people in this sport, show my and my clients' horses on a frequent basis. It means like everyone else I have to scrape money together to get five minutes in front of a judge to get scores for what goal du jour I have that year.

It's tough but it's apart of the job.

It's a tentative, balanced relationship between organizers, who put on recognized events in a waffley economy and with a scattered population, and the people who show and expect things like nice ribbons, low entry fees and reasonable scores. 

Recently, Region 2 lost a local show venue. It was a small Regional Qualifier show with just two arenas that ran a total of three weekends a year - six shows total.

I competed at this little venue on again and off again. I've taken my horses also to school there occasionally. It's not bad, but it's not the best. The footing was average, the stabling was alright, the warm up in one of the arenas was sketch city, and the secretary wasn't exactly all there somedays. You go there when you need a last minute score or just need to get a green horse out there for miles. It's quiet and it's about 20 minutes from my farm. It's not my favorite, nor is it my least favorite, it's just average and served a purpose.

Over the years, the organizers have poured countless hours, dollars and ideas into the show series. It's endured for better or worse, secretarial changes, horrible weather, and a few other items only to really see an overall decrease in population with rising costs. 

In other words, the ROI sucked and it became the white elephant. It had to go. With the show gone it leaves one host and venue in the state to dominate the area. Kentucky showing for dressage, and some parts of eventing has become a monoculture.

Not soon after Eventing Connect put out a piece on organizers not stepping up enough to do for competitors.

The timing between the closing and the article struck a small nerve for a variety of reasons, but mostly it's serving as a personal wake up call as an organizer that the business has irrevocably changed. 
I've been on both sides of the fence, as competitor and organizer. I frequently organize large-scale clinics, and I've been apart of show management before (both local and international). I respect that hard decision to cancel or not host. It sucks. However, if it's a choice between fiscal solvency and being a community player, I choose the money.  Every time. 

Because I run large-scale clinics, I'm privy to the numbers and to people's wishes. I'm literately a one man band when it comes to running things.
It's a point of huge pride for me to be able to give twenty something people at my largest clinic a goody bag of stuff (valued by the way at: $300-$500 per bag), an even larger point of pride that people; riders, sponsors, staff, facilities come back and invest their dollars into my program, business and trust the quality people I bring in.
But at the end of the day, this is a business. I need to earn a living, and at minimum break even, and I'm not shy about saying I need to keep a roof over my head and food on the table.   

If you run the numbers, at minimum to host a recognized show is $8,000 (for reference: large scale international clinics you're looking at closer to $10-20,000, for schooling you're looking at $3,000).

That's $8,000 before a single competitor (or sponsor) steps foot on property. That's your licensing, officials, travel, accommodations, food, prizes, advertising, et all., that an organizer is taking the liability on.

It's a huge gamble to take responsibility of that checkbook.

It takes at minimum, a three month lead up time, and an average of 60-100 hours to pull off a recognized event. Again, before the event ever goes off. That time, an organizer will most likely never see a penny for those hours, or if they do, they make the child labor in India look rather well-off. 

So to break even at a show, at $35 a ride (going price in Kentucky for Intro - 4th level), you need roughly 115 rides over two days (at worse case scenario assuming everyone just does two rides over the two days and no FEI rides). 

This cost and volume has also lead to an increase in schooling shows and the USDF Opportunity Classes, which show a stronger ROI and lower base costs associated with hosting. 

This forfeiture of the dates, alongside of the outrage of "why isn't my show organizer doing more and giving me more free stuff?!" has caused a big community outcry.

Which really makes me wonder, if the show and it's venue was that important- why wasn't there more done on the competitor side to assure the success and helping underwrite the costs of doing business?

Do you want free things in your packet, better ribbons, prizes, et all? Then volunteer to sign on sponsors. A lot of them. Or donate your own money, goods and services to buy the ribbons.

Do you want to help lower show entry fees? Volunteer for any position with management, not just the during show operations. 

You want a friendly, non-stressed out staff? Become apart of it. 

You want more regional/national qualifiers? Organize.

The answer is, and always was if you want the show venue to continue, if you want the organizers to keep organizing, support them. Not with words but with actions. We know we will never be millionaires and a thank you, alongside an appreciative crowd that pays its bills on time, goes a long way to keeping the population in ribbons and scores.

Show business is a business, and businesses aren't run off of wishes, they're run off of numbers and facts. If you want to support the economy of showing, clinics or any event then become an active part of that economy and put your wallet where your wishes are before they become relics of nostalgia.


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Carol said...

Very interesting post.

Anjalika Shikhawat said...
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