View Full Version : Boosting Entries at Schooling Events/Shows...

Jul. 27, 2011, 11:26 AM
I run a smaller grassroots lesson/boarding facility in North Florida. I have been offering schooling events at my farm for the last year. The ebtries have been decent (20 at most) but I'd like to see what I can do to boost my entries.

My entry fees are low since its a smaller facility. I have hosted 3 shows so far (the fourth was this weekend but had to be cancelled due to lack of entries from heat, lameness, etc). Two of the three were judged by local unrated people. The third was judged by a very reputable "L" graduate. The one that was cancelled was an "L" graduate as well. We offer Dressage, Jumpers, CT and Eventing. The eventing goes from Ground poles to 2'3". I offer good prizes, nice ribbons. I've teamed up with another local barn who puts on similar shows to offer a point series and End of the Year awards. I'm sanctioned by several organizations, I advertise through them, craigslist, other show websites, word of mouth and facebook.

What else could I do to raise interest and entries? Maybe we just don't have that many eventers in the area? Maybe I'm still just too small? Maybe my judges aren't at the rating level that people want?

Any suggestions and comments are welcome.

I just want to get this area showing again. I'm newish to the area and I've heard that there used to be TONS of Eventing going on here. We have Red Hills in this town. Where have the Eventers, Dressage riders and Jumpers gone?


Jul. 27, 2011, 12:59 PM
Have you networked with trainers and boarding barns within a reasonable area of your location? Sometimes a personal invitation works better than just seeing an ad somewhere. Also, if you can get feedback from folks who have shown at your place, perhaps they can give you some insight as to why they DO come back... or why they DON'T.

As for judges, even showing at Intro and Training levels I would want to have a rated judge for dressage.

Jokers Wild
Jul. 27, 2011, 01:07 PM
Frankly, I think you need to expand your offerings to at least the BN level - around here, that is the division that has the most entries at the non-licensed events.

Agree with call around, send out flyers, post notices at every tack/feed/farm store you can think of, heck, even the grocery store if they offer a public board. Email everyone you know about the show.

If your shows are sanctioned with the local organizations, I suspect a Learner judge is probably adequate for now. And, to be frank, find judges that have reputations for being fair but a little more generous in scoring. It does make a difference. Once you develop a good reputation, then you should consider the additional cost of at least a "r" judge. JMO.

Jul. 27, 2011, 01:16 PM
As for judges, even showing at Intro and Training levels I would want to have a rated judge for dressage.

See, I disagree....for a small schooling show, I don't really care - I am just out there to get some practice in a show environment. It could honestly be a mannequin sitting in the judge's booth, I just want it to feel like a show so when I go to rated shows I am better prepared, but maybe that is just me.

I think that when I think about schooling shows, I want them to prepare me for actual events, but let me make mistakes and practice again - it sounds like you have thought about jumper shows or straight dressage shows where people can ride multiple rounds at the same level? Maybe a ride-review-ride with a reputable clinician? I would say think creatively and outside of the box - a combined test is not the only way to get eventer interest.

Also, think long and hard about your timing - I think your season is a bit reversed from up here in MA, but early season stuff is by far the most popular, as people are gearing up to the actual season and are restless after a long cold winter. Also, try and gauge interest and see whether weekends or weekdays are better - we have a great place up here that runs schooling XC derbies on Wednesdays, but I can't ever go because of work, and we have a large population of working adult amateurs in this area. However, if you are targeting kids on summer vacation, that is another story.

However, I think that after all that, the thing that makes me go back to a schooling venue or not is the quality of the facilities and the courses. It just isn't worth it to me to pay any amount of money to go to a place with lousy footing in cramped, crazy warm-up arenas (not saying yours is, just telling you what drives my decision making). Best of luck to you - I commend you for trying to give back to the riding community and making your facility available for others to use!

Jul. 27, 2011, 01:51 PM
I would get in touch with your local dressage and combined training association, http://www.dsdcta.org/. They seem to be well organized and have local chapters. Find out 1)how you can advertise with them and 2)how you can get on their calendar.

I don't know how you market your shows, but emailing is a must. I know that my local CTA will send out an email blast for a modest fee to their list of members and non-members.

Jul. 27, 2011, 02:48 PM
I try to boost entries by scheduling the CT's a week or two before the local HT's. I also pay to become and affiliate show with the dressage associations so that scores from the show count towards their year end school show awards. Same idea for local combined training association. :-) Also, make sure that the events are well run, timely and fun.

Jul. 27, 2011, 03:04 PM
Babble - gotta agree with you on the venue aspect. There is a schooling show near me that I've been to only once, simply because there is virtually no parking and no enclosed warm-up area. In fact, the warm-up area is really just a long grassy strip along the driveway! One time was enough of that.

As far as the rated judge goes, for you, yes if you are heading to a rated show later I can see your point. Many of us never go to rated shows (money, distance, don't really care to do rated) so having a rated judge at a schooling show gives you some confidence that the scores are somewhat accurate, and the comments and suggestions valid.

A different local club was putting on a dressage show this past year and I googled the judge and all I could find was that she had a western lesson barn. Really? I could find no evidence that she had ever ridden dressage, let alone knew how to judge it. A score from her would have meant nothing to me. Meanwhile, I know of a very knowledgable dressage trainer who will judge schooling shows. I would trust her scores even though she's not licensed. So if the judge were known locally it might not matter if they are licensed or not.

One other thing OP - a really good website can really help!!! Put lots of pictures on it so potential competitors can see what your place looks like, get a general feel for the atmosphere, layout, and jumps. Post a class list with descriptions, etc.

Jul. 27, 2011, 04:08 PM
Thank you for the ideas! I have a pretty good website with a class list and such.


Feel free to critique. I haven't updated since I decided to cancel so all the show info is still posted. (Decided to cancel today.) I don't have a computer at the moment (I borrow friends computers.) But I'm getting one this weekend so my site will be updated almost weekly if not daily!

I will definitely get in touch with DSDCTA. I'm a member of SWDEA and FHTA and as long as I have rated judges, my scores count towards their year ends.

Jul. 27, 2011, 05:44 PM
[QUOTE=Babble;5743122]Also, think long and hard about your timing - I think your season is a bit reversed from up here in MA, but early season stuff is by far the most popular, as people are gearing up to the actual season and are restless after a long cold winter.QUOTE]

P.O.P. is hosting a schooling show at the Florida Horse Park this coming Sat. and so far has over 80 entries so I don't think the season has anything to do with it.

Maybe it is the area itself, I know a lot of the entries for this week-end are coming from the Tampa area so the haul to Tallah area would be to far for most for a schooling show. A lot of the entries are getting stalls for overnight also so maybe that is a issue also. Could be the divisions offered? Only up to the Ele. level is also something I would not drive a couple hours for, can you do a 2 phase with higher levels??

Jul. 28, 2011, 09:55 AM
Utilize currently free resources while they are still free.

Do a owner verified good places page with a few pictures. this gives people an opportunity to look up the location with ease and know it is the right place.

Also do a facebook page with pictures of previous schooling shows and do albums of the different divisions...

Then be sure to post your events on your local eventing area website. there is a schooling section for my area- probably it for yours too.

Good Luck!

I have helped with schooling shows.. they get better year by year, keep it up and as others have said timing is everything..

a reputable dressage judge is important, anyone can judge the jumping. you got over it, or you didn't.

Jul. 28, 2011, 01:55 PM
Definitely get a BN division in there. Most people I know doing local events are doing BN or moving up to BN, so that'd probably bring in some folks.

I'm going to agree with anyone who said to get a rated judge, it just adds a little authenticity to it and that way you know that this judge has the education and experience to give you an accurate score.

Jul. 28, 2011, 03:41 PM
If possible, you should offer something unique that will draw people to your show. There was a schooling series in NC several years ago called CYOA: Choose Your Own Adventure. It allowed entrants to basically mix and match the levels between dressage, XC and SJ. It ended up with TONS of people coming and expanded far beyond the organizer's expectations, I believe.

Jul. 28, 2011, 03:49 PM
If possible, you should offer something unique that will draw people to your show. There was a schooling series in NC several years ago called CYOA: Choose Your Own Adventure. It allowed entrants to basically mix and match the levels between dressage, XC and SJ. It ended up with TONS of people coming and expanded far beyond the organizer's expectations, I believe.

I LOVE this idea! For me personally Since I don't have a ring out flat work tends to suffer. So we stick with BN If given the option would like to do a Novice X/C and stadium. People love options !!

Im not sure how you would score or pin something like that. Of course things always sound good until logistics get in the way!

Ribbons a big for me. Not that I go for the ribbons or lack there of sometimes. But to leave with a nice ribbon always makes you feel like your money went further. Even if you tack on an extra 5 to an entry fee... 5 ( heck even 2 or 3 dollars would pay for a nicer ribbon) will not make or break my decision on going ( and Im frugal !! )

Jul. 28, 2011, 04:27 PM
Recruit - find out who the locals are, and personally invite them.

Associate/advertise through your local association.

Agree about BN eventing - and it gives your starters something to look up to/shoot for.

We make class sizes small enough that everyone gets a ribbon - and we make sure everyone goes away feeling like a winner.

We have no element eliminations at starter and below. After three tries, go to the next jump. DR is the only elimination.

We coach/help the rider around at starter and below. We've even sent an experienced rider out to give a lead around the course to a very junior who was too scared.

Judge's qualifications irrelevant unless required by association/sanctioning. We use our more experienced riders and working students, give them a full briefing/class the night before, and they always do a great job - and appreciate the learning experience.

Our problem has been keeping entries low enough for us to handle them efficiently.

Written description of one of our shows available upon request if you send me your e-mail.

Jul. 28, 2011, 05:07 PM
If possible, you should offer something unique that will draw people to your show. There was a schooling series in NC several years ago called CYOA: Choose Your Own Adventure. It allowed entrants to basically mix and match the levels between dressage, XC and SJ. It ended up with TONS of people coming and expanded far beyond the organizer's expectations, I believe.

I personally love this idea! I wish that there were schooling shows around here that did this. It would be really beneficial for my horse and me if we could do a lower level dressage test (BN) so that we can perfect that and gain more experience, but have the opporunity to raise the fences with xc and stadium (N/T) since we need to be more challenged there.

Jul. 28, 2011, 05:22 PM
Don't organize in a vacuum. Actively seek local input. Look at what makes a trainer pick a show and emulate those conditions. Talk to them early and see what their needs are. Why do they go to schooling shows? Who are they likely to bring and for what purpose? How can you schedule your shows to fit their needs.

Try to put together a master schedule for the year. This will help overcome show conflicts. Sometimes date selection is the most critical factor in successful schooling shows. We have a local ranch that runs dressage schooling shows. Their dates just happen to be a week or two before our recognized horse trials. We often take a big group of both newbies that are just starting to show, and everyone that is going to the recognized horse trials the following week, to run through their tests and get some ring time. Show Management has been very welcoming, and let us run the Eventing Dressage Tests, even though it is a regular dressage show.

Once you get the dates set, find out if there are small things you can do to make it a place trainers and riders WANT to come. Prizes are great, but so are little things. Friendly, accommodating show management is BIG! Be well organized and professional. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Get ride times out as early as possible, think about organizing a trailer pool, make sure your scorers are accurate and reasonably fast. Post scores quickly. As the show wraps up, recognize people want to load up and go home. Streamline things as much as possible.

Pay attention to making sure riders and trainers take a positive feeling out of your show grounds. Think ahead as to what might derail this plan and see if there are a few things you can do. If you anticipate hot weather, consider having complimentary water on ice at strategic times/places during the day (like coming off XC). Take care of the trainers standing at the ring all day (literally, just walk a bottle of cold water out to them and you will have a friend for life). You want them to remember how much fun your show was not "Oh, it's that hot place!". It can be 100 degrees, but if people are well taken care of, they can overcome it.

When I organized schooling shows, I always made up "Trainer Packages" in addition to the competitor packages. A trainer package contained a welcome/appreciation letter; copies of all course maps, warm-up locations, restrooms, food, etc; and a travel pouch containing two aspirin! I knew if I made their day easier, they would come back.

FWIW, I want to see at least an "L" judge at shows (for dressage). It has been my experience that you can get some really wild scoring and comments otherwise. It is something I really look for at schooling shows. I also think you should add BN (even if it is an easy BN -- nothing wrong with that).

If you can integrate your shows with local trainer needs, take care of your participants a bit more than average, and build on your success, you can get a really big pop in entries. Anticipating and meeting needs is huge.

Jul. 28, 2011, 05:45 PM
I would offer a novice and BN division. Also add an extra schooling round for $15 or so, people really like being able to practice.

Do you have plenty of parking? Is it on grass and will people sink if it rains? Can you offer stabling by putting boarder and personal horses in a field? Do you offer food? Is your footing good? Are your fences freshly painted? Are your courses realistic? Does it run on time?

Jul. 28, 2011, 07:47 PM
I think you've had a lot of good input so far. I participate in the local schooling shows. They are fun. They offer "year end" awards which makes it more compelling to attend more shows. They also have nice ribbons. If you don't advertise on your local craigslist- consider putting up your show info there in addition to the standard tack stores/boarding facilities. Also asking competitors to complete a short questionnaire (completed questionnaires entered into a drawing to win something) could give you valuable feedback from attendees. Good luck. I love schooling shows- they fit my budget best!!!

Jul. 28, 2011, 11:31 PM
My BFF lives in Lloyd and it's so hot up there during the summer. I was under the impression that showing slowed WAY down during the summer there. We're luckier down here as we at least have the sea breeze to keep things under 100 degrees. We just have our daily afternoon thunderstorms that keep things muggy.

Jul. 29, 2011, 12:16 AM
Social media and footing, the best you can provide. My two suggestions.

Jul. 29, 2011, 01:07 PM
I agree with what everyone has said here so far. Advertise, have good footing, bring in good, fair judges. Have nice jumps so people feel like the SJ they are schooling is actually prepping for bigger shows (ie flowers, colored poles and standards, etc). There is nothing worse than thinking you are going to get in a good school only to find that the jumps are nothing but white/natural jumps that I could be jumping at home.

All that being said, I do have to agree with someone who said that you might want to consider upping your offerings. I love to attend a schooling show but I have "outgrown" the BN and lower offerings. Maybe offer the lower HT's and make your CT's up to Prelim?

JMHO. :-)

Jul. 30, 2011, 10:01 AM
This is fantastic input! Thank you so much!!

I love the Choose Your Own Adventure idea. I'm going to look that up and see how it works.

I like knowing what yall look for in a show. Thanks!!!