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Spinoff: Why do we lose events, why don't more new ones emerge?

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    Spinoff: Why do we lose events, why don't more new ones emerge?

    So I have some informal personal research to share, and then very interested in hearing more from across eventing ...

    I'm not mentioning Area numbers so as not to out anyone by implication, as it isn't hard to figure out what event is referred to ... for many years I've paid some attention to the viability of being a LO/organizer as it is something I would LOVE to do. These are common situations that I've observed/learned about lost eventing venues from personal contact & research ...

    Between the coasts
    Caveat: I am between the coasts and so my little write-up is about this regional bit of mid-America. Outside this region I don't know. Areas II and III especially have some of the largest events and seem to have a different event management model from many events between the coasts. Don't know as much about how it works on either coast and outside this region.

    Some wonderful eventing venues between the coasts have been lost primarily due to
    a) aging owners who sold out to retirement, and
    b) lack of financial viability for younger owners to step into their place, or start their own event on their own land, even when there was/is an interest.

    Unfortunately it hasn't made financial sense for too many of the next generation of would-be LO/organizers. They need financing to make it work, and it's hard to get bank financing with this plan. And, their time away from another job / career to make an eventing venue viable is a big consideration. Even with extra paying activities added such as schooling days, unrecognized horse trials, fun-jump days, other-discipline shows, and other horse & non-horse activities, it tends not to work out in the balance of time, work and finances.

    I am aware of a couple of long-time eventing venues that sold to new owners who continued the events. But those were the exception rather than the rule. Far more venues have been lost altogether to eventing.


    LO/organizers
    In the areas I'm more familiar with, the landowners were/are also the organizers. The package makes for a virtual full-time job for much of the year. But for the younger landowners with full time jobs/careers to devote the time to accomplish this, the event needs to pay them enough to cut back on their other paid work. If that means a sacrifice of future career opportunities, of course that is a heavy consideration.

    Paid organizers?
    For the most part in the event venues I'm most familiar with, paid organizers haven't worked out for the LO's who tried them. Primarily because the horse trials didn't pay the organizer enough, and the LO was left with a lot of upkeep between events. Both LO and organizer are dependent on each other, and while some individual events went off well with a paid organizer, over the long term for the most part it has not worked out for the events I'm more familiar with.

    It seems that even the 'larger' events in the general areas I'm speaking of just don't have enough entries to make paid organizers work. The entries are nothing like the Area II and III entry list. (My eyes popped the first time I took a good look at those Area II entry numbers! )

    Time vs Career
    One of the biggest LO/organizer jobs is the necessary ongoing course maintenance throughout much of the year. One LO/organizer who did the horse trials as an almost full-time job for many years told me "my only holidays are Christmas and Easter".

    Lack of ongoing course upkeep will deeply affect the quality of the event and the interest of the riders in going there. All year long, occasional heavy rain, erosion, and accumulating detritis from the flora and fauna will cause the course to deteriorate rapidly, if not kept up. The bigger the event, the more course and more work to keep it up.

    (Many years ago, course deterioration from lack of consistent maintenance caused the demise of at least one small event that I knew.) (At one time one of my volunteer efforts was coming over out-of-season to just clean up some jumps and thereby cut down on the predations of nature between events.)

    Other paying activities on the land
    The several successful , long-running eventing venues that I'm familiar with in the mid-America area maintain the finances by running paying activities almost all year round. Schooling days, fun-jump and other activities, other-discipline shows, non-horsey activity, and sometimes unrecognized horse trials. The whole thing is a full time job, year round, for the LO/organizers.

    So if someone is serious about another career, for reasons of either inclination or finances, it is hard to keep this going. Throw in a spouse and children and it becomes really complicated.

    Of the venues I'm most familiar with, none are working farms providing a living to the LO aside from horse activities. So the LO is not a full-time farmer. Rather, the LO is making a living with activities at the farm, or else the LO has a career in another interest and the farm is where they live and enjoy life.

    Equity vs Debt
    This is a critical make-or-break point for numbers of would-be LO/organizers. Like any business that is based on a large asset, how much must be paid to the bank monthly for mortgage or other loan against the property/event can make all the difference to financial viability and cash flow.

    LO's who have little or no debt on the property will be in the best financial position to maintain an eventing venue. That will usually be older LO's who have had years to pay down / pay off whatever was owed on the farm. Or LO's who inherited the property (seems to be fewer all the time).

    In one case, a younger, energetic organizer very much wanted to purchase the farm from a retiring LO/organizer and continue an outstanding event. But she needed financing and the bank didn't consider the events to be a sufficient income stream, even though the event had been a going concern for years.

    Younger LO's being unable to get sufficient financing to acquire a large enough farm to run a horse trials may be a more widespread issue than we know. Personally I would love to do just this and would like to have started about 10 years ago. But it wasn't & isn't financially viable for me, and maybe not ever.

    The USEA
    Just from what I know from conversations with the organizers, these events seem to have gotten along well enough with the USEA. Nothing is ever all roses and sometimes there were pressures and tensions. But for the most part, both sides made efforts to cooperate for the greater good. The USEA was not the reason the several events that I know about came to an end.

    New Events
    The good news is that new events have cropped up in these areas. Of the ones I know more details about, the LO/organizers brought money to the table and have been able to do it with no or minimal debt payments. That absence of significant debt made it feasible, along with predictable income streams from whatever sources they come from.

    The total number of eventing venues in any Area seems to rise and fall over time. If we lose some, it may take a decade to fully replace them, but often more do come forth.

    I think that the business model for an eventing venue is very different than it was in the past. It is more of a real business now. Fewer LO's seem to be able to do it just for the interest than may once have been the case. Starting new eventing venues seems to require not just a willing set of hands, but a financially-viable business plan, in this day & age.

    #2
    I think the cost of liability, the amount of sheer work, the hoops you have to jump thru for governing bodies, the political correctness brigade on social media and the trend of "Karens" make it too much of a headache for land owners to do it for the love of the sport - I have been slowly building a schooling course on my farm and had intended to offer some schooling days but with the liability etc it will be for myself and friends only. That leaves clubs who often don't have the capital to buy land and businesses who are quite frankly more likely to do h/j and dressage etc where they can charge more on less land and have less liability.

    Comment


      #3
      The answer to both is: Money.

      Em
      "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries

      Comment


        #4
        My future involves hosting a horse trials in Ontario on my farm. I anticipate the start up costs to be anywhere from $50k - $100k. Not sure where I will pull the money from, but the dream is there. Hoping in 5-10 years we can host our first event!

        Following this thread for ideas in how to fund.

        Comment


          #5
          Money, time, labor.
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by Xctrygirl View Post
            The answer to both is: Money.

            Em


            And -- I didn't really see this mentioned, but lack of attendance.

            Area I (New England, surrounding areas) has taken some heavy losses in terms of recognized HTs in the last few years. Stoneleigh Burnham HT is very fresh on my mind.

            For those that are unfamiliar with the event, STB was out in western MA, ran a couple times a year, and was a good, solid event for first timers and seasoned riders alike. It is situated on the property of an all-girls' school; the dressage was usually hosted out in the grass field, with SJ varying between the grass ring and an upper outdoor dirt ring. The XC tract was straight forward, featuring good terrain, modest jumps, with the tract going up around the back of the school, through a a portion of woods, and typically doubling back out to the "front" of the property. Spectator wise, it was very friendly, with good visibility of most of the XC course from the SJ ring, or top of the hill near the school's cafeteria. I entered several horses at their first event there - I felt it was well run, accessible, and I never had to worry about blitzy inappropriate fences for the level.

            And yet, people didn't go. Any time I asked, people would complain that the courses were too muddy, or they didn't want to ride their dressage or SJ on grass, or that it wasn't a "destination event" (like GMHA or Fitches, for instance) . STB does have a 'creek' that passes through it - it can be boggy in the spring -- but this is EVENTING!! Are we afraid of mud?? :eyeroll:

            To the surprise of no one, we lost the event. IIRC, the last HT they tried to host, they had to cancel because too few competitors.

            Coaches, take your students to the "not destination" events. Riders, attend the smaller events -- otherwise, we stand to lose them.
            AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

            Comment


              #7
              Re SBS when chose to stop running recognized events it was after they had to cancel due to weather related footing issues that were followed by a big blow up on social media. Someone accused the event of canceling and then keeping everyone's $$ (even tho it was clearly stated that there were no refunds if the event needed to be canceled per the omnibus). Many jumped to their defense but the damage was done. Unlike many of the Area 1 events, this was not an eventing facility immersed in the sport doing it out of love but a girls school. Shortly after the FB drama, they announced they were no longer going to run recognized events. I always assumed that the decision to not run any more recognized was directly related to the FB uproar tho you all know what happens when you assume. They did continue to run unrecognized events following that tho not in this year of Covid.
              Joan Davis
              http://www.flatlandsfoto.com/
              http://flatlands-equestrian.com/

              Comment


                #8
                I didn't know Stoneleigh shut down....when I was eventing that was one place I loved, but that was years ago now.
                And yes, we should be able to run in mud!
                However, if social media played a role, as it sounds like it did, that gives even more weight to why the most recent blow up happened.

                Comment

                  Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by Joan from Flatlands View Post
                  Re SBS when chose to stop running recognized events it was after they had to cancel due to weather related footing issues that were followed by a big blow up on social media. Someone accused the event of canceling and then keeping everyone's $$ (even tho it was clearly stated that there were no refunds if the event needed to be canceled per the omnibus). .......
                  As I have been instructed, if there is a short-notice weather cancellation, or even a strong weather impact without cancellation (such as water in the spectator and/or stabling area), there is no refund. If it affects the whole event, or the event has to be stopped after whatever Phase II is and final results issued from there.

                  The old hands well understand that sometimes you don't get your money's worth, because the organizer has already paid out all of the costs, and we have to keep them afloat to keep events going. Just one more horse expense that didn't turn out as hoped.

                  Unfortunately there is sometimes a backlash from a different generation that is used to hyper-customer-service. These days the technology-based businesses are quick to take a loss and hand out money to pacify customers. There is often not a sense of a shared struggle against the larger forces of fate. I think that was a strong value in earlier times, and not so much now. Depending, of course, some people are stronger than that.

                  Comment

                    Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by beowulf View Post


                    And -- I didn't really see this mentioned, but lack of attendance.
                    ..........
                    AKA "entries".

                    I mentioned it as to why paid organizers haven't seem to stick well, between the coasts. It's been tried and it doesn't seem to take, long-term.

                    Entries are definitely a key to financial success. It's like a movie theater - once the basic infrastructure is in place, every extra movie-goer is extra revenue over the same base investment. It is maximizing the financial productivity of the investment.

                    It is the same with events/horse trials. Filling the barns and the day trailer spots means maximizing the revenue. A consistent waiting list is a good place to be, financially.

                    That goes to having the number of active eventers in the geographic circle that patronizes the event, that will fill all entry spots. What trainers are in the area, are they successful and bringing a good set of entries every time? Is eventing a popular discipline that attracts new riders? Does this horse trials offer the kind of course that attracts the most local eventers? And so on.

                    There have to be enough local eventers who are actively eventing and fill the entries.

                    And the facility has to provide enough of an experience that riders want to keep coming back.

                    One of the hardest things about the current covid is that after all the costs are put in to stage the event, the entries/revenue may not make it worthwhile.

                    There are a lot of factors that determine if eventers are patronizing a local event. I remember showing up to jump judge at one event, and the organizer looked at the jump judge crew in dismay (mostly eventers who rode in the division being judged) and asked "why aren't you riding today?" Answer: Because you never change the course, and we've all already paid for two or three previous events here to enter and ride it. Boy that was a gorgeous day, my friend and I would have loved to have been riding, but it just wasn't worth the cost to do the same course for the third time.

                    Comment

                      Original Poster

                      #11
                      Course maintenance is something that I think some would-be LO/organizers may not be fully appreciated. Both work and expense, and the year-round nature of it.

                      One thing that tends to happen is that as the LO/organizer ages, course maintenance becomes more difficult. The amount of tractor work, pruning, pulling and lifting is hard on the body. Paid help comes out of the event revenues. Volunteer help is limited in its ability to tackle the big issues.

                      And these days the aeravator (or whatever the hell it's called) is a big deal in many parts of the country. A lot of eventers will not come if they believe the ground is hard. The ground may need to be addressed multiple times per year and especially right before the event. That is a big piece of equipment, rented or owned. Plus someone has to know how to do it properly.

                      If course maintenance isn't done to standard, and done year-round, the course can go downhill amazingly fast. Both the track and the jumps. The more divisions are offered, the more at the levels of Training and up, the more acute this issue is. The higher-level divisions have a longer track and more jumps. They are also more sensitive to minor issues in the track causing a problem for horses and riders going at far greater speed than they are at the lower levels.

                      I knew of a small, but long-running, local event, in an area that didn't have as many events as the riders wished for, that ended because the course was falling apart. Aging owner with health problems and not enough paid assistance to handle the heavier course maintenance.

                      The track had erosion plus piles of detritis. In the woods portion, heavy branches were growing and becoming lower over the track, even over the jumps, to where a rider could end up being clocked. The ditch had filled in and the wood revetting was rotting. The part of the course in the field was holding on pretty well, except that the LO/organizer stopped mowing.

                      There was some help from the local eventing community. Volunteer work days, and some funds put in to help with certain heavier tasks and with equipment tasks. But the problems had become too numerous and substantial, and just overwhelmed the volunteers.

                      The USEA pulled the recognized status after a couple of years of communications and time given to get it right.

                      The LO/organizer tried to continue as unrecognized. But after a horse trials when the place hadn't even been mowed and the horses were in weeds over their knees, in addition to a shambles of a course, almost no one entered any more. That was the end of horse trials for that LO, sadly.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I do have to say after the Plantation debacle who would allow the use of their land? I am researching land in Montana for retirement and to support a small X-country course for schooling. I won’t open it up to the public now. I’ll keep my land and jumps to my self.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by TheMoo View Post
                          I do have to say after the Plantation debacle who would allow the use of their land? I am researching land in Montana for retirement and to support a small X-country course for schooling. I won’t open it up to the public now. I’ll keep my land and jumps to my self.
                          See that's not the same take away that I have. I own 47 acres and while it would be challenging this situation makes me wonder if in lieu of the crops that we have been paid for each year, whether providing another venue in the immediate Unionville area for a starter event could be useful/entertaining. (Notice I never said profitable)

                          There's about 10,000 obstacles to attain this, but it was the thought I had when realizing that I too am a land owner.

                          I just wouldn't give it a name that could be problematic, and if my 'safe' name ever became an issue, we'd change it. Simple as that.

                          Em
                          "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Joan from Flatlands View Post
                            Re SBS when chose to stop running recognized events it was after they had to cancel due to weather related footing issues that were followed by a big blow up on social media. Someone accused the event of canceling and then keeping everyone's $$ (even tho it was clearly stated that there were no refunds if the event needed to be canceled per the omnibus). Many jumped to their defense but the damage was done. Unlike many of the Area 1 events, this was not an eventing facility immersed in the sport doing it out of love but a girls school. Shortly after the FB drama, they announced they were no longer going to run recognized events. I always assumed that the decision to not run any more recognized was directly related to the FB uproar tho you all know what happens when you assume. They did continue to run unrecognized events following that tho not in this year of Covid.
                            Another reason to dislike social media

                            Just about every event in Area I has a non-refundable policy - shame on whoever that was, that did not read the omnibus.

                            I didn't know of the FB drama, but what I posted above was told to me by one of the event organizers/volunteers (lack of attendance forcing shutdown).

                            Part of eventing is running over difficult terrain. That includes hard ground and/or muddy footing. Granted, I am not running Intermediate so that may color my perspective -- but the bulk of eventers are lower level riders like myself. I'm not a die-hard by any means when it comes to bad footing, but I'm over the aera-vater mindset where XC needs to be immaculately groomed and the footing soft and/or non-muddy.

                            Own it, or lose the venues. Eventually we'll lose them all.

                            AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

                            Comment

                              Original Poster

                              #15
                              Originally posted by beowulf View Post
                              ....P
                              art of eventing is running over difficult terrain. That includes hard ground and/or muddy footing. Granted, I am not running Intermediate so that may color my perspective -- but the bulk of eventers are lower level riders like myself. I'm not a die-hard by any means when it comes to bad footing, but I'm over the aera-vater mindset where XC needs to be immaculately groomed and the footing soft and/or non-muddy.
                              ........
                              Here's the "yeah-but" to that for the events who do run the faster divisions. I'm talking between the coasts, things may be different in Areas that have a wider span of BNT's who bring a lot of entries to an event.

                              In this backyard, there are just a few BNT's who bring a lot of horses and entries if they come. If they or their higher-level riders don't like something about the event - and the footing is always a primary topic - they don't come and neither do the 30+ entries they bring with them. That can be 25% of the entries for many events.

                              So the blocks of entries that are dependent on aeravating will force a LO/organizer to get it done. Not all of the venues need it, but the riders do think that certain ones need it.

                              It's kind of cute and tricky that while the riders can't know the course before they come, the amount of aeravating going on is passed along like hot gossip. Right up until the day before XC, sometimes.

                              There is one BNT in particular who can make or break an event with numbers. He definitely knows it.

                              [One of my least favorite overheard remarks is "The footing is like concrete!" I swear some people think they have to say that to impress their friends, without any idea of what good footing is.]

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Would you really run a good.horse at poplar place if it hadn't rained in 2 months and it's now late august...without such manipulation of the ground? I wouldn't.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by Xctrygirl View Post

                                  See that's not the same take away that I have. I own 47 acres and while it would be challenging this situation makes me wonder if in lieu of the crops that we have been paid for each year, whether providing another venue in the immediate Unionville area for a starter event could be useful/entertaining. (Notice I never said profitable)

                                  There's about 10,000 obstacles to attain this, but it was the thought I had when realizing that I too am a land owner.

                                  I just wouldn't give it a name that could be problematic, and if my 'safe' name ever became an issue, we'd change it. Simple as that.

                                  Em
                                  That is so cool, good on you! I'd love to see a new generation of landowners emerge in Chester Co. to start a new era of events and join the more long-standing ones still around.

                                  Whatever happened to Chesterland? Last time I was there, I was a child and a helicopter crashed. I didn't keep up with the goings on (and there were no handy on-line sources of coverage and info sharing like there are now). Is Radnor also gone?

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    Why did The Fork Stables in NC stop holding events? What an amazing venue that was.

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by FitzE View Post

                                      That is so cool, good on you! I'd love to see a new generation of landowners emerge in Chester Co. to start a new era of events and join the more long-standing ones still around.

                                      Whatever happened to Chesterland? Last time I was there, I was a child and a helicopter crashed. I didn't keep up with the goings on (and there were no handy on-line sources of coverage and info sharing like there are now). Is Radnor also gone?
                                      Radnor is not gone, but the 3 day is. However they still run recognized lower level events. They just got an indoor and I've gone there many times for jumper shows as a local hunter jumper series holds MANY shows there in a year.

                                      I don't recall why Chesterland ended. The farm still exists and now Buck is based out of there.

                                      Em
                                      "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by Djones View Post
                                        Would you really run a good.horse at poplar place if it hadn't rained in 2 months and it's now late august...without such manipulation of the ground? I wouldn't.
                                        Just so you know I'm putting my money where my mouth is, while I've never competed at Poplar, I have competed at southern events in late summer (I did N and T, although neither were recognized), and the ground was hard enough to be slippery. My horse was perfectly fine.

                                        I am sure there are different considerations for different climates, but I was referring to Area I.

                                        I understand why an UL rider might be selective with the footing they subject their UL horses to. Those horses are working ten times harder than a BN horse and there is a definite safety element involved with footing leading up to a big fence. That's very different than the BN/N/T horses/riders.

                                        The venues in my area aren't limping along because they don't have enough UL rider patronage - they're limping along because they don't have enough BN/N attendance. There is an increasing trend in my area, which is not an area known for good footing, for riders to want a H/J style tract, perfectly manicured, not too challenging, no mud or hard ground.

                                        That's not really what eventing is, in my perspective. No one is expecting eventers to jump a four foot fence in swampy footing, but some variation from "perfectly good turf" should be accepted. I'm not referring to dangerous footing here - just footing that is a little deviation from ideal..
                                        Last edited by beowulf; Sep. 23, 2020, 09:36 AM.
                                        AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

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