When Your Equestrian Student Wants To Show ~ What To Know Before You Go
By CH Staff
The lure of the showring is apt to pop up in the life of most equestrians at some point or other. For the trainer/instructor or boarding barn owner, the show season can be a lucrative business.
Trekking off to a show or two or seven with your clients in tow is a great way to earn money, progress and develop your clients and their horses and create real team spirit to help build your business. Are you ready to hitch up the trailer and load up the critters? There are a few things you should know before you go.
Keep it Real
Very often clients have illusions of their level of riding ability or skill set for the show ring. As their trainer it is up to you to make sure both they and their mounts are properly prepared. For example, there is no point in entering a dressage test at the level the student is working at home. It is far more prudent to enter a test at a level below the home schooling level to boost the confidence of both horse and rider. If the horse/rider combination is experiencing difficulties at home, these difficulties will balloon with the added stress of a show and may ‘burst’ altogether. Always be honest and kind with your clients and make certain they are fully equipped for the task at hand.
Don’t Underestimate the Costs
While costs such as gas, tolls, show entries and stabling are easily identified, be cognizant that time you spend with clients away at a show also needs to be reimbursed. You are losing lesson time while you are away and may have added expenses for farm help in your absence. Be certain you charge a daily fee, or a coaching fee per student to cover this time. While a show is not the place for a full-blown lesson, you will need to offer coaching and help on the ground and this is all billable time.
Expect the Unexpected
While you may have done a great job preparing your students and their noble beasts don’t forget that your equipment needs attention too. Make sure you double-check everything on your rig/truck well before the day. Fill up on gas, check the lights and brakes and tires etc.. Allow extra time for traffic, possible breakdowns and plenty of time once on the show-grounds to load/unload/find stalls, collect entry packets and warm up time for the horses and riders before classes. Lack of time will just increase stress for everyone and marshalling a group of people always takes longer than working with just one student.
Also be sure to pack spares of tack items and clothing as clients vary in their organizational abilities and often forget equipment or have equipment fail. Provision of a checklist for all clients will go a long way to avoid these issues.
Make sure you have a first aid kit for both horses and humans and make sure it is handy and everyone knows where to find it. Have emergency contact information and medical information such as known allergies, handy for all participants.
Pack food and water for both horses and humans. Bottles of water, bananas to re-balance potassium and foods designed to maintain energy are all necessities.
Insurance and Liability
You will need to have your truck/trailer insured to take payment for horse transportation, as regular insurance policies won’t cover it. You may also require some licensing such as an MC license. Make sure you have all the needed documentation both for the transport and the medical paperwork for the horses you are trailering and make sure it is up to date before you set off. Know that if a person is on your rig unloading or loading a horse and gets hurt, you are responsible. For this reason it is prudent to take care of the loading/unloading yourself. You are probably more experienced anyway and this removes some liability.
The great thing about taking a brigade of clients to a show is the mutual support and kinship that being out and about on the showgrounds will produce. If it is viable have everyone sport a jacket or cap with your barn logo front and center for added PR for your farm and be sure you have business cards handy in case anyone asks about the services you offer.
A magnetic or permanent banner on the side of your truck/trailer can provide additional advertising benefit for your business.
Be certain to make your clients aware of what you expect from them in terms of behavior at the show. Let everyone know that their behavior reflects on your business and reputation as well as themselves and the rest of the team and that poor sportsmanship, lack of attention to detail, absence of kindness to other competitors will not be tolerated. Additionally you may require no alcohol, no dogs, no unattended children, or other factors of concern to minimize both your liability and increase the enjoyment of the team members. If clients are bringing children or pets make it clear that other team members are not responsible for their children or pets while they ride. If your students are children, make it clear to the supervising adult that they are responsible for being on time both on the day of the show, and for their child’s preparedness with regard to plenty of sleep, the correct attire and ask that the children please be fed and hydrated before dropping them off at your barn. You don’t want any ‘hangry’ children ruining the day, or ‘hangry’ adults for that matter!
In conclusion a day or weekend out at the show can be fantastic fun. You will garner extra lessons fees for your business bottom line, as in advance of the show everyone will need to focus and practice. It is also a great way to obtain input from judges on how your training methods are working and to meet both peers and prospective students.