How to Make Your Schooling Show a Slam-Dunk

The internet has been full of articles and posts regarding the rise of the schooling show. With the increasing fees associated with showing on the rated circuit and some frustration with the governing bodies, many trainers are turning to an all schooling-show season rather than frequenting the lavish locales that play host to some of the a-circuit shows. Schooling shows are imperative to our community. Not only do they make the sport more affordable, but they also give you ample opportunity to introduce new horses or riders to the show ring without the added pressure of the rated shows.

Every year, my trainer puts on, without-a-doubt, one of the best schooling shows in our area, The Kirkwood Show. Our rings are jam-packed with riders all day long, and while I am still recovering from one heck of a horse show hangover from helping organize it this year, I know our whole team shares this sense of pride that we pulled off yet another successful show. So what draws in over 200 horse and riders to our yearly schooling show and how can you get the same traffic for your show? Here are some tips and tricks that help make our yearly show a must-attend in our community.

The Details Matter

As a competitor, I know you will agree with me on this: the details truly matter. The jumps must be in good repair, the footing in the rings should be excellent, the staff should be warm and inviting, and more. Each little detail can make or break your show. Don’t skimp on the small things such as having water at the in-gate for your competitors or taking frequent drag breaks. You can even work with local business owners such as photographers or food trucks to offer extra services they will enjoy. No matter what you do, make sure your competitors know they are your priority!

Reward Your Entrants

Ainsleigh Glenn and her pony Young, Scrappy & Hungry were this year’s Champions in the Mid-States MOHJO Mini Derby at the 2019 Kirkwood Show. Pictured with her trainer, Cassie Zimmerman. Photo by Meagan DeLisle

The key to having competitors return year-after-year is to show them just how much you appreciate their attendance. One of the best ways to do this is to offer tons of prizes and amenities. We like to splurge on nicer quality ribbons to really give our show that lush feeling, and we source sponsors to donate towards division prizes that we know our riders will love. Our prize table was FULL of amazing tokens of our appreciation this year, something that almost every person commented on while checking-in at the show office.

Other ways you can reward your entrants for their patronage is to have a free competitors’ breakfast, offer trainer discounts on tack stalls if they bring X amount of horses, and doing little things that make the show feel as “premiere” as possible. For example, this year I tried to take photos of as many class champions as possible to share online. These little touches are things that riders and their loved ones adore!

Course Design and Class Lists are Key

Offering a little something for everyone in terms of a class list is always nice, but no matter how many classes you have, nothing can make up for poorly designed courses. Take the extra time to accurately measure out your lines, invest in quality jumps for your rings (you can rent rather than buying!), and put together courses that are appropriate for the skill level of your entries.

Just a selection of the courses we offered for our competitors this year. 

If you are offering hunter derby classes or jumper classics, use your show as an opportunity to prepare these horses for what they might encounter on the rated circuit in these divisions. Incorporate elements that will give your competitors a chance to school new things in a comfortable environment. Your courses shouldn’t be too tricky, but they also can’t be too simple. They have to be fun, inviting and offer riders a way to build up for bigger and better things!

Build the Hype

Most importantly, and this goes for rated shows just as much as schooling shows, be sure to build the hype both pre- and post-event online! Use social media to your advantage and highlight all of the great things your show has to offer. We all know that social media is the way of the world, so why shouldn’t you market your show as best as possible online?

Use social media to your advantage and build the hype for your schooling show! Graphic by M.DeLisle Creative Concepts.

So when you are planning your schooling show this year, think about what extra touches you can do to make it better than the last! We are in the midst of the great schooling show revival, so invest in your show’s success by offering an experience like no other. Each little detail sparks a conversation in your equestrian community, what great things will your competitors have to say about your show?