I began writing this article when we were just beginning to realize the severity of COVID-19 and its impact on our country and the horse industry. While the following points were valid pre-COVID, they are even more important given the caution we will have to proceed with in the months (and maybe years) to come. It will not only be more convenient to have better online platforms for our shows—it may be necessary to keep us all safe.
Waiting at the in-gate. Photo by Alyssa King/Jumper Nation.
Imagine this. It’s a Thursday morning at WEF (well, no it’s not, we are all in COVID-19 quarantine, but bear with me here and just imagine that horse shows are still happening). You are showing a young horse in a schooling jumper class, which doesn’t have a pre-determined order of go. You didn’t have time last night to go to the ring to put your name down on the list, so you send your friend to the ring to get you in the order this morning. She gets there later than she’d hoped, because she couldn’t find a parking spot, and the earliest spot open in the order is #65 out of 90 horses. The schooling class starts at 8:00am, which means you won’t go until 10:45am at the earliest. You have another horse showing in another class, which starts at 11:00am; he’s been posted as #2 in the order of go. At 11:30am, you have a trial scheduled which you cannot move, so your schooling horse has to jump before your second horse. This is going to be a stressful morning.
It’s not your friend’s fault for getting to the ring late this morning, nor is it your fault for not having time to get there last night. It’s really the fault of a major inefficiency in the system—that the order of go sign-up isn’t online. Why should one have to be physically at the arena to put their name down? Isn’t that a waste of time and energy, especially for a busy team with limited staff?
A virtual order of go sign-up sheet would not be hard to add as a feature to websites like ShowGroundsLive, which many horse shows already use. The algorithm could even be adjusted to account for riders with horses in other classes at the same time, and give those people priority or a “free pass” to slotting in the order. It is archaic to have to physically check in at the in-gate for these types of classes. It wastes valuable time and adds stress to often already overworked grooms and staff.
We have amazing technology at our fingertips, like face-recognition and talk-to-text capabilities on our phones—and we are developing even more advanced artificial intelligence that will make our cars self-driving and our fridges smart. A simple algorithm on our horse show website isn’t beyond our reach. And now, as horse shows begin running again with social distancing measures requiring as little human contact as possible, it is the perfect time to make the change.
Are you a groom, rider, or competitor? Are there other parts of horse showing that seem inefficient or out-of-date to you? Drop us a comment on Facebook to continue the conversation.
Editor’s Note: With some horse shows fast approaching with anticipated start dates in June, additional technologies are currently being investigated. HITS is encouraging use of an online schedule and “how many” list during competition and is investigating text updates on the rings. Split Rock has developed an app that competitors will be required to download, which will include order of go posted in advance when possible.