Barn Manners: The Good Horse Show Host June 18 2010, 0 Comments

Planning a wedding isn’t all that different from planning a horse show. Photo courtesy of Ralph Aiswang.

What’s your favorite horse show? I bet you can tell me in five seconds flat. Why is it your favorite? Some of you will say it’s the food—the caramel apples at the New England Equitation Finals! Others might say Lake Placid because of the super intense grand prix, and the fact that there’s so much to do, see and eat in the lovely town. Or, maybe your favorite is HITS Ocala because you’re out of the cold and the food is good!

Whether it’s the footing or the nice shady spots, the permanent stalls or the funny announcer who gets everyone’s name wrong, everyone has a favorite horse show.

This weekend, our barn is hosting a two-day show. It’s part of theVHJA circuit. While we may not be on the top of anyone’s “favorite” list yet, we’re hoping to reach that distinction soon.

This is the second show ever held at Missy Ann Stables and the first time most of us involved have helped to plan a horse show. As we entered the final stretch—I (again) realized that my Emily Post day job trickles over to my horse life. At Emily Post, we’ve just released an entertaining book, “Great Get-Togethers.” The book is a great resource and confidence builder for the newbie or reluctant hostess.

Alas, there is no such guide for those of us planning a horse show. Hosting a horse show in many ways is a lot like hosting a big party, say a wedding reception. I spent one summer working on the updated edition of Emily Post’s Wedding Etiquette. I swore I would hire a wedding planner when Samantha got married or pay her to elope. The amount of work and decision-making it takes to plan a wedding is mind-boggling. I’ve learned that planning a horse show is not much different.


Here are just a few similarities between planning a horse show and planning a wedding:

It takes a year to plan.

If you don’t start planning your wedding a year in advance, all the good reception sites are booked and your preferred house of worship may not even be available. If you don’t plan your horse show early enough, all of the good judges, announcers, secretaries and stewards are already booked. You’re not having a horse show, and certainly not one that’s going to end up on anyone’s “favorite” list, without these folks.

It takes a team.

Bridezilla quickly finds herself alone, without gleeful bridesmaids by her side to help her address envelopes, plan seating charts and keep track of RSVPs. A good horse show manager is organized and puts together a dedicated team of people each assigned to do specific tasks.

Plan for the comfort of your guests.

Many brides overlook this important fact when they think about their “dream wedding.” In the dream, guests are just accoutrements, there to fill out the landscape and of course, provide generous gifts from a variety of bizarre and expensive gift registries. In the land called reality, you need to plan your wedding and your horse show with the comfort of your guests in mind. For a horse show that means thinking about designing a prize list so that people don’t do one class in the morning and then wait around for five hours to finish their division. It also means setting up large enough areas for parking and warm-ups. And, of course, having a variety of good food available.

When the day comes, enjoy it.

Regardless of all the preparation, not everything will go according to plan. The bride may trip going down the aisle. Your Aunt Lucy may insist on doing the Macarena at your wedding reception. At the horse show, a judge may show up 20 minutes late, the weather may stink, the radios may only work intermittently—but with a little bit of luck, the day will be a success. Take the time to enjoy it.

Brides do have one advantage. Hopefully, they only plan one wedding. If horse show managers do it right, they’ll be planning more horse shows, the kind that people start to remember as their favorite.

This article originally appeared on The Chronicle of the Horse website.