Why Exhibitors Attend Certain Shows: A Show Manager’s Perspective
Is it the prestige of an event like at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress? Is it the added money classes like those at The Arizona Sun Circuit? Or is it the exhibitor parties and social atmosphere like at The Buckeye Classic?
Every year, trainers and exhibitors select different shows to attend and with the summer major circuits coming up, most competitors have already decided which shows they are going to attend.
GoHorseShow took a deeper look into this topic to get top show managers’ perspectives on what drives exhibitors to attend some of the largest shows in the industry. Let’s find out what they had to say.
Chris Cecil Darnell – Manager of some of the biggest shows in the industry, including the Buckeye Classic and NSBA Show Your Colors, she is also on the management team for the All-American Quarter Horse Congress.
Darnell believes, “People like the shows that have the large class numbers. People also like purse money, an excellent show facility that has solid show management and office staff. Showing horses is a hobby for a lot of individuals; they want it to be fun.”
As for hospitality, Darnell says, “Some show management likes to plan lots of parties and I think those are fun, but I think hospitality at the root of it is that you must be accommodating, helpful, and it has to be a positive experience.”
Chris also mentions, “Advertising is important in helping exhibitors plan their show schedules. Advertising show bills allows them to pick shows that will fit with their family plans and budget.”
Casey Devitt – Long-time AQHA judge and 2017 Professional Horseman of the Year, Devitt has been assisting and running shows for around five years, including The Dixie Nationals and The Arizona Sun Circuit, both Paint Worlds, The All-American Quarter Horse Congress, and all three EOQHA shows.
“Everything from weather to timing, a strong set of judges, and a well-run show plays a role in why exhibitors attend certain shows,” says Devitt. “They like to know the footing will be as good as possible, the show is going to start on time, be informed of class start times, and overall efficiency of a show.”
Devitt says, “Hospitality is our job…as show managers and as a team. It is everything. A good product is one that runs well and we look after them as if they are our customer.”
Devitt believes advertising is important, but, “Most of the shows I do have an event coordinator that spends the year doing the publicity and schedule. However, getting the information in the right venue is important.”
Patrick Kayser – Show manager for the Lucky 7 Classic, Sugar Bowl Classic, and now the Dogwood Classic. Kayser says, “Treating people fairly and going the extra mile is essential. Also, horse shows that spend money on the exhibitors make them feel more welcome.”
He continues, “Managing the ground and what the ground requirements are for each event is a vital part as well.”
He says this business is more than just a customer service business, this is a client-relations business. “Clients are relationships that are built over time and show managers must go the extra mile for them. It’s all about building that relationship with the people who are willing to spend hundreds of dollars with you for a weekend, and make their money well spent.”
Mary Hannagan – Show manager for all the Gordyville USA Quarter Horse shows, she has been managing horse shows for close to 30 years. She believes exhibitors, “Talk among themselves and see who is going, but also prizes, having a fair place to show, and excellent facilities also come into play.”
She also believes entertainment plays a significant role as well. “You must make sure there is something for exhibitors to do besides showing their horse. Also, you must ensure the shows get out in a timely fashion so exhibitors can go out to eat and enjoy each other’s company.”
Hannagan also says it’s important to have someone on staff who has hospitality events planned for the exhibitors. “Advertising does play a big part of the size of the horse show,” says Hannagan. “We have found that online advertising is huge. Our Facebook page works tremendously for getting the word out; any changes can be taken care of immediately to keep all informed.”
Doug Huls – Manager of The Arizona Sun Circuit, Celebration Show, and The Arizona Fall Championship show believes, “Good judges, good numbers, good awards, and a good facility all play a vital role in the size of a show.” He says when it comes to advertising that, “Paid advertising helps, but having a strong social media presence is the most important thing of all.”
Chris Jeter – A recent addition to the show managers club, Chris has built up quite a client base in his two years. He is the manager of all the National Reined Cow Horse Association major shows including, the Futurity, the Derby, the Stakes, and the World Show, as well as all the Oregon Quarter Horse Association shows.
“I think it has to be an enjoyable experience, all the major events for the NRCHA have a lot of money at stake and that is what drives exhibitors to those shows,” says Jeter. “But for a regular circuit, only 10% of exhibitors will win a prize, money, or points. A show manager must make it a social event or a prestigious event,” he continues. “Their dollar is important. They are the customer and if you don’t take care of them with hospitality, good manners, and respect, they will take their money elsewhere.”
Jeter also notes, “The events need to be at the forefront and exhibitors need to be aware of them and what’s happening. If you do the advertising, all other things will fall into place.”