Opinion

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When running shows, the number one rule is to work with the competitors and not to alienate them. Though riders need us to run shows, we also need them on our side to be able to run good shows.

I can’t speak for every organiser but, at Pyecombe, we’ve invested in top surfaces, we use good course-builders and we try to keep our facilities as nice as we can. It’s important to keep re-investing back into the showground, but that does increase the financial burden.

You’re never going to become a millionaire by running shows as there are so many hidden costs. We’re lucky because it’s a real team effort. All our family members help before, during and after shows. My niece and nephew Ruby and Max harrow the arenas after school, while their mum Jacqui is lorry parking queen. And “the boss”, our mum Valerie, looks after sponsors and other VIPs. My sister Shirley manages our horses and their riders when they compete at the shows and with a little help from our friends, we all muck in and muck out!

At shows, we have to feed and pay everyone from pole pickers and stewards to cleaners, and the costs do add up. Then we have rates, electricity and water, too. Both our all-weather arenas have underground watering systems and on shows days these are on 24/7. If it’s really dry, we also have bowsers going from 6am. The water is metered, so you can imagine how much that costs.

Planning is key

We start planning shows the year before. Every September, we have a meeting with other local centres to avoid clashing dates next summer.

It can be difficult, as centres all have their own clientele with specific needs. We’re trying to cater for everyone from 80cm amateurs to top-level international riders, so we need the flexibility to put on the classes they want. The current BS system of show categories can make that difficult, but we have to work around it.

Every show day, I’m in the office from 6.15am until 8pm or even later — and I rarely see a horse! Long days come with the territory. Our shows are now all pre-entry and riders have the choice of doing it online via our website or emailing me details and paying on the day. We also accept entries on the day if space allows.

Pre-entries help me enormously from a timetabling point of view. Classes in our Paris arena tend to get full, but I keep a wait list and accommodate as many people as I can.

I’m not complaining. We do get a few rude customers and those who muck their lorries out and drop rubbish on the showground. However, we usually catch the culprits and knock them into shape! The majority of competitors are lovely and, as long as they say please, thank you and pay their bill, that’s fine with me.

Ref Horse & Hound; 10 May 2018