Show organisers need to move with the times, says Julie Templeton
IT’S that time in the show season when entries take up a considerable amount of everyone’s routine. It’s especially laborious for producers, who complete entries en masse.
Now, due to Covid, there is even more paperwork than normal. Online entry systems are definitely the way forward and I’m especially in favour of those that let you store your exhibits, riders and owners on a database, so you can enter a class in a matter of minutes.
However, there are some shows that seem reluctant to come over from the dark side. They not only require you to fill in the now statutory Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifying forms, but also an entry form repeating all the same information for their own show entry. I find this exceptionally time consuming and wholly unnecessary.
It’s also frustrating that shows have very early closing dates. Often, we adhere to this and get our entries in on time only to find out that the show has reopened due to lack of entries. They can still manage to process those late entries prior to the show so why not just have a later closing date to begin with?
I HAVE voiced my frustrations about ticket allocation at county shows before and this has once again reared its ugly head.
One show called after we had submitted our team entries to say that they were only issuing two tickets per pony to limit numbers on the showground due to Covid restrictions, but we were able to purchase up to four tickets per pony at £10 each. Clearly, it wasn’t about the pandemic, but more about squeezing a bit extra out of the competitor.
Given that most of these shows are being run behind closed doors with no county show entertainment, tradestands or food halls, it seems extortionate to take further money off competitors for coming to watch an entry they have paid handsomely for.
We were also told that the more ponies you enter, the fewer tickets you get, so a client entering one pony gets two tickets yet if you enter two ponies you only get three. Why penalise the customers who are supporting your show by bringing more than one exhibit? It makes no sense whatsoever.
WE were recently at a show in the pouring rain and due to the cold, we requested that we could bring rugs for the ponies and jackets for the children into the ring. We were told no, as it didn’t meet Covid guidelines.
Why would you have the children and ponies sitting getting absolutely soaked and shivering with cold, rather than using your common sense that bringing rugs and jackets in was not a breach of any guidelines? Equally, in one ring, only four grooms were allowed in at a time to strip ponies for conformation, while in the adjacent ring there was a full class with all the grooms stripping at once.
I also saw a picture of a line-up of animals with the jockeys all wearing masks. Riding is a socially distanced sport, so I found it crazy to expect competitors to wear masks while riding, especially at an outdoor event. Shows need far more consistency in their on-the-ground operations to ensure that competitors understand what is expected of them.
However, I do see the challenges from the organisers’ perspective. We recently ran the inaugural UK Ponies and Horses show and tried to be as friendly and accommodating as possible, despite some demanding requests from competitors.
We have to bear in mind that without the jockeys, producers and owners, we won’t have shows to go to. Therefore, my advice to fellow show organisers is to try to think of things from a competitor’s point of view and consider the long-term picture for our industry when making snap decisions and using Covid as your excuse!
This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 10 June 2021
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