Stuart Hollings: Show secretaries aren’t pantomime villains *H&H VIP*

  • Forget Big Brother or I’m a Celebrity… Get Me out of Here! a camera in most show secretaries’ offices on show day would make better viewing. This would be even more intriguing when the marks sheets are viewed, if my recent North of England shows are any indication. I’m surprised, given the number of reality documentaries, that no one has produced a behind-the-scenes programme on running a horse show.

    Being a show secretary seemed more straightforward 20 years ago — why has this changed? Could it be that the more show organisers spoon-feed competitors, in an effort to be “exhibitor-friendly”, the more needy said competitors become?

    Even when it clearly states in the schedule that entries are taken on the day, it appears that owners need reassurance that the secretary will not turn into a pantomime villain at the show and change his mind.

    It seems competitors also need to know how many others are in the classes before the show, even when entries are still open. Many secretaries now put these numbers on social media to minimise the countless requests for this information when busy with vital last-minute preparations. These — alongside “Where is my ring?” — are the most repeated questions at a show.

    One of the first things I used to do when arriving at a show was to locate the rings, to see how far they were from the horsebox/stable and whether mine was hazard-free, to determine how much working in was involved. Each competitor is responsible for reaching their ring in good time and not blaming traffic jams or inefficient loudspeakers if they fail to do so.

    I received several communications from exhibitors who couldn’t remember what they had pre-entered — if at all! It makes sense to write down the animals’ names in the schedule and to send a stamped addressed envelope with the entries. Requesting a text to acknowledge receipt of your entries is pushing one’s luck.

    Delaying tactics

    Two new trends emerged at this year’s show: many did not pay the emergency cover fee until collecting their number — I’m told this was in case they decided not to come to the show. However, this is part and parcel of the entry process and not some kind of starting fee. I can assure you that the first-aid people in attendance still want full payment, whether or not they are busy.

    More annoyingly, and despite follow-up calls, a few did not send a cheque or the required Horse of the Year data with their entries. In some instances, I suspect this was a delaying tactic in case they qualified at a previous show. These nomination-type entries were not processed, but will be forwarded to the relevant societies pending further investigation.

    Taking entries on the day is popular, but I worry that some show secretaries will become disillusioned by the behaviour of a few who abuse this system. Look how many shows will now only take cash on the day because of problems with bouncing cheques!

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 30 July 2015