How to Host an Equine Event

country tough trail versatility equine competition horsemanship and training obstacle course Jan 21, 2024
Event participants from an event at Von Holten Ranch

Hosting an event will be easy and will make us a bunch of money!  Those are words of a person that has never hosted an equine event.  Hosting equine events and competitions will put you, judges, and volunteers to the verge of exhaustion and deep into a mental fog.

When my husband and I dove headfirst into building an equine facility, we knew it would take several years of hosting events before we would make enough income from just being a trial facility.  We used hosting events in the beginning as a way for people to learn that our facility existed.  In one of our early years, we hosted nearly 70 different events ranging from confidence clinics, world champion instructed clinics, mule clinics, state championships, trail challenges, poker rides, barrel races, and cowboy mounted shooting.  You name it and we hosted it.  Here are a few pointers to help you get started or to improve your events.

  1. Get quality judges!  Help your judges better themselves.  Offer free judge’s clinics during the off season.  Some organization offer different levels for your judges to achieve.  You need to also become a judge.  I have had judges not show up, get injured, or sometime sit is just hard to find quality judges.  Have your own back by getting certified.  During the competition you need to provide food, drinks, lodging, and some form of monetary compensation for their expenses and time.  They are giving up a day and putting their necks out there for you and your event.  If they make mistakes, correct the problem, but always take up for your judge.  Remember that they are helping you!  Afte the competition, ask them how to improve.
  2. Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! This is the absolute worst part about hosting.  Print everything out that you can possibly can as soon as you can.  Printers will fail you, you will run out of ink or paper, and the internet will be down…count on it and prepare.  I would recommend seeking out a person that works or has worked in banking, office management, a retired secretary/accountant; basically, someone that works in data entry.  There are numbers flying everywhere during an event.  You must be accurate, and you must be fast.  Set your paperwork person up somewhere away from any noise or flow of people. 
  3. Prizes and ribbons! The saying “it takes money to make money” is completely appropriate when it comes to prizes and ribbons.  I would highly recommend buying ribbons that have rosettes.  Ribbons can take up to four weeks, and buckles can take up to eight weeks.  Get to know your sales representative and ask their opinion.  A lot of organizations do not have ribbon or prize criteria and you have to figure out what you would feel comfortable spending.  Our first few competitions, we spent way too much on prizes.  Now, we have a leather maker, a ribbon maker, and a buckle maker that are a phone call away, and we dearly appreciate them.
  4. Marketing! Facebook is your friend!  Create an event with as many details as you can than share it!  Ask others to share your event.  Create as attractive flier and post that everywhere on social media.  I also attend events just to be able to talk to people about our events.  I typically create fliers on Canva ( and then save them as a jpg and a PDF.  PDFs are to upload to a website and jpg’s are for social media.  Find a young whipper snapper and have them help you with social media.
  5. Volunteers This is the key to the success of your event.  Ask for help!  It’s easier to make a list of what exactly they will be doing and let them pick.  We typically need a timer, gate person, paperwork runner, course re-setter, and a right-hand man.  Try not to assign yourself a specific job, because you are the back-up judge, remember.  Make sure and feed them, give them restroom breaks, and thank them!
  6. Be humble Every person will tell you what they would have done differently.  Be able to absorb that and look at what they said without getting your feelings hurt.  When things mess up or get behind, just keep going and then make changes for the next time.  People appreciate when you take into consideration their requests.  Reach out to current hosts.  There’s no use in reinventing the wheel.
  7. Take care of yourself Make sure you have food and drinks that are easy to grab.  Don’t plan on elaborate meals like grandma’s meatloaf.  Hosting an event is way more time consuming than you will realize, so make sure your basic needs are met.  I would highly recommend not planning anything on the Monday after an event.  Reserve that day for clean-up and final paperwork analysis to turn into the organizations.

Hosting an event is a ton of work, which is sometimes a thankless job.  However, the reward of creating an event that allows competitors to strive for goals and create a closer bond with their equine is priceless.

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