Things I love and hate about how horse trials are run

Now that I have been back into the swing of participating in USEA recognized events, it is certainly clear that some shows really have it all down pat while others are just plain disorganized.

I’ve come to really like or dislike certain things about how horse trials are run or what they offer. A lot has changed since I evented in the early 2000’s… we didn’t have the same kind of technology then as we do now. Shoot, I remember getting my ride times in the mail on a postcard. With all of these changes I have noticed a lot of things that make me more or less likely to want to attend a certain event. So lets start with things I consider to be perks:

TIP awards – I love thoroughbreds, I love my thoroughbred, and I love the TIP program. If you offer TIP awards I am much more likely to want to come to your show.

Startbox Scoring – It’s kind of annoying how some shows use Event Entries and others use Startbox, but I have to say – Startbox is way better. I’ve never had a problem pulling up anything or finding anything on their website, and updates happen timely. I’ve had a lot of issues with Event Entries though, either not updating or just not being particularly user friendly.

MyCourseWalk – There is one event here that posts their courses the week before the event on MyCourseWalk. I love this. I like being able to see it in advance, plot it out in my mind, and already have a good idea of the course before I get there and start walking. Plus the courses stay on MCW so you’re able to go back and look at previous years, or look at a venue you haven’t been to before to get an idea for what they have on their course. I wish more venues would use it.


Competitor dinners – Almost everyone has these now, which I really like. It’s a good way to get people rubbing elbows and talking to each other, plus it’s nice to have at least one meal taken care of while you’re on the road. I greatly appreciate them, especially when they don’t charge the non-competitors either (our helpers are just as important!).


On the flip side of the coin, there are a few things that drive me really crazy:

Not posting entries or results in a semi-timely manner – if it’s past closing date and you still haven’t posted any of the entries you’ve received, you’re way behind the ball. I like to know that my entry got there, that it’s all complete, that it’s all correct, and that I don’t owe you any more money. On the same token, if it’s been an hour and a half since my division wrapped up and there are still no scores posted, I’m going to start getting impatient. Keeping up to date on your paperwork and keeping people informed goes a long way in making an event look organized, competitor-friendly, and on the ball.


Dangerous stabling – if a normal sized horse cannot easily turn around in the aisles, they’re too narrow. If the stalls are so old and rusted and bent that a horse can get a hoof stuck in the bars, it’s time to replace them. If the doors won’t stay shut without having to be tied up, fix them. If the barn is going to flood in a rain storm because there isn’t appropriate drainage or gutters, put it in. There are a lot of irreplaceable and well-loved horses staying there, please make us feel like they’re safe while they’re at your facility.

Not splitting divisions – maybe this is just my “I need AEC placings” craziness setting in, but if you’ve got enough entries to split up your divisions into Junior, Senior, and Open divisions please do it. Horse show 101 is to have as many people walk away happy as possible, so do yourself a favor and split that stuff up. One big division kinda sucks.

Volunteer education – please please please take 15 minutes to educate your volunteers on their duties. Jump judges need to know where is or is not an appropriate place to sit, they need to know what constitutes a refusal, etc. Scribes should know how to make the shorthand comments as readable as possible. The people in charge of parking should know where each barn is. I love that our sport is so volunteer based, and I love volunteering, but we need to make sure we’re doing a good job of setting our volunteers up for success.

I’m sure there’s a lot I’m forgetting here. Fellow competitors (not just eventers!) what are some of the things that you love to see or drive you crazy at your competitions?

17 thoughts on “Things I love and hate about how horse trials are run

  1. What do you consider to be too big for a division? Just curious… The Horse Park here will routinely have 60 competitors in one level, and so divide them into groups of 20.


    1. Honestly I feel like it should always be split between Open, Junior, and Senior, as long as there are more than 6-7 in each split. If there’s really a ton, split it out into Horse too. Everyone here does that except for two particular places that throw them all together. In that case, USEA still filters out the results to show your amateur placing but it doesn’t take into account the people that would have entered the Open division due to being a bit over-qualified for the level. I can’t think of any reason why they WOULDN’T want to split them up.


  2. The “hurry up and wait” in Hunter/Jumper Land is my #1 pet peeve. And after working Jersey Fresh this weekend, I’m not sure why Hunter/Jumper Land can’t adopt the idea of ride times.

    That sh*t is genius.


    1. Because can you imagine the mutiny that would go down when ride times conflicted and their trainer couldn’t be there to hold their hand through the entire warm-up and trip in the ring? LOL. Eventers are not so trainer dependent.


  3. i get frustrated when shows don’t split divisions either – esp at the dinky little schooling & starter shows i ride in haha. all good points tho. i’ve never had to stable my horse but can definitely imagine being concerned by unsafe stabling…


    1. I agree, really annoying. I’m ok with leaving before the scores are final and ribbons are given, but I at least want to wait until the scores are posted so I can protest if mine doesn’t look right.


  4. Last year at one of our events the organizers wouldn’t give out the awards for the the last 3 divisions of the day until all the show jumps had been put away. They essentially held us all hostage rather than asking for volunteers or arranging volunteers beforehand. People ended up waiting over 4 hours at the end of a very long 3 days.

    My biggest pet peeves is poor jump judge education. A girl I ride with was eliminated for off-side coaching because a jump judge stood up and pointed the way when she was looking lost. Another was eliminated for “missing” a fence (fence A), when the fence in question was part of a combination and impossible to get to B without jumping A.

    I have the greatest respect for volunteers and I appreciate all the hard work that they put into our sport but it drives me nuts when organizers don’t educate their volunteers.


  5. Great list! Startbox is definitely the best. One of the reasons I love competing at the KHP is that almost all of their events, even though run by different organizations, use start box and are very well organized. And I will add- prizes are a nice addition. Even if they aren’t expensive, a pair of polo wraps or a saddle pad with the event logo on it goes a long way. I know it’s silly but I won a saddle pad once at May Daze and that really excited me- versus the show where I came in first and got nothing but a $150 gift certificate for a back on track product, which I never used because all of their products are a bazillion dollars. So maybe I should add- a USEABLE prize.

    Which reminds me- I also love finding goodies in the competitor package. For example, I have received magnets, horse treats, mints, candy for me, small towels, a key chain with a bottle opener (very appropriate ha!) and bag clips and have used/loved all of them. They are small and inexpensive items, but still make me happy to be there. It makes it seem like they want you at their event and have thought about the small details.

    And it was really nice at one KHP event where they had pony club kids set up a water station at the end of the XC course- there was water for you and your horse, and in 99 degree weather, it was REALLY appreciated (and the kids were adorable). I kind of wish every event would do that.

    One thing I dislike- selling your event as a good “start up” event and then having everything maxed out with ridiculous questions. Aka, jump start- it use to be the go-to event for moving up, but their courses have become increasingly difficult and complicated. Which is fine if you need that practice at that level, but is deceptive when they advertise the event as a good move-up event, and you get there and it’s practically a championship course. Not cool!


    1. Getting little prizes is the best!!! Like little candies or even a cute set of polos or a hat or something.


  6. I wish the weekend local h/j shows had more perks for competitors. They aren’t cheap either and it would be nice to feel more appreciated.


  7. The #1 thing for me is organization. Without ride times in hunter/jumpers, if I watch a ring sit empty for hours I am going to be PISSED.


    1. Yeah, in our jumper class of 3 the people on Sunday the ring got held for 15 minutes waiting for someone’s trainer to show up. C’mon, man. I wish it was more acceptable in h/j land to go into the ring without your trainer. They can’t really help you much anyway! Plus it’s a horse show, not a lesson.


  8. I was luck that in the Area 7 they did a great job splitting divisions (sometimes had multiple JR divisions, open, rider & horse! sometimes they even added an SR and amateur division). But I also agree with the Startbox Scoring versus Event Entries. I HATE event entries. HATE IT.

    No, I don’t feel strongly about that at all. 🙂


  9. I hate when stock shows refuse to combine divisions – we don’t get national points until a class has 6 and if they’re splitting between age groups, sometimes (too often) you’ll get 4 or 5 in each age group – therefore meaning nobody gets national points where we could be picking up the points for having 8 or 10 in a class.


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