The Carolinas Equestrian invited horse show managers around the Carolinas to share their thoughts on the state of the horse show business. In this edition of In Their Own Words we hear from Rick Cram, founder of Progressive Show Jumping and Stephen Carroll, Technical Coordinator for the Camden Hunter Jumper Series.


Rick Cram

Horse Show Managers Rick Cram The Carolinas Equestrian 01

We are living in an interesting time in our country and our sport. When you reflect on the past, the composition of the Hunter/ Jumper sport in our region is very different from a few decades ago. We have seen the replacement of private & state owned horse show facilities with multi-million dollar conglomerates. Change is inevitable. We have seen the disappearance of horse shows at venues like Ramblewood, Columbia State Fair-grounds, Springdale Race Course, and the Pinehurst Harness Track. We can applaud the creation of new facilities that filled some of the void during the last few decades such as FENCE, Mullet Hall, and Highfields Event Center. To go even further we need to recognize long standing venues like Harmon Field, SC Equine Park and Blowing Rock Equestrian Preserve for continuing to reinvest and remain a part of our cherished history in this region.

The effort on behalf of show managers during those decades was collaborative and conscientious of one an other’s interests. I remember in the early 1990's asking the SCHJA board to consider not allowing horse shows in contiguous regions to happen on the same weekend. The state was divided into regions, Coastal, Midlands and Upstate. This was taken under consideration and adopted. We respected each other’s interests and followed this logic to not over saturate the region with shows. But State and Local associations seem to have moved away from protecting existing shows from new shows popping up in close proximity.

Over saturating the region is a concern. As the eleventh smallest state in America we should consider how many shows our client base can support. From our state sanctioned shows to the USEF shows they have seen minimal growth in membership. The USEF reports their member base has only grown 1% in the last decade. The National Health Center announced that America’s annual births are at a 30 year low. Growth in our sport is stagnant. Potential clients, the YOUTH that feed the pipeline, are at a 30 year low! And yet, we continue to add more shows. Is this sustainable?

Horse Show Managers Rick Cram The Carolinas Equestrian 02Since I started PSJ in 1987, I have watched several of my proteges form their own show management companies. I am not a stranger to competition. It keeps us on your toes and drives us to be more innovative. Some management takes a professional business path and tries to develop a business that fits in the calendar while others are on a mission to take as much of the market share as they can with no regard to existing shows. On the "Premier" show front the USEF has not stood behind their premise of supporting priority date holders by allowing what I see over the last three decades as an all time high in mileage exemptions. This has allowed even more shows to position themselves on top of one another. Is our path sustainable?

I have taken the initiative to form a winter series that brings a collaborative effort between Equus Events and Progressive Show Jumping to host our winter shows in two, three week circuits. The Aiken Horse Park will house three consecutive National USEF shows in January and the Indoor at TIEC will debut with two consecutive National USEF shows in February. Our goal is to unite our shows to produce a strong and competitive winter circuit in our region.

 

I hope we can reflect on the past and move into the future remembering we are all in this together. The system we have developed in our region has worked for decades and I hope the new-comers consider how many people have gotten us here and understand they are needed as no one can carry our sport forward alone.Share a wonderful holiday with your friends and family and I hope to see you in 2020.


Stephen Carroll

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Managing horse shows in the South East has become increasingly harder and harder. Several issue come to mind right off hand. The lack of experienced labor, the number of shows and just the overall ability to provide a high quality show that is fun and challenging all within an affordable price range so exibitors can continue to show.

Several new facilities have been built and have taken most of the experienced ingate and jump crew workers in our local area. This makes it extremely hard to find specialized labor with experience to handle the extreme work conditions that horse shows often require.

 

Horse Show Managers Stephen Carroll The Carolinas Equestrian 02

Social media has bridged some of the gap and allows me to reach out at a moments notice, but quality labor continues to be a problem.

Also the number of show circuits that don't abide by or even use the mileage rules that our local rated shows have to abide by undermines all the shows. By spreading out the number of horses, exhibitors and trainers it causes all the shows to suffer with low numbers. We often times have to adjust schedules last minute and a lot of times have to combine divisions so they will fill.

This is just scratching the surface of the issues we have to contend with at the local show level.

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