Curmudgeon Commentary

For as long as I’ve been getting TMC, I’ve never read Curmudgeon’s Corner until today.  While presented in a light-hearted manner, the topic was actually a bit thought provoking.  He (I don’t know who “curmudgeon” is, but we’re going to go with “he”) talks about the “business” of horse shows and how they have become such a big production.  One thing in particular he points out is the number of classes available at shows, and perhaps we should streamline.

I, for one, could see both sides of the argument.  Having a variety of classes available could theoretically draw in more exhibitors and make the show more appealing.  But the flip-side is that maybe having fewer classes would actually make it cheaper to put on a show (I would think).  Since there are fewer classes to choose from this would also mean fuller classes which are more exciting to watch, and a ribbon would mean more.  To be honest, I’ve sometimes felt like my head was going to spin from the variations of a single discipline at some shows; Ladies, Gentleman’s, Mares, Stallions & Geldings, Junior/Senior horse, Amateur, Open, etc.

So, which side of the coin rings more true for you?  And which would you rather see, larger shows with more classes but perhaps fewer entries, or fewer, larger classes?

23 Responses to Curmudgeon Commentary

  1. leslie says:

    I was thinking about this after I saw the class list for the new Bluegrass Morgan Classic. It’s nice to have lots of classes to choose from, but the divisions are subdivided to death. I guess the organizers are optimistic, and maybe out-of-staters will add this brand new show to their schedule and maybe it’ll be a wild success. On the other hand, I fear that we’ll have class after class of one and two horses leaving would-be spectators bored and would-be competitors irritated that they just spent hundreds of dollars to come to Lexington and ride around in a dusty indoor all alone.

    I’m much more curmudgeonly than the curmudgeon.

    Maybe I’m spoiled as a New England native, but I also find it a bit sad that we can have 27 different divisions of hunter pleasure and not a single dressage or jumping class. I know, I know, more equipment, more officials, more money, but c’mon. Morgans are good at doing stuff besides going around on the rail. You just wouldn’t know it if you went to 90% of our breed shows.

    Of course, I say this like all these Morgan sporthorse folks would appear out of the Kentucky woodwork if we offered them a show, but maybe that’s unlikely. And to be fair, the Bluegrass show does have a carriage division. That’s a start!

  2. Morganmom says:

    I for one like the wide variety of classes which suits the needs of many.
    I do not feel dropping many of those classes will influence more to show in another class. As an exhibitor, I like the choice and chance to show my horse in more than just one or two classes at a show. After going to all the work, expense and effort to get to a show, why not have more than one or two classes to exhibit in?

  3. Vintage_Rider says:

    Having been on many a show committee. There are fixed costs associated with a show… ring, announcers, judges, etc. The variable costs are the “prizes” (as per class) and stalls – there is a gross profit on each stall typically, but not much from what I have been involved with. The biggest way to boost the financial outcome is the ratio of classes per horse. In other words, if you skinny’d (I think I just made up a word) down the classes for say a 3 day show, and went from the eligibility of a horse to go in 5 classes to 2 classes. A) you are shooting yourself in the foot, and B) Personally, I wouldn’t go very darn far to go in only two classes. The biggest expense for most of us is getting there and being there, not the per class fee. What I COULD see as a boost is a “rolling up” to a GRAND Champion… let amateurs, ladies, junior horses, open, all compete in a finale!

    Plus, the more options you add, the more likely someone will bring along that one extra horse to get their feet/ears wet. Especially if the horse/rider wouldn’t be competing against more experienced people. There is nothing so motivating as having pinned well to move on to the next level.

    Now, having said that, the two horse classes usually are not a big money maker… but if it brings in people, a little bit of money, and maybe it is the second class for the horse… well….

    I think we can go back to the topic of how to bolster attendance at these shows… do you change the requirements to get to the Nationals? How about a requirement (bite my tongue) in order to get invited to a Regional?

    For what it’s worth

  4. RaeOfLight says:

    Haha, I kinda hoped no one would bring up the regional qualification discussion. Mostly because, while it’s an interesting thing to talk about, it seemed a bit polarizing and the conversation didn’t really lead to any solutions, just opinions from either side of the issue.

    I hadn’t considered the appeal of being able to compete in multiple classes. That makes sense though.

    The reason I would think this would save shows money would be because if you streamline the class schedule, you could potentially cut down the number of days, or at least the number of sessions. I would assume this would trim the cost of officials (this is an assumption, I’ve never been on a show committee). It could also potentially draw more exhibitors if folks don’t have to take off as much time from work?

    Would there be a way to streamline divisions but have some “fun” classes that anyone could participate in? This would give folks the extra classes. In the past at WNY I know they’ve ended one of their evening sessions with a versatility class that included barrel racing. And there’s always the argument that if someone wants to compete in multiple classes they could compete in multiple divisions (*gasp*). I know, I know, it can be expensive with multiple sets of tack and show clothes… just a thought.

  5. smskelly says:

    Thanks for the comment about the Versatility at WNY! We still offer it, and it also exists at the NY Morgan Show. It’s a very popular class among exhibitors and spectators alike. (For those of you wondering, the entries show under English tack, switch to Western and show that way, then run a barrel pattern – placings in each section are added to determine the overall winner.)

    Having sat on show committees for many years, the only way to reduce the cost of the judges is to reduce the number of days of the show – fewer sessions won’t affect that cost. Reduce it too far, you won’t get exhibitors, which means fewer entries, which means less income. It is a tough balancing act!

    I think in some cases, there may be more options than needed (I remember when 3 & 4 yr olds showed back for a Junior World Championship, not like now, when there is a 3 yr old WC and a 4 yr old WC). On the other hand, a lot of the offerings are in place to appeal to, and to draw in, exhibitors. Most shows (and certainly the ones that I am on committees for) put extra classes in divisions where there are lots of entries, eg. Hunter Pleasure. The amateur exhibitor base may go in more than one class, but the other reason for additional classes is for the training barns – that way, they can bring several horses for a division and not have to cram them all into a couple qualifying classes. Let’s stick with hunter pleasure for an example. Say a barn has 3 amateur riders, 2 jr exhibitors, 2 jr horses, and one ladies horse. Instead of having to put all those riders into just 4 qualifying classes (and/or leave some at home), they have options. The amateur riders (depending on the show) may have mares, or stallions & geldings sections (or over and under 15h sections), rather than a single amateur class. The jr horses might be a 3 yr old and a 4 yr old, so the trainer can bring both, and then decide which one to show back in a championship. With the ladies horse, there is an option of an open (or divided by gender) class and probably a ladies class. This means the barn can bring all the horses, rather than picking and choosing who goes and who stays home. An amateur rider that’s not with a training barn might decide the show is worth going to because there are several options.

    I do think, though, that we (the shows, and the industry) need to be careful that we don’t create too many segments within a division, and end up with a whole bunch of one and two horse classes.

  6. leslie says:

    “I do not feel dropping many of those classes will influence more to show in another class.”

    Really? Because if there’s no stallions and geldings, I will show in the ladies, and if there’s no ladies, I will show in the amateur, and if there is no amateur, I will show in the open. Why wouldn’t I?

    I think there must be a lot of geographic variation on this, or maybe even variation from one show to the next. Some of you are alluding to the problem of trainers leaving horses at home because they have too many for a single class. And then there’s the shows I’ve seen lately where it seems like there are more scratches and one-horse classes than there are full classes.

    I do like the idea of showing up to a grand championship, though. When I’ve showed at open shows, the championship is often less meaningful than the qualifier because there’s one qualifier for one championship, and a lot of people decide to skip the championship. If lots of classes trickled in to one championship, that tricolor would be a whole lot more meaningful, and if you were the only one who showed up for your qualifier, you’d still have a chance to actually compete against other horses. Isn’t that generally how the in-hand classes work already?

    For what it’s worth, last year I was the lone entry in the amateur hunter class at an all-Morgan show. Amateur hunter! You’d think that would be the one division that would be safe, but apparently not.

  7. StacyGRS says:

    IMO, this question is a big one and one that needs addressing. V_R brought up a GRAND CHAMPIONSHIP as an additional class, but that is what the championship was meant to be. The divisions were qualifiers…Ladies, Jr. exb., ama, etc and then they all go back in the championship. There is very rarely a situation where there aren’t more than 2 classes one can show in, but, they have to be willing to eliminate the “handicaps” that exist to theoretically put everyone on the most equal ground (which is impossible, btw). ama’s might just have to show against pros, Jr horses against aged, etc but is it really the end of the world? Would we really not rather have a 10 horse class than 5 classes with 2 in each? I would! We were just told the other day that one barn isn’t coming to a particular show because their Jr horse doesn’t have a Jr championship…SO. Is the blue the only reason to show? If so, we need a class for every horse. if not, go back in the open! The divisions take the competitive out of this sport and reward each person with their very own division they can dominate. Now, obviously, some are not that way…for instance a ladies horse SHOULD be different than an ama horse. One can be good at both (and, IMO, all too often the ladies division is not judged as a ladies class, but an open class, but that’s another conversation:), and can certainly show in both, but the ideal criteria are different. If we aren’t going to judge them differently, they might as well show together. If they are seperate classes they need to be judged as such.
    I too am on a show committee. It costs our show approximately $45.00 to hold a class. It costs $30.00 to enter a class. that means this show loses $15.00 for every 1 horse class. Every 1 horse class costs our shows alot more than $$ however…it costs the prestige that comes with winning. It costs us the thrill of competition. It costs us audience members. All of these things cost us show competitors. Why pay all of that money to train, shoe,travel, etc to go against nobody? It’s a problem. But nobody is willing to give up their specialized classes and guaranteed blues, nobody is willing to give up “their” show for the good of the one right before it or right after it. So, we have many shows that divide up the participants between them (nobody can go everywhere) and each show has many classes that divide up it’s entries. Classes are canceled left and right, sessions last 1/2 the time they should, and people wonder why they do this for 5 minutes in the ring by themselves. Shows do have to offer enough variety for trainers to be able to bring multiple horses per division and enough to attract people, but I think we’ve gotten spoiled to where nobody will let their 3 yr old show against a 4 yr old or their 4 yr old show against a 5 yr old because they don’t want to get beat. This is not the attitude of someone that should be competing, IMO. I put my Jr riders back in open championships instead of their 1 horse class, my ama’s in open breed classes (sorry Sue!:) instead of a 1/2 horse breed class because we aren’t just there to get around and collect a ribbon. We’re there to get better. To get experience. To be judged against others and see where we can improve. That’s very hard if you aren’t in decent numbers.
    ps…sorry:) this is a topic I feel very strongly about and it is a situation that many of us have created and unless we change it we’re going to make things go more and more astray.

  8. Vintage_Rider says:

    I agree much of this is regional. I was spoiled in NY and perhaps it was the disciplines I was showing in (WP and HP) were most classes are well attended and “filled” – - – meaning >= number of ribbons. I have watched with some sadness the shows that are not well attended. Where the Jr. horse “champion” competed against only 1 or 2 other horses the whole show. I view with trepidation when owners/sellers claim “champion” on the title, and you find it was a one or two horse class. Some wins now have the stigma of “whoop te do” (and not in a good way). Surely the show committees are watching their attendance in classes – - – and one must look for several years to figure out what is happening – - – for example, there may be a downward trend in EP and an uptake in Classic, or, maybe due to the state of the horse industry during this recession, the number of Jr horses may be dropping over time… and adjust accordingly. Aside from guidelines required at Regionals (you must offer certain classes that may not be well attended or at all), it is up to those committees to provide a schedule that is profitable, competitive, and workable.

    IMO, I love,love,love the versatility classes and other fun classes. They seem to have gone by the wayside in favor of more “serious” endeavors. The people who gather to watch the versatility classes at WNY and NY Regional were HUGE compared to almost every other class, and obviously enjoyed. Kudos to the NY Regional committee for bringing it back.

    Equally impressive are the shows that work to make it fun. Parties, games, and comradery — Kudos to the WNY for that one for sure.

    All that being said, I understand where Stacy is coming from, but again, I think this may be different depending on where one lives and shows.

  9. smccullo says:

    I want to commend any magazine that recognizes accomplishments for those that do show in the OTAB to compete in bigger numbers (I am the “Sue” Stacy referred to ;-) ). I do feel a little sad not showing in my own breed or ama at times, so getting recognition in the magazines for stepping out of my comfort zone is quite cool. But it is absolutely for the greater good of skill improvement where it will be vital for shows like SB and Nationals. You just can’t get the show strategy down without the ring experience of big classes, and whatever I did as a kid for some reason doesn’t apply anymore! :-)

    My parents who are in their mid 80’s and supported me as a kid showing horses TO THIS DAY still ask me – how did I do, and how many were in the class. Don’t we all? When you hear a horse’s show record, don’t you question in the back of your mind how many he competed against?

    It’s hard to really understand how to SHOW your horse, when by default you just ARE because there are only 1 or 2 of you, and therefore nothing else to look at.

    Apparently this problem is more geographical..I sure hope we can fix it in our west coast side. By offering fewer classes, perhaps the $ saved could be put into the single championship class. I find it annoying ama’s can’t win some $. We spend as much money to show, why can’t we win a little of it back? Or if that is a USEF problem, award a gift cert or something.


  10. StacyGRS says:

    I don’t believe money for ama’s is a USEF problem, I believe that it just isn’t there to put in many championships so they’ve often put it in the open because it gives everyone a chance to go after it and that is the division that sort of needs the “bait” at alot of shows. I agree, however, ama’s should get a chance to win money.

  11. RaeOfLight says:

    I almost posted a new thread for this, but it really relates to this issue. I have 2 questions. 1) What sub-divisions do you think could be eliminated? I’m sure it would vary a bit depending on the size of the show and the division itself. But I could see the over/under 15 hands going away. Would anyone be upset over that? Unless it’s a really large division, why would they make this distinction anyway?

    Also, what’s “novice”? Is there some criteria to qualify to compete in a novice class? I know there are novice horse and novice rider/driver.

  12. Vintage_Rider says:

    I am sure someone has this exactly, but Maiden = 0 blues; Novice <= 6 blues I believe. Applies to either a rider (any discipline) or horse in a given discipline.

  13. RaeOfLight says:

    Ok, so we have maiden (horse and exhibitor), novice (horse and exhibitor). All of which I’m guessing are open to amateurs and pros. I’m guessing the number of pros that show in the maiden/novice exhibitor classes are fairly low (if at all) so this is basically a further breakdown of amateur divisions.

  14. StacyGRS says:

    Maiden is having never won a blue ribbon. Novice is having not won more than 3 blue ribbons and limit is not more than 5. The advantage to these classes, in a show that does warrant it, is that you could have these as additional classes for the jr horses. So, you could have a limit class, 3 yr old and a 4 yr old class and a jr champ. and if a trainer had a 3 and a 4 yr old each of them could have 2 classes. Plus it adds in the horses that have changed divisions, horses that got started late, etc. These classes can be useful, IMO. Maiden and novice not quite as useful as limit.
    If I were looking to cut classes, I’d get rid of the ladies championships at alot of the smaller shows. Unless the ladies division is large enough to have 2 qualifiers, then there is no need to have a championship for it. At shows (and in divisions) that lack numbers, I think it’s beneficial to have any age ama championships. let the kids and adults go back together and get the experience and make a class of it. We have one show that does this and it’s my kids and my ama’s favorite show! everyone always wants to go. Ama masters championships aren’t necessary in pleasure or park anywhere that I go, IMO…they just divide the ama division up. At most shows the jr exb park harness is lucky to have 2…make the ama division open to any age. Alot of parents see no benefit to having a park horse because they always show alone. Often jr exb pleasure driving is the same. Very few shows need a 3 yr old championship and a 4 yr old championship in any division. There are no shows out here that have the numbers to support them.

  15. smskelly says:

    I agree with StacyGRS on many of the potential class drops…though I’d say that if the championship qualification is “open”, then the ladies could stay. That is, if the show doesn’t require the horse/rider to qualify by showing in a specific class, then one has the option of qualifying anywhere.

    For example, let’s say I have two horses at a show, and the ladies EP qualifier is back to back with my amateur hunter qualifier. That presents a problem. But…if I can qualify for the ladies championship by showing in the amateur qualifier, all is well.

    At many of the shows I attend, qualification for championships is indeed open in that regard (wording is to the effect of “qualifies by being shown and judged in any class in this division provided the horse is shown by a lady/amateur/jr exhibitor – whichever is required for the championship)….and I appreciate that. It provides opportunity to use any qualifying class to get to the championship that best suits the horse.

    I don’t see the need for individual championships for the age groups, with the exception of 2 yr old driving horses.

  16. StacyGRS says:

    hmmm…we don’t have that out here at all…ever. What’s weird out here, IMO, is we will have a qualifier and championship that are the exact same class…like Ladies English Pleasure and Ladies English Pleasure Championship. You have to qualify for the latter via the former and since there aren’t divisions (Ladies EP Mares, Ladies EP Geldings) the class is the same class again. I don’t like that at all…your option sounds interesting…

  17. smskelly says:

    Both WNY and NY Regional are set up such that you can qualify for a championship in any class as long as you meet the qualification requirements (show a jr horse, or be a jr exhibitor, etc). I think it gives exhibitors more options, and is certainly “user friendly.”

  18. StacyGRS says:

    I do like the idea and the ease of that, it’s quite helpful. My biggest concern would be loosing the individuality of the divisions. An ama class should be judged considerably differently than a ladies, etc. If the same horses are hopping around each of these divisions and crossing, are the exhibitors losing the meaning of the different classes? Are the judges keeping it clear? As a person who has always loved the ladies division, I find it really disturbing when a ladies class is judged like an open class or an ama class. They are not the same and I think the lines have become very blurred. A ladies horse is not an ama horse with a lady riding…I love a true ladies horse and do become very concerned when the meaning of that is lost or something contributes to the blurring of those lines. Just my personal hang up:)

  19. Vintage_Rider says:

    It didn’t occur to me to talk about the qualifying “any class within this division” and if it was commonplace. I know it isn’t everywhere, but if you have an option of adding that to shows, it is a Godsend for enabling multiple classes per horse. Sometimes, if “boxed” into having to show the in the open qualifier to show in the open championship, for example, you are eliminating options for people. I always ride to the best timing for the animal, and that may mean I skip the ama qualifier and go to open mares, for example, because of timing. I am able to ride maybe 3-5 classes in a 3 day show.

    Again back to that magic ratio of classes:horse for profitability.
    In the fuller divisions and larger shows, this may mean you can qualify for a number of championships, and choose or do both championships. I don’t understand shows that don’t use this rule. Seems to me, they are shooting themselves in the foot! Trainers love it too, because as Stacy noted when you aren’t afraid of who your competitors are, you can easily put your ama in the open qualifying class and still qualify for the amateur. Likewise, if you have a good ama horse, you can qualify in an ama qualifier, and go back in the open – - – likewise allowing a trainer some “stretch” and eliminating logjams in the aisles. :-)

  20. smccullo says:

    Question – if we end up with one or fewer championships (which I agree with), how will it be judged and it should certainly be posted in the prize list…I’m not positive, but I thought ama is slightly different than Jr exhibitor, (maybe manners comes before performance? have to check.) That would not work if you threw ladies in there since the criteria are different.

  21. StacyGRS says:

    You simply print it in the prize list and don’t make it a “combined class” but a different class. For instance…ama championship, any age. Very clearly this is judged as an ama class. Either let the ladies qualify to go in the ama championship by showing in a ladies class (if ridden by an ama) or let them go back in the open stake. If they go back in the ama champ, they are going in an ama class and need to show as such and expect to be judged as such. If they show back in the open, same thing. Or set up the schedule that a horse could easily go in the ladies class, the ama class, and the ama champ. 3 classes= more $$ for the show and people would be more encouraged to do it if the option were 1 class (if they’d only show ladies) or 3 classes by doing this.

  22. Flmorgan says:

    Our Regional show tried the Opportunity classes and a few Acadamy classes. They were a sucess in bringing in more entries. Dressage and Hunter were open and also Open English Pl. and a few more. I think we have too many classes in each division and have too many 1 and 2 horse classes. What is a blue when its a 1 horse class? You don’t know how you would stack up against anyone? Fewer Classes per division, more diversified classes and more prize money will bring in more entries.

  23. Vintage_Rider says:

    Amen to the Prize Money. Someone mentioned lack of payouts to amas. That too must be geographical. Shows I have experience with both East Coast and Midwest payout in championships to ama. The bigger money is typically in Open, but ama’s are also supported.

    Hopefully, with the work they are doing on getting corporate sponsors at GN, those payouts will improve too. They were pretty abysmal last year.

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