How to Host a Practice Horse Show

Want to fine-tune your horse and yourself before the big horse-showing event? Put on a practice horse show!

From The American Quarter Horse Journal, with contributions from Kristin Syverson

Practice makes perfect, so holding a practice horse show is a great way to improve your show skills. Journal photo.

It can be tough, especially in this economy, to afford all the big-time shows you want.

To get the most for your money, you probably want to find a way to fine-tune your performance before you hit the circuit. If you need a chance to knock off your winter rust, head to a practice show.

Practice shows help make sure your horsemanship, nerves and organizational skills are in check and are great ways to support your local horse community.

Not enough practice shows in your area? Grab some friends and get some support from your AQHA affiliate. Check out these easy steps for putting on your own local fun show.

As you're hosting your practice horse show, take a look at our Horsemanship Patterns e-book for ideas on what patterns to have your exhibitors run.

Get Lots of Volunteers

Create an inexpensive show with low entry fees by enlisting help from lots of volunteers. Find volunteers to serve as show secretaries, ring crew, gate crew, ribbon crew, announcer, show bill creator and course designer.

Find a Good Location

Make sure to book the facilities well in advance. To increase your chances for a good turnout, try to schedule your practice show on a weekend without many nearby horse shows.

Create Your Show Bill

A practice show can include variations of classes found in approved shows. A reining show, for example, can add divisions like walk-trot reining and green horse-green rider reining. Add some fun classes, and keep the rules simple so everybody can have a good time.

Elicit Help From Sponsors

Although this can be a time-consuming step, phone calls and visits to businesses are a great way to keep costs low. Companies will often sponsor awards, such as the ribbons and trophies, in exchange for acknowledgment in the show program or at the show. Sponsors might also help with concessions or grounds-keeping equipment. Or they might elect to purchase ad space in your show program.

Secure Judges

Either plan to budget for a judge (about $250 per day), or find a judge who is willing to volunteer his or her time. Also determine rules and regulations your judge will need to be aware of.

Coordinate Concessions

Create a small committee of volunteers to determine snack items that will sell well at your fun show. Determine prices to ensure a profit for your association, then figure out where you’ll sell the concessions. Check into whether the facilities have a concessions window or if you’ll need to set up a tent or booth.

Provide the usual horse show variety of food, such as hot dogs, burgers, chips and soda. Buy in bulk at wholesale clubs and discount stores.

Practice makes perfect, so check out our Horsemanship Patterns e-book to have plenty of different patterns to lock in your riding and showing skills.

Get the Word Out

Publicize your show as much as possible about a month in advance, and make it clear that anyone is invited, regardless of experience or horse breed. Send your show’s information to local newspapers, which often publicize your event for free. Drop your show bills off at tack stores, feed stores, western stores and boarding stables. Mail show bills to your association members, and send word to other nearby associations that might be interested in attending.

Not sure you’re up for the task? Consider having an in-barn practice show with competition against barn-mates, other clients of your trainer, riders in the neighborhood or whomever else you can think of.

An in-barn show doesn’t have to be as formal as a “real” practice show, but it can still give you valuable experience.