When it comes to holding a show, you have three fundamental options:
1. A completely unrecognized show = schooling show.
2. A RMDS recognized show = run under USEF Level 1 competition rules.
3. A fully recognized show = run under USEF Level 1 competition rules or higher.
A list of specific requirements for the different levels can be found in the USEF rulebook in the Dressage division. A chart for levels 1-5 can be found on pages 541-544, DR126. https://www.usef.org/forms-pubs/F3p8pgrWgAo/dr-dressage-division
Lately several people have asked how to hold a RMDS show
RMDS has listed the requirements right here - http://rmds.org/uploads/Organization/StandingRules.pdf
A quick summary:
When in doubt or not stated in the RMDS rules, RMDS will default to USEF rules. Therefore it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Dressage rulebook and also the General rulebook. They are available on the USEF website at www.USEF.org.
A facility that has a dressage arena and a warm-up arena. You can hold your show either in an indoor or outdoor. Your arena should either fit a dressage ring or measure 20 x 60 meters. If you are close to the correct size, you can ask for an exception. You also need to have a dedicated lunging area.
A judge’s stand (which in a pinch could be a pickup truck or the back of a horse trailer) ideally is placed back 5 meters from the arena. Your stand cannot be inside the arena if that will make it too short. Letter should be placed 0.5 meters back from the arena or on the kickboards or wall of an indoor arena if the arena width is 20 meters.
Parking for horse trailers, spectators and helpers. You also need a restroom. If your bathroom in the barn can’t handle the crowd then rent portable restrooms.
You need a manager and secretary. They can be the same person if very experienced, though I highly recommend you have two people for this. If you have never been a show manager or show secretary before then you should hire those. This is in addition to the judge, TD and EMT that you must hire for your show.
Another prerequisite for your show: a few good volunteers. A scribe for the judge, a runner that will bring tests to the show office to be scored, a warm-up steward to help riders get to the arena in a timely manner and a bit and equipment checker to check the riders and horses once they have completed their test. It is also quite helpful to have office help that can double check the scoring and help with checking in riders, posting scores, etc.
Equipment and materials needed
Arenas should be freshly groomed at the start of the day and then dragged again during the lunch break. If you anticipate a dry day you should also have an option to water the arenas during lunch.
2-way radios for all show personnel are great. It is the fastest and easiest way to communicate (cell phones sometimes don’t work well in remote areas); they are not required.
Office equipment – computer, software (highly recommended), printer, tests (need to be labeled or hand written with horse/rider information), pens, lots of clipboards (legal size clipboard recommended for the tests), a place to post day-sheet (order of go) and scores.
Pillows and possibly blankets for judge and scribe, cooler for judge’s box (with some water and snacks), paperweights, Kleenex, bug spray, sunscreen for judge and scribe. Have extra for your runners, warm-up stewards and bit checkers.
Ribbons – you can order them online from Hodges Badges or other suppliers. You can also order bridle tags from Hodges. Decide how far you wish to place your classes (e.g. ribbons to 4th place, 5th place, 6th place). You can also offer first place prizes and high-point awards. Competitors appreciate getting prizes in addition to their ribbons.
Timelines, advertising and other considerations
It is best to plan for a show at least 6 months to a year out. If you know that your facility can fulfill all requirements, then check the show schedule on the RMDS website and see where your show might fit best. Also consider weather if you are planning an early or late show in the season.
For a RMDS show it is your choice if you wish to offer food on the premises. You need to have food for your officials and volunteers if you run for a full day. Providing coffee and donuts or some free snacks makes for a nicer environment and your competitors are more likely to attend one of your future shows. If you are planning on selling your own food, make sure you are not in violation of any food safety laws.
Contract judges, TDs, EMTs early, some of them book a year out. Hire a manager/secretary if you cannot run the show yourself – again, they tend to book early.
Order your ribbons early (they charge rush fees if you get close to a show date). A full day will be about 40 rides, a very full day will be around 60 rides. When you offer different divisions (Junior/YR, Adult Amateur, Open) you need a lot more 1st and 2nd place ribbons than you need 3rd and below. Contact me if you are unsure on how many ribbons you should order.
Create a prize list and consider advertising in the RMDS omnibus. Check out prize lists from other RMDS shows as samples. Your prize list needs to be accessible (e.g. on your website).
Get your show on the RMDS calendar and start getting the word out on Facebook, Twitter, your website and all other online places that allow you to promote your show. It also helps to do a direct email – either via your personal list or to the RMDS membership via an email blast.
When you create your day-sheets make sure you have breaks in the schedule. There are USEF rules that pertain to scheduling. You can find them in rulebook at www.USEF.org.
Here are some tips on how I schedule: I normally put the first 10 to 15-minute break after about 90 minutes from the start time, then 45 to 60 minutes for lunch and another 10 to 15-minute break in the afternoon if the show runs for a full day. It is also a good idea to “pad” your schedule, that means I will start the next class 1 to 2 minutes later after every 6 to 8 rides. In other words, if by your calculations the class should start at 11:05 am, I might start it at 11:07 am. That gives a little extra time for incidents like off course riders, or the judge needing more time for comments. Overall it will keep you on schedule and make your riders happy.
Why to hold a RMDS show
Holding a show at your barn might be a great benefit for your boarders as they don’t have to travel to a show. It also can give your barn community a boost with everyone getting involved. Shows can be a great marketing and promotion tool for your barn and resident trainers. And finally: a well-run and well attended show will make you money. So, go ahead, be brave and hold your very own RMDS show.