Show Experience

Waiting To Be Called

As a marketer, I am often asked to wear the hat of an event planner and can confirm from experience that event planning is tedious. From an overview perspective, events are fairly simple; pick an objective and a theme, then begin funneling down to the details. Flip to the detail perspective and events can quickly become overwhelming as they require a great deal of logistical and organizational prowess. For this reason, I am truly empathetic to the great folks who organize and conduct horse shows like the Appaloosa Nationals that I had the fortune of attending last week.

For participants, horse shows are stressful and can turn the sanest person into a crazy horse show mom, exhibitor, trainer, etc. Even the smallest unfortunate detail of the world’s greatest horse show can become the catalyst for an all-out meltdown. So, I gave myself a couple of days to really unwind and compile my thoughts regarding the overall experience I had at the National App show.

Unfortunately, as I balanced the good moments with the not-so-good moments my feelings scale fell slightly to the side of disappointment. That is not to say I would take back my experience— I am thankful for the opportunity and proud of myself for attending. I am also very pleased with my horse’s performance. She stood her ground in a sea of beautiful show horses and proved she had every right to compete at a National event.

Overall, the event was well organized. The ApHC staff were helpful and accommodating. The facility was safe and clean, though we did have a bit of a hiccup setting up the trailer. The camper hook-up boxes were backwards for every other trailer, so it took some creative parking to make our power cable as well as our septic hose reach their opposing destinations— normal stuff and not a big deal.

Like other appaloosa events, most of the exhibitors were very friendly. This trait is the foremost reason I’ve chosen to participate in the Appaloosa Horse Club instead of other organizations such as the American Quarter Horse Association. I like talking with people! It’s my favorite part of a horse show.

At one point, a very nice lady began a conversation with my dad. They talked for a little while before I joined in. She was so nice and made such a great impression for the appaloosa breed. We would later find out that our new friend was Sherri Mell, an honoree in the Cowgirl Hall of Fame!

Then, there was the trainer (I’ll leave names out this time) who was obviously more interested in his personal objectives than speaking with me. His stalls were painstakingly decorated with advertisements, monogrammed curtains and furniture— too bad all of that went to waste as he didn’t have the time of day for someone he didn’t know. It is so unfortunate how this negative experience can shadow such a positive moment like meeting Ms. Mell.

The show itself is the highest weighted portion of my disenchantment. I knew going to Nationals the class numbers would be minimal, particularly for my classes. But, it is ridiculous to have classes with only one or two entries. Even the 3 year old hunter under saddle class only had like 9 participants. And, the number of spectators was dismal. This sort of participation sends my poor marketing brain into an absolute tizzy. As an event planner, you should know your cost for each activity. If the participation in the activity is not enough to cover your expenses, do something about it! Add a prize. Drop the fees. Do something to encourage participation!

Not only should the event be worth the time and energy of the hosting organization, it must also be worth the expenses incurred by each exhibitor. For my dad and I to attend and compete in two classes, our total expenses were $2,651. That included 191 gallons of diesel at a total cost of $568, our show fees, camper hook-up, food, and a few souvenirs. For us, it was our summer vacation. We got to see my brother and his family, and we enjoyed the attractions in Fort Worth. From that angle, it was a great deal. However, divided by the total number of ApHC points we received, we should get a refund. Seriously. Where’d that $50 charge for drug testing go?

It was an 18 hour drive back home to which we arrived at 1 am Saturday morning. Texas was hot. I was exhausted. I threw my horse in the pasture, which is where she will stay for the next few days. She deserves a break for her fabulous performances.

In all, I could not be more proud of my horse, my dad or myself. We brought home some pretty trophies, so we can mark this off our bucket list and look forward to the next app show (one closer to home). The next “big” show is the Appaloosa World, which is also held in Fort Worth in the fall. It is my understanding this will be a larger event with respect to exhibitor numbers. Unfortunately, teachers (even marketing teachers) don’t get to take vacation in October, so I’ll settle to watch the live stream and hope everyone in attendance has a fantastic experience.

Opportunity Costs

Appaloosa Nationals with Illegal Vixen

It has been a great summer! For the first time since high school, I have had the freedom to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I’ve been able to play with my horse and I took an entire week (7 days) to attend the 71st National Appaloosa show in Fort Worth, Texas. Life is good, but I think it is important to recognize what we have to give up in order to take advantage of these opportunities. 

As a youth, I knew I wanted to have a corporate job that would allow me to afford horses. I earned a bachelors degree in business marketing and found my niche in the financial industry. To continue my climb up the corporate ladder, I went back to school for my MBA and was rewarded with a corporate title and officer perks. Unfortunately, my role also came with an expansive territory that required me to be in Birmingham, Atlanta, Tupelo and Ocala regularly. Suddenly, I found myself able to afford the monetary cost of my horse, but there wasn’t enough time in my week to actually see my horse (or my husband). It was also impossible for me to take a vacation without spending several hours each day on the phone or answering emails because the bottom line never stops calculating. For my mental and physical well being, something had to give.

At my breaking point, a new opportunity presented itself; one that I would have never sought on my own. A friend asked if I’d be interested in teaching high school. The county I live in was building a college and career academy, which is a program within the public school system designed to teach high school students vocational skills while giving them the opportunity to earn college credits. In addition to drafting, nursing, engineering, and a host of other career path instructors, the school needed a marketing instructor— someone from the corporate sector who could teach from real-world scenarios. Someone like me! 

It was a scary decision. You hear so much negative about what teachers go through and the challenges they face. I also knew I’d be giving up my corporate credit card, stock options and a marketing budget most marketers only dream of having. Oh, and I’d be gaining the public education system pay scale. But, I also knew I would benefit from Christmas and summer vacations, and I would no longer have to travel away from home. I decided to jump in! 

I was literally thrown into a classroom and expected to keep a herd of 14 year olds in line. (Fortunately, teenagers like treats and will do pretty much whatever you ask in exchange for a Jolly Rancher.) I quickly found the classroom to be a perfect environment for someone like me. Much like our equine friends, teenagers desire leadership and understanding. They enjoy positive reinforcement and rarely act out for no reason. And, if you earn their trust, they will work hard for you. 

One of the first lessons I developed for my marketing class revolves around the concept of opportunity costs. Opportunity costs are the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. For example, when I left my corporate position, I lost the potential for continuing up the corporate ladder, therefore also losing added incentives such as raises that may have come with future promotions. In my classroom scenario we compare growing grapes versus oranges, but I really think this concept can be applied to all aspects of life, especially when life includes horses. 

For me, choosing horses means that I get an entire summer off. It also means that I have lost the opportunity to attend the Appaloosa World show because teachers don’t get to take vacation in October. This give and take is minimal in comparison to some of my horsey friends who have to consider much greater opportunity costs such the gain of having children versus horses (I’ll touch on this in more detail in future posts). 

Ultimately, everyone who attended the Appaloosa Nationals had to give up something in order to be there. I am going to write a follow up on this with the exact costs of my trip to the Nationals. In the meantime, what have you given up to accommodate your horsey life? What were the alternatives? Are you happy with your decision? 

Too Hot

We made it! We made it to the 71stannual Appaloosa National Championship show in Fort Worth, Texas. Hooray! I can strike an item from my bucket list, assuming I don’t melt before I show on Thursday. It’s hot here in Fort Worth. Not like the hot we feel in South Georgia with 100% humidity. No, this is the kind of hot that sucks every drop of moisture from your skin even if you’re sitting in the shade.

To help make the trip a little less stressful for Vixie, we tried to make a few extra accommodations.

Trailer fan– My 3-horse Lakota is well insulated, but it still gets hot with a 1,200 pound halter horse radiating heat inside of it. So, I had my husband install a 12-volt truck fan above her back. I was pleasantly surprised at how much air that little thing can put out and it keeps going even when the truck is stopped. It was less than $30 on Amazon and took my husband about an hour to install.

Early mornings– We left South Georgia at 5 am Friday morning, which put us in Vicksburg, Mississippi right at 1 o’clock our time (noon central). We stopped at the cutest horse hotel, Bridgeport Farm and Horse Hotel, which was perfect. The owner, Ms. Jo, was so nice. She had a stall ready for Vixie along with access to a grassy round pen. Her trailer hook-up was right next to the barn, so I was able to check on Vixie whenever my anxiety called. Ms. Jo also kept a watch on Vixie for us while we went into Vicksburg for lunch. We left there at 5 am again and made it to the show grounds around lunch time. Because we’d left so early, the traffic wasn’t too bad, but Vixie was definitely worn out from the trip.

Ice– A friend of mine suggested I take ice for the trailer floor. She recommended using pelleted shavings with ice scattered across the top to pull the temperature of the trailer down quickly. Fortunately, the trailer never got to the point we needed ice, but we had a cooler full just in case.

Liniment wraps– Wraps are one of those toss up items—you’re danged if you do and danged if you don’t. I personally opt to leave them off for long trips because they can get loose and fall. I did, however, take a set of wraps and liniment just in case I needed to pull Vixie’s internal temperature down. I placed the quilts in the ice cooler with the plan of pouring liniment on them if I needed to use them.

Water- This one is tough for me because Vixie won’t drink on the trailer. I carry water on the trailer and always have a bucket handy. I’ve walked into plenty of McDonalds’ bathrooms, bucket in tow, to get fresh water for my horse. Of course, I always end of dumping it when my mare doesn’t drink, which makes me worry about her getting dehydrated. This was part of the reason we decided to stay a night at the horsey hotel.

Now that we are here and settled, my horsey-gage is working overtime. Fortunately, Vixie does know this routine and has settled without much trouble. She drinks water like she should—I know because I check her two buckets every couple of hours. And, I’ve dropped her normal work routine down to less than twenty minutes. The two fans in her stall don’t seem to do much more than blow the hot air from one side to the other while covering her in dust and dirt, so she’s also gotten several baths since getting here, too.

While I have enjoyed the horse show and tourist venues (it’s been 15 years since I was here in Fort Worth), I am looking forward to the trip home. I never thought I’d miss 90 degrees with 100% humidity, but here it is. I’ll take the same precautions on the way back east and maybe figure out a few more.

Do you have tips and tricks for getting through the summer swell? How do you get through the summer show season without stressing yourself or your horse?