Number of entries is the single biggest factor that determines if a show is going to work. So many of the costs of putting on a show are flat rate costs, but money comes in by the entry, so a difference of only a few people can make the difference between going into debt or turning a profit.
Two days before the closing date of the show, I only had two entries and I was pretty sure I was going to have to cancel. (I had set closing date the latest I could without losing my deposit on the facility etc. so I couldn't rely on late entries)
As someone who is trying to get dressage off the ground in this area, with both the show, and with the clinics, I have found that there are a few types of people. First, there are the awesome ones, the ones that are thrilled to finally have local dressage opportunities, will rearrange their schedules to make sure they can attend, and will go out of their way to help make events successful. There are a few of these people and they are awesome. These are the people who make me happy to put in the hours to organize clinics and shows, because I see that they appreciate my efforts and I love seeing them do well with their horses. Unfortunately there is a second, larger group of people who say they want to participate in things, but it's a real struggle to get them to actually put their money where their mouths are. I understand that not everyone will be able to make every show, but it's frustrating when people tell me they are interested but then don't enter just because they haven't ridden as much as they wanted to in the last couple weeks. I have tried to spread the message that these events won't be able to happen if there isn't enough support, but it hasn't gotten through to everyone. Third, there is the group that complains. Thankfully this group is small, but I need every entry I can get so I can't ignore or dismiss them. There was one lady who complained at length about how she wouldn't come if there weren't show-supplied test callers, so, I changed things up and offered test callers for a nominal fee, and had to rework my volunteer requirements to make it feasible. Then, she complained about the volunteer hours, I talked to her about options of making it work, and after all of that, she still didn't enter. Finally, there is the group that you don't know about in advance, you don't hear anything from them but they find your prizebook somewhere and suddenly you get sent an entry as a nice surprise.
I ended up getting entries from all four groups, but all of them waited until almost the last possible moment to enter. I understand when people want to wait until closing date to decide which tests or levels to sign up for, I've done it myself, but it's sure a good way to give the organizer a panic attack!
In the end, I had a total of 12 entries (including myself), so it was a very small show. I originally thought I would need at least 20 to make the show feasible, but most of the people who entered signed up for 6-8 tests over the weekend instead of the average of 3-4 that I was expecting, so the numbers added up okay. For a single ring dressage show over two days, 120 tests would have been a full show. My show had 68 tests over the weekend so it was more than half a show, which I thought was decent for the first attempt.
One competitor emailed me two days before the show to say that she was just too overwhelmed with other things and would have to scratch. She didn't expect her money back, which was great because I didn't have enough margins to repay her, but I was sad that she didn't get to participate.
We also had one horse rung out for blood in the mouth. This was the pair's first show and one of their first off property trips so there was a lot of tension on both sides and it resulted in a bitten tongue. The horse is fine and the rider and judge had a productive discussion. A bloody mouth was really not how I wanted to showcase dressage to the people who came out to watch though.
Show Ring Parents
My own parents are the least competitive people on the planet, and they aren't horsey in the slightest, so the idea of "hockey parents" at the side of the horse show ring is a bit of a foreign concept to me. Being a show organizer showed me that these do exist though. I didn't have any issues with any of the actual competitors, but I had a couple parents literally tapping their toes in my show office, impatient for results to come out, and getting upset when "certain goals weren't reached". Trying to accurately tally up scores while people stood around waiting was the most stressful part of the weekend for me (and for the record, all scores were out an hour after the last ride of the day, so I don't think I was excessively slow!)
One of the biggest complaints of the show was one that is really hard to do anything about. The facility was located near to a major train line. Large freight trains rumbled by fairly frequently. Some of the horses were not fans and would get a bit upset. Also, it made it tough for the riders to hear their readers. Luckily the trains were less frequent on Sunday. All in all, if that's the biggest complaint, I think the show went pretty well. I'm going to encourage the facility to plant a line of trees on the edge of the property beside the track as I think that would help quite a bit with the sound and motion. Also, the stabling (outdoor pens) were located near the tracks. Since it was a small show sometimes one horse would be left alone over in that area while all his neighbors were in the show ring. I think a larger show and more horses stabled would help to keep things chill.