Friday, 17 March 2017

Show Venue Opinions Needed

I'm still working hard on organizing a first ever dressage show in my local area. Some things are coming together, but I recently found out that the arena I was going to hold it at isn't actually quite long enough to put a standard long dressage ring into it. In some ways this is a blessing in disguise as it gives me an easy out from some other stuff that I was getting sucked into with holding it at that location, but it does leave me scrambling to decide on another suitable venue this week before I have to submit the location details to the insuring body.

There are three potential places to hold the show that meet the size requirements. None of them are ideal and they all have their own pros and cons. Please keep in mind that these are literally the only three options in over 100km so I'm going to have to put up with some cons. If you could look at the below info on each and tell me where you would prefer the show to be held if you were competing in it, that would be super awesome.

Image Legend
Excuse my crappy paint drawings, but the images show a birds eye view of the facilities showing the basic layout of the arenas.
Black lines - outline of arena fences or buildings
Red rectangle - place where I could fit competition ring - 20m x 60m
Blue outline - locations available for warm-up

Location F

This is a local boarding barn that also rents out its arenas for events (though usually more roping jackpots than dressage shows).


  • Cost: $300/day
  • Has beautiful indoor arena but it is 17' too short to fit a full 20x60m ring in it, could be used for warm-up
  • Outdoor arena is large enough to fit two 20x60m rings, so could fit standard competition ring plus warm up area side by side
  • Well maintained sand footing both indoor and outdoor, but designed for reiners so a little deep
  • Has indoor aisle for tacking up etc but no indoor stalls
  • Two plumbed washrooms inside barn
  • They have some portable box stalls that they say they can set up outside for stabling but I haven't seen them and don't know how good they will be. Also have option of pens for stabling, but they would be beside boarded horses. Cost for stabling would be $20/horse/night
  • No obvious option for show office, would probably need to bring my own table/tent
  • No place for spectators (it's a dressage show so I'm not expecting a big audience, but the other two locations have some bleachers while this place has nothing)
  • Overnight camping is possible for additional fee
  • Can cancel due to weather or lack of entries but will lose $125 deposit
  • Hard to find location for non-local people 

Location D

This is a new public arena. The board has plans to turn it into a world class location for equine events, but this is just phase 1 so it's mostly an empty plot of land with one really nice outdoor arena. 

  • Cost: $500/day
  • Outdoor arena is large enough to fit two 20x60m rings, so could fit standard competition ring plus warm up area side by side (same length and 10' wider than outdoor arena at Location F)
  • Excellent brand new footing with a fancy arena groomer that they can use to set the ground to the specifications I want
  • No indoor barn or buildings
  • Porta-potties are maintained and available for show
  • No availability for stabling currently, can just tie to trailer right now. They do have plans to put in 20-40 pens with waterers this spring but don't know yet if that will be complete by the date of show (depends on when ground thaws). If permanent pens are not complete, there is option to rent panels to make temporary pens, but I am waiting to hear how many panels are available and if there would be an additional cost. 
  • Trailer available to use as a show office
  • Overnight camping possible for additional fee
  • No problem with cancellation due to weather
  • Just off major highway so good location for everyone
  • The board is really excited to have this place used for multiple kinds of events so even though they aren't super established yet they are willing to work with me in multiple ways to make this work. In turn, as it is a growing public facility, I would like to support them if I can. 

Location S

This is the local stampede grounds. They operate as a business and use the facilities to run their own annual events (stampede, all breed horse show, chuckwagon races). It's a big facility and they rent out their buildings regularly for banquets, trade shows, weddings etc, they will rent out their arenas as well but to my knowledge nobody ever has before (I'm friends with a lady on the board who can't remember the horse parts ever being rented, and the events coordinator had to go to the general manager to find out if it was possible). 


  • Cost: $600/day
  • They have the massive rodeo arena but that costs $1600/day which is out of my show's budget so the above cost is for rental of a smaller sand arena in the in-field plus a portion of track to use for warm-up. 
  • Sand arena is a little deep but has pretty good footing. This is what would be used for the competition ring. It is almost exactly the size of a 20x60m so won't have much extra space around it. 
  • Track area is a decent size but the ground is sloped towards rail and it's a bit of an awkward shape. They say that they can work the ground for me but for the venue's own horse show last year, the track area was rock hard and didn't make for a very good warm-up area. In fact many locals were complaining about it.  
  • Plumbed washrooms available but they are a bit of a hike from the areas we will be using. 
  • Stabling: this is the only venue of the three that has an actual show barn of stalls. It's a bit old but would be perfectly sufficient. Cost for stabling would be $20/night and includes shavings. 
  • Outdoor roofed booth available as show office. 
  • Overnight camping possible
  • No problem if I want to cancel due to weather, however they might also cancel on me to protect their footing if they deem it too wet. 
  • Located inside town so it's central and easy to find, but also kind of annoying to get to with a horse trailer

General Notes

This show is being planned for May 20-21 in Alberta, that means that there is a decent risk of snow, but it could also be beautiful sunny short sleeve weather, or anything in between. When I picked the date originally, it was in consideration of using a facility with both an indoor and an outdoor arena (the location that fell through). Now I'm faced with only an outdoor option so that's something to think about. 

My goal with this show is basically to break even with cost, so cheaper facility rental will mean cheaper entry fees. 

Insurance is being done through the Alberta Dressage Association so is not a factor in the decision between these locations. 

All venues are rented out in a way where they set it up for me, but then they hand over the figurative keys and leave me to my own devices to run the show how I see fit. 

I'm aiming for a two-day show but have an option built in to drop it down to a one day show if we don't get enough entries. All venues are cool with that plan. At this point I could decide to do a one-day show from the start which might get rid of some of my stabling problems. 

This show is being designed to appeal to mostly low level riders, either those new to dressage or with fairly green horses. It's basically one step up from a schooling show (no sport licence required and low key atmosphere, but Medium judge and pretty ribbons).

My current thoughts are that I'm leaning towards Location F because it's cheaper and the indoor warm-up area is a nice option especially if it's an ugly day, but I'm leaning towards Location D because its a good place to support and good people to work with, but I'm leaning towards Location S because it has the best stabling, which basically means I'm super torn! What would you do?


  1. My first instinct is to vote location D. Partially because footing can make or break a show and partially because you want to hold more shows (fingers crossed). It sounds like long-term, location D will be the best place to host.

    That being said, because of location you may have people coming from a fair distance and the lack of stabling could be a deal breaker. I know for myself, my young horse does not reliably tie (he's a violent halter puller) so a stall or pen is a must at a show for us.

    I'm sorry I'm not more helpful but I'm wishing you the very best with your show.

    1. I have similar thoughts. I do feel like D is a good long term option so it would be nice to start that relationship, and footing is important. But on the other hand, my horse does tie okay but I still feel 10x happier at a show, even a one-day show, if I have a good pen or stall to put her in. Tying to a trailer is standard procedure for a lot of rodeo style events but it's not really how dressage shows are generally run so I feel like people are going to expect stabling.

  2. Hmmm... this is tough! Personally, the two things that are most important to me are riding rings and stabling. I don't tie my horse to a trailer, so if there aren't any stalls available, I don't go. I also like variety and availability of riding rings... but then again I need to lunge my horse and if there's nowhere to lunge I won't go.

    For me, I'd probably pick location F -- gives you stabling and multiple rings for warm-up.

    1. For lunging, would you lunge in a flat area of dirt or grass? In both location D and S there is lots of room to lunge, but not in the warm-up area, so not on actual prepared footing.

  3. Could you set up a poll of local people? Footing and stabling tend to be the deal breakers for people. So it is a tough call. I really wish the new place was further along because long term that sounds like the best option.

    1. I'm meeting up with a few local riders tomorrow at a social event so I'm going to ask their opinions, but I think doing a wider poll might open a whole can of worms that I don't want to deal with (all local riders will know exactly which three places I am talking about).

  4. Just based on warm up and cost option F looks pretty good. Honestly the organization often seems to matter as much as venue and given this is your first shot, it might make sense to focus on economy until other details are sorted out? Polling potential competitors might be worthwhile too, tho sometimes that can lead to answers or opinions you didn't really want lol. Regardless good luck!

  5. Here dressage people must have stables or they won't go. If that's the case there then S is the way to go. Otherwise F looks good

    1. That's what I'm worried about. If it wasn't for the stables, I wouldn't choose Location S, but the stables might win it

  6. Location S looks like it has a warm up on a racetrack? Not sure if you have a lot of OTTBs around, but that could be a detriment if you do.

    I like option F as you at least have an option to get out of the weather if needed.

    1. It is on a track (a chuckwagon track), I never thought about the OTTB issue!

  7. As a person who organizes a lot of shows, I'd go with Location F. I find that competitors at my club's shows are primarily concerned with adequate warm up space and footing. Sandy, deepish footing in both the warm up and competition ring is better than bad footing in either area. I find that most of our competitors like to have some kind of stabling available- they don't really care so much about getting out of the weather as they do having a place to stick the horse while they're not riding and are socializing/watching other people ride. I'd say you'll probably be alright on the lack of spectator seating if you'll allow people to set up chairs by the ring.

    Good luck with the show!