Working a horse show

My employer, The Horse of Course, has a lot going on: there’s a brick-and-mortar store, an ever-expanding web store, and two mobile units. One is pretty much permanently out of town: THoC’s owners travel with it up and down the East Coast dressage circuit. (So if you’ll be in Wellington, FL this winter at a dressage show, go say hello!) The other travels more locally- mostly to hunter/jumper and a handful of dressage shows here in Oklahoma.

Over the weekend, the local trailer was parked at the Hunter Jumper Exhibitors of Oklahoma’s Fall Finale Show, one of the biggest H/J shows in the state. I was very excited that I’d have the chance to spend the day working the trailer on Thursday. After all, I’m reasonably knowledgeable about the H/J world (thanks in no small part to many of your blogs!) and love chatting with people. I don’t often have the chance to interact with in-store customers, as I am usually in my office doing things that require me to sit in front of a computer.
There’s a lot that goes into prepping for a show: loading the trailer started about a week before the event. All sorts of things are stuffed into the trailer: grooming supplies, all manner of tack, show clothing, casual apparel, helmets, gift-y items. Display racks and grid walls are also loaded onto the trailer. It’s a process, y’all. Everything has to be secured and tied down so it won’t shift much while the trailer is hauled to the show grounds. The trailer arrives at the show grounds a few days before the show starts; the show management moves the trailer into the building for us. 
The trailer, crammed full of stuff. (There was even more stuff, but it was unloaded already.)
On Wednesday, my coworker Emilie and I headed to Expo Square in Tulsa to unload the trailer and set our display up. Even though the show didn’t start until Thursday, we wanted to make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything; we also wanted to set up our grid walls and tables and get a general feel for how our merchandise would be displayed.
Grid walls are up, tables are up, and rugs are out!

Just about the time Emilie and I got everything set up, schooling in our arena ended. At the end of the day, all the merchandise that’s out is loaded onto racked and stored in the trailer overnight. The chairs, tablecloths, and any loose items on the tables go in the trailer, too; it’s all locked up until the next day.

I arrived at Expo Square around 7:45 AM on Thursday. (Which is way earlier than I normally get to work!) I brought one of my dogs with me- after all, nothing attracts people like a cute dog, right? 
Buttons says “TREAT NOW YES”

It took me just over an hour to unload the trailer and hang everything in its place. I schlepped water in a pitcher from the water fountain for the coffee pot and did my best to make our setup look inviting and fun.

So much stuff, y’all.

I had the best time working at the show! The first customer who came in was a teenager who asked me, “Do you have any Perfect Prep?” (I almost died laughing after she left because of the “What Your Show Helmet Says About You” video.) I sold all sorts of things that day: hairnets, Zocks, sweaters, helmets, and even a few bits. I had a wonderful time chatting with everyone who came in. One girl had recently started a Pony Club in Northwest Arkansas. One woman was thinking of buying a friend’s tack shop and wanted to know what working at one was like. Someone asked me my advice on my favorite type of boot socks.

Perhaps the funniest customer of the day was a harried-looking show mom who came in with her disinterested daughter right before I closed down for the night. She looked at me, wild-eyed, and demanded “DO YOU HAVE ANY BITS?” 
I gestured to the wall behind the cash register and said, “Sure, we have a lot!” 
She said, “I just need like, a regular bit!”
A little confused, I said, “…Like, a snaffle?”
She said, “Uh….I guess?”
I held up a D-ring and asked, “Does the bit you need look like this?”
She said it did, and asked if we had any 4 3/4″ bits. The only one I had on the trailer was a Happy Mouth; Show Mom called her daughter’s trainer and asked, “IS A HAPPY MOUTH OKAY?” The trainer said that no, a regular D-ring was fine. I fished around and found a 5″. Show Mom calls the trainer again: “ALL THEY HAVE IS A 5″, IS THAT OKAY?!” Trainer replies that a 5″ is totally fine. I put the bit on the counter, and Show Mom notices that it’s slightly curved. She snaps a picture, then calls the trainer: “IT’S CURVED!! IS THAT OKAY?!” Trainer replies that curved is fine. I could only imagine the daughter’s poor trainer, rolling her eyes at frantic Show Mom
Show Mom informed me that her husband had taken apart the horse’s bridle to oil it and forgotten to re-attach the bit; I got the impression that Show Mom was on the brink of divorce over this infraction. I was genuinely puzzled as to why Show Dad was the one oiling the bridle, instead of the horse’s rider; better yet, why didn’t the rider know why kind of bit her horse needed?! 
At any rate, the show was super fun- I had a great time talking to customers and encouraging people to pet my dog Buttons. I’m hoping I’ll get sent on tack trailer duty at future shows! 
Buttons watches for customers.

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

15 thoughts on “Working a horse show”

  1. Omg, your dog is Adorable. Capital A. Do you guys carry the Neue Schule Thoroughbred Weymouth? I might be scouring the world for one of those at a reasonable cost…

    1. Thanks, I brought her because she's way cuter and makes less weird breathing noises than our other dog… We don't stock the Neue Schule Thoroughbred Weymouth, but we carry a lot of their other bits. I can get you a price and a shipping time frame on one!

  2. Buttons is adorable! There is a tack shop near my house and I have debated for years getting a part-time job there….sweet staff discount …but horse people can be pretty crazy….as displayed in your post 😛

    1. Buttons is half Corgi, half miniature Dachshund (a 'Dorgi')! I got her as a puppy from a woman I worked with at the time; her Corgi bitch had gotten out with the neighbors' miniature Dachshund. Buttons was perhaps the cutest puppy in the world. Now I joke that she just looks weird- ears like satellite dishes, a back long enough to double as a picnic table, and a tail as long as her body! But she really is pretty cute.

Leave a Reply