We’ve all been to a show or two that was just simply poorly run. The schedule changed at the last minute; rings are held for forever; ride times are way off… the list of mistakes can go on and on. When you’re a competitor in this situation, it’s hard not to get pissed off, and let show management hear your displeasure. Trust me, I’m right there with you! It’s not only incredibly frustrating when you and your horse are ready to show, but management isn’t… and worst of all, it can really impact your performance, that you’ve worked so hard to perfect.
But I also spent time on the other side of the fence, so to speak, as part of show management. And I promise you, they’re not doing it on purpose. Management doesn’t want the show to be poorly run, and the office staff isn’t happy to hear your bitching. So here are a few tips to let your opinion be known, but to stay calm, cool and collected so that you can still put in your best performance.
If you are riding your horse and shit hits the fan, don’t lose your temper at that exact moment. Not only are you going to look like a crazed maniac in front of everyone else standing at the ring, but your horse is going to notice your change in attitude.
Instead, walk away, take a few deep breaths and finish your ride first. After all, that’s what you came to do!
When I’m pissed, I’m not always logical. Sometimes I blame things on others that they really had nothing to do with. So before you make a complaint, take the time to think it through in your head… or better yet, discuss it logically with a barnmate or friend. Spouting profanities at show management isn’t going to get you anywhere; I promise they’ll just tune you out.
But if you present a clear, concise and reasonable complaint, show management will not only hear you, they’ll respect you.
Adding a little empathy to your complaint always softens the blow. Take a moment to think about what show management is dealing with, and try to be relatively sympathetic. Yes, you’re the customer, but if you can see them working hard, or you notice that they’re really overwhelmed, just mentioning those simple facts will help ensure that you’re heard. After all, you’re both here to show, aren’t you?
It’s never appropriate to complain directly to a judge. Always speak with show management, the show steward or the ring master; don’t approach the judge directly. And if you go to a show with a trainer, express your displeasure with them first. Chances are they feel the same, but a complaint from a well-known and respected trainer is always going to carry more weight than the same thing said by Jane Smith.
Finally, after the problem has been addressed, you have two options, and only two options. You either let it go and move on, or you leave and don’t come back. It’s really, really hard for me to drop an issue sometimes, but you’re only hurting yourself if you continue to stew about it for hours or days on end. And if it really, really ticked you off, don’t go back! Refusing to patron a specific show or management company speaks for itself. Plus, in the end, you’ll be happier if sh*t is really that messed up.
What tips do you have for handling a tough situation with show management?