Footing And Stabling

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The most significant elements of a show aren’t always conveyed to a competitor in the prize list. We find prominent lists of judges, classes and prizes. But we have to search to find two things that should be foremost in the mind of every competitor: the quality of the footing and the quality of the stabling.

Prize lists usually state the number of rings and the type of footing. They also usually state if the stabling is permanent and whether the stalls have doors. But that’s only a start. Listing the type of footing or stabling doesn’t address their quality. Grass footing can be full of rocks and holes or it can be better than 90 percent of the sand rings we see. A prize list can state that a ring contains sand or blue stone, but it doesn’t address newness, depth, base or drainage issues.

Three of the scariest words in the English language are: “New sand arena.”The same problem applies to stabling. Permanent stabling can have permanent holes in the boards and permanent spikes sticking out of the corners and be even flimsier than tent stalls.

We often enter shows at a facility where we haven’t been before. When we get there, we may be pleased or horrified by what we find. In the heat of competition, we may consider braving the deep footing, but it’s never really worth it. We’ll know not to come back next year or at least be prepared to scratch if bad weather turns moderate footing into a morass.

It’s often true that fine organizers don’t always have the finest footing and stabling. The reason is that they likely don’t own the facilities where they hold their shows and therefore can’t control these elements. There are fewer good facilities than there are good organizers who need them.

We also see organizers who have an entrenched history with a facility and get the dates, but who really could do a better job. Even so, their shows are popular, and we understand why. If the footing is good, we’re willing to put up with a lot of other problems. On the other hand, we see excellent organizers who must deal with a substandard facility because there isn’t anything else available and thus often have a tougher time attracting competitors.

At the end of the show day, when your horse is loaded and you just want to get on the road as fast as you can, you should still take a moment to let the show management know how much you appreciate the footing and stabling. They can’t hear this enough. When the time comes for them to decide where to allocate funds next year, they should know this is why you came.

’Til next month,

-Margaret Freeman