Real horses, real judges, real competition, real prizes… is HorseShow.com the wave of the future? Katie Passerotti takes this cyber-horse show website for a spin.
Can’t afford gas to haul your horse to and from the show? Is stabling too expensive? Association fees got you mortgaging your soul? Never fear, there is a new horse show venue that might be right up your alley. HorseShow.com is a site that offers the competitive rider a new outlet for showing off themselves and their horses. All you do is upload a video of you and your horse either from a competition or schooling at home and a reputable judge will evaluate your performance and give you feedback. Entry fees range from free to $25.
Lets compare costs. Showing in four classes at a recognized dressage show (two classes each day) is going to cost about $350 or more and that is just the entry fees, stabling, association and drug and med fees. I haven’t included hauling, hotel, or that deliciously overpriced and stomach knotting show food or the money you’re going to give your instructor to shout things to you as you warm up. You can enter and show in four dressage classes for a total of $60 at HorseShow.com (the current entry fee for their dressage show is $15 a class). Hmmm… not hard to see which one wins math-wise.
HorseShow.com currently offers Arabian classes, showmanship, dressage classes, hunter classes, and western dressage. They also have a variety of fun popularity type contests where you vote for entries. What do you get for your money? You get excellent feedback from reputable judges. Dressage riders are used to this specific feedback; getting our tests back is a way for us to see exactly how we measured up. The judge fills out a test online for you to read through (no more trying to figure out what the scribe wrote! Everything is typed! Whoopie!).
The judges do this for every class in every show. Usually at a hunter show you go in and ride and you don’t have a precise understanding of what that particular judge was looking for and why you placed in front of horse B, but after horse C. On HorseShow.com, your entry fees get you a nice written evaluation of exactly how the judge evaluated you. Here is an excerpt from a hunter round I submitted:
Very nice type of horse–level, quiet, good mind, but looks green because of his balance throughout the course. He jumps well, has a lovely canter, but is “downhill.” You need to work on making him more responsive to your aids first and to rebalance and “lighten” himself, using circles and serpentines with lots of lengthening and shortening of stride. On your course, you trotted some of the jumps (nicely–especially the first) and cantered some–well done–great training exercise. But even 1 trot stride causes your overall score to be in the 50s at a hunter show (scale: 0-100)…….
I found this to be great feedback. Coming from the dressage ring and showing in the more objective hunter ring is tough for me, and I want to understand the nuances that placed me where I placed.
If great advice isn’t good enough for you, you have the opportunity to win some serious prizes. In all classes that have the minimum number of entries (usually only 2 or 3 depending on the show) HorseShow.com pays out either prize money or gift certificates to the top two or three places. How does $250 dollars sound? If you win first place in one of the dressage classes, you win $250. Aside from the Regional Championships (and in that Hallmark movie The Long Shot) where do dressage riders ever make money for their rides? The hunter shows seem to be more gift certificate oriented; the last show gave a $350 gift certificate to Dover Saddlery to each winner. Not too shabby, eh?
So for $15 you get a professional evaluation of your performance and the opportunity to win some major cash prizes.
There are a few glitches I’ve found with the site and some areas I see that could be improved from a competitor’s point of view.
- Communicating with the site administrators is difficult. I’ve searched the site and can’t find a contact email address. They do have a “help” form where you create a conversation with them. I created a conversation with them over three weeks ago and they have yet to respond. The best way I have found to communicate with them is via their Facebook page. They are pretty good about responding to questions posted there. Also, there is one person who I was in email contact with as she is in charge of preparing the prizes to be mailed out–she contacted me first to get some information and every time I have emailed her she has answered happily and promptly. But for someone new to the site, good luck contacting them if you have questions.
- Don’t always trust the countdown dates/clocks that tell you when entries close and when results will be posted. For example, right now the dressage show says that results will be available on April 24. The show tracker on my account page said on Sunday that results would be available in five hours (this was at 9 o’clock at night). This morning it just says “show is being judged.” Just a technical glitch, but confusing nonetheless.
- Some of the terminology on the site seems awkward. I don’t know if this is just me being uneducated or if it truly is wonky wording. In the Dressage show, they call First Level Test One, USEF Level One Test One. Is there a difference? If there is I stand corrected. I’ve submitted my First Level Test One twice now and received a correct scorecard for and no comments saying “this was the wrong test.” It is the same for Second (“Level Two”) and Third (“Level Three”).
- Read the directions for the class carefully, as some of them have conflicting information with the general site guidelines. For example, it says in the FAQ that you may submit a video from a schooling session at home and that you are allowed to use boots or wraps. However, I was disqualified from the hunter class because my horse had on ankle boots, which in a true hunter show situation is correct because boots are not allowed, but it was a schooling video. So which one is it?
- It would be nice if they posted the scores for the dressage videos so you can see how you measured up to the group. Not the score sheets, just the overall percentage scores. This would also be nice for viewers because you could watch a video and see what the difference is between a 60% test and 66% test. A great way to develop your eye as a rider.
- You can use the same video as many times as you want. If you ride the perfect hunter round or dressage test, you can submit it in show after show after show–although you won’t be able to tell if you are making progress if you continue to use the same video.
- The description of each class says “prize money and ribbons” for each class (that meet the minimum entry criteria). The prize money is true, but there are no ribbons. You get a certificate printed out on nice cardstock with the picture of a colored ribbon on it. But there is no ribbon. I have to admit I was a little disappointed when I got my certificate in the mail and no ribbon. (I’m a ribbon girl–I think they are pretty….)
Reasons to use HorseShow. Com
- Inexpensive performance evaluation. This is great to get second opinions on your rides or, if you can’t afford to lesson regularly, here you go, a little mini lesson for $25 or less!
- Fun prizes (who doesn’t want cash!!!???)
- New competition. If you stick to mostly the same circuit and shows year after year, you can sometimes almost always predict who will place in which classes based on the list of entries alone. This is an opportunity for you to face new people and see how you measure up.
Other things to consider:
- It can be difficult to produce your videos. You need to find someone who is good at videoing to film you and depending on how busy your barn is, it might be difficult to secure the needed arena time. I did my first videos at 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning, no interruptions. My second videos were done on a Thursday night–much more difficult as there were actually people at the barn that time!
- For some hunter shows they will provide a course diagram that you need to set up, but most will allow you to use whatever course you set up at home or you ride at a show as long as it includes the minimum number of jumps required.
- Don’t stress too much about setting up your dressage arena! I just eyeball where poles should go to act as my “fence” and then eyeball where my letters go. Of course, if you have the measurements go for it! You can ride your tests in the small arena even though it says on the directions “to be ridden in a standard arena 20×60.”
- For some exhibitors winning prize money may affect your amateur status. A message pops up letting you know the details and criteria that determine whether or not it is something you need to worry about.
- On the same note, if you do win any prize money you have to fill out and submit a W-9. Which means come tax time next year, you may have to pay taxes on your winnings.
Overall, HorseShow.com is a great site and it offers a unique way to show your horse and obtain valuable feedback on your performance. There are just a few technical glitches that as long as you don’t get hung up on them will not affect your participation. The site has been very dynamic since I joined in December of last year. They seem to experiment and try things out and then use the feedback they get to improve the site and the shows. The staff and owners of the site seem committed to making a great resource. I recommend signing up and trying out a class. The feedback you get is great because you can print it out and then re-watch the video with the judge’s comments and see exactly what they are seeing.
And while you are there, check out the “Best Breed” competition. Yours truly did a video on the Thoroughbred (it’s the one all the way on the bottom, my username is “Bastiansmom.”) If you feel so inclined, I would sure appreciate your votes!
Katie & Bastian