My field of muddy, muddy dreams.
I don't know how many times I'll quote the 1989 Kevin Costner movie, Field of Dreams, in this blog post, but... it's going to be a lot people, so settle in and refresh yourselves on that great movie for a minute. Remember our beloved Iowa farmer Ray who hears a mysterious voice one night in his cornfield saying, "if you build it, he will come" and a vision hits him of a baseball diamond in his field. Well Ray goes a little crazy, enlists the help of some deceased baseball players, almost loses his farm in the process but builds the damn diamond anyway and in the end hundreds of cars can be seen approaching the baseball field, fulfilling his prophecy.
Being on a show committee.. it's kind of like that... kinda.
Basically, if you build it, they MAY come.
A LOT goes in to producing a show, a lot more than I ever really thought about, and it opened my eyes to the fact that many cutters (or you other crazy kids that show other versions of horses) may also not recognize the blood, sweat, and tears... and in our case... landscaping fabric, wind and mud... that goes into putting on a show.
You are going to start off with getting together a committee, they are going to be from different worlds, different training barns, different mindsets and they are going to have different ideas on how to create the best show possible. Some of them may be best friends, some of them may not be. Some of them may be control freaks (not me... that's not me you guys), others may be your own trainer or trainers that help you in the show pen often (try not to piss those one's off, I know you might), maybe some are business men, others are coordinators that are kind and sensitive, while others are a family that seem to just get shit done (Hi Warrens, I see you guys!). I know for a fact that many people understand what I'm getting at here because when I said I was joining the Okotoks Classic committee this year many people sighed, shook their heads and said, "ugh... committees... committees are the worst." It's time to dispel that attitude because aside from venues that run their own shows (Silver Slate - how do you do it?!), committee's are the reason that many of you get to walk to the herd. It may sometimes be tough, tiresome work, but it's pivotal to creating great shows. You know, aside from a hiccup or two, I was pretty lucky this year to be on a committee of people that despite anything else wanted to produce a really great cutting, any which way they could.
So with that idea in mind, details started coming in to place to hold the third annual Okotoks Classic which has (in my humble opinion) the best novice competitor initiative in Canada, The Novice Challenge. Three classes, the 500 Limit, 1200 Limit and 2,000 Limit, where the top three from each class go on to a shoot-out style finals where the champion wins a saddle. So, when my ACHA director of the show asks for help with the Novice Challenge, securing prizes, what do I do? Jump head first in like a psycho and start calling anyone I know to give me money for sponsorship, and you know what - it worked! This year I was able to have championship buckles for each class, Back On Track Canada came on as a major sponsor and donated therapeutic mesh coolers for each reserve champion, and we had custom lasered knives for the third place competitors.
If you begin to build it, you will need sponsorship.
Sponsorship makes the cutting horse world go round. Have you ever complained about your show, or association, not having great aggregate or year end prizes? You know why... because it's REALLY EXPENSIVE to do that. The entry fees WILL NOT cover prizes for classes, and that's where sponsors come in. So this year, like a possessed hunting dog, I kindly and sweetly harassed people until they came on board as sponsors, and then I quietly vowed to myself that they would be recognized because it's a really wonderful and supportive thing to give your money away so someone else can win a wicked prize. Which leads me to another realization that I had this year... competitors, if you win something at a show, you should thank the sponsors behind that prize. It seems redundant, but it is important for the longevity of that sponsor. If sponsors feel they are getting exposure, and feel good about donating their money, the likelihood of them returning the next year is much higher than if they feel under appreciated and not valued.
If you build it, you will hit road blocks.
Remember that one time we doubled our added money for the Open, Non-Pro, and Derby classes? Or how about when we sought out sponsors so we could have the best Novice Challenge prizes, and aggregate champion sheets? How about when we brought in a practice pen for the first time? All these things led to a 30% increase in entries for the show - by all accounts, a big success! On Saturday, around 1 pm, it started to POUR rain. Our flag, our practice pen, our outdoor pen - it all went under water and all outdoor classes were moved inside, meaning the show ran until 9 pm Saturday and Sunday. When it's dumping rain on your competitors, everyone involved has to maintain some sort of sense of humour, trust me - maintaining some sort of sense of humour is KEY. My favourite quotes came from a few different people this weekend, but when someone asked a well-known Non-Pro how it was going, he responded, "Well, they are cutting in there, aren't they?" and he was right, people were cutting, herd after herd, people cut cattle and that was the whole point of the show, and that's what happened.
If you build it, everyone may not be happy with it.
As a committee member you will face criticism - whether constructive or not. Don't get bowed up, don't try to fight that, what you need to do is take that and put it towards your show next year to make it even better. I learned A TON these past three months and know that next year I will be able to better implement some things that fell through the cracks this year.
To quote Keith Stewart as he was hanging and cable tying landscape cloth around our outdoor pen on Friday night at 8 pm after it already been blown down by the wind once, "Everyone wants to do cowboy shit, until it's time to actually do cowboy shit." Mostly this series is about your cutting horses being the unicorns in the equation, but sometimes you just have to believe in yourself, and that you are the unicorn too. Thanks for reminding me of that Okotoks.
From the bottom of my heart - a huge thank you to everyone that made the Okotoks Classic run so smoothly this year - committee members, sponsors, volunteers, competitors, trainers and friends of cutting, I couldn't have done it without you. Here's to bigger, and better, and way more dry next year!
& oh yeah.. I showed too... on another horse, but that's a post that's still coming down the drain.