How To Make Money With Horse Events In Five Easy Steps

Ha ha, just kidding – there’s no way to make money with horses silly. Well okay, with careful planning you can make a small profit and feed your habit by hosting horse events. I’m going to tell you how to do it in the points below.

See Note* below for a little bit about my background.

  1. Start By Selecting An Event

This can be tricky. The options are almost endless, so you need to narrow your thinking to one or two events and then do some analysis. Here are some ways to narrow down the options:

  • Start small – put on a clinic with a local clinician or host a small schooling or Scotia Series show.
  • Know your audience or find a partner who does. Are you interested in hosting a Hunter, Reining, Trail event? It helps to have connections in the community – they can tell you if there’s likely to be a market for the event and when there are gaps in the calendar for that type of event. Talk to your friends!
  • And speaking of market for your event – have you looked for an event you’d like to attend and can’t find? Do others feel the same? Have you checked what’s trending by reading horse blogs and magazines? Is there something new / growing appearing on the scene that people might like to try?
(Your selection process may be different if you’re selecting an event for a not for profit club or group. See note** below.)
  1. Analyze Your Selection

At this point you’re going to do a break even analysis. That’s a fancy term for figuring out what it will cost to host the event, what revenue you can expect, and whether the revenue equals or exceeds the costs.

This analysis will help you to set the fee(s) for participating in your event and you can compare it to similar events to see if the cost is competitive.

In a nutshell you’re going to note the cost of:

  • A daily rate for your selected clinician or judge
  • Insurance (see more info below)
  • Transportation and lodging for the clinician or judge if they are coming from a distance
  • Facility rental (Does it include a cordless microphone? Raking? Stalls? Cleaning? If not budget for these items as well.)
  • Staff (if you need help and don’t have volunteers)
  • Food for clinician / judge and staff / volunteers
  • Your transportation to and from the event and movement of any needed equipment

Then you’re going to estimate the revenue from:

  • Entry fees
  • Auditor fees
  • Stall rental
  • And other add ons you may consider – tack sale tables, canteen, event clothing sales, photography, etc.

And then you’re going to compare costs to revenues and decide if it’s feasible to proceed. Easy peasy 😊

For the purposes of this post we’re going to assume the analysis indicates going forward with the event. Now it’s time to…

  1. Manage Risk

Some pointers to keep in mind:

  • You need insurance for your event and it can be pricey to get insurance for one event. If you do your event through a club they can often cover insurance, but then it isn’t your event / revenue. You may be able to partner with others to insure a group of events and thus reduce over-all costs.
  • Book your event far enough in advance to leave lots of time for marketing.
  • Know what the cancellation policy is for your clinician / judge and also for the facility. Did you pay a deposit and if so is there a cut off date after which you loose it? If so, decide before this date whether you have enough paid entries to proceed.
  • Get (conditional) non refundable deposits or full payment from your participants. Make sure they receive payment information in writing so there aren’t any misunderstandings.
  • Offer an incentive for payment by a specific date, ie those who pay thirty five days in advance (or as indicated by your clinician / judge / facility cancellation policy) receive a reduced early bird entry fee. Plan around this fee in your break even analysis. Stick to it.
  • Know what kind of risk you’re prepared to absorb. For example I’ve run events at a small loss in order to build the audience. The events filled in subsequent years and made money. Sometimes it takes a while for new events to catch on.
  • Make sure that you have a good waiver and make sure everyone signs.
  • Require that event participants wear helmets whenever mounted.
  1. Book and Promote Your Event

It’s time to commit! You should pay any needed deposits for your clinician / judge and your facility. A written agreement is a good idea.

There are some great options for free or low cost promotion. We use Facebook sponsored posts a lot – you can run a great ad targeted at your geographic area and area of interest for as little as $3.00. For example you can target riders in Nova Scotia who are interested in dressage, eventing, western dressage and classical dressage. Or you could target Maritime riders who are interested in reining, western riding, and horse training. The possibilities are endless. I can set up sponsored posts for you if you rent from Five Fires.

Other options for promotions are:

  • The NSEF events calendar
  • Atlantic Horse and Pony events listings
  • Facebook pages, ie Maritime Horse Shows and Clinics
  • Facebook event pages
  • Other social media such as Instagram and Twitter
  • Posters in feed stores and tack shops
  • Word of mouth
  1. Enjoy

This is another oxymoron – anyone who has hosted a horse event may snort at the idea of enjoying it 😊. I’m here to tell you it can be done! There are a few tips to help this along (I admit there is about an hour on the day people are arriving, just as the last threads are getting pulled together, that it’s best not to talk to me. That’s another story 😊) Here are my tips for enjoying your own event:

  • Have boundaries – if you set a date when payment is due stick to it and cancel the event if there aren’t enough people registered by then.
  • Have enough staff / volunteers. I’ll do a future post on actually operating an event and I’ll go into more detail there, but the secret is not to be non stop rushed.
  • Do as much in advance as possible. Don’t leave anything until the last minute. Again, more detail coming in the operations post – stall assignments, supplies to order, printing done, etc.
  • Meal provision can be stressful when you’re already maxed out managing the event. Have a list of restaurants from the vicinity available. If there aren’t any consider bringing sandwich trays and have people pay when they register. (We have some great meal options in Brookfield.)
  • Set up a welcoming event office and enjoy the company – these are your people! In that regard, if there are times when you can’t socialize (and there will be) try to isolate yourself or put up a do not disturb sign.

Five Fires viewing room / lounge is heated and air conditioned.

 

That’s it! I’d love to help you plan an event. Click on the photo in the sidebar for detail on our affordable pricing and many amenities. Please don’t hesitate to call, text (number below) or email if you’d like to discuss the possibilities.

Carol Macomber,

(902)956-2013, carol@fivefires.cawww.fivefires.ca

*Note– I finished my thirty year career with Halifax Regional Municipality as the Director of Community, Culture and Economic Development – a department that included sport development and events management. Bringing the skills I learned there to the horse community has been both challenging and rewarding. Doug Lynch (my husband) and I are very appreciative that we’ve been able to build a small roster of successful horse events.
**Note – In those cases your goal may be more about sport development than making a profit, although even with clubs breaking even is nice! There are a couple of things to keep in mind when selecting events for sport development:
If your goal is to bring more people into your sport then entry level, grass roots events are the most beneficial. This is how you’ll grow numbers.
If your goal is to develop competitive athletes and garner public awareness of your sport then accomplished clinicians with competitive coaching backgrounds and a big following can help to achieve your goal.