prizes, Prizes, PRIZES!
By Brandy Von Holten
Prizes for an equine competition allow you to connect with your competitors, acknowledge their accomplishments, have fun, and promote your event! Prizes can range in price, size, and usefulness. With my husband and I hosting for several different organizations at our equine facility in Missouri, I have come to understand some tricks of the trade when purchasing prizes. It will depend upon which organization, the number of competitors, the cost of the entry fee, and any written or unwritten rules by each association.
You have to be careful with giving money as a prize. You do not want to make a competitor ineligible in a different association from winning a few dollars at your competition. Make sure you understand the rules and have an alternative prize. Some associations do not allow their novice riders to win money, but will allow them to win gift certificates. Do some homework. Your competitors will appreciate that you are looking out for them!
Judge’s Picks/Shout Outs
In addition to prizes, I would highly recommend “judge’s picks or shout outs”. Acknowledging the new competitors, giving someone praise for hitting the ground but getting back on their equine, saying thank you to supportive spouses, or having humor about when things go wrong are all great ways to build a relationship with your competitors. If someone finally wins a ribbon, acknowledge it! If someone is riding a 3 year old instead of their seasoned competition horse, acknowledge it! These prizes do not need to be expensive: candy bars, pack of gum, rubber duck, plastic horse, koozie, pop, or a lanyard, etc.
Keep Doing the Basics
Feed buckets, bronc halters, and spur straps are pretty common prizes. Keep buying them. There are new competitors that have not yet won those prizes and it would mean the world to them! I still use a bronc halter that I won as a novice rider and I think about it every time I use that halter.
Salt block on a rope, fly sprays, feed scoops, hoof picks, wound dressing, hoof supplements, and do not forget the treats! People love their horses and mules and love receiving prizes for them! I recently started buying dog treats and prizes, because most people that have a horse/mule also have a dog.
Prize Table vs Assigned Prizes
If you have assigned prizes, you should announce the competition results from lowest to highest. If you have a prize table, you need to announce the competition results from highest to lowest. If you have several competitions in one weekend, make sure and rotate the division you announce first to let different levels of riders get to select from the prize table first. There are perks to each way. Sometimes competitors that place higher up will actually leave the better prizes and prefer something less expensive.
Show Some Enthusiasm!
In all honesty, people are probably going to be happy with whatever the prize is because it acknowledges they have achieved a goal. The more energy you can put into the awards presentation, the more excited the recipient will be. You would be floored with how many times I have to remind someone to pick up their prize after they received their ribbon. The prize is just icing on the cake!
I place more thought into our prizes than money. There are deals, specials, bulk orders, and close outs waiting on you to make them a deal! Get creative and have fun!