Great Gifts

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You’ve set your show dates. You’ve lined up judges and other officials, and you’ve drawn up prize lists. Now, what will you give out as trophies to the winners?

Horse-show trophies can serve several ends. First and foremost, a trophy is a keepsake for the winner. It can also be a way to advertise your farm or to promote one of your sponsors. But the best trophies are those that competitors will value and be proud to win—not just trinkets they’ll leave behind at the end of the day.

“We try for things people can care about,” says Vikki Karcher Siegel of Snowbird Acres in Long Valley, N.J., a farm that runs USEF-recognized shows and unrecognized schooling shows year-round. How can you meet that goal while staying within budget for a show? Here are some ideas from Siegel and other horse-show managers.

COLLECTIBLES

With expenses rising, many shows have eliminated trophies for individual classes and award them only for championship and high-point winners. Others have sought out less expensive trophy options. “I feel if you win first place, you should come away with something besides the ribbon,” says Siegel.

Snowbird’s solution is ceramics—mugs, soup cups, plates, and other pieces with the farm’s logo. As trophies, the items are attractive display pieces, and they’re useful. “For five years we did a different item each year, so people could put together place settings,” she says. “Exhibitors collected items and traded them. Now we’ve added wine glasses. It’s important to have that continuity.” Siegel shops suppliers online for the items she wants, compares prices, and orders for three shows at a time to get quantity discounts. Depending on the item, the cost can be just a few dollars a class.

CLASSY

“Some of our major shows have themes, and year after year exhibitors look forward to those particular shows,” says Marnye Langer of Langer Equestrian Group, which runs 40 hunter-jumper and dressage shows a year at various venues in California and Colorado. For example, she says, the Los Angeles National Horse Show always awards vases and cut glass bowls with bouquets of fresh flowers. “They make for beautiful pictures and are really well received,” says Langer.

WEARABLE

The Memorial Day Classic at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center (LAEC) gives logo wear each year, says Langer. This is a trophy that doesn’t sit on a shelf—it’s worn. And everywhere the item goes, it advertises your farm or event. A logo can be embroidered or screen-printed on just about any type of clothing or bag, at any price range, Langer notes, so there’s no need to limit yourself to T-shirts.

SEASONAL

The LAEC’s Winter Opener (held in January) gives the logo concept a seasonal twist. Prizes include a cap and scarf with the show name on them, a gift bag of a travel mug with either hot chocolate or some other beverage, and lightweight throws.

HANDCRAFTED

An unusual trophy can help your show stand out from the crowd, and local artists and artisans can produce such items. For example, Lauren DeLoreto of East Windsor, Conn., creates decorated slates and other items for use as horse-show trophies. A farm logo or another design of your choice can be individually hand-painted on 8- by 10-inch antique roofing slates (starting at $34.95 each), or the design can be turned into a print and decoupaged onto the slates (starting at $19.95). For an extra charge, the artist even goes out to shows and personalizes the slates, by hand lettering each trophy with the award title and winner’s name. DeLoreto’s business, Slate Expectations (www.slateexpectations.com), will also put the design on tin ware cups, plates, and other trophy items.

GIFTED

“Our shows utilize gift certificates a lot,” says Langer. Gift certificates can serve several ends, she says. They’re a way of supporting show sponsors, who get both visibility at the show and customers in the store. And exhibitors like them because they can get what they want. “Some will save them up for a big-ticket item,” says Langer, “and some like them because they just don't want one more trinket.” Here’s another benefit: you can set the dollar amount to fit your show budget, whatever it is.

TRADITIONAL

Time was, a trophy for a hunter or jumper division was a silver cup, plate, or bowl—the only question was the size. Siegel, who has been running shows since 1971, fondly remembers those days. “Now shows give items that are more like promotional giveaways, so the award has lost its purpose,” she says.

In fact, traditional trophies have never gone out of style. They’ve become too pricey to hand out in every class, but they may still be within reach for high-point and championship awards (especially if you can line up a sponsor to defray the cost). A good-quality 8-inch pewter or silver-plate bowl runs about $100, before engraving.

In the Western show world, trophy buckles and engraved spurs are still coveted awards. Costs run the gamut, depending on size, materials, and the amount of handwork involved. At American Spurs in Ronan, Mont. (www.americanspurs.com), prices for custom buckles start at $165; engraved trophy spurs, including a name or brand, event figure, and year, start at about $200.

HIGH-TECH

Digital cameras, iPods, and other electronic toys are among the prizes at some of the events run by Mark Harrell, who manages the Arizona Sun Circuit and other Quarter Horse shows in several Midwestern states. Harrell, based in Caseyville, Ill., says that class trophies aren’t the norm at these events. Trophies for championship and high-point winners vary from show to show and include traditional items as well as the electronic ones, which are mainly awarded in youth divisions.

Electronics may not seem very trophy-like, but it’s possible to engrave or emblazon a show logo on the case or on the item itself to make the item a memento of the win. For example, custom-engraved iPod Shuffles are available from Lazer Designs (www.lazerdesigns.com) starting at $79.

RIDEABLE

A special class warrants a special trophy. Razor scooters and retro fat-tire bicycles have been among the awards for the Memorial Day Classic Equitation Challenge, a popular class at the LAEC show. The challenge is a two-phase team event, with each team made up of a professional, an amateur, and a junior rider. The bikes and scooters have gone to the amateurs and juniors on the winning teams, while the pros have competed for something even more appealing…

INCREDIBLE

… a weeklong stay at the beachfront Marriott Maui Ocean Club, a timeshare resort in Hawaii. Langer Equestrian Group makes good use of this timeshare, offering weeks not just for the Equitation Challenge but also as incentive awards for trainers at each of the four venues where the group runs shows. At each show, points accrue to the trainers of the high-scoring hunter, jumper, and equitation rider. Then, at the end of the season, the trainer with the most points at each venue wins the Maui Incentive. This year a Maui Incentive is also being offered to dressage trainers.

Series and year-end awards are designed to keep exhibitors returning to your shows. In most cases, trainers are the ones in charge of the decisions about which shows to attend, so offering a trainer incentive makes sense. Of course, unless you have a beachfront condo, a Hawaiian vacation may be out of reach. But less costly incentives—dinner for two at a great restaurant, for example—can give exhibitors an extra reason to show up through a season of shows.

But you don’t have to be incredible to create a memorable and appreciable trophy. A bit of your own imagination combined the ideas here can be more than enough to help your shows, and your facility, stand out from the crowd.