Barn parties are a great way to socialize with your clients and have fun. They tell your clients you appreciate their business. This also makes barn parties a good opportunity to introduce potential clients to your services.
Kari Johnson boards her horse and says that the parties are the only time she gets to see some of her fellow boarders, as their schedules rarely coincide. Kari feels the parties bring everyone in the barn closer together and boost barn morale.
So it’s important to make your party a blast. Cynthia of Skunk River Stables is planning a barn party with hay rides and horseback rides as well as a fishing contest. Skunk River is supplying non-alcoholic drinks, hot dogs and hamburgers, and hopes to have a dance floor and bring in live music. Cynthia says, “This is not only a thank-you to our current customers, but we are inviting folks in who are interested in seeing what we are about.” Hopefully those new folks will enjoy the hospitality and come back for more.
When deciding what activities to offer, your only limitation is your imagination!
Nancy “Bird” McIver runs a barn in Hawaii. At her recent barn party, she gave training and riding demonstrations. Since she’s also an accomplished sidesaddle rider, she included short sidesaddle rides for her guests.
Riding and training demonstrations are a great way to show off your talents to new customers, but including interactive activities keeps everyone entertained. Ask local stores to donate small items like lead ropes or brushes, or create gift certificates to give away as prizes. Gifts certificates for a free lesson, 10 percent off a month of training or a free show-grooming are appreciated by current clients and may convince a potential client to give your business a chance.
For young attendees, plan games like musical chairs or Simon Says. Or you can have a stick horseshow where kids present stick horses in different classes—pleasure, racing, obstacle/ trail course or jumping classes. Provide ribbons, glitter and other decorative material the kids can use to dress up their stick horses and award fun prizes. Set up a horseshoe or washer tournament for teens and adults. You can also add a hay-bale stacking contest or a roping contest using a roping dummy.
If your party-goers will be clients with their own horses or if you are able to provide school horses for guests, you can play horseback games such as the following:
• Ride-a-Buck: Each rider places a dollar bill between their thigh and horse while riding bareback. They are asked to perform different gaits, halts, transitions, turns, etc. Whenever someone looses their dollar, they are disqualified. The last person to lose their dollar wins all the other dollars.
• Egg and Spoon: Each rider carries an egg in a spoon. The game can either be a race to the end of the arena and back, or it can be played like Ride-a-Buck where various commands are called out. As participants drop their eggs, they are eliminated.
• Boot/shoe race: Contestants place one of their boots or shoes in a pile at the end of the arena. When given the command to start, the riders race from the opposite end of the arena to the pile, find their shoe or boot, put it on, mount up and race back to the finish line. The first to cross the line wins.
You can also think of your own games or modify childhood games to work on horseback, such as Musical Chairs (stalls), Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, etc.
Costume contests (with or without horses) are fun for Halloween parties. You can judge the contest several ways:
• Present contestants to the audience one at a time, and the contestant who gets the most applause wins.
• Give each attendee a carrot, horse treat or other small object. They then award their item to the partygoer with the best costume. At the end of the party, count up each attendees’ items to see who wins.
• Bring in a well known trainer, rider, judge or local celebrity (such as a television or radio personality) to judge the contest.
At birthday parties and baby showers, encourage attendees to bring inexpensive horse-themed gifts: small pink halters and brushes for a “foal shower,” carrots and other treats for a horse birthday, or books and inexpensive horse items for a human birthday. For holiday parties, you can include gift exchange or a “Chinese Auction.” Regina Anderson holds a Chinese Auction at her annual Christmas party for volunteers for Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society. Each guest brings a wrapped gift and draws a number. The person with number 1 picks a gift and unwraps it. Subsequent people can either steal an opened gift or select and unwrap one. Whenever someone’s gift is stolen, they select another gift. Some gifts are “hot” items and are stolen several times. Although gifts are frequently stolen, party-goers laugh as they watch people scout for the gift they like best and steal the “hot” items again and again.
Safety and Comfort
You want your party to be a fun experience, so that includes looking out for the safety and comfort of your guests and horses. Have party-goers sign liability waivers unless you already have one on file for them. Be sure to keep any aggressive or protective dogs away, and keep party-goers out of stalls, paddocks and pastures with loose horses.
Keep a first-aid kit on hand, and make sure there’s enough water to keep everyone hydrated, especially if it is hot. If you don’t have toilets at your barn, rent Port-a-Potties.
With a little planning and effort, you can create a fun barn party that will attract new clients and keep current clients coming back for more!