A day in the life of… an Equestrian Event Secretary

To start off with, what is an Event Secretary?

An Equestrian Event Secretary manages all office-based matters relating to the lead up of the event and is responsible for the execution of the event on the day.

Typical duties of this job includes:

  • Booking judges, officials and stewards
  • Contacting and organising volunteers
  • Attending meetings for various governing bodies of the sport and coordinating their requirements with regards to the events
  • Working with the marketing department for event promotion
  • Taking entries, producing times and results for the competitors
  • Providing excellent customer service to competitors, both in the run up to the event, on the day of the competition, and afterwards too.
  • Ensuring the event runs smoothly on the day, and any issues are dealt with efficiently and effectively

With over 165 events per year, Eland Lodge Equestrian delivers a successful Equestrian events calendar, ranging from grassroots unaffiliated fixtures through to British Dressage, British Showjumping and British Eventing affiliated events, also the Pony Club Regional Dressage, Showjumping and Eventing Regional Championships and Eland Lodge National Hunter Trial Series Championships.

A typical day in the life of an Event Secretary at Eland Lodge

With events at Eland Lodge most weekends, Thursday’s are a crucial day for event organisation. This is how our events manager would spend an average Thursday at Eland Lodge:

 Emails

“I’d start off the day checking my emails, processing any withdrawals, specific time requests and new entries into events. There’s usually around 150 requests each day so although this sounds simple, it can be a long and complex process.”

 Times

“Once all the changes have been processed, I can then move on to downloading competitor details and creating the competition times documentation. Setting competitor times can be quite time consuming and you really have to pay attention to the details – taking into account multiple riders, multiple classes, travelling companions, specific time requests. The times then have to be published on the website, and a times and information email is sent out.”

 Liaising with Officials

“Once the times are out, I then liaise with the judges and officials to let them know their work times, send them the running orders, and ensuring any dietary requirements are noted and catered for.”

 Rosettes and prizes

“I then prepare the rosettes and prizes for the event – getting the prize vouchers/money ready in envelopes and with the correct rosettes.”

 Competitor requests, queries and late entries

“Once the times have been released there will always be queries; everything from simple questions about the event itself, through to competitors having forgotten to ask for an early or late time, entered the wrong class, or even riders who have forgotten to enter the event completely. Once these last-minute changes have been made I then have to update the times and officials with the new versions.”

 Checking and preparing IT

“IT plays a more and more important role in the competition day, from live scoring by officials, through to competitor scoreboards and displaying marketing videos. I set up the scoring systems, get mobile routers up and running, and prepare laptops and TVs for the show.”

 Doing prep for the next event

“I’ll also be working on bits and pieces for future events throughout the day – getting the dates sorted with the sporting governing bodies for the next season, booking judges, talking to volunteers, hiring toilets, booking caterers – there’s never a dull moment!”

What skills and experience do you need?

The life of an equestrian events manager is a busy one, but it’s so rewarding to see everyone having a fantastic time with their horses at your event. Strong organisational skills are a must for this role. Combining a passion for equine sport with strong planning and management skills plus good communication, a positive approach to problem solving and being able to work as part of a team.

At Eland Lodge we can run up to six events per week and therefore to keep all the ‘plates spinning’ can be challenging, therefore good organisational skills are essential, as it is down to the Events Secretary to deal with the entries, organise the competitor times, ensure the correct officials are present, the equipment is ready e.g. timing heads for a Showjumping competition or fence judge boxes for a cross country event, competitor numbers, rosettes and prizes have been ordered and are ready to be given out at the event. First aid, refreshment trade stands and toilet facilities have been arranged and are in place. It is also important to evaluate the event, did the event run smoothly, if there was a problem – what was it and how was it dealt with, what could be done to make the event more successful.

Forward planning is a key element as the competition calendar is booked approximately 18 months in advance, with the affiliated governing bodies e.g. British Dressage (BD), British Eventing (BE), British Show Jumping (BS) and Pony Club (PC).

Good management skills, which include good researching skills to identify potential new competitions to the calendar. At Eland Lodge we have successfully bid and been awarded the Pony Club Regional Championships for an additional three years, Second Round Dodson & Horrell Showjumping Championships, Second Round British Novice Showjumping Championships and British Showjumping Multiple Day events.

Being adaptable to change is important, an event may have to change at the last minute due to weather conditions, Covid 19 pandemic, equine flu etc. You also need a willingness to learn, this could be the latest governing body IT system e.g. EARS British Eventing’s new Entries, Admin, Results and Scoring or live scoring. We introduced live scoring at Eland Lodge 18 months ago, for all our competitions from dressage to NSEA events, eventing, hunter trials and Pony Club events.

Communication is key as an Event Secretary, being able to communicate with a number of different people - competitors, officials, volunteers etc.

Running a competition also requires flexibility and the ability to identify a problem that may be encountered during the competition and provide potential solutions.

Being an Event Secretary requires self-management and the capability to work in a team, which may be many different teams depending on the event you are running on that day.

Other skills would include being able to multi-task and stay focused at the same time, you may have a competitor requiring assistance while you are adding up a dressage sheet or placing information into the live scoring system.

Event Secretaries enjoy the buzz of adapting to new situations and taking on new challenges.

How to get into Equestrian Event Management

Careers in roles such as office management, high level administration, PA, wedding planning, teaching, business management are a great way to gain the right experience, as many of the main organisational and planning skills are transferable.

Interest in horses, an understanding of the competitor experience on event days, and knowledge of competitive equestrian sport are also essential to the making of a good equestrian events manager.

There are some degree courses and modules that are specifically geared to preparing you for a career in events management, such as a degree in Equine Business Management at Hartpury, or a Foundation Degree in Equine Science, Management and Training at Derby College.