Sarah Jackson is West Tennessee Hunter Jumper Associations’ Show Manager. She recently took on the position and has been serving as show manager for a year.
WTHJA has approximately 400 members from the western region of Tennessee and surrounding states.The “National” rated USEF/USHJA shows and schooling shows draw riders from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, and Tennessee.
In this Q&A, Sarah discusses how she became a show manager, the best things about being a manager, and the biggest challenges she faces.
Tell us a little about yourself: I grew up in Connecticut, went to college in Ohio. I have called Tennessee home on and off again for almost 15 years.
What is your background with horses? I started riding at 12-years- old and I have been a professional since 18-years- old. I rode and taught riding lessons throughout college. I hung up my breeches for the management side of the business. Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t see me helping in the warm-up area or occasionally flatting a horse on a non-competition day.
What made you decide to become a Horse Show Manager? I started by running an in-gates and doing office secretarial work for shows. I tried to learn as much from everyone as I could about actually producing the show, budgeting, staffing, scheduling. It seemed like a natural progression for me.
What is the best thing about being a show manager? I like to see smiles and happy competitors. It’s always good to know if you do your job well while putting on a show. The exhibitors have fun, and I always like to watch a good horse/rider earn top ribbons, as well as the new-comers make it around and have fun while learning.
What is the most challenging part of your job? Trying to keep everyone happy, you can’t accommodate everyone’s needs in scheduling. You certainly cannot control the weather, but you try to make the best decisions for the animals and the exhibitors.
Best advice you have received from others in your industry? You won’t make everyone happy, but if you continue to do your best and wake up trying you will be successful.
Advice you would give to anyone considering becoming a show manager? Know the business, pay attention to industry changes, rules and regulations, and your clientele.
How many days/ weeks out of the year do you travel? I am on the road working horse shows somewhere between 38-42 weeks a year.
What do you look forward to in your down time? Finding the beach and being able to unplug some, and a chance to sleep past 5am!
Something that you always have with you while at horse shows? My dog!
What keeps you motivated? Knowing that everyday is a new day. I can choose to wake up everyday and realize I get to work outside (mostly, and hopefully in good weather) and I get to put together something I love and show others how to have fun with it as well.