Please note that the AVA and/or USEF Rule Books are the best resource for REQUIREMENTS. Read them! Much of the information below is simply suggestions based on my experience.
First answer the following basic questions:WHY do you want to hold a Fest?
- Fund Raising: This is not a good reason, especially if the group is new to vaulting or vaulting fests. New events usually don't make a profit for the first couple of years.
- New Vaulter Competition Experience: This is an important and valid consideration if your group is in a remote area where there are few events.
- Additional Vaulter Competition Experience: Maintaining interest, training workers, sharpening skills are among the many benefits gained from holding a Fest at a time when no other activities are scheduled.
- Management Experience: As your club parents gain confidence and abilities by organizing and running a Fest, they move on to helping at other competitions and become involved in regional and national vaulting activities
- A Vaulting Club: This is the best management group. Consider asking an experienced Fest manager to "mentor" the event.
- A Private Facility: The facility owner/manager should have some idea of what vaulting is about. Note: some facilities do not realize that this is an event which involves lots of little children, requires special footing, and usually is not a big money maker. These issues must be thoroughly explained and worked out.
- An AVA Region: All the clubs in some AVA Regions work well together, some do not. Usually one or two experienced clubs end up doing the most work and often feel that the benefits (money and other perks) are not distributed in a fair manner. This may be overcome with thorough planning.
- An Interested Group of Parents: This is a possibility, but a loosely structured group may lead to less formal organization and may result in serious problems.
- FEI Recognized (international): This is only for an experienced management team - at the very least a team led by an manager with top level experience.
- USEF Recognized (national): The USEF offers very comprehensive guidelines and requirements as a booklet or on their website www.equestrian.org. The management team should have some experience and some understanding of USEF rules.
- AVA Recognized (national or local): The AVA requirements are clearly stated in the AVA Rule Book. The Management Team should at least have some participation experience in an AVA event.
- Unrecognized - Horse (local): As the event is "unrecognized", there are no rules, but the vaulters expect some standard of events, judging and organization. The AVA Rule Book may be used as a guideline for formatting classes. If there are different ways that vaulters in your area perform, you may adjust classes to accommodate them. New Management Teams should ask for help. Consider asking an experienced Manager to "mentor" your event by reviewing plans, organization, entries, etc.
- Unrecognized - Barrel (local): This is the best event for a new Management Team to hold. There are fewer problems and potential disasters with a non-horse event. Ask for help!
The next level of questions address logistic issues:
WHEN will you hold your event?
- Fall: Keep in mind that many clubs take a break after Nationals and often are not interested in vaulting competitions for a month or so thereafter.
- Winter: For any horse event in the winter, a covered arena is a MUST. Since many clubs reconfigure their teams after Nationals, consider holding only individual or doubles classes. Winter is a great time for barrel and "fun" events (very informal get-togethers between only two or three clubs.)
- Spring: The weather in your area and the availability of a covered arena determines how early you begin your season. Make sure the vaulters have enough time to practice together if you offer team events.
- Summer. There should be at least two weeks between events in any one area. An event very close to Nationals may not be very well attended because coaches may not wish to risk their vaulters or horses so close to the big event. Don't forget to check with your families' school and vacation schedules.
- Your club practice site: Benefits: the footing should be OK or at least easily upgradable, the facility is aware of the general needs of vaulting activities, and your group will be comfortable working there. Drawbacks: Often there is not enough arena space for the level of activity you hope to develop, there may not be enough parking, access and insurance may be problematical.
- A Private Horse Facility: Benefits: It is wonderful to get a boarding or training stable involved and excited about vaulting. Often this exposes many horse people to vaulting for the first time. The footing is usually upgradeable to vaulting requirements. There is good stabling available. Drawbacks: Some facility owners really do not want lots of little children running around, some will not allow any adjustment to their footing, many private facilities are expensive and the summer dates are usually booked.
- A Public Facility (fairgrounds, etc.): Benefits: Fairgrounds staff people are experienced in show management and often eager to work with non-profit, youth groups. There may be additional audience due to other events at the facility. Public facilities are usually inexpensive. Drawbacks: The footing usually has to be done "from scratch", sometimes stabling is not offered or in poor repair and the summer dates are usually booked.
- For Profit: You should review the entry fees of competitions in your area. If you are charging more, you should offer an added value such as additional or more qualified judges, better prizes, etc. You must determine who will profit from your event: an individual or individuals, the facility, the club, a specific fund (travel to Europe, etc.), or the AVA Region. New fests should not expect to turn a profit. It sometimes takes 3-4 years of holding an event before a profit is shown.
- Not For Profit: You may wish to keep the entry fees low to attract more vaulters. You should not plan to run an event "in the red" unless you have a sponsor or financial angel willing to pick up a negative cash flow.
- The above questions MUST be satisfactorily answered by the Management Team BEFORE any further plans are made.
- Once you start making plans, put as much into writing as possible. Take detailed notes at all meetings. Make all responsibilities, requirements, and financial dealings as clear as possible to everyone involved. "No Surprises" is a fine motto and will result in a smooth, stress free competition.