The show circuit goes above and beyond for another stellar year. Want to get away? Every year, more and more exhibitors and their horses are discovering the allure of Silver Dollar Circuit as more than just a horse show; it has become a destination.
Often deemed a “horse show vacation” by those who go, the 2017 Silver Dollar Circuit once again combined the best in showing with the ultimate getaway experience at South Point Casino, Hotel and Equestrian Center in Las Vegas. “The show is very exhibitor-friendly and we try to make sure everyone has a worthwhile horse show, but also has a really good time doing it,” says Show Producer Jan Bruner.
It doesn’t seem possible, but the show seems to get better and better each year, and this year was no exception. The show boasted over 10,000 entries, and eight classes exceeded 45 entries, with Senior Trail topping out at 107 entries and Senior Western Riding at 50. In 2016 it was the fourth largest circuit in the country, and 2017 was even bigger, with roughly 700 stalls used and barns coming from as far away as Canada Connecticut, and Florida.
A combination of influences resulted in another spike in numbers for the circuit, but one contributing factor has remained constant: the exhibitor-first approach developed by Bruner and her “dream team” staff over time.
“This is discretionary money and our exhibitors don't have to be doing this, so I've emphasized over the years that we need to make showing fun and worthwhile. So that's the emphasis. Our approach is to find a way to say yes. If it’s something that needs to be fixed, we find a way to do it. The show is run with the exhibitors in mind, as they are the customers,” she explained.
More than just the magic of Las Vegas and an expert management team resulted in another record-breaking year for Silver Dollar, however.
Even though the show changed dates, which sometimes can backfire, the move had just the opposite effect. “The big difference is that we are back-to-back with Sun Circuit,” said Bruner. “The two shows worked together to have the schedules in sync to allow exhibitors to easily attend both shows. We also picked up more exhibitors from far away because they had 2 high-end shows back-to-back.”
In addition, the show tweaked the schedule to end earlier some of the show days, and it worked, even with bigger numbers. “By separating the leveled rail classes (showing Levels 2 and 3 separately), the time to handle these classes was greatly reduced. Most days two of the three show pens were done by 4pm or 5pm. The latest Trail ever went was 7pm!” explained Bruner.
“Even with big numbers we were able to enjoy friends and go out for dinner (and even fit in a massage!),” said Kathryn Devries Mitchell. “With the schedule both my horses never had long days so I don't feel bad with them heading to the next show.”
The schedule also was changed to allow the youth and amateurs to show first, with open classes concentrated at the end, allowing owners and exhibitors to go home for a week in between. Bruner says it’s a change they will keep, and that’s music to everyone’s ears. “We really liked the schedule this year,” explained Jenn Wheeler. “It was really nice to focus on our customers and then be able to show our open horses.”
“They worked really hard for the youth to not miss too much school by having the youth/amateur classes predominantly on the weekend,” added Stacy Dial, parent of competitor Savannah Dial. “As a youth mom of a girl who finds school really important, this was a big incentive to come. We loved the show!”
Futurities paid out over $15,000, and the participation and innovation made a noticeable impact in 2017, too, according to Trainer Beth Clemons. “I thought the Novice horse futurities were very successful, and that hopefully Silver Dollar can really influence change on that part of our Industry. The turnout for it was great to see!”
The Leveling Factor
Though leveling has become a mainstay, Silver Dollar management knew its strengths, and capitalized on the experience for attendees. Not only did leveling allow them to improve the schedule, but it allowed for more exhibitor outreach.
“As a very large show, the Silver Dollar puts a lot of emphasis on leveling, thereby offering more exhibitors to get their names called,” explained Bruner. “Awards reflected this emphasis, with Blue Ribbon saddles as the High Point Level 3 awards, Mini Motor Scooters for High Points in both Level 1 and Level 2. All AQHA classes (Level 1, 2, and 3) each received circuit awards (many shows only provide circuits to Level 3). These were custom "crystal" trophies, only available as circuit awards at the Silver Dollar.”
Kathryn Devries Mitchell agreed the prizes were a good move. “I loved that they had awards for the level twos,” she said. “I really think it increased participation.”
Results and Stats
The list of All-Around Champions and Circuit Winners included many California competitors, and while most of the state’s trainers had a full plate, a few stopped by to declare their pride in their clients’ achievements at the show.
“Silver Dollar was very successful for my barn. We won the green all around with One Hot Sultry Night and JoAnn Niffeneger won reserve select all around,” said Trainer Kellie Hinely.
“Very proud of both my L1 Amateurs who made the finals in a deep western pleasure class of 50 horses!” exclaimed Trainer Beth Clemons. “Great job Chayo Frappied and Stacy Dial! My L1 Youth kids picked up a ton of points, top 3,5,10s in Showmanship, Western Pleasure and Trail. Way to go Brianne Lundberg and Savannah Dial! We also picked up points in Western Riding and won some money in the Novice horse hunter Under Saddle on Jan Carpenter's horse, Make Mine a Goodbar, and Chayo's horse, HP Heza Dream.”
Jenn and Justin Wheeler had a great show, too, and a few of their horses were able to finish their qualifying. “Our new youth team, Kelsey Moeller and Blazing Hot Choice, won reserve high point level 1 youth,” said Jenn.
The Final Analysis
The votes are in, and exhibitors like Kellie Hinely says 2017 was the best Silver Dollar yet.
However, Bruner shares a story that was likely little-known to the exhibitors who arrived fresh and ready to compete as early as Tuesday, and it’s a story that illustrates exactly why Silver Dollar and South Point are such a success story together.
“The South Point crew pulled a 24 hour all-nighter to get the facility ready after a cutting. Some cutters didn't leave until Monday, and the staff did the whole thing with a smile. The whole operation here is the best,” she emphasizes.
Bruner explains that General Manager Steve Stallworth has a phrase he uses with his people: FAWTSY. Definition: Find a way to say yes. It’s that attitude, along with the say yes philosophy of the Silver Dollar management and staff that has made the Silver Dollar Circuit a phenomenon.
“It has just become a great horse show,” concludes Bruner humbly. “It has a life of its own, and I just kind of guide it. This show has gotten real shiny bright and it's just marvelous.”