Live Show Etiquette










Show Hosts

Planning a live show is a huge undertaking, demanding much from a host financially, emotionally, and mentally. A host must wear many hats, which can be tricky at times, even for the best of them. To help manage this, try to make your live show as organized as possible and also abide by the “Three C’s” (Consistency, Cohesion and Consequence), as follows:


  • Consistency: The show policies, codes, rules and regulations are thought out, well developed and written in concise, clear language, leaving little room for misinterpretation. Such information should clearly outline the consequences for those not honoring these stipulations, particularly on issues of sportsmanship. Make sure everyone in attendance understands that honoring such requirements is a condition of participation, such as having a clause on a signed entry form alerting entrants to this. And, lastly, ensuring that said stipulations are enforced consistently throughout the show and equally for each attendee.

  • Cohesion: Everyone is accountable to these stipulations and also helps to ensure others adhere to them, too.

  • Consequence: If an attendee chooses to ignore the stipulations, consequences are in place and are promptly enacted by the host. This can include being asked to change behaviors and make apologies and reparations, or being asked to leave the show, with or without refund. A host should also share information about chronic offenders with other hosts, because, remember, it’s a host’s first obligation to protect showers from those who are chronically unpleasant, poor sports, or threatening. Absolutely, there is no overriding concern that should put other showers in harm’s way or be forced to endure unacceptable circumstances. Note: If your show is a NAMHSA member show, it's a good idea to discuss acceptable consequences with your Regional Representative to ensure your member status.

And hosts, please also remember these other concerns:

  • Hall Layout and General Considerations:

    • Show tables should be set up in a straightforward and easy-to-access plan. Make sure the show tables are clearly and properly identified, so that any shower in the hall can view and understand this identification. Be sure your judges are clear on this identification as well.

    • Likewise, set up the exhibitor tables in a straightforward and easy-to-access plan, making sure that tables aren’t too close together, won’t box anyone in, or block (partially or not) any necessary doorways, aisles or emergency exits. In short, ensure each table has adequate space, even if that means reducing or limiting your attendance.

    • Please consider having one announcer for the entire show so entrants can tune into one voice and be better able to distinguish important announcements over the usual noise of the show. This also helps to reduce crowding at the podium or jockeying for the microphone as judges try to announce information.

  • Show Packets and Advertising:

    • If a website is created for the show, it’s important to keep it current and also to provide a show packet download or information on receiving one. It should also have current contact information.

    • The show packets should contain all the required information and be detailed, clear and organized.

    • Stick to all advertised particulars and bulletins without fail.

  • Before the Show:

    • Carefully procure good judges since they are your “selling point”. If you wish, you can also allow judges-in-training to shadow experienced ones, if acceptable to the judges.

    • Anticipate potential confusion or questions regarding appropriate classes for certain breeds, colors and performance set-ups and formulate clear policies about them for the show. Be sure showers and judges are also clear on these policies since it can be stressful when the rules say one thing, and the judge inadvertently decides another!

  • At the Show:

    • Welcome each shower warmly, and offer each one your hospitality.

    • Introduce the judges to the showers, perhaps along with staff members, too.

    • Actively seek feedback from showers and judges during the show, and make meaningful changes based on that feedback. Remember, the show is for the showers and they are your “customers”. If you want a successful show, tailor it to their needs.

    • Arrive early to set up the hall, allowing it to start smoothly on time. So if you advertise that doors open at 7am, do it and have things ready to go.

    • Stick to the arrangement and timetable of classes and divisions, and do not switch them at the show.

    • Keep the show and classes moving along to adhere to any timetables or deadlines.

    • Try to avoid last-minute changes in your choice of judges and their assignments. It’s very stressful to a shower who may have brought entries tailored to the advertised judge.

    • If a code, rule, regulation, policy or timetable is advertised, it’s important to consistently enforce it.

    • Stick to class rules unfailingly and make sure the judges enforce them in tandem. For example, if the rules require no halters in the Custom division, make sure your judges disqualify all those wearing halters. Likewise, if rules require the costume class be free of props, make sure your judges disqualify those entries with them. In short, everyone should be made to follow the rules equally.

    • However, before a class is closed, please allow showers the opportunity to fix an entry if it’s a simple, quick fix. For example, if a model is required to have a show tag, and a shower accidentally forgot it, please allow the opportunity to provide one before disqualifying that entry.

    • Do not tolerate inappropriate behavior and bad sportsmanship for any reason, from anyone. Please enforce the advertised consequences in a timely manner to maintain the integrity of the show

    • Arrange a reasonable series of planned breaks, such as lunch or dinner breaks, and stick to them as closely as possible.

    • Provide for your judges with such things as meals, beverages, breaks and, if possible, travel and lodging expenses.

    • Provide the showers with water or other beverages, if possible, or choose a hall with a water fountain or soda machine.

  • Choose a show hall with accessible, clean, functioning bathrooms and with easy access from the parking lot into the show hall.

  • Provide some good reference materials on breeds, colors, tack or performance for showers or judges to refer to throughout the day. Specialized breed books are the best source, although they may be impractical if space is limited.

  • Inform your judges and helpers about how the awards are to be handed out and announced.

  • Ensure that necessary things, such as NAN cards and awards, are organized for judges and ready to be distributed.

  • Be sure your announcer(s) are well versed in how the show and classes will run throughout the day. It’s also a nice gesture to provide your announcer(s) with water and throat lozenges, as needed.

  • If feasible, it’s a nice gesture to provide your judges with rolling office chairs to allow them to “sit n’ roll” to judge, instead of continually being bent over and on their feet all day

  • Donations and Sponsors: Donated items include door prizes, awards, auction items or any other piece of property offered to support or promote the show. And because these items are often provided by a donor’s generosity, it’s important to keep that thoughtfulness in mind. If you have a sponsorship program for awards, classes or divisions, extend to sponsors the same courtesies and recognition you would to donors. It’s also imperative to practice the following:

    • Always stick to your prize list, to include door prizes, donations, raffle items or any such items.

    • It’s paramount at a show to recognize and acknowledge people who donated items to your show, whether auction times, door prizes, raffle items, etc. Sending Thank You notes to donors is also good policy.

    • Likewise, do the same for your sponsors. And don’t forget to mention sponsors and their sponsorships at appropriate times throughout the day.

    • Never keep any donated items for yourself! These items are for the showers, and absolutely not for you.

    • Never alter donated items! They must be awarded in the very same condition they were when sent to you. This also means never changing an item’s information, such as signatures or other identifying marks, or certificate details.

    • Never switch donated items!

    • Keep all donated items safe from damage! It’s poor form to allow donations to become damaged or lost due to negligence.

    • If you have to cancel a show, return all donations in a timely manner, in the same condition they were when sent to you. Do not sell them, hold onto them for next year, or otherwise distribute them. They are not your property and the donors will expect them to be returned.

  • After the Show:

    • Please mail out results in a timely manner. Be sure they’re clearly written, complete and organized.

    • Thank your judges and staff with gifts or Thank You notes.

  • Other Courtesies:

    • Be obvious as the host. This includes being groomed and dressed in attire befitting the position and perhaps wearing a pin or badge with your name and title on it.

    • Always be professional, organized, courteous and confident and have the positive skills of leadership and problem solving.

    • It’s important to respond to questions or issues in a timely manner, so don’t procrastinate with this task.

    • Refrain from impatience, curtness or rudeness when responding to emails or phone calls. It can turn away a potential entrant, making him/her feel unwanted or less prone to ask legitimate questions as well.

    • Provide pins or badges to your judges with “Judge” on it, to identify them to showers and staff.

    • Likewise, provide pins or badges to your staff with “Staff” on it, to identify them to showers and judges.

    • Try to rotate judges in your region, or import them, to keep your show “fresh”.

    • Never ask back poor judges, no matter how hard up you may be for a judge.

    • Be attentive to the needs and growth of your showing community. If possible, consider offering specialty classes such as “Custom by Owner” or “Vintage Models”. Or consider adding entirely new divisions, such as “Amateur Owner”, “Youth”, or “Custom Glaze”.

    • It’s a nice idea to organize a get-together the evening before or after the show to nurture camaraderie.

    • It’s a good idea to spend the extra fee to become a NAMHSA member show.

    • Design a fee schedule that is sympathetic to a small number of entries.

    • Publicly thank your judges, staff and showers for their participation and patronage, before and after the show



Because the staff is an extension of the host, professional, polite and responsible behavior is expected at all times, even in unpleasant situations. This includes, the following:

  • Show up on time and be ready to do the job at hand.

  • Be obvious as the staff, and wear any identifying pin or badge the host provides.

  • Be groomed and dressed in attire befitting the position.

  • Function as a complement to the host, and work with diligence and reliability.

  • Work to uphold all rules, regulations, timelines and codes of the show, including the enforcement of proper behavior of all attendees. For example, put a stop to dangerous behavior (often by children) such as running in the hall or rough housing, make sure showers are careful around the show tables or remind folks not to take too long setting up their entries, etc.

  • Seek to help all showers, particularly newbies.

  • Aid judges in their duties, when necessary.

  • Help to set up before the show and clean up after the show.

Other Attendees

Usually a live show has other folks present who are not active showers, such as spouses, family members, friends, and visitors. These attendees are welcome and can add to the show’s enjoyment. Really, it can be fun to chat with someone who may have a whole different perspective on the day and has interests outside of model horses.

Nevertheless, these folks are bound by the same tenants of etiquette as showers are, and are expected as well to comply with the rules, policies, regulations and codes of the live show. This includes etiquette pertaining to children and pets.



Rare is the youngster who can remain quiet, calm and courteous at a table during an all-day adult indoor event such as a busy live show. And rare is the parent who realizes this. Really, youngsters would be happier elsewhere. Too often, curious children of whatever age want to touch and pick up the often expensive collections and things on the tables, or want to play with another shower’s pet, or want to run around and make noise and play rough to burn off energy. An undisciplined, frustrated child is an annoying distraction to the tone of the show, and will cause concern among the showers for the safety of their collections on display. Each live show may have different policies regarding the attendance and behavior of children and you as parent are obligated to abide by them. Prior to a show, be sure to check with the host about the policy. If you must bring along children, remember you are responsible for them and their behavior and actions, including damage to people’s property.


Some things to consider regarding children you bring to an adult event:


  •  A child must be attended at all times and will not be allowed to wander the show hall and among the tables without supervision, for any reason. This includes groups of children as well.

  • Do not expect your neighbors at the show to baby sit your child at any time. Instead, bring along an adult with you to watch the child if you must leave for awhile.

  • A child may not touch, grab, take or pick up anyone else’s property without supervision and the permission of the owner.

  • Unacceptable behaviors include running, rough play, yelling, and creating a general annoyance.

  • Not welcome are balloons, balls, roller skates, bats, large or noisy toys, loud music players, and other things that could endanger property or person or be an annoyance.

  • If someone makes a legitimate complaint about your child’s behavior or your lack of considerate supervision, consider their point of view and comply with any requests made by your fellow attendees and the host. If compliance is not possible, be prepared to remove the child from the hall.

  • For their safety, small children should be kept out of the way before and after a show, during the hustle and bustle of set-up and packing up to leave. If possible, they can play outside with supervision.

Pets, Dogs:

Many shows do not allow them and it is wise to ask the host about pets before attending a show. Similar to bringing a child, you are responsible for the pet’s actions, including injury and damage to people’s property.


If you are allowed to bring your pet, keep in mind these considerations:

  • Be thoughtful to the allergy concerns of your neighbors.

  • The pet should be clean, quiet and well behaved.

  • The pet must be attended and supervised at all times and will not be allowed to roam the hall at will.

  • A travel cage or kennel is an ideal enclosure for your pet during the show if you must leave a pet unattended for awhile.

  • The pet should be well socialized to people of all ages and to other pets, and not be perceived as dangerous or threatening at any time.

  • The pet should be kept out of the way of your neighbors, and not take up aisle space or neighbors’ table space, including under their tables.


Vendors are expected to comply with the rules, policies, regulations and codes of the show, and conduct themselves in a manner acceptable to the show’s host and staff. Vendors are also expected to comply with all requests made by the host in a timely, polite manner.


Making Complaints

There may come a time when you have a legitimate concern that needs to be addressed. The host and staff may be able to improve a situation, but only if made aware of it.

Legitimate Concerns:

  • A legitimate concern may be the hall’s environment: The temperature is uncomfortable, the sun is blinding through the windows, the tables are too close together, more chairs are needed, tobacco smoke is wafting in from the outside, the bathrooms are locked, the water fountain does not function, etc.

  • A legitimate concern may be an attendee’s behavior, whatever the age: The conduct poses a danger, it lacks good sportsmanship, it creates a loud or unruly annoyance, it fails to comply with the show’s rules, it disrespects personal property, it fails to address a neighbor’s complaint, etc.

  • A legitimate concern may be a judge’s methods: The judge is not reading documentation, is ignoring bay horses, is placing illegal performance entries, is disregarding the quality of all entries, is otherwise engaging in behavior uncharacteristic of a good judge. No one likes a whiner and poor sport, yet there are times when a judge does exhibit obvious unfairness.

  • Note: Insufficient reason for complaint would be unhappiness because your entries are not doing as well as you had hoped.

Procedure for handling a legitimate complaint:


  • Calmly and diplomatically bring your concern to the host’s attention and give your clear examples and reasons. Your quiet approach can prevent an unpleasant situation from becoming worse. Do not whine or become unpleasant about the situation.

  • A host cannot know about your dissatisfaction with a show unless you provide that information, so fill out the survey/evaluation sheets, if provided. If not provided, write a courtesy note to the host on your issues, particularly if you believe some judging was questionable. Be sure to inform the host of the good judges, too, since that is important information for the following year.

  • It is important a host understand that the selection of judges has a negative or positive impact on attendance. If you choose not to attend a show because you believe the hired judge is questionable, please discreetly inform the host.

Disciplinary Action:

Remember, it is the host’s primary responsibility to protect the showers and it is the staff’s responsibility to support the host in that task. As a condition of attendance, you must follow the rules, regulations, policies and codes of the live show, as well as practice good sportsmanship. If you choose to ignore them, you may be asked to leave.


Always Remember: We are human and we all make mistakes and misjudgments from time to time. It is important to learn from an unhappy incident and to let go when amends have been made.


Be A Thoughtful Participant


Additional courtesies are easy to practice that also encourage a positive atmosphere. Sometimes it is the little things, too, that make a big difference, such as:

  • Wear your nametag! If one is not provided, make or bring your own. Put your stable or studio name on it too.

  • If you live close to the show hall, it is considerate to offer assistance to the host with such tasks as helping to set up tables and chairs, lay out the awards, set up the microphone, clean up after the show, etc.

  • Clean up your exhibitor or vendor tables before you leave and dispose of unwanted packing materials yourself in the appropriate way.

  • If you can, it’s thoughtful to help clean up after a show, such as putting away the tables and chairs, clean up the garbage, collect all show materials, etc.

  • Be considerate to a tired staff. Pack up quickly and leave if you are not helping to clean up after a show.

  • It is appropriate for both judges and showers to support a mutual respect for the time, money, and effort that was invested in their attendance at the show.

  • Present yourself in a way that allows others to be proud of sharing their chosen creative efforts with you.

  • And, above all, remember: Never forget to have fun! So smile and let everyone see you are having a wonderful time!

Closing Thoughts

Everyone who attends a live show wants an enjoyable experience with happy memories and a sense of community. This is essential not just for personal reasons, but also for the future success of live showing. In that light, the priority ought not to be competition, but the positive atmosphere that fosters fun, happy relationships and a welcoming community. With that in mind, may your live show experience be full of laughter, learning and likeable people!


Recommended Resources

©2005 S.Minkiewicz-Breunig


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LSQ Guidelines by Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig

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