Jun 20, 2024

ShowConnect Helps Johnson Keep UNH Horse Trials Running Smoothly

By Lindsay Berreth - USEA Staff

An avid eventer for years, University of New Hampshire (UNH) Horse Trials organizer Liz Oertel Johnson has kept the twice-yearly event running smoothly since her undergrad days at UNH.

Now a Senior Lecturer at UNH in the Animal Science degree program where she primarily teaches courses in Equine Studies, Johnson has been utilizing the United States Eventing Association’s (USEA) ShowConnect software since its inception in 2021 to keep the UNH Horse trials running smoothly. The software is a community-based event management system that serves as a hub for all professionals involved in running both recognized and unrecognized events.

In fact, Johnson was asked by the USEA to give her thoughts on the development of ShowConnect since she’d already had so much experience in utilizing different event management software systems.

One year as an undergrad, Johnson was meant to compete at UNH Horse Trials, but after her school’s project horse wasn’t able to compete, she got involved on the organization side. That inspired her to start her own company, On The Bit Events, out of her masters degree program. At its height, she was running 22 U.S. Equestrian Federation licensed events including eventing, dressage, and breed shows.

“Part of the land grant mission statement of the university general is serving our community and educating our community and engaging with our community,” said Johnson. “We do that in one way through our horse trials. It was a good way for me to use the time to help develop the system and keep that mission statement of my employer in mind.”

These days, with a busy job and two small children, Johnson has scaled back to just organizing the UNH spring and fall horse trials as part of her job and will also be organizing the USEA Area I Championships this fall in New York.

(from left) Liz Oertel Johnson, Area I chair Judy Rossi, and UNH technical delegate and Area I organizer rep Laurie Hudson. Photo courtesy of Liz Oertel Johnson

UNH Horse Trials is unique in that many of the organizational tasks and the running of the event on the day falls to students. Her equine agriculture management class utilizes the horse trials as their fieldwork to gain experience putting on a large scale event.

“We as a faculty realized a very long time ago that the majority of our students would not be riding at the level nor could we provide enough horses to have our students participate as competitors,” she said. “We utilized the students in this management class as phase managers. They’re manage each of the three phases of the event. I have committee chairs for each phase in this class. We approach it like a project management. We break it down and talk about timelines and budgeting and communication methods, volunteer recruitment and retention, and training. All of the students who are involved in our riding program have to work at the event the day of. We’re in a unique position where we don’t have a need for as many volunteers as most events because we have a captive pool!”

The management students manage their peers before the event, training and deploying them for their roles, such as painting jumps, working with officials, and setting courses. While most students will have never experienced a horse show, and likely won’t in the future, they’re learning transferrable skills to put in their toolbox for the future, said Johnson.

While there’s often snow still on the ground in Durham, New Hampshire, two weeks before the spring event, which ran this year on April 27, UNH is a popular Area I season opener

USEA’s staff representative Margaret Marcus was on site this spring to help Johnson and her team with ShowConnect and gain valuable feedback.

“Margaret came on site, which was a help,” said Johnson. “We were slim in terms of trained staff to organize the ShowConnect program. I felt that based on my use last fall there were still some things that the USEA IT department was very proactive in helping find a workaround, but it wasn’t as straightforward as I felt like it needed to be for a general volunteer to step into that role.”

UNH student Sydney Irons volunteering at the UNH Horse Trials. Photo courtesy of Liz Oertel Johnson

Marcus has supported Johnson remotely for the past five UNH events and appreciated being able to be on site. “Arriving a day before the event allowed me to witness the timing and preparation required before the event started,” she said. “Once the event began, it was incredibly beneficial to experience the fast-paced environment and see how an event flows using the ShowConnect software. Being onsite and working side by side with the event staff—handing out packets, answering questions, and scoring—was invaluable for identifying areas of improvement. Using ShowConnect during a live event in person gave me a much better understanding of the timing and urgency involved in running an event from a secretary’s perspective."

The spring event was a one-day with around 80 starters, but Johnson said it still gets busy.

“You still get the feeling of competitors who are anxiously awaiting things, whether it’s checking in or scores or inquiring about their scores. That was useful [for Margaret to be there] to understand the pressure and the expectation of the forward-facing part of the horse show,” she said. “There were quite a few improvements on the outward-facing API, which is the status list, the times, and the score display that the competitors see. The important thing is that when a horse show chooses to use a software management system, that is the interface that the competitors are linking to the show organization. If your software isn’t working, or there’s a glitch, or it doesn’t look professional, it reflects on the overall quality of the product of the horse show you’re offering. That to me is a priority to make sure the competitor experience is good.”

About ShowConnect

ShowConnect has been designed with the future in mind. The system provides the critical features event organizers need to register, schedule, and score an event, but also provides many additional features to all sized events that would not be cost-effective by any other means. It’s designed to allow the flow of information, and in the future, transactions securely in real-time to and from the people and organizations who interact with your event.

ShowConnect is not an online entry system but does allow for manual entries and imports from Xentry, the USEA’s online entry system.

ShowConnect provides one location with everything needed to run an event, state-of-the-art technology, enhanced scoring systems, real-time updates, easy accessibility, and support for organizers and secretaries when you need it most. Click here to learn more about ShowConnect.

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Weekend Quick Links: July 13-14

Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered!

Official Corporate Sponsors of the USEA

Official Joint Therapy Treatment of the USEA

Official Feed of the USEA

Official Saddle of the USEA

Official Equine Insurance of the USEA

Official Forage of the USEA

Official Supplement Feeding System of the USEA

Official Competition & Training Apparel of the USEA

Official Horse Boot of the USEA

Official Shockwave of the USEA

Official Horse Wear of the USEA