The internet has revolutionized more than just the business world; it’s made our ability to play much easier, as well.
by Sarah E. Coleman
Years ago, when everyone said eventually the Internet would revolutionize our lives, it was easy to scoff. I mean really—who actually thought we would be able to look up equine ailments immediately (including pictures!), get opinions from horse people across the country or chat with specialists literally half a world away? Very few people truly imagined the world that would be opened to equine enthusiasts when the World Wide Web first came about.
The internet has revolutionized just about everything to do with equine ownership: X-rays can be sent immediately for second opinions; updated association standings no longer needs to postal mailed to all organization members; and entry to horse shows, events and clinics has never been easier.
Mary Fike, owner of Harrington Mill Farm and organizer of a plethora of events, including Spring Bay, Kentucky Classique, the 2019 and 2020 American Eventing Championships and others, has been hosting and coordinating equine events for decades. While online entries my be easier for the masses, they still have their own challenges. “They [online entries] have made some parts of show management easier in that you can transcribe data easily and the credit card feature helps that there aren’t so many checks to record, endorse and deposit,” Mary says. “But, with electronic entry comes the problem of outdated competitor information. People forget to update their profiles when they would provide current info on handwritten entries, so the competitions have to spend a good bit of time verifying records when it doesn’t match.”
Though some people are still insistent that they received hard-copy organization-related information, most equestrians have embraced the online revolution. But was it hard for some riders to learn how to enter events online? “I don’t think so,” says Mary; she got no pushback when she began offering online entries. It helps when people are forced to change or potentially be left behind. Though the events Mary runs do still offer postal entries, the majority of people now enter online. “Sometimes the special event terminology gets people, but it seems to work out. I guess if you can order something on Amazon, you can enter a competition online!” Mary says. An added bonus? “We can always read the handwriting!”
Though results had been submitted digitally for years to sanctioning organizations, digital entries weren’t mainstream until about a decade ago, when EventEntries and XEntry went live.
And these online entry platforms are not without their own potential perils, including poor internet connections at show venues or user error. Mary has had a few hiccups during her use of online entries, but most occur when a rider doesn’t understand the nuances of the entry program. For example, some platforms always default to the Open Divisions unless a rider specifies in which division they want to compete.
Practice with the platform, and accessibility to IT, has ensured that the competitions flow smoothly.
Additional perks of online programs? Stalls, campsites, extra fees and anything else a show manager wants designated can be, making prices much clearer and fees much easier to collect.
And if someone doesn’t have a computer or access to the Internet? “I’ll print out an entry form and mail it to them,” explains Mary. “We’re not allowed to accept entries over the phone or by e-mail message only.”
And what about the order in which entries are received? How does a rider make sure they aren’t wait-listed? “We use the date-stamp on the online paid entries the same way we use the postmark,” Mary explained. An added bonus? The online platforms keep a waitlist of riders for the show organizer; mass emailing is also not an issue—the entry platform allows for that feature, as well.
There is one thing Mary wishes online entry programs could do: “Reverse the credit card charges when needed. We still have to do that by check,” she says. But the benefits of an online entry program far outweighs the minor inconveniences. Once scoring data is entered and verified, results are instantaneous. The only thing Mary wishes people would do regarding online entries? Read the fine print. “But isn’t that the same with almost everything?”