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By: Delores Kuhlwein on behalf of The Silver Dollar Circuit
If you were to try to count everything exhibitors have come to love about the Silver Dollar Circuit in Las Vegas, you might have to use all your fingers and toes, especially after the success of this year’s event. Not only did stall reservations increase by 32%, exhibitors showed their approval with over 10,000 entries during the 39th annual circuit which took place March 17-22, 2015, at the newly-expanded South Point Equestrian Center.
Rave reviews about the convenience, ease, and fun of having an all-in-one facility to host the show were heard everywhere from those in attendance. South Point is a destination resort and casino that created a little, self-contained piece of paradise enticing exhibitors for the tenth year in a row with its first-rate rooms, great dining, fifteen movie theaters, bowling alley, child care, and casino nightlife. “I love the fact that you can go straight from your hotel room to the equestrian area,” says Brittany Lofton-Morgan, a competitor who won the Amateur Overall High Point title on Huntin For Fun.
“One of the things people like best about the show here is that it’s all in one facility, and they never have to leave,” adds the mastermind behind the event’s success, Jan Bruner, who has been the show’s producer since 1997. “They also have access to four indoor climate-controlled arenas, a large outdoor arena, outdoor longing pens, a feed store, veterinarian, and farrier in the 500,000 square feet of dedicated equestrian space.” Canadian resident Shayley Beaton, who earned the Level 2 Youth 14-18 title on her horse, Tommy Lee Loper, explains why the Silver Dollar is one of her favorite shows. “It’s hard to be independent when you’re not 21 down here [in Las Vegas], since I can’t rent a car or hotel by myself. It was nice having everything all-in-one!”
Trainer Gil Galyean attended for the first time in several years and was pleased with the upgrades he discovered. “It has been a very impressive show. The upgrades to the facility are tremendous, and they’ve made it easy to work and prepare your horses. The dirt and footing here is as good as any you’ll experience all year. The class sizes have been super, and the leveling has really increased the numbers. It will obviously be a show that will continue to succeed due to this facility and the terrific staff.”
Bruner refers to this terrific staff as her “Dream Team,” a group that has been developed over the years by Bruner to provide an exhibitor-first approach. “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 explains.
Another big hit was the new schedule. “In this format, our open classes are completed before the amateur and youth riders compete,” Bruner says. “This allows the trainers to focus on their clients for the second part, and everyone seems to love that structure.” It certainly worked for Select Amateur Lin Johnson. “I loved the way the schedule was arranged by having the open first and then the amateur and youth,” she says. “This was my first Las Vegas show, and I’ll be back!”
Bruner attributes some of the growth of the Silver Dollar Circuit to AQHA leveling and the structuring of classes. “You can see some of the best horses in the country here, but you don’t have to be at that tier to compete because of leveling. We also keep our novice amateurs split by age group in pattern classes like Showmanship, Equitation, and Horsemanship. Plus, our ‘Fly For Free’ program allows novice riders (and their horses) to go in the corresponding amateur and open class for one set of show fees.”
More additions such as paid individual warm-ups were met with overwhelming approval and participation. “We all experience that our horses are fine in the pen when they’re surrounded by other horses, but they can get scared, worried, or tense when they’re alone,” Bruner says. “In addition to the regular warm-ups, we set the competition Trail course exactly as it was going to be for the class, and we did the same for Western Riding. For $25 per ride, you could go in and totally be by yourself. It’s timed at four minutes a ride. We scheduled three hours originally for each, but Trail was extended to seven hours and we added an hour to Western Riding. We could’ve added more.”
The circuit’s popular futurity program is another big focus of the show, which paid out over $15,000 in cash prizes. Producers have plans to grow that money rapidly. “We’re focusing on growing our futurity program into a significant high-money futurity and adding a full set of non-pro futurities is a high probability,” Bruner explains.
In an effort to create an enjoyable experience for their exhibitors, the show management team does its best to stop the show at a reasonable hour so participants can enjoy the Las Vegas and South Point experience. The Silver Dollar Western Gift Show at South Point offers a great variety of vendors for horse fans and tourists alike, and many of the vendors are sponsors who contribute to the show’s success. “Our sponsors are fabulous!” exclaims Bruner, who welcomed High Point award contributors such as HCF Electric Scooters, Blue Ribbon Saddles, Scottsdale Western World, Woods Western, Barbara’s Custom Hats, Showtime Show Clothing, and dozens of prize and cash sponsors. Fun random prizes offered thrills during each show day, like free pairs of Kimes Ranch Jeans, cash giveaways, and countless prizes. “I love the random awards like cash,” Brittany Lofton says. “There are many shows you go to and you’re working hard and you get nothing to show for it. This is a lot more fun.”
Although the Silver Dollar Circuit has changed and grown with the times since its beginnings in 1976, when it was held outside a casino in Las Vegas, the fact that it has become an undeniable exhibitor favorite already has people marking it on their calendars for 2016. “This was my second year attending,” says youth competitor Madelyn Reese, “All I have to say is that the show is so well-organized, the venue is amazing, and you get to see all your friends! No matter your placings, you’re guaranteed to have a great time.”
Perhaps the words of trainer Chad Evans sum up the Silver Dollar Circuit experience best of all. “Horse showing and Vegas – what’s not to love?”
For complete class results, High Point results, scorecards, generous sponsor information, and more visit: www.silverdollarcircuit.com and follow Silver Dollar Circuit on Facebook and Instagram to be in the know!