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Buddies Pet Insurance - Tina Quest Show Secretary

A Day In The Life Of… A Dog Show Secretary

We recently caught up with Tina Quest, who is the secretary of the South West Utility Club, a dog club for breeds within the Utility group. Each April, they hold an annual open show. We asked Tina to give us an insight into what her role involves.

‘Organising a dog show takes a whole year, so I guess this should really be called ‘A Year in the Life of a Dog Show Secretary’.

The first job is applying to the Kennel Club (the governing body of the dog world) for the show Licence. This is done two years in advance. I have to make sure that our chosen date does not clash with another show in the area, or any championship shows up and down the country. Once the licence is received back, I can go ahead and book the venue. It’s not easy these days to find venues that can really be called ‘Dog Friendly’, however, we use Wellsprings Leisure Centre in Taunton and they are great. Really welcoming and as an added bonus, they partially set the show up for us and pack it all down afterwards too, which is a huge help.’ Explains Tina.

Tina’s next job is to find and book judges for the show.

‘I like to find the Best in Show judge first, someone well-known in the dog world, that is well respected and will be a popular choice for exhibitors. This judge will have the chance to choose any particular breeds they would like me to schedule. The rest of the breeds will usually be judged by lesser qualified judges, some very experienced and some just starting out on their judging path. Open shows are a great training ground for future Best in Show judges. 

Once judges are found, I send them a formal contract, they reply in writing, accepting the appointment. I write and confirm the appointment; this is then a binding contract between the judges and my society.’ Adds Tina.

Tina then books a professional photographer to cover the show. She looks for a photographer that is familiar with dogs and showing, and ideally works for the Our Dogs newspaper. Luckily for Tina, her husband ticks all of those boxes.

‘At this stage I contact traders that come each year to the show and book their space, trying to achieve a balance of products available at the show, giving more choice to exhibitors. I also recruit a qualified first aider for the day of the show, and at least three ring stewards. Ring stewards are the most vital part of the show, as without them, we could not run the rings successfully.

Once the judges are confirmed I can start to draw up a draft schedule, usually about seven months before the show. I need to think about the running order of the rings, thinking about which breeds need more time to prepare for judging; those with long coats that require a lot of grooming need to be scheduled for later in the day. So, for example, owners of Poodle, Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apso prefer a later start, whereas short coated breeds, like Bulldog or Dalmatian, are easier to prepare for exhibition and I put those breeds in the rings first. I like to offer special prizes for exhibitors, so I contact pet food companies and ask for sponsorship for the show. We have a great sponsor in Redpaw Pet Supplies, a local company making top quality dog food which doesn’t contain nasty chemicals.’

Once the draft schedule is complete, I email it to my printer, Taransay Print.  I like to have my schedules printed and ready for distribution by 1st January each year. At this stage I will advertise the show both in the Our Dogs newspaper, the ‘trade’ newspaper for dog show enthusiasts, and on social media.’ Explains Tina.

Exhibitors can choose to either post their entries directly or enter online through the printer’s website.

‘My job then starts to step up a gear, as I try and give my schedules to as many regular exhibitors as I can, to save the club postage, which can easily run into hundreds of pounds. My husband and I attend most open shows in the South West of England, which is our catchment area. As entries begin to come in, I collate them and can then order rosettes and ‘specials’ which are available for exhibitors to donate if they wish. Most of our regular exhibitors are very generous and contribute towards rosettes, which again helps the club.’ Says Tina.

A month before the show, Tina will touch base with the judges, checking they are all on track for the day.

‘I like to speak to the venue and check all is set there too, plus I order judges lunches and refreshments at this point. At this stage I will renew the club’s event insurance. Once the entry closing date has passed, I will send the postal entry forms to the printers and bank monies received (I’m also the treasurer of the club, sometimes this is another committee member, in which case monies would be paid in by them). I then write to the judges telling them the numbers of dogs in each breed that have entered and give them directions to the venue.’ Adds Tina.

Two weeks before the show, it’s full steam ahead. Each ring is allocated its judge or judges, and stewards. Each ring has a specific box of rosettes, specials and prize cards, which the stewards will ensure are given out once the judge has made his or her decision of placings. These ‘judges boxes’ take about two full evenings to put together, everything needed on the day in that ring, has to be sorted and put in the respective boxes.

Each show must provide an Awards Board, in a separate area to the rings, so that exhibitors can keep abreast of the results as they happen.

‘It’s my job to make sure these are put together ready for use on the day. I also have to ensure I have the necessary paperwork required, i.e. forms for incorrect entries, signs for the show (ring plans, grooming area, exercise area, first aider’s details etc).

All exhibitors are given an envelope with their exhibit numbers, catalogue, membership certificate and any other documents. These are also put together at home about a week before the show.

Exhibitors like to know the entry details for the show, how many dogs are entered and in what classes. I post this on social media, along with any last-minute information for exhibitors.

A few days before the show I will liaise with my committee, allocating jobs for the day, checking stewards are on track and that the raffle (a vital fund-raising part of the show) is organised. The show manager (also my husband, a busy chap) will have bought the judges’ gifts, cleaning equipment, bin bags etc for use on the day. These must all be loaded into our van ready for show day, along with odds and ends such as ring tape for marking out the rings, and grooming tables required in each ring for standing the smaller breeds on, so that the judge doesn’t have to bend down. Once everything is packed, it’s an early night ready for the big day.’ Says Tina.

On show day, Tina likes to be at the venue for 7.30am. Tina and her committee set up the rings and arrange the steward’s tables, chairs and grooming tables. She then sets out her secretary’s table, where exhibitors come to collect their envelopes, ring numbers etc and ask any questions. She makes sure all necessary signs are in place around the venue and that a grooming area and an exercise area are set up.

‘At 9am, the show officially opens and it’s my job to welcome exhibitors as they arrive, give out exhibitor envelopes, welcome judges and allocate and introduce their stewards. Once judging starts at 10am, I may, if I’m lucky get a few moments to watch some judging, as always paying particular interest to my own breed, Tibetan Spaniels. I like to chat to exhibitors old and new, ensuring everyone is happy and enjoying their day. It’s my job to collate the results as they come in, filling in a catalogue which I keep for future reference, should the Kennel Club have any questions.

At lunch time, I oversee the judge’s lunches, making sure every judge gets fed and has a break, as judging is both physically and mentally challenging. In the afternoon the competition steps up and the final awards, Best in Show, are announced, the high point of the day.

My last remaining jobs now are to make sure each judge and steward are given their thank you gift, that all exhibitors safely leave the venue, and re pack my van with the show equipment, then it’s home for a much-needed cup of tea!’ Adds Tina.

In the days following the show, Tina sends a post-show report to the Kennel Club, giving them details of entry numbers and any incidents that occurred on the day. Tina then likes to have a week or two break before starting all over again ready for the next show.

What’s the best bit about this role?

‘The best bit about being a Show Secretary is seeing dogs, exhibitors and judges happy and enjoying themselves at my show.’

What’s the worst bit about this role?

‘My poor tired feet at the end of show day.’

Any tips on how to become a Show Secretary?

‘I think anyone thinking of becoming a Show Secretary would need a good set of organisation skills, the ability to stay calm under pressure and some experience showing dogs. The best secretaries are exhibitors themselves, so have their ear to the ground constantly and know what exhibitors want.

The starting point would be, join a committee, look for a happy club, where people in charge are friendly and open to new ideas.’

A huge thank you to Tina for taking the time to talk to us and giving us an insight into the fast-paced role of a Show Secretary.

If you work in a role with dogs, we would love to hear from you. Email us at Hello@Buddies.co.uk .

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