Dream Jobs: Horse Show Manager Tom Struzzieri of HITS
Have a unique idea for a new equine venture? Interested in being a horse show manager? Read on to hear from one of the tops in the biz, show manager Tom Struzzieri, President and CEO of Horse Shows In The Sun or HITS.
I recently had the great opportunity to speak with Tom Struzzieri, President and CEO of HITS, Inc., the largest hunter/jumper horse show management company in the United States. To call him just a show manager does not really do justice to the foresight of the man responsible for one of the most successful hunter/jumper show circuits in the country.
It all started with his Rose View Stables in Poughkeepsie, New York and has now grown to four locations across the country. His vision has created the largest hunter/jumper show management company in the United States.
Struzzieri is also a founding member of the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA), serving on its Board of Directors, and has served as Chairman of its Show Management Committee. In addition to the national organizations, he is a member of numerous regional and state horse show associations.
I came away from our brief interview, with a picture of a man who has a passion for creating the best shows he can and a dedication to making them better every year. Tom and his staff have worked very hard over the course of years, investing their time and energy to grow the HITS circuit into the success it is today. He is a great example of finding your passion and going with it. His vision and determination would be an asset in any business today, and we are lucky that he chose to share it with those of us who love horses and showing.
Tom at the press conference after the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final debuted at HITS-on-the-Hudson in 2011. Photo ©ESI Photography
Karen Prell for Equitrekking: When did you come up with the idea for what would become the HITS show circuit?
Tom Struzzieri: It started back in the 1970’s with our farm, Rose View Stables and grew from there. In 1982, we started with the show in Gainesville, Florida, and we now have shows in California, Arizona, Florida, Virginia and New York that encompass the HITS circuit throughout the year.
Karen Prell: What is the reason for the success of the HITS shows?
Tom Struzzieri: Number one would be our staff. We have approximately 75 full time employees and during the show season that swells to 500. And we have great sponsors who are very loyal to us and support the circuit with their advertising and sponsorship of the shows.
Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final Champion Samantha Schaefer exchanges a celebratory high-five with second-place rider Nick Haness after the inaugural class took place during Pfizer Million Weekend at HITS-on-the-Hudson in Saugerties, New York. Photo ©ESI Photography
Karen Prell: Your list of sponsors is impressive and some of them have been with you for a long time!
Tom Struzzieri: We do have great sponsors who are very supportive and we couldn’t have the show circuit we have without them. We have some sponsors who have been with us for over 20 years. We have a big footprint across the country and that has brought in the sponsors.
Karen Prell: I’ve been to the HITS show here in Florida, and the spectators and exhibitors alike seemed to be pretty pleased with the show. To what do you attribute that?
Tom Struzzieri: We have a great staff and we own the venues at which the shows are based. That allows us to keep the management and day to day operations consistent at each show. We don’t have to worry about the footing in the rings or schooling areas being different as you would if you had to lease a facility from year to year. We always try to make it a great show experience for the exhibitors so they’ll keep coming back.
Patricia Griffith and Sienna on their way to a win in the Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final at HITS Saugerties this year. Photo ©ESI Photography
Karen Prell: Did you envision having a show circuit that offers such a great amount of prize money to the hunter division? The Diamond Mills $500,000 Hunter Prix Final offers a lot of money to the folks who show hunters.
Tom Struzzieri: We’ve worked hard to have such success, but is has taken a few years to get to this point. I always felt that there was a need for more incentive for people who show, and in particular there are a lot of amateur owner/riders out there who now have a chance to earn back a little of the money they spend to show. Our California show has grown to about 4600 entries because of incentives like this.
Karen Prell: I’ve had feedback from some owners who had been showing exclusively in their own ‘breed” shows, (Quarter Horse, Arabian, etc) who are now looking at stepping out into the “open” shows because of what they see going on with the HITS shows. Did you realize the HITS circuit would have this effect?
Tom Struzzieri: I hadn’t heard that. I’m glad that we’re having a positive influence in any area of the horse community. We welcome anyone and everyone that wants to participate in our shows.
Postscript: Shortly after I completed this article, I learned that the HITS team is doing it again! They have re-instituted the $50,000 East Meets West Hunter Challenge that was last seen in 2001. This will be a competition open to juniors, amateurs and professionals alike and will take place simultaneously on outside courses in Ocala, Florida and Thermal, California on Saturday, March 16. The courses will give the riders and spectators the chance to see what the hunters look like in their “natural” competition environment. If you get the chance to go, see this competition, whether you are rooting for the East or the West. I highly recommend it. It’s as close to the conditions of a “real” hunt field as you are likely to find. The only thing missing is the hounds!
About the Author: Karen Prell, aka "Triple Crown Karen," came from a very non horsey, working class New Jersey family and started riding at age three. With over thirty years experience as a riding instructor, Karen is passionate about developing beginners into confident riders and compassionate horse owners. A favorite expression heard often by her students is "It's ALL about the horse!" A lover of all things "horse," she is especially passionate about promoting the retraining of retired Thoroughbreds and adoption and rehoming of unwanted horses. Her ultimate dream would be to see the US Equestrian Team mounted on these great reclaimed athletes. Her career in media focuses on the everyday equestrian adventure and how a horse lover of modest means can make a difference for even one horse.