Thermal, CA - September 8, 2008 - The HITS Desert Circuit has brought together one the best management teams for one of the biggest horse show circuits in North America. The HITS Desert Circuit runs through eight weeks of competition from January 20 to March 22, 2009, at the HITS Desert Horse Park. HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri and the HITS West Coast Management Team, Dale Harvey, Fred Bauer, and Brian Morris are working non-stop to make the 2009 HITS Desert Circuit the most successful and enjoyable horse shows of the year.
This management team brings together the talents of some of the best minds in the industry. Through their input and hard work, the HITS Desert Circuit has grown and improved each year. This season marks the 24th year that HITS has operated a west coast circuit.
Struzzieri started in the equestrian industry in 1977 in Poughkeepsie, NY, with a training and sales barn, but decided to change his focus in the industry to producing and managing horse shows. Although Struzzieri is based out of New York for most of the year, he is often on the move traveling from coast to coast and venue to venue. Struzzieri looks forward to once again having his family in California for the 2009 season.
"I'm most excited about bringing my family out to California and basing myself in Thermal to provide my undivided attention to this year's circuit," he explained. "My children will attend the on-site school, and I'll be able to reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that Thermal continues on its way to become the best circuit in the world. I'm really excited about all the possibilities that exist for this circuit, not just this year, but well into the future."
Struzzieri's Horse-Shows-in-the-Sun (HITS) company grew over the years to include circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, Virginia, and New York. "As HITS grew and I was able to add more and better staff, it created opportunities for me to have shows in different locations," Struzzieri recalled. "Plus, there are only so many hunter/jumper shows you can have at the same location. Each of our locations has their own culture and feeling, which allows customers all over the country the opportunity to experience the quality and competition of a HITS show no matter where they live."
He believes that the HITS Desert Horse Park in Thermal has its own benefits for equestrians, separate from the other horse shows that he runs. "I believe one of the best things about Thermal is the opportunity to show in one place for the entire winter. It really has one of the best climates in the world during the winter and it's in close proximity to a great number of our West Coast customers, which allows for an easy commute to the shows. At the same time, the length of the circuit allows clients to own or rent long-term high-end lodging," he stated. "And, with the variety of classes and divisions that we offer, there are enormous opportunities for our customers to develop horses and riders from beginner to advanced; that's not something you find at every show."
In addition, Struzzieri notes that the climate out in California is another huge asset to the shows. "Other than 2008 when we had some extraordinarily unique weather in Thermal, I enjoy the fact that the weather in that region is consistent. For nearly 20 years we've been able to plan for special events and classes without any major weather concerns," adds Struzzieri.
For Struzzieri it is the "big build up" for a competition that he enjoys the most about being a horse show manager. "The way I look at it, you can give 100% of yourself for a certain number days and then it ends. Of course, we often move on to the next thing, so the cycle starts all over again, which helps to keeps things interesting," he said with a smile.
HITS West Coast Management team member Dale Harvey brings a wealth of horse show experience to Thermal. Harvey has been managing top horse shows for 12 years and was a grand prix rider until eight years ago. In addition to the HITS Desert Circuit, Harvey runs all of the horse shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, including the huge Del Mar International Horse Show.
Harvey enjoys working for the HITS team because of their "resources" and the "availability to anything to help get the job done." Harvey's strong suit is handling the international jumper classes and the upper level jumper competitions.
He believes that the HITS Desert Circuit has something for everyone. "I think one of the things that makes HITS different is that you can go to these events with your entire barn and they offer every level of competition; from Short Stirrup right up to World Cup qualifiers."
For 2009, Harvey has a specific goal in mind for the HITS Desert Circuit. "I am looking forward to building upon all the things that we improved last year and all the progress we made last year," he said. "I am looking forward to continuing with that and really seeing-through the commitment to making the HITS Desert Horse Park state-of-the-art and making it a world-class venue."
A different perspective is sometimes what is needed to help a horse show grow in the right direction. With the addition of HITS West Coast Management Team member Fred Bauer, the HITS Desert Circuit found just that. Bauer joined HITS in May of 2007. "I had been interested in combining my business experience with horse activities for some time, and had been in touch with Tom over a number of years regarding the possibility of doing something with HITS. Last year the timing was right for both of us," Bauer recalled.
Bauer brings over 30 years of legal and business executive experience in small and large organizations outside of the equestrian industry to the HITS Desert Circuit. In addition to that full career, Bauer has been a competitor, judge, and volunteer in the equestrian industry for even longer. "It's a pretty rare combination," Bauer admitted.
Bauer has run horse shows before at Nimrod Farm with equestrian legend Ronnie Mutch and his sister Sue Pinckney. He was the past Vice-Chairman of Zone 10 and was a member of the Board of Directors for the Hunter Jumper Council (now the USHJA). As a rider, he won the AHSA (now USEF) Medal Finals in 1969 and the ASPCA Maclay Finals in 1970. He has competed successfully in the Amateur-Owner Jumpers for the past 10 years, including back to back wins in the $25,000 Junior/Amateur Jumper Invitational at HITS Culpeper.
Adding the HITS Desert Circuit to his resume is something that Bauer was very interested in doing. "I like working as part of a team that is trying to put on the highest quality horse show possible while at the same time managing a successful business," he explained. "It calls for finding cost effective solutions to creating the best environment for all of our constituencies: Riders, trainers, owners, vendors, spectators, grooms, employees, press and shareholders."
Although Bauer has only been a part of the HITS team for a little over a year, he has been to the new Thermal facility for its entire existence and has seen the "substantial improvements." He noted, "We worked on them as a team. The major ones included footing in all rings, better jumps and decorations, better VIP food and experience, RV ground improvements, better environment in the hunter rings (including trees demarking the end of the rings and mulch on the berms), use of artificial grass at the Grand Prix berms and elsewhere, increased use of plants in the rings, better shade and seating for spectators, better shade for horses, more trees, better presentations for major classes, an outdoor seating area and more interior decorations in the restaurant, improved lighting in the stable area, paving the main road, and better dust suppression on dirt roads. We also emphasize continued improvement in customer service and relations."
One of the people on the HITS management team that is crucial to improving customer service and relations is Brian Morris, who has worked for the company for 11 years. Morris got into the equestrian industry through his friend Wade and Wade's mother Marie Gatlin, who are family to grand prix rider Joie Gatlin. Morris started working for HITS as a jump crew foreman and worked his way up to horse show manager after three years. He pointed out, "All of us involved in the management bring unique qualities. I think what is special about all of us is that we are willing to do any part of a horse show, from greeting customers and taking care of their needs to mucking stalls."
Morris said that the best part about working on the HITS team is that they are "like a family." He added, "We work hard together, but we have a good time. That makes it a lot easier." Morris looks forward to an addition to his family later this year with his son Maxwell, and he wants to get back to Thermal, where he gets to see friends and family from his home state of California.
In addition to this core management team, HITS has continuously welcome ideas and contributions from the people they serve - the riders, trainers, and owners that attend the HITS Desert Circuit. Since the end of the 2008 season, the management team has been working closely with members of the Desert Circuit Advisory Committee, taking input from well-respected trainers throughout the sport on what priorities are most important for exhibitor enjoyment.
"Our Advisory Committee has been a valuable resource as we prepare for next season. The feedback and recommendations that have been contributed account for many of the areas we are currently focusing on. It's just what we were hoping to emerge from this relationship," said Struzzieri.
The 2009 HITS Desert Circuit prize will be available in the fall. If you would like more information on the HITS Desert Circuit or to request a prize list, please visit http://www.hitsshows.com
Photo Credit: HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri (top left), Brian Morris (top right), Fred Bauer and Dale Harvey (left and right). Photo (C) Flying Horse Photography and Kenneth Kraus/PhelpsSports.com. This photo may be used free of charge only in relation to this press release.
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/tom-struzzieri-hits-west-coast-thermal-09-08.html">Tom Struzzieri and HITS' West Coast Excited About Possibilities for Thermal in 2009 and Beyond</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com