The first requirement for any software package is usability. It’s got to run on your machine, be easy to learn and not require extra steps to perform routine tasks. Keep in mind, however, that usability is in the eye of the beholder. As with all programs, you’re going to have to be patient while you get used to it.
Consider exactly what you want from your software. As a matter of fact, prioritize your needs on paper, determine what you must have, what you’d like and what would simply be neat extras. Do you need to print invoices’ Do you want to produce a report on when horses are due for veterinary or farrier care’ How important is tracking points and money earned’ Do you need training information or stall cards printed’
All the programs we used provided a good number of detailed reports. The exact names and formats of the reports varied, but they all provided what we expected in a useable form when we asked for a report.
Running a show requires that you track thousands of nearly identical bits of information, all of which must be at your fingertips during the show. This is exactly the sort of task that computers were made to do.
Storing large amounts of data is generally accomplished using a database, a program that stores and retrieves data. All three of our show-management trial programs were basically database applications.
Show Secretary is designed for professional breed show organizers. It provides extensive accounting support for both money and breed-association points. It’s a powerful, flexible program but requires a steeper learning curve. It can be configured to run any sort of show. Show Secretary accepts entries from the Internet, and it integrates with Horse Sports World, an online entry and show-calendar solution. Perfected Technology Systems works to be responsive to problems, and we noted they continually refine the program. At first glance, their support fee may seem high, but it’s really a good value.
Show Business for Dressage was the only one to provide a hard-copy manual, but the user interface was a little less intuitive than the other two packages. Several simple tasks required more steps than we felt should be necessary. Once data is entered into the system, however, reusing that data for the next show is easy.
Show Pro organizes hunter/jumper shows. Its online manual was well written, and the user interface was the most intuitive and easiest of the three programs. Show Pro also supports network use, so that you can have multiple computers accessing the data simultaneously, including an exhibitor’s terminal that allows them to view and print reports and results. Argus Development provides free quarterly updates.
Barn/Stable Management Programs
The barn-management programs were more complicated because what they emphasized varied considerably.
The Horseman’s Organizer will organize your horse contacts by category, such as personal, veterinary, or employee. You can track individual horses, including basic information, training, veterinary and hoof care, with an emphasis on costs. It doesn’t track feed schedules. It will support pedigrees and breeding-horse schedules.
It will also track points. The accounting support seems geared toward full-care training facilities where vet/farrier fees are paid by the farm and charged to the client. Recurring charges can be defined for things like board and training. Invoicing and multiple-owner support require the advanced version.
Horse Management centers around individual horse records. It provides ”Mass Update” features for farrier, vaccination, and deworming records, allowing you to quickly add entries for multiple horses. It supports individual feed programs and prints stall cards. You can print up to six- generation pedigrees as long as all the horses are in your master list. It tracks broodmare breeding, not stallion bookings. It handles expenses but offers no invoicing support. You can enter awards and points, but only for programmed categories.
Breeder’s Pro allows you to flag records to create groups in your contacts lists, such as all of your students. It provides a summary of routine vet activity and the ability to enter more detailed records just one mouse-click away. It also has detailed feed information capability and prints stall cards. It has pedigree support, and the horses need not be in your database. It allows you to track points and provides extensive accounting support.
Equifacts with Invoicing provides detailed categorization of information. For example, veterinary visits are broken down into Coggins, General Health, Leg Watch, Vaccinations and Worming. It also helps manage contact lists, points and horses with multiple owners.
It has no pedigree support, but it does track both stallion bookings and broodmare breedings with heat cycles. It provides invoice generation and payment management, but boarding fees must be entered manually under miscellaneous. It tracks points.
Horse Cents 2000 allows you to separate active owners from inactive ones, which is great for situations like race barns where horses come and go frequently. It tracks training, performance, and veterinary information. It supports horses with multiple owners but has no pedigree or breeding support. It’s geared for a race-training barn with built-in support for tracking race results/earnings and race-related charges. It prints bills and detailed monthly statements.
Easy Horse Accounting consists of a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet template for a cash-accounting system, tracking income/expenses. The manual is clear and detailed, including information on documenting business transactions for your tax records.
Breed Manager has a good contacts list and tracks veterinary information but not feeding or training. It supports multiple registrations. Pedigree support is the strength of this program with up to five-generation pedigrees (including in HTML). It tracks stallion bookings, not mare breeding. There is a simple invoicing system that’s not tied into the rest of the software. It does print nice invoices and track when they’re paid. It tracks performances and points for one organization.
With software, you do get what you pay for. Our favorite show program is Show Secretary for its versatility, flexibility and outstanding support.
Management was tougher, and there’s no doubt that your best choice depends upon exactly what you need to do. However, for a general do-it-all kind of program for an average horse owner, we’d look first at Breeder’s Pro full version.