The first step to open an account is to go to the show office and ask them to find your paperwork, which is usually under the barn or trainer name. You will need to provide any additional documents that are required (passport, Coggins test, etc.) and then provide payment. Form of payment will vary from show to show but paying by cheque is probably the most common, followed by cash or credit card (not every show is equipped to accept payment by credit card).
Leaving an open cheque (filled out with everything but the amount) will allow you to make class changes and order hay/shavings throughout the week while guaranteeing the office that you will pay. Your cheque will be filed away until you close the account. Some shows may allow you to leave a cheque written out for the exact amount of show fees based on your initial entries, which you can then exchange for a different cheque at the end of the show if the amount changes or write out an additional cheque for the difference.
Entries that the show has had trouble collecting payment from in the past (bounced cheques, etc.) might be designated as "cash customers" and will have to pay in cash as they go.
If a show accepts payment by credit card, the card number can be left in the office, similar to an open cheque.
The form of payment can usually be changed when the account is closed, so if one form is easier to leave available at the beginning of the show but you actually want to pay with a different method, it shouldn't be a problem.
In most cases, only once you have left your payment and submitted all documentation will you receive your number. The office might allow for a single "barn" cheque to release the numbers of every horse for a given trainer if the trainer is willing to allow that cheque to cover the entries of any clients who do not close their accounts themselves. If you have multiple horses, you should be able to use one cheque to pay for them all if you so desire.
An account can stay open for the duration of a horse show and then must be closed. Whether the show lasts a day or a week, the account must be closed by the last day of the show or earlier. Even if there are subsequent shows taking place at the same location, each individual show must be paid for separately (if the show names are different or if each week is numbered, the shows are separate and not just one long horse show).
To close an account, you'll need to hand your number in (or simply recite the number if the show doesn't want them returned). The secretary will print out a bill and you can review it before paying because mistakes are occasionally made. Trainer splits should be taken care of early in the week because the office is often too busy to handle changes to them on the weekend (and changes at that point may affect those who have already paid), but mistakes on the office's part can be rectified because they are not your fault. Once you are satisfied that your bill is correct, you can pay (you will need to ask for your cheque back if you left one) and your bill should be stamped as proof of payment.
Prize money can be accorded either by removing it directly from the bill or by sending a cheque through the mail at a later date. In the former case, you may be given a cheque in the office if your prize money won is greater than your entry fees, or simply have reduced entry fees if the prize money is less. If cheques will be mailed out, you will need to pay your entry fees in full when your account is closed.
If you do not go to the office to close your account, you forfeit the right to dispute the charges on your show bill and your cheque will be filled out or your credit card charged by the show office. The office might charge an additional fee to those who do not close their accounts, and any entry that cannot be paid in full might be reported to the national federation to be placed in bad standing, which can affect the competitor's ability to attend other shows.
Do not forget to collect any documents that you left with the office such as passports; they are often left in a box for pick-up rather than handed back to you by the secretary. Anything left behind can either be brought along to the next show on the circuit or kept with the show venue or secretary, so trying to get documents back after leaving them behind isn't always easy.