In my ramblings the other day about entering horse shows, the cost difference between h/j and eventing came up. I am always kind of floored by how affordable eventing is, having come from jumperland. ***Before I even get started I’m going to insert the disclaimer of “I know it varies for everyone, depending on your personal circumstances” so instead of telling me I’m wrong (because for mine I’m not) tell me how it’s different for you.***
For me personally there’s a huge difference between the cost of a USEF recognized horse trial and an A rated h/j show, but when I say that to eventers they tend to look at me as if I’ve grown a second head. Don’t get me wrong, neither sport is cheap. Nothing about horses in general is ever cheap. But as far as competing goes, in my circumstances, eventing wins the best value award.
Part of it is that eventing is a little more of a no-fuss, no-frills, independent type of sport. They don’t tend to set up elaborate mini-villages with drapes and tables and foliage at shows, they don’t tend to have grooms that you’re paying per day, and they definitely tend to not have a trainer with them every step of the way during a competition. In eventing your trainer cannot help you once you’re in the ring, and there are rules about warm-up and “outside assistance” that foster a you’re-on-your-own feeling at shows. In fact, a lot of them roll their trusty rusty Stanley plastic trunks into their stall spaces, set up their tack hooks on the outside (tack stalls and grooming stalls, pffft), and warm themselves up. It’s pretty darn rare to hear the words “I have to wait for my trainer” come out of an eventer. I’m not saying that makes them better (because god knows some of them could definitely use a trainer), it’s really just an entirely different mindset. They also seem a lot more likely to camp out – I have never in my life heard of anyone legit camping at a h/j show, but no one would bat an eye at a tent at an event. Note: I am not one of those people, I like having a shower and WiFi. They’re also more likely to haul themselves places (therefore making it easier to be so DIY when you’re not trainer-dependent for transportation) which in turn makes it easier for a sad non-trailer-owning person like me to split gas and bum a pretty cheap ride instead of paying a trainer up to $1/mile. So I pulled out some old show bills from my h/j days, one from an A show and one from a local level show, plugged those costs in, then put my eventing costs for similar level competitions next to them, for the sake of comparison.
First lets look at schooling shows, or non-USEF recognized shows:
And then a recognized event and rated h/j show:
A few explanations of my numbers: for the hotel cost I used a flat rate across the board of $50 per night. Obviously if the show is longer it requires more nights in a hotel. Usually I try to share a room with someone so that’s a fairly accurate guess, and in an effort to make it fair I stuck to a standard $50/night rate for all shows. There aren’t a lot of shows close enough to Austin to make it just a day trip, so hotel is almost always a factor. Trailering fees look different because when I was showing h/j I never had the option of tagging along with someone who had their own trailer, therefore I had to pay whatever the trainer charged. Almost all of my eventing friends have their own rigs so it’s a definite cost saver. Also at h/j shows paying a per diem trainer fee wasn’t really negotiable, that’s just how it was done. At events I can pick and choose which days I want trainer assistance (if any). For the sake of fair comparison I kept the trainer fee in the events, even if I wouldn’t necessarily be paying it. All other fees are show fees and therefore concrete, although obviously some events/shows are cheaper or more expensive than others. The ones I chose here for the recognized/rated columns are both what I would call toward the upper end of average, cost wise, for this area.
I also didn’t include food costs since that varies, or gas if I drove myself, but I did include a line to mention whether or not some meals/free food are provided by the show to competitors. To me that’s a money saving perk. Feed me.
The potential to win back money exists at some shows too, and is worth considering. Granted I have never won back enough money at any show to really make much of a dent, so to me it’s not much of a draw, but to others it is. What I do think is pretty interesting, and worth noting when looking at comparisons like this, is that events are largely run by volunteers. IMO that helps keep the costs down. On one hand it seems like it would require more manpower in the way of XC jump judges, bit check, etc. But when you consider that most h/j shows are running several rings at a time (and all that that entails) I would bet that the number of people needed comes pretty close to equaling out.
As you can see, for me, the savings is pretty substantial. I can do 5 recognized horse trials for what it would cost me to do 2 A rated h/j shows. The same ratio applies on the schooling side – I could do 5 unrecognized events for what it would cost me to do 2 schooling h/j shows. My reality? It’s 2.5x more expensive to show my horse as a jumper than as an eventer.
Honestly it seems like no matter what the cost is, everyone will always think it’s too much. That’s human nature I guess. Even in triathlon, where entry fees are generally from $70-120ish per race, they constantly lament about how expensive it is while I just laugh to myself. At least at the end of a triathlon you almost always get a medal and cookies… I can’t even imagine how delighted I would be if someone gave me a medal and cookies every time I came out of the ring at a show.
I would be interested in hearing what the costs of h/j vs eventing and rated/recognized vs schooling are like for other people! I’m jealous of those who are are only a short drive away from your show venues and don’t have to pay stall/hotel all the time… makes me miss Maryland.