An overly personal look into horse show costs

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:

ShowComparisonSchooling

And then a recognized event and rated h/j show:

ShowComparisonRated

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.

A shows are pretty…

 

… pretty freakin EXPENSIVE

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.

Eventing, take my money. Just not as much of it.

 

new USEA slogan? “It’s 2.5x less expensive for this random chick in TX!”

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.

or cookie medals…

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.

 

33 thoughts on “An overly personal look into horse show costs

  1. Really interesting post! I can’t comment at all on what eventing costs here in NJ (bc I’m not an eventer), and the only 2 shows I did last year were same-day and not rated. I think the one show I did in September came in right around $200 total for everything (classes, fees, hauling, etc) and the one in October was slightly more, only because I did the mini-prix class and the show was part of their Classic series, so the classes ran a little more in cost ($35/class instead of the $25/class). But still, both shows came in under $300 for the day for everything….to me, that isn’t terrible. Then again, we didn’t get stalls or a hotel.

    Great way to break everything down side-by-side though! 🙂

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  2. Loved hearing about what the costs are for h/j land. Your cost analysis of events jives well with what I’ve experienced in our area as well. The Recognized shows are a tougher pill for me to swallow personally, but I find that schooling HT’s are so affordable and there’s so many of them, it works out just fine. Of course, it’s been about 10 years since I’ve had a trainer at a show… considering we need 3 sets of tack to compete, we eventers are a relatively cheap bunch! 😀

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    1. I’m jealous that you have lots of schooling HT’s… we have one place that is a 2 hour drive away that has a few a year, otherwise we’d have to drive 3-4hrs to north Texas to get to any (unless you want to do the super ghetto ones that only go up to BN). Granted, we have to drive that far for recognized events too, since the closest one is 2 hours.

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      1. Really cool post!

        I realize how we are so lucky up here with Fair Hill 10 minutes away, Plantation, Carousel you name it. Most schooling trials cost me about 150 tops each time out (usually 95-115 for the entry fee, my friend who hauls me will NOT take gas money, 10 bucks for food maybe if i dont bring my own, and trainer HA i wish. LOL…Actually take that back probably costs me about 120 tops!

        we have about 8-10 schooling events in the 30-40 mile radius here.And a few pony clubs that put on their one unrecognized events that are fun fun fun too! And then there is the big league (Plantation, Fair Hill, etc) but we dont have to worry about me going there! But it is still so local that most people dont need hotels even if they do need stalls.

        Of course as I say we are lucky I look outside at more snow, realizing I havent ridden my horse since December and the events start in March/April. LOL so give and take I guess give and take 😉

        Now i know why i never became a hunter jumper person 🙂

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        1. I’m right in the same area and we are just SWIMMING in local unrated schooling HT’s! I also live 10 min down the road from BCHP, and that costs me a cool $90 a pop at MOST for a HT. Even for schooling h/j shows in my area, I go trainerless and spend around $60 for 1 division. I don’t have the budget to do recognized anything, really, so I LOVE living in Area 2!

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          1. oh great now you just added ANOTHER area to my list of places to go cause that is still close enough for me to haul in for the day LOL! Thanks!

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  3. Loved seeing the side-by-side comparison! I’ve only been a spectator at a couple events, but luckily my h/j shows seem to be a bit cheaper. My trainers fee is much lower, our farm has a whole gaggle of trailers to bum a cheap ride from, and the show fees seem to be lower. Of course, we rarely have to get a hotel/stalls since there are lots of shows in the area. I still have to save my pennies though!

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    1. I calculated trainer fee at $50 a day for schooling shows and $60 a day for A shows because that’s pretty much what I’ve always been charged. Seems pretty standard for here. Just an explanation of what you’re seeing there, numbers wise, since I didn’t elaborate on that in my post! The trainer fee at events is $50/day as well.

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  4. I live in a horse show wasteland. I have some access to local schooling shows. And those are relatively inexpensive, I suppose. I’d probably run $2-300 for a full weekend of H/J fun and maybe $150ish to do the (only) event derby.

    But when you live in horse show wasteland, the closest recognized event is 6+ hours away. Hell, the next-closest event derby is 3+ hours away. (I refuse to count the semi local one at the terrifying facility with slick footing, no water/ditches/banks and super sketchy footing.)

    So are recognized events still cheap than A shows? Undoubtedly. The dividing line for me just gets blurrier when you tack on 8-10 hours hauling one way.

    Well that and f*** you xc.

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    1. Hahaha! Yes. Big bummer here in Idaho as far as eventing goes. And our local event derby here (and in Bellevue two hours away) is a $65 entry fee, plus $20 for a stall. Not too terrible! And I would so be in for cookie medals. Or just any food.

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    2. Ditto!

      Oklahoma isn’t quite the wasteland Idaho is, but there’s one recognized event in the state that’s a 3+ hour haul from where I live. Even the unrecognized events are 2+ hours away. The next closest events are in TX and KS, which are a minimum of 5 hours away.

      H/J shows are MUCH more common in my area of the state, but their entry fees are much higher. I imagine they’re still more expensive even if you account for the difference in gas costs.

      And I am TOTALLY one of those people who camps at events and never gets a stall for a one day show. Stand tied to the trailer, horses!!

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  5. Neat comparison. Recognized events ran me a few hundred a weekend, and A shows a few thousand, so this looks totally right to me! And oh my god my parents love me SO MUCH to pay for most of that. My checkbook cannot handle A shows right now.

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  6. this was super interesting to read – thanks for sharing all your details (and major props for even keeping track of them – i’m making a mental note to do the same)

    for the local schooling stuff, it’s actually a little opposite for me – mostly bc we have so many local options and i do everything myself (hauling, no trainer, etc) – so all i pay are entry fees. for one division the h/j shows are ~$50, whereas starter trials are $100-$150.

    but when i did the local h/j stuff in college with a trainer/barn/etc, it got $$ pretty fast – and the prices seemed way more variable than at an event

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  7. HJ schooling shows are under $100 for me. That being said, I never show with a trainer and haul myself. I can’t post my total Show fees or I will become a single lady lmao jk 😉

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  8. I’m glad Miss S doesn’t charge us to stay at her house on horse show weekends. I do know of two people who usually camp out at the h/j shows on the western side of the bridge, and one of them camps out at our local place because her barn is an hour away. My schooling show bill was $80 at the lowest, with all fees included. I’ve had $300+ bills for rated shows, but they were B and C rated, and they still aren’t big shows.

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  9. Lol cookie medals. Brilliant.

    I’ve only done schooling h/j shows, but your A show costs are comparable to what I’ve paid for A-rated saddleseat shows. Eventing out here in Area IV is comparable for schooling, and a little higher for registered.

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  10. Great post! However, as someone who does the jumpers, it’s depressing! Haha! I don’t know anything about eventing, but I can give you an idea of what I pay on the East Coast for “AA” jumper shows. I groom for myself and trailer myself, so that helps costs. Training fees are $100 a day per horse. Typically, weekly stalls are $250 plus grooming stall/setup splits w/trainer. I usually do 2 or 3 classes plus a classic with each horse, so about $300+ per horse in entries. Hotel rooms are not cheap around here, usually about $100+ a night for something decent. However, some places give a horse show rate. Those prices are for shows like HITS, Upperville, or Raleigh. Sadly, my winter time budget is WAY higher since I do WEF. I won’t share all of those numbers, because it’s too depressing. However, I will say a stall at a barn off show grounds within hacking distance is $750 a week or $9000 for the circuit…. It’s crazy!

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  11. I’d always wondered what the costs were for people who show.

    Which might explain why I’m looking at endurance/LDs. Not only are the costs WAY lower than that, we camp, and they feed us dinner the night before, and usually, for a low cost, there’s lunch offered, or a potluck dinner or something.

    And I’m “low class” enough that I just ride in comfortable clothes and a comfy saddle and don’t worry much about turn-out.

    Sorry for just “dropping in” with this comment, but I’ve read your blog start to finish and find it fascinating to learn about a sport that’s so foreign to me!
    Plus, I love looking at all of the photos.

    I promise I’m not a stalker!

    Wait, does saying I’m not a stalker make me a stalker? 🙂

    Thanks again for having such a useful and informative blog though. Even for those of us who don’t compete H/J or do eventing, it’s still fascinating.

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  12. Really interesting post!! The only thing I have experience with at this point is schooling horse trials which run about $85-95 in my area. Greta point about volunteers running most of the HTs…I think it’s probably true! I can’t imagine getting paid to work a show…that would be sweet actually.

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  13. For me a schooling horse trial would cost
    $85 for entries
    $35 ish for a stall
    $5 for the medic thingy
    $160 for hotels (2 rooms, one for me/mother/sister and one for trainer)
    whatever the gas prices are, and then whatever we eat along the way.
    What hotel do you stay at for Pine Hill xD that’s way cheaper than the Holiday Inn we typically use

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  14. I’ve never shown in something comparable necessarily, but I can give you an idea for breed shows.
    Schooling shows are cheap and a dime a dozen between January-March. They’ll run you $6 a class + $10 show fee.. Figure 6-8 classes, maybe $25 in gas (we have our own trailer), no hotel, trainer fee of $40 – it’s easy to show for $100 all day. They’re also usually only a single day, so no stall and we haul in/haul out same day.

    Recognized breed shows usually operate on a flat fee per division, so one flat fee (usually $300-400) covers any class within your division (e.g., all the Amateur classes), AQHA fees, stall, show fees for all judges (usually 4-6). A tack stall will run you another $250, gas is about the same, trainer at $50 a day (over a three day show). Comes out around $800. Not too bad to pick up points under 5 judges in one weekend, in 6 or 7 classes.

    Big breed shows are what will kill you – Congress, World Shows, Regional Championship – those are our equivalent to Devon, WEF, HITS, etc. At the Paint World last year (an easier comparison, since in AQHA you qualify per class, so many will haul to only show in 1 or 2 classes), each class ran $160 (so figure that times five or six), a paid trail or fences warm-up is another $30, $45 in show/drug fees, a stall is $225, plus a tack stall is another $225 (and not having a tack stall isn’t an option), gas to haul (assuming I’m still coming from NM) would run $250, trainer runs $150/day out of state + hotel (splits if more than one client, but as a youth I was often the only one), hotel runs $100/night and you’re usually there 5-7 days… Easily a $4,000-5,000 show. And God forbid you show up wearing the same thing you showed in last year…

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    1. o.O Wow that’s nuts! I have a few friends who show WP/horsemanship/showmanship/etc. and the cost of show clothes for those disciplines is INSANE! I don’t know how y’all do it when you need a different outfit for every class!

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  15. I usually squint when I write checks for A shows so the total is a little blurry but tack on grooming and braiding and the sums gets a touch larger.

    I rode for about two years on a property that hosted 10-12 A/AA shows a year- major cost savings when you can cross off hauling, hotel, stall, and grooming. I was managing to average about $500 a show!

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    1. Oh man having A shows at your barn would be awwwwwesome!!

      I don’t event but rated shows kill my horse show savings… We have a decent amount of semi local echoing shows tho so that it helpful

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