Cost of Showing

Hoo boy. I’ve been seeing all y’all sharing the costs of competing, and it’s absolutely fascinating to see the differences by region, by discipline, by moon sign, by all that stuff. We all know I can’t resist a good blog hop, so here’s my breakdown:

Annual Fees:

USHJA for rider: $85 per year
USEF for rider: $80 per year
USHJA for horse: $75, lifetime
USEF for horse: $300, lifetime

So basically Frankie is set for life since I got him registered shortly after I bought him, but every year I cough up another $165 to keep myself in good standing. Could I save some money by doing the 3-year or lifetime memberships? Maybe. But I also refuse to fork over that much at once, so I’ll keep trucking along. I don’t really factor this into my show budget because it’s such a drop in the bucket (just keep reading, it gets painful).

Individual Show Fees:

I break this into two main groups- fees that I pay directly to the show, and fees that I pay directly to my trainer as part of her services. I’ll start with the check I usually write to the show.

Show Fees to the Show

Stall: varies pretty widely. WEC was $75, HITS Culpeper was $300. Most places that we go tend to be in the $250-$275 range. Upperville is so close that we were able to ship in, which saved me a good amount of money #praisebe. But I’m annoyingly enamored with shows that are more than 30 minutes away, so we get a stall for every other show.

Splits: the best part of having a filthy disgusting gelding is that we get to use extra shavings HOORAY. If we get a grooming stall, then we all split that cost as well. My trainer sets up this up so I don’t usually break this out as a line item, but it’s usually ~$100.

Poopy shavings go in forelocks, right?

“Other” fees: this includes office fees, federation/affiliate fees, zone fees, ambulance fees, and any other fees the office can tack on without causing widespread mutiny. These all usually add up to another ~$100 or so.

Classes: finally we get to the part we’re actually there for! I usually just do my division, with maybe one class earlier in the week for AT to do the bigger sticks. Or for me to use as a warmup. For most prize lists this looks like:

  • Warmup/training class: ~$50
  • High Adult Jumper Division (including classic): ~$300. I know that seems high for only 3 classes, but my classic is pretty much always a $2500 class, hence the high fee. Not that I ever get any prize money back because by the time Sunday rolls around I’m usually tired and riding like a spider monkey clinging to my horse’s back, but IT’S FINE IT’S ALL FINE JUST TAKE ALL MY MONEY.
  • Nomination fee: this is a fairly new one for me. Some shows charge it if you do any jumper classes. Some charge if you enter any class at 1.20m+. Sometimes this is $150. Usually it’s more. $225ish is a pretty safe middle ground.

And that about covers the check I write to the show itself. All that adds up to about $1k. Depending on the venue I can get this down to $900 sometimes (especially if they don’t have a STUPID POINTLESS NOMINATING FEE), but yeah. I’m probably going to be crying in the show office as I sign that check.

Show Fees to my Trainer

Just in case you thought we were done- we’re not! I won’t be sharing my trainer’s specific pricing, but I will tell you what services I pay for.

Shipping: we did use a commercial shipper to get the ponies up to Lake Placid (side note- the people at Johnson Horse Transportation were SO NICE and easy to work with. I love them. Absolutely lovely people.) but my trainer ships us everywhere else. She has a 4-horse and between her and some clients there’s like 18 2-horse trailers, so we always have a ride. If I can’t be there to get Frankie loaded/unloaded they will get him and all my stuff on the trailer, wrap/unwrap his legs, and clean out the trailer. I usually like to be there, but sometimes work gets in the way or I’m straight up exhausted and it’s worth paying a little extra. Also for stall set-up/breakdown- again, I like to be there if possible, but I’m often at work. And set-up and breakdown are LABOR INTENSIVE YO.

Francis you angel creature. Ships like a pro.

Coaching: Everything from mental coaching when I go off the deep end, to warming us up, to yelling SHOULDERS as I careen around the turns on course, to debriefing afterwards about what worked and what didn’t. She is an excellent coach. Sometimes AT coaches me, and she’s also fantastic. I’ve talked at length about that, but seriously. Their level of dedication to their clients is incredible.

Training rides: If I can’t be there early enough in the week, AT will hop on to let Francis stretch his legs and get some tuning up. It definitely helps set us up for success.

Pro show rides: For if AT takes Frankie in any classes. We did that once last year to step Frankie up to the 1.15m, and we’re doing it more often this year to give him some miles in the 1.20m.

Day care: no, not for Trainer’s children. For Francis of course! This is kinda a catch-all that includes mucking Frankie’s stall, feeding Frankie, wrapping his legs at night, and tacking up/grooming if needed. I tack myself up pretty regularly, but it’s nice to have the help if time is tight.

Supplies: covers transport and use of all grooming materials, hoof oil, saddle pads, non-slip pads, hoses, buckets, mounting blocks, chairs, etc. I pretty much just bring my saddle and bridle and Trainer/AT supply the rest.

Everything the light touches is communal supplies. Except Francis. He’s all mine.

Misc. grooming/medication: we do face/ears/legs touchups before shows, and Frankie is a real asshole about having his ears clipped so someone else handles that. If he needs any medication, Trainer/AT takes care of it and just invoices me- for example, Frankie scraped his eye somehow at WEC, and they gave him an anti-inflammatory.

Hotel/meal split: showing clients split the cost of food and lodgings for Trainer, AT, and any additional help they need to bring.

I think that about covers it. I feel like that looks like a lot of different fees, but they’re all reasonable and I appreciate the transparency in knowing exactly what I’m paying for each specific type of service we get. And the level of care Frankie and I get is really top-notch- I never worry for a moment about his well-being, and everything is very tailored to our learning style and goals. The overall cost varies pretty widely by how far we travel (shipping), how many days we’re there (day care, coaching, training, hotel/meal splits) so it’s hard to give a consistent total.

So adding up the fees I pay to the show and the fees I pay to my trainer, we’re looking at a $1700-$2000+ total for a rated show, not including my meals or hotel bill.


Which is why I don’t show all the time and why I eat peanut butter sandwiches a lot.

So here’s the question I’ve gotten in the past: could I do it for cheaper?

Short answer: yes.

Slightly longer answer: yes, but I won’t.

Full answer: not much I can do about the fees I pay to the show. They set the prices and I either pay them or choose not to go to that venue (one of several reasons we don’t go to Culpeper anymore). When it comes to the fees I pay my trainer, obviously I could do a lot differently there. I could muck and feed myself, I could forego training rides, I could load/unload, setup/breakdown, do all clipping and grooming and tacking myself, bring all my own supplies, etc. But I don’t/won’t do that for several reasons.

One reason is that this is the way my trainer’s show program is set up. It is a well-oiled machine, she has been transparent about this from day one, and it is what I willingly signed up for. No one is forcing us to show or to ride with this barn, and part of being in this program means working within the program. I like the program. It is not for everyone, but it’s great for me and my horse so I am very happy to work within it. And quite frankly I trust Trainer’s/AT’s cumulative years of expertise in horse care far more than my own, so there’s also a comfort in knowing that Frankie has knowledgeable eyes on him around the clock.

Another reason is that I straight up don’t want to. I go to horse shows for fun. I get to learn a lot, ride my favorite horse, compete over interesting courses, try new skills, hang out with like-minded people. I respect the HELL out of people that work their butts off to do self-care at shows, but it’s not something I want to do myself. I’m perfectly happy to pay the “convenience fee” for full care.

So there is my extremely long-winded breakdown of show costs. One of these days I’ll do a full breakdown of all Francis-related costs and we can all cry together.

16 thoughts on “Cost of Showing

  1. Stacie Seidman 07/05/2018 / 9:48 am

    Yep, this is spot on accurate for what I’ve experienced too. I have a full care barn I ride with sometimes and then my trainer the rest of the time. Since I’ve had Badger in full training with her, she only charges me our agreed upon full care training board whether he’s home or at a show, which is kind of amazing of her to do. Like I don’t even pay extra for her to show him other than the horse show fees (entries, stalls, etc) Which is insane, and lovely. But the full care barn I do pay for all the extras at shows. And I agree with you. It’s a well oiled machine and it works smoothly, and I get to have fun and be semi rested at a horse show. #worthit
    When I was showing Jampy with trainer, I did most everything myself since he lives with me. It saved a TON of money, but is a lot of work for sure. I’d still do it again if I have a horse that’s fairly easy to get to the ring.
    I get asked a lot how I can afford to buy all the crazy boots I have… and this spells it out pretty well. All this money I’m not spending at horse shows allows for lots of boots! I can’t wait to get back to showing though.


    • hellomylivia 07/05/2018 / 10:00 am

      Hahaha and this is why I just have the one pair of boots! I really hope that you have to stop buying boots soon because you’re back in the ring 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. roamingridersite 07/05/2018 / 11:13 am

    Interesting!! When I was doing endurance it was about $500 per ride all said and done and I thought that was expensive. Reading all these makes me realize how lucky I was.

    I agree with going with the program you chose to join. It would not only make you work harder but I’d guess it’d put a big kink in the works for everyone if you stepped outside that norm and did things your own way.


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2018 / 7:57 am

      Yeah part of it is not wanting to do the work myself because I’m secretly super lazy at heart, but it would also create such a headache for AT and Trainer to have to sort that out. We’re all much happier to stick with the status quo!


  3. Allison @ Pony Reboot 07/05/2018 / 12:35 pm

    Interesting to read about full care for shows and what that involves. I’ve never really showed with a trainer who had a program that offered that, and when I did, I was only doing schooling shows. I really wish I had an ala carte option, but none of the trainers I work with have enough staff to offer it. My autoimmune disease sufferin’ broke-ass body would benefit majorly from help mucking and tacking/untacking/grooming! Right now just hoping some pony club kids will do stalls for cheap at the show this weekend so I can save some energy hahaha


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2018 / 7:58 am

      Child labor is the best! We loooove putting those barn rats to use 😉


  4. eventerinprogress 07/05/2018 / 4:55 pm

    I can’t believe I was crying about the entry price for Gundagai (all up just over $200 – and that was a more expensive one).

    You must be super woman to work as much as you do to afford what you do and have time to do it!


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2018 / 8:00 am

      Haha lots of hustle! Luckily the folks at my company are all about work-life balance, so they’re great about letting me get creative with my schedule to work in more training sessions and shows 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Tracy 07/05/2018 / 7:17 pm

    All I know is DIY, hah! But to be fair, I totally agree with signing up for the program and going with it. I love my program, and its not for everyone, but it works for me and my goals.


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2018 / 8:00 am

      There’s always pros and cons and different types of programs are going to work for different goals- the trick is finding the right one that works for you! Lucky us that we’ve found that ❤


  6. HunkyHanoverian 07/06/2018 / 9:39 am

    YUP. This is exactly on par with which I have experienced as well. An A h/j show is going to run 1800-2k per week. There is just no getting around it if you are with any sort of program. The only feasible way for me to save money is to my own braiding (which I am attempting!). It sucks big time, but it is what is is unfortunately!


    • hellomylivia 07/06/2018 / 10:00 am

      Big pro of the jumpers: no braiding haha. One of these days I may try to learn those big button jumper braids, but we’ve never stood out for being unbraided yet!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Genny - A Gift Horse Blog 07/07/2018 / 3:47 pm

    Your program sounds very similar to my trainers “away” show criteria/plan. When we are just bopping around local things, it’s obviously a little different.


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