My Expensive Reality

When I got Frankie, I started tracking my monthly expenses for him in a spreadsheet I made (which should surprise none of you that know me at all). It’s broken out pretty broadly and probably has room for improvement, but at a glance it’s good for me to see what I’m spending in different categories at different points throughout the year.

The way I have it set up currently has the following categories:

  • Board
  • Lessons
  • Training rides
  • Show fees paid to my trainer (which covers all the various pieces therein)
  • Other fees paid to my trainer (minor meds, blanket cleaning, random stuff like that)
  • Vet
  • Farrier
  • Insurance
  • Shows
  • Other

I don’t include tack/equipment (though I probably should), and I don’t include clothing for myself. So my tracker runs a little lower than what I truly spend on the sport, but it’s decently comprehensive for the expenses that are specific to the Frankenbean.

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Vet care costs have crept up over the years as we figure out how to make him feel extra special best. And don’t worry, chiro/massage goes right in that “other” bucket.

The reason that I bring this up is because I read Emma’s post about budgeting and how that has changed over time to account for reaching for certain goals. It’s a cool post with some cool comments on it, def check it out if you haven’t! But it also got me thinking about my own budget and my own goals, and what the investment looks like for those goals and for goals that may be a bit out of reach. Starting with WIHS.

Last year I peaked at 89th in the rankings for WIHS before dropping right off the radar altogether. While I was very pleased with our performance over the season, I simply didn’t have enough outings to get the points needed. Granted- WIHS wasn’t one of my big goals in 2018 and if it was I could’ve been MUCH more strategic about it by getting points at some of the smaller shows around here. But if I was aiming for that I still would’ve had to go to a lot more shows in total, so I don’t think the cost of showing would have been drastically different for the year. And certainly the money spent on training and equipment would not have gone down in the least- if anything, they would have gone up.

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My big goal for the year was Lake Placid and all monies went right to that.

Between all those categories shown above, the investment money-wise was not trivial. Far from it. If I was one of those people that needed to recoup my investment on Frankie (HAHAHAHA RIGHT THAT ALWAYS HAPPENS), I would need to get an absolutely absurdly out of reach price for him. It ain’t ever gonna happen, despite his theoretical increase in value due to training and show record (I say theoretically because homeboy obvi isn’t for sale so we’ll never know what he’d go for).

I’m comfortable with my show results. I’ve never done this because I need blue ribbons, I compete because I love the atmosphere and trying new adventures with my horse. Ribbons and points and qualifying are the nice but unnecessary icing on the cake for me.

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I mean clearly I’m never MAD about the ribbons

But I can absolutely understand the frustration of someone who DOES want to qualify and be a stronger competitor. Knowing that the the time and money and soul I’ve poured into training and showing has gotten me to be a solidly middle-of-the-pack competitor could be disheartening. If that’s the investment it takes to be mid-range, I don’t even know what it would take to be consistently in the ribbons.

If qualifying and ribbons were my goal, I would step down a level. Do the local rated shows instead of the biggest AA ones I can find. Maybe step back down in height and get really really perfect at that. There are definitely plenty of things I could do differently if that was my aim.

I’m not gonna do any of those things though. I’m going to keep reveling in the atmosphere and presence of great riders at the big shows, even if I’m out of the ribbons in a class of 60. I’m going to keep feeling like I’m flying over the big jumps with Frankie, even if we have a rail here and there. And I’ll keep signing those checks, even if that monthly investment has hit embarrassment levels.

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All I want to do is All the things in All the places with this creature.

The first step to fixing the problem is admitting that you have a problem, and I’ll be cold in my grave before you get me to admit this one.

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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.

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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.
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LET ME PAY YOU FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF WEARING WHITE PANTS

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.