show expenses breakdown

Last year I set a show schedule that was simultaneously ambitious and reserved.  I wanted to hit a bunch of schooling/unrated events and 1-2 rated events.  Interestingly, I hit only two rated events… and no unrated events.  It was all a matter of timing, and then money.

Since then I’ve gained rather a bit of experience showing, and not just by going to shows.  Having photographed at shows and gone to watch, as well as paid to go to shows and thought more about what I need to do to show my personal horse, I thought I’d break down the actual costs of attending an event in California.  The categories of the expenses I’ve listed here will by-and-large hold for events anywhere, though the actual amounts will vary.

Show Entry and Stabling

The first cost that most people associate with shows are the costs of the show itself.  Rated and unrated shows typically vary the most in this area, but since there are really only 3 unrated events in my area (and a few unrated combined tests) it’s hard for me to predict accurately the cost of unrated events.  Based on the 2 unrated events I have been to, cost is between $180 event + $45 stabling and $230 including stabling.  Rated events have more standard expenses in California: $230 or $250 for BN/N/T entries, and $260+ for Prelim and above.  Stabling (looking at the 2016 omnibus) varies between $115 and $150, and doesn’t necessarily seem to vary based on the number of days of the event.  Haul ins usually charge $30 – $60 per day or a flat $75-115 so over a few days may add up to the same amount as stabling.  I almost always choose to stable since Murray does much better after a night of sleeping in a place, even if it’s a little more expensive.  And you can’t forget USEA starter fees — a whopping $21 goes directly and separately to USEA to help cover the costs of the online scoring system, year end points, and probably those badass little magnets you can get. Adding all that to entry, you’re already in the ballpark of $365.

Unrated: $230+
Rated: $365+



While others might be comfortable attending an event without schooling the facility, I personally am not yet at that place yet.  There are a few caveats to this: there are some events further away (8+ hours hauling) that I would attend without schooling if I felt that I was in a good place with Murray or I made it to regional championships, for example.  However, I’d probably make up for that by aggressively schooling more local courses that are similar, so it all comes out the same money-wise.  Schooling fees in California vary from site to site, from as little as $15/schooling day to $100 for your first time and $70 thereafter.  Trainer fees for a schooling day are usually around $65, and then you have to add in hauling to the location.  So the cheapest places for me to school are $70 in hauling + $15 in facility fee + $65 training, or $20 hauling + $60 facility fee + $65 training.  That’s a solid $150 day.  Hauling further away just adds to the cost.

Training Fees

Depending on your trainer, for an n-day event you can count on paying either n or n+1 days of training.  B gives us a pretty solid dressage school the day we arrive at an event, time permitting, so we usually end up with n+1.  But if you don’t need to school that day, or can’t, that would work out differently.  So for a 3 day event I paid for 4 days of training, or $240 in trainer fees.  A 2 day event would be around $180.



Not only do you have to get to the event, but you have to get your horse there and live while you are there.  So this means you have to haul — cost depends on mileage, of course — stay somewhere yourself, and feed yourself.  For me a close event would mean spending $20 in hauling, a medium distance about $110, and a far event would cost up to $250.  I spent $90 on hotel for a 3 night stay in a pretty cheap area of California, though due to a bunch of people dropping out I did end up sharing with fewer people than intended.  So let’s say that you fill your hotel to the max and spend $75 over three nights in a cheap area and $100 over three nights in a more spendy area.  At schooling events, we often camp or (because there is one locally), I can just sleep at home.  Then there’s food.  We often eat dinners out, and there’s one competitor’s dinner included with entry at most shows, so that’s dinners.  Dinner out is at least $15/night so I spend $30 over the weekend.  I never know what I will be willing to eat at a show, but know that I need plenty of water and gatorade to get through the weekend, and usually end up spending about $30 on snacks and sports beverages to keep me going between breakfast and dinner.

Hauling: $20-250
Hotel: $75+
Food: $60+

IMG_20150204_192530don’t forget the beer!

Miscellaneous costs

There are always random costs associated with traveling with my horse that I forget about at first.  For example, shavings!  I’d rather bring extra shavings than buy more at a show.  At $6/bag I usually end up spending about $24 on shavings for a 3-night show stay.  I also usually buy ice to keep my beverages cold and possibly ice my horse if he ever learns to do that, so another $6 bag if you buy at the show.  Miscellaneous shit always comes up though, so I estimate it at an even $50 for miscellaneous costs per show.

Opportunity Costs

Opportunity costs are the costs of things you are losing out on by doing something.  For example, by attending a 3-day horse show you may need to take 4 days off of work.  Therefore, you are losing out on 4 days of pay.  If you are a show photographer you are losing the opportunity to make income at a show by entering the show yourself.  While opportunity costs will vary drastically from person to person (I, for example, have never had to give up money in terms of work to attend a horse show. I do, however, forfeit essentially an entire week of work on my thesis, which is an important opportunity cost in my “career”.

wpid-wp-1441001474419.jpgSoooo worth it…

When you add all these things up, even the cheapest schooling show ends up costing me around $740, a cheap rated show costs around $960, and a somewhat-distant rated show costs $1170 (though could move all the way up to $1350 — and that’s just within California).

Wtf why do I do this again?  Geez.

And then just for fun, here’s a handy dandy chart of my calculated costs for various events near me.  The columns in green are a rated show.  The far left column, at WSS, would be a one-day event at a local venue that I often school anyway, so I nixed the schooling costs.  The navy column, the first FCHP, is a rated combined test (no XC).  I also nixed schooling costs for CEPF because I will go there at least once this year regardless of whether or not I intend to school there.

eventcostsbecause I am a twit, I didn’t think to remove the useless key on the right hand side of this figure. forgive me, data analysts, for I have sinned, but I really don’t want to make this graph again


32 thoughts on “show expenses breakdown”

  1. Your costs are a bit higher than mine (mostly coming from trainer fees) but it’s still amazing how much cheaper eventing is than h/j. I did a post comparing my costs for both last year and the numbers are just nuts. I can do 2.5 recognized events for what it cost me to do one A rated h/j show.


      1. Rated shows aside, my h/j schooling show bill usually ends up around $205-$230 (not including travel and trainer fees). When I was showing in Illinois it was even cheaper, most of my favorite schooling shows were around $165 and that included doing two jumper divisions plus some warm up rounds.


  2. Thats about what it runs here for me too and most events are only 2 hrs away. Its unreal. I literally don’t know how some people at my barn go to 1 or 2 a MONTH. HOW.

    I also refuse to pay a trainer for the weekend. I feel I am good enough to do it on my own and usually trainers have several other students at the show too and end up only barely showing up for warm up and saying things like “pop over that oxer” or “lets take that again”….all things I can do on my own. I have NEVER had a good experience with trainers at a show and there’s really not much they can help me with except maybe the course walk, which I would and do pay for. But $0-$60/warm-up its dumb and I won’t pay it since its not worth it, IMO.

    Other than that, the costs are about the same. It hurts me.


    1. Yeah, I’d be willing to do that for a dressage show but there’s no way I’m ready to do that at an event. I need my hand held AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE until I become a more consistent rider.


      1. I am also now in the hand holding camp, but back in the last couple years of showing Prince I thought about doing it on my own, but then I felt like that was rude to tell my trainer who I worked closely with and who often went above and beyond a weekly 60 minute lesson that I was going to deny her part of her income. I did eventually stop schooling with her on the Friday night before the show, but always during the Saturday and Sunday of the show itself.


  3. Holy crap. I’m suddenly even more grateful to live in Area II. I’m also really fortunate that my trainer and I go to most events together where I barter with her for schooling if I need it (or just a “I hope you have your big girl pants on” pep talk.


  4. That’s probably comparable to costs in my area. I just decided go to back to HJ land though and I’m sick to my stomach over how expensive it is. I’ll have to do something like this after I show at the end of the month.

    Also the data analyst in me wants to fix your chart.


  5. Whaaaaatttttttttt. Holy shit, I would never, ever be able to show if these were my costs. Between entry fee and gas, if I’m paying more than $250 for a recognized show, I’m feeling a little queasy. I’m lucky enough to have evented in Area II where I never had to stable/sleep overnight, I don’t pay for a trainer, and I bring all my own food. Now that I’m in Area I, I might have to pay to stay overnight, but I’m working my ass off to make that not happen. Still, if I hit any higher than around $300 for total costs, I’m just not doing it.


    1. Yeah, I was like “how do all my east coast blogger friends manage to do SO MANY SHOWS they must be RICH I am going to MARRY EMMA!!!!!!!” I mean, it’s a flawless plan basically (you and Alli are already married…)

      From what I understand things are a bit more like this down in NC and FL, and I heard talk that the USEA is trying to promote more one-day tests to lower costs for adult amateurs. Because as it currently stands, I could (and readily would) do 3 unrated shows for the price of one rated show… and then the USEA gets NONE of my money.

      Weirdly, we have almost an aversion to 1-day tests out here on the West coast. I’m legitimately scared of them. It’s like… how am I supposed to do all those things in one day? How will my horse LIVE? But all that being said, I would like to give it a go.


      1. come live with us and dooo alllll the showwwwws with us!!! i will have to do a breakdown of my costs bc it is really not even close to your numbers *at all* – but then again i’m realizing that my area is the exception, not the norm.

        plus i’ve strictly done one-day events, i haul myself (fuel costs are typically < $50/show, and brita typically chips in) and i show without a trainer. your schooling fees are closer to what i pay tho, but are still more.


    2. Wow. There’s literally not a single show in our Area that comes in under $250 by the time you pay entry, the $21 starter fee, and either grounds fee or stabling. Entry fee alone is $200-$250, which seems pretty standard across the board these days.


  6. Ugh yeah I need to do a write up like this for my shows so I’m actually being honest about what they cost. Last year, we did all local schooling/opportunity stuff and it was great because it was CHEAP. (Like $100/show including hauling and LOL I don’t pay trainers at shows).

    But that’s a little different this year. Hmmm.


  7. HOLY CRAP. That is insane! I pay an average of $100 per local one-day schooling HT here, depending on venue. And that’s gas and entry fee – I don’t bring a trainer and I bring my own food, and I don’t show anywhere that requires an overnight stay. So no stabling fees or hotel costs for me. The average XC schooling session runs me $60 – which is what I pay for a lesson, since I have a membership to the local horse park ($200 per year) so schooling there is free for me. Facilities fees in our area are usually between $25-$50, though, so still way less expensive than where you are. WOW. Those costs! I could not afford to event in CA!


    1. Yeah so your costs per show are like, $100+$40 (amortizing your schooling membership over multiple trips) + $60 + $25 = $225. I would do a billion shows for $225, even if I did have to pay trainer fees for each one!!


  8. These costs are pretty outrageous. Although a lot of it is how (properly) prepared you are with your actual trainer and your schooling in advance. I’ll just be showing up day of like an unprepared dumb ass so I can skip all those costs. I also plan to sleep in my truck which cuts down on costs a lot. You’re lucky to be close to so much action though. I will probably have to drive the 3 hours to go to any CT/HTs since Woodside is the only one near me.


  9. Dressage is definitely a bit cheaper! In the last couple years of showing Rico, I was averaging about $100-120 per rated show. Granted, that was one test (but FEI is a little more expensive) on one day with no coaching and I was borrowing my parents’ rig so no hauling fee (just gas, which varied per show).

    This year, if I even get to show, I’m looking at only showing at shows that are held by whatever barn I’m in just because he’s so green, will be returning from an injury, and is an idiot at new places. One of the barns I want to be at has one in August. I’d probably show 2 tests for 2 days (so 4 tests total). With each test at $45-50, the two full days of showing will probably cost me $250-300ish. I’m not sure if I’d want a trainer to help me… on Rico it always annoyed me to have a trainer there, but it might be helpful on TC. Definitely adds to the cost though.

    Luckily I tend to hit the smaller dressage shows, so they’re usually only on the weekends, no work lost for me. The only thing I lose is my extra income from teaching. But more than likely, I’ll have a student at the same show (riding a much different level so no overlap). In the off chance that I have a larger show (one day!), I’ll be able to do a sick day or vacation day and not lose any income.

    Interesting post! And the comments too, sounds like I should start making plans to move to the east coast!


  10. Dude I’m fairly certain if I actually did the math to figure out how much I spent at shows last year I’d be seriously bummed. This is a great post though – where in California are you guys located? I’m in the Santa Cruz area


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