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.
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.
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.
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 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”.
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.