How much does a show cost?

It’s a universal complaint: horses are expensive. They’re extra expensive if you want to compete. But have you ever wondered why horse shows are so costly? It’s usually because they’re pricey to produce.

Here are some figures from a recent show my local GMO hosted:


After charitable donations to local therapeutic riding programs, the show made a profit of about $3,800. That profit will be used for various things, including:

  • Subsidizing a junior rider camp
  • Subsidizing clinics for GMO members (e.g. offering a clinic for $40/lesson instead of the clinician’s usual $100/lesson rate)
  • Purchasing year end awards
  • Hosting schooling shows; schooling shows usually manage to pay for themselves (sometimes with a small profit!), but sometimes do not
  • Purchasing various things for the GMO. For example, last year, the group bought a dressage arena and a cargo trailer to transport it in. This meant the group could a) use venues that did not have a dressage ring and b) stop borrowing the other GMO’s arena, which was inconvenient and time consuming, as they’re at the other end of the state.

Are you involved in putting on horse shows? How do these numbers compare to your organization’s expenses?

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

29 thoughts on “How much does a show cost?”

    1. That’s the goal! It doesn’t do anyone any good to hoard all the money. (Obviously, we keep some in the bank in case of emergencies, like needing to replace the arena and trailer if they’re stolen, or legal fees if we’re ever sued.)

    1. I think a lot of people assume that organizations are jacking up entry fees without justification. I know I’ve felt that way! It’s been educational for me to see how much it really costs to put on a recognized show. Schooling shows are far less expensive, but between the judge, venue rental, and insurance costs, you’re looking at $1200+. You’ve got to have at least 50 rides to cover that cost (that’s at a rate of $20/test + $10/rider office fee). Most schooling shows get that without a problem, but if something’s had to be rescheduled or the weather is expected to be bad, you can expect to take a loss on the show!

    1. I wouldn’t have either! Judges, a show secretary, and a technical delegate are huge expenses. This graphic only accounts for the fees they charge for their time and doesn’t include the cost of their hotels and meals!

    1. In my experience, that’s pretty common- people don’t realize it’s incredibly expensive to host shows. I imagine dressage shows are the cheapest of the lot, too. Eventing and hunter/jumper shows have course designers, jump rentals, and possibly higher venue costs.

      I can’t imagine what the costs would be if there weren’t volunteers.

  1. I did have some idea that shows were so expensive, but it’s interesting to see the costs as they add up for your show. I wonder what it would look like if we did a similar breakdown for the event!

    1. You should! Our group’s treasurer sends out a post-show report after the recognized show, and we use it to see how (or if) we’re able to cut costs the following year.

  2. Wait…what?! GMO shows aren’t nearly that expensive here. That’s crazy. I guess I won’t complain about my $100 entry fee for a show I am eyeballing in September.

    1. A hundred bucks is very reasonable for a rated show if you’re doing more than one class!

      Let’s say you want to enter two Training Level tests at the Green Country Dressage Classic and spend the least amount of money:
      -$80 in entry fees ($40/test)
      -$16 USEF fee ($8 drug, $8 admin)
      -$32 office fee
      -$35 grounds fee (for those not stabling)

      That’s $163. However, this assumes you’re a USEF member ($55). If you aren’t a member, you’ll pay $30 in a “USEF Show Pass” fee, but *only* if you’re showing in ‘opportunity’ classes. Those are restricted to Second Level and below and are offered at the discretion of the show management. If your show doesn’t offer those, you’ll pay an additional $25 USEF non-member fee. (Opportunity classes are exempted from the non-member fee.)

      GCDC offers opportunity classes at Training Level, so let’s say you’re not a USEF member and have to pay the fee. Your total is now $193, or just under $100/test.

      1. All of our shows are GMO shows, so they don’t have USEF fees, thankfully. This year is the first year that I have seen haul in fees and I am totally over it! I guess I feel that it doesn’t cost the farm anything to let me park in their pasture for a few hours, why charge me out the wazoo?!

  3. Wow! Thanks for putting that out there, super informative!

    I figured renting the facility would be a way higher percentage (like 50%+), I had no idea some of the other expenses (like USEF and ribbons) would be so high!

    1. Renting the facility for this show for two days is just over $6,000. It’s an inexpensive venue, but works out okay from a functional standpoint and meets all the requirements for a rated show. There’s a nicer venue in Tulsa, but it’s very popular and has limited availability…and it rents for something ridiculous like $10,000/day.

  4. Now I’m really curious to see what running a rated Hunter/Jumper show costs. The cost to participate gets pretty crazy, but I’m sure that’s mostly because they’re held at very large venues, and running a H/J show requires a lot of manpower! Plus, jumps have to be purchased from time to time, and most of the shows run anywhere from 4-6 days. I’ll probably still grumble about my bill at the end of a show, but this does put things in perspective.

    1. I’m curious about H/J shows, too! The entry costs always seem absurdly expensive to me. For example, the 2-day schooling show I entered at the end of the month will cost me about $250 for 4 classes and a stall. The show is at the same venue as this one. Assuming the venue is charging them the same amount, I’d guess their costs are similar to ours. While this schooling show doesn’t have the USEF fees, it probably has jump rental costs. While they’re paying a single judge (we had 2), they also have a course designer that’s probably paid. I don’t think they’re having competitors’ parties, but the insurance fees are probably more expensive for a show with jumping because it’s a higher-risk activity.

    1. Our group manages to get a handful of sponsors and program advertisers, so we don’t have to foot the entire bill out of our funds. The donations to the therapeutic riding centers come almost entirely from the the silent auction, which many businesses donate to (including some of the equestrian ones, like Straight Shot Metal Smashing)! Horse shows are expensive for sure!

  5. The only horse show I have been involved in putting on isn’t really a good comparison, because, well… it’s the largest single-breed horse show — Quarter Horse Congress. I CAN tell you that the show was really designed to not make any profit — almost all of the money taken in from entry fees goes right back into prize money. The show stays afloat from sponsors, the trade show, and a couple ticketed events. I always thought that was pretty interesting, and telling. I mean, if one of the BIGGEST horse shows in the world doesn’t make its money from entry fees, how many shows really CAN?

    1. Yes, I can’t imagine something the scale of QH Congress being profitable. The venue/judge/prize costs have to be astronomical! The horse show business is probably profitable to someone (venue owners?), but that someone is not the organizations that put them on!

  6. I can tell you how much it costs to put on and also to participate in horse shows: too much.

    That’s why we must all be a little bit nuts! 😛

Leave a Reply