How much is too much?

Friday, I met up with the super nice, super fun author of No Hour Wasted. We had lunch, and chatted about all kinds of things: the horse scene in Tulsa, our dorky significant others, dressage biddies. I am always so thrilled to make new horse friends, and she was no exception. While we were lunching, she mentioned she was planning to go to a hunter/jumper schooling show in a couple of weeks to take pictures. The show is practically in my backyard, so I of course immediately agreed (invited myself?) to attend.

Certainly this wild OTTB (Carson) needs more experience toting children around

Then I had the thought to go to the schooling show and compete on one or both of the young Thoroughbreds  (Carson and Freddie) I’ve been riding lately. They could use the mileage and the show isn’t a long haul from where they’re stabled.

Freddie is practicing the ever-important “standing around”

I was pretty excited about this idea. Years ago, I used to take Moe to a series of hunter/jumper shows throughout the summer to keep him on his toes between events. I’d enter three or four jumper classes at about $15/class. My best friend would sometimes bring her mare and enter some hunter classes. We’d have a fun time in a fairly low-key environment and not spend a zillion dollars.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found the entry form for the Hunter Jumper Exhibitors of Oklahoma’s Summerfest Schooling Show. The fee breakdown is thus:

  • $30 office fee (only if you enter online; it’s $40 otherwise)
  • $14 medic fee
  • $40 haul-in fee (if you aren’t getting a stall; unclear if this is per horse)
So before you’ve even entered a class, you’ve spent at least $84 on fees! Classes are $25/each, so a person could easily spend a couple hundred dollars showing a horse or two over the weekend.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m completely out of touch with how much hunter/jumper schooling shows typically cost. I haven’t competed at one in several years, I didn’t go to them often anyway, and maybe they all cost this much. However, it seems like this show’s fees are excessive. I will definitely not be competing; the cost is way, way too much for me.
Out of curiosity, I checked out schooling show fees for different disciplines. 
For a recent Green Country Dressage schooling show, the fees were:
  • $10 office fee
  • $20/dressage test
For an upcoming schooling event derby sanctioned by the Oklahoma Combined Training Association, you’re looking at:
  • $50/derby division (consisting of a dressage test and mixed stadium/XC course)
  • $20/dressage test (if you’re only doing dressage)
You can see why I was shocked and appalled at the H/J show’s fees. 
I’ve always thought of schooling shows as opportunities for horses and riders to gain experience without the stresses of recognized events; part of those stresses are fees. If I fork over $250 for a USEA sanctioned event, I’d damn well better have a great show. I feel a lot less pressured to have the ride of my life if I paid $50.
What do y’all think? I know several of you are active on the hunter/jumper scene- are these fees in line with your expectations? How much is too much? 

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

12 thoughts on “How much is too much?”

  1. I think it really depends. EMT fee I don't mind paying for, and really there is no choice. Most places must have an EMT on site for their liability insurance, and really.. if something were to go down that is $30 well spent. Those guys aren't cheap either. Office fees I'm meh with. The hauling in fee is annoying to me, but we have that too. I don't know much about eventing prices so I won't speak to that, but our dressage fees are also a lot more than yours listed here. The tests are more expensive (discount if you volunteer) and there's a higher office fee and I believe a required membership to the association. This is all local too, not rated.

    Here at a one day hunter/jumper "schooling" (but really C level in my opinion) show, I write a check to the office for $130-$160 for one division of classes plus all their fees.

    1. I don't mind paying an EMT fee either; I've definitely needed an EMT once or twice at a show! And insurance at any kind of horse show can get pretty high, so understand there has to be *some* kind of office fee. The haul-in fee is what really gets me, though, because I feel like it's unnecessary.

      The dressage prices here are in line with what I'm used to, as are the eventing shows. Neither requires you to be a member of their organization, although the dressage group charges a "non-member fee" at their rated shows.

  2. Everyone is charging fees, its annoying to me too and its at every level. Sadly its because they can, and their expenses haven't gotten any cheaper either. When I realized I was paying the same amount to haul to a show with only a $5 difference in entry prices I stopped going to schooling shows and am now only doing rated shows. Because at the end of the day they were costing almost the same, which is really sad. I miss the days of $8-$15 entries and getting loads of cheap miles on my horse.

    1. I would do the same thing- why pay the same amount to go to a schooling show when you can show at a rated event? I would assume rated events get you points toward year-end prize thingies, or at least have prizes for winning!

  3. Something I've noticed with the shows around here: the schooling dressage shows and schooling events are usually staffed mostly by volunteers. And by volunteers I mean that it says in the show bill that you are required to work (or supply a substitute worker in your place) for x amount of time, or that you can work for a minimum of 2 hours in exchange for lower entry fees, etc etc. So at the end of the day they're only paying the judges and maybe one member of office staff, whereas at a h/j show they're paying judges, paddockmasters, jump crew, office crew, scribes, etc etc. That contributes greatly to the higher cost.

    If I do some quick math, a one-day schooling dressage show here would cost $15 per test if you're working, $25 per test if you're not, plus either $30 stall fee or $20 grounds fee, and there's a late fee or change fee for things done after closing date. So for a day with let's say three tests: $65-$105. For a one-day unrecognized event it's $85 entry fee, $35 if you're stabling, $15 if you're not, and $5 medic fee. So $105-125. That one requires an hour of volunteer time. For a local one day h/j show (using the one at my barn as an example) it's $18 per class, $15 office fee, $15 EMT fee, So for me to do one jumper division it'd be $84. I think stalls for the day are like $20-25.

    In that scenario they're all pretty close in cost. Things change exponentially when you start adding on days to the show, though, or if you're doing a lot of classes at a h/j show.

    1. I'm not sure if events/dressage shows in my area offer reduced fees in exchange for volunteering, but I have seen some events advertise reduced/free XC schooling in exchange for volunteering. And, of course, providing lunch and drinks for volunteers. (Which obviously has a cost.)

      I ask because I don't know: Why all the paid staff at H/J shows? Obviously, judges need to be paid, but jump crews, scribes, etc.? Are there special qualifications required? Is it just easier to pay people than depend on volunteers? I am genuinely curious and mean no disrespect- I am almost completely ignorant of how the H/J world works and the more you know…*cue NBC music*

    2. I've never even seen a h/j show ask for volunteers, I have paddocked and judged before and been paid for both, plus exchanged jump crew duties for $ off my bill with a friend who is a show manager. But definitely never seen anyone in that realm ask for volunteers. If they did, would they actually get enough for it to work? No idea. On one hand I don't blame them for not asking because I can't even imagine how unreliable most people would be and how hard it'd be to coordinate them. I have found though that when I've volunteered myself to management they've generally been more than happy to accommodate me… I get the impression it's hard to find good people. I've gotten more than one free horse show that way!

  4. I ran across this. There are a couple of local H/J shows this month that I really wanted to go to, if only to hack around and get some exposure for Courage. And then I did that math. It was $80 to just step off the trailer with no classes and no stall.

    F*ck. That.

    I don't know why prices shot up and I don't really care. I'd suck it up and pay in (haha, if I had money) if my horse was going really well and I thought I could be competitive, but for me, it was all about the experience and there' just no way I can justify that.

    Nope. Not happening.

  5. I pay ~$300 for B-rated local h/j shows, which includes: stall, shavings, 1 division (3 over fence classes and 1 flat) and 2 warm-up over fences rounds, as well as all pertinent office/EMT/etc. fees

  6. For me, most of my cost comes from gas to trailer the 2-3 hours to the "local" show facility. The difference between a dressage schooling show and a USDF recognized show is typically only about $50. It's so much more worth it for me to do a USDF show and try to get my scores under a good judge, than possibly have a judge inexperienced to judge my level and spend just as much.

  7. Where I am there's a big difference between prices of schooling shows and rated shows, for eventing, dressage, and h/j. The membership fees alone are quite significant for rated shows. The h/j prices you list are a bit steeper than what I pay in SoCal for h/j schooling shows, but not by a huge amount. Shop around – maybe other local venues are cheaper. I think the days of $15 rounds are a few years gone at this point.

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