Monday, March 17, 2014

True Cost of Big Shows Part III (the reckoning)

Okay, as a follow up to my initial estimate/painful look at what some people spend to attend large A/AA shows, I am doing one final reconciliation of our bills.  Feel free to refresh your memories of my thought process in Part I and Part II (additional costs).  

Also - I'd like to state my appreciation for folks not lambasting me about writing these checks.  This sport is so funny.  On one hand we all celebrate the beautiful fancy lifestyle that serious showing in the H/J world accompanies, but on the other no one talks about how much it actually costs.  If we do talk about costs it tends to be from a savings perspective and we celebrate the ammy's who manage to do everything on a shoestring.  Don't get my wrong - I am impressed by anyone who manages to juggle a job, family, horses and somehow still manage to show them once in a while, there's a huge victory in that.  But rarely does anyone openly discuss the non-shoestring budget.  

As someone who is relatively new to Hunters, I really had no idea what to expect in terms of financial commitment (aside from knowing it was going to be "more" than what I spent before and somewhere in the neighborhood of "lots").

Why go to a show? you can burn your money right here at home!
In case you're like me and you've both forgotten what the estimate was and you're too lazy to read old posts (boring!) here's what my initial estimate of the cost breakdown was (supposed) to be:

Equipment Transport (hay, trunk, tack, drapes, etc):  $350

Horse Vanning:                                                         $1,500
Trainer Hotel/Travel Split:                                         $1,400
Out of State Day Fee (x21):                                     $1,365
Stabling (x2 for double stall x3 weeks):                     $1,200
Braiding (4 days/week x3 weeks):                            $1,020
Entries (4 divisions/week x3 weeks):                        $1.920
Lodging for Me (4 nights/week x3):                          $2,400
Rental Car:                                                               $400

Initially I was anticipating $11,555, with a "mental buffer" up to $15,000.  

It's almost funny.  I know that in other aspects of horse life (vet bills being one) you take your realistic estimate, and basically double it.  The Boy uses the same theory for "horse time."  So if I say "it'll only take me 20 minutes to pack the trailer and get the horse loaded."  He automatically doubles that to 40 minutes and then adds another 20 minute buffer.  (for the record he is almost always correct).

There is almost always something that you didn't think of, or some office fee or whatever that you weren't counting on... and there were plenty of those items for us at Thermal.  Some stuff I was right on with, some stuff... not so much.

The comparison:

Equipment Transport:

This is one that stayed pretty true since we had a set "barn cost" to go off of.  Yay. still $350.

Horse Vanning:                                                        $1,500
Actual cost ended up only being $1,200!  a rare savings. (for the record, our estimate for diesel and maintenance had we hauled ourselves both ways was about $1600...)

Trainer Hotel/Travel Split:                                      $1,400
Almost dead on with an acutal cost of $1408.93

Out of State Day Fee $65 (x21):                             $1,365
plus tip for grooms (I tipped $100 total a week..) $1,665

Stabling (x2 for double stall x3 weeks):
Correct, but I forgot about trainer splits.  we had an additional $400 per week for all of the splits, which basically doubled this to $2,400.

Braiding (4 days/week x3 weeks):

haha.  Also wrong on this one! I did my math wrong and forgot that Prair was showing 5 days a week, not 4...  that meant it was $440, $440 and $360 for braids  or $1,240 total.  Lots of people chose not to braid for pro days when their horses were in unrated divisions, that would have cut my costs by 6 days.. and at $80 a day plus tip... that adds up.  I would maybe opt not to braid for Pro Day s next year if Prair was still in an unrated division.

Entries (4 divisions/week x3 weeks):

BAHAHAHA.  Oops.  I was bad at this one too.  Initially I thought Prair would be showing two divisions with N and two divisions with me every week.  In point of fact she only did one with N, but I was a princess and added every division I could.  I showed in 4 divisions myself, plus 2 warm up rounds each week and a couple of medals and a classic smeared in there.  That meant my entries (just the entries) was either $990 or $1,040 per week.  Also there's about $75 of office fees each week for a grand total of $3,295.  

This was a cost that I did not allow myself to think about as I was adding classes.  I'm glad we showed as much as we did, although if heights were to increase, the number of classes would have to go down unless I wanted a sore, tired, lame horse.

Lodging for Me (4 nights/week x3):

Lodging we got really lucky.  When The Boy and I stayed for the first full week we were lucky enough to use one of M2's timeshare weeks.  That definitely helped keep costs down during our extended stay.  The other two weeks I basically spent $800 each time because I stayed in nicer hotels (Embassy suites, Marriott) and rates were at a premium because I didn't book early and the Desert is packed right now.  Those costs could definitely be lower with a shared rental house or cheaper hotels.  but, another $1,600 to the bottom line (not considering the cost of our first week).

Rental Car:

Um, yeah. Haha.  It was $450 for each  week. The first week we rented from a cheapo company and paid the price.  I stuck with a mid size from Hertz the second two weeks and was a much happier human.  $1350.

Then there were the "Part II" costs to consider.  Part II added $1,770 to the initial estimate for some new gear, hormones and gastrogard.  I ended up not needed the RJ Classics Hunt Coat I bought to hide a possible baby belly, so I get to take $100 off that total (yay) and bring that down to $1,670

At the show there was some shopping, but I did a good job of keeping it in check.  Really the new CWD bridle was the only expense aside from swapping my Ogilvy pad out and some small things here are there.  The CWD seems separate from the show cost though so I'm not including in.  In theory I would have survived just fine without a new bridle.  

So.  New grand total?

$16,178.93 for 3 weeks of busy showing at Thermal with full grooms, braiding and all the other snazzy features. 

That's a ton of money - but there is certainly a premium to be paid to be with a well run, organized barn that allows you to arrive 15 minutes before you need to get on and worry more about feeding yourself lunch than getting your horse's braids out as soon as you finish riding for the day.  I'm used to doing a lot more on my own, but I will say that for the "vacation" aspect that this show had, I really enjoyed the extra luxuries and flexibility.

I think if you were showing on your own, (avoiding trainer splits, braiding, grooming and possibly not entering every conceivable class) you could easily spend three weeks in the sunshine with your horse for under $10,000.  That cost would drop even further if you weren't hauling across state lines or had a more affordable lodging option.  Realistically I think "local" week long shows run closer to $2,000-2,500 for the Hunters (less for Jumpers - fewer classes, no braiding..) in our area.  I'll definitely do a followup with the cost of a more "typical" show week at a home venue.   

$16,000 is not the kind of money that The Boy and I readily spend without thinking about it, so it'll be a while before I am signing up for out of state shows for weeks on end all willy nilly... but it does sort of blow my mind when I start adding up how many people opt to be at Thermal for all seven weeks (or at WEF for the full circuit..) and of those, how many are campaigning multiple horses! I know this sport isn't exactly affordable, but good lord there are a lot of checks being cut at the show grounds...  

So there you have it.  The ungodly final total of what it costs to show for three weeks at a major winter show with a high(er) end show barn.  

Now please excuse me while I go microwave some ramen and curl up in my coolers while I rely on my fireplace to heat my home for the next couple of months - as I am already refilling the coffers for the next show!  

(spoken like a true addict, right?)


  1. This is why I believe a true American Stimulus package would be handing a 5k check to middle class horse people because we'd just take that money to a show :P

  2. Oh my god. I can't even fathom that expense. It's really cool to see it all broken down, though!

  3. You're right, that is a lot of money... but if you look at is as "I got to spend an amazing three-week vacation doing amazing horse things," it's really not bad. Plus you have fantastic memories from it that you'll always treasure. And coolers, and satin, and a CWD bridle... ;)

  4. I really thoroughly appreciate you being open and honest about what financial decisions you made (high-er end hotels, high-er end rental car, etc) so we could all get a legit idea of what it costs a typical person to do a 3-week show and not have to live off of Ramen noodles and sleep in your high-er end rental car. Thanks so much for breaking it all down! :)

  5. Thanks so much for being so transparent about this. I agree, the mystery about horse money doesn't do anybody any favors. I'm not going to be using this info anytime soon to plan my own adventures, but it's really interesting to see it spelled out and I'm glad nobody has given you a hard time about it! Being able to do cool stuff for yourself is part of the point of being a grownup, after all. :)

  6. Being able to show up fifteen minutes before a class is a huge perk. I guess it was the luxury showing experience and vacation in one.

  7. I am just fascinated by this, having wondered for years how much showing at this level costs. I got a look at the costs of boarding and training at a top barn about a year ago, during a certain high-profile court case in the horse world that was well-publicized and included links to bills the party had incurred. THAT was pretty mind-blowing. To be honest, your showing costs are actually less than I imagined!

    Glad you had such a great time and Prair is safely home. We all have enjoyed living vicariously through you!

  8. Horses are damn expensive, no matter how you slice it!

  9. This was really really cool to read! What a neat thing to get to go experience! I felt like you took flights too,no? Were you able to use miles for that part?

  10. Just echoing thanks about spelling it all out so well. I had no idea what it costs to go to shows like Thermal, having only done local C and B rated shows. I really appreciate getting to see behind the magical curtain :)

  11. I enjoyed reading this as I just did the same thing, but for 5 weeks @ WEF. It was $20,000+..... I think the big thing is that you have to go into these kinds of shows knowing you're going to spend some serious $$$ BUT... it is truly an incredible opportunity and I thoroughly adored every minute. Looks like you guys had a great time, so I think it's worth it!

  12. I always wondered what it cost for horse shoes like Thermal. Good read! Great job lady!! Also, when do you find out what this bean is? Do you know!?

  13. Thank you for being so honest, sure it's a lot of money but at the end of the day you only live once and you can't take money with you so might as well spend it while you have it; doing what you love & makes you happy!

  14. Geez, I couldn't bring myself to add up the costs of horse shows, etc... I think it would make me sick. Good for you for being honest with yourself about the cost. You can't put a price on the things you love to do!!!

  15. Oh the costs of horse showing... Of course no one wants to admit that they spend these amounts on shows, knowing full well we are crazy people for doing so. But it makes us extremely happy, and as you said, we have wonderful memories to cherish.

  16. I was just reading a little thing on COTH about this very subject- the high cost of showing! But from your adventures it sounds like it was well worth it!
    Also chuckled over the "horse time." My husband does the same thing!

  17. Thanks so much for sharing!! I have always wondered about the true cost of everything and I know that it isn't possible right now but hope that someday in the future we will have funds for something like this :)

    I love that you added all the classes you wanted and lived it up... you won't have any regrets and can look back satisfied that you did everything you could while there.

    Now happy baby cooking :)

  18. Thanks for sharing and being honest about the true costs for such a big show. It does sound like it was totally worth it, though. Good for you, way to live to fullest!

  19. I'm really glad that you shared this. I completely agree with you that people talk about how expensive horses are but they don't talk about how much everything actually costs. Also, people are judgey. They have no idea the choices we make when it comes to our horses. I think it sounds like this was a great experience. Thus, worth it.


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