Thursday, December 19, 2013

True Cost of Big Shows: Part I

I'm going out on a slight limb and actually publishing my estimated costs for Thermal.  Usually I wouldn't consider this a "limb" per se, but it's friggin expensive and while all things horsey are expensive - opting to show in Hunter/Jumper land is hideously expensive, particularly for weeks on end and especially out of state.

So, it's a gross, ugly, giant number that I know will get varied reactions from "you only live once!" to "that's disgusting, my family of 5 could live for 2 years on that much money."  I assure you that choosing to spend this cash doesn't mean that The Boy and I have endless coffers or that it's a decision that was made lightly.  Obviously we are ultimately ok spending it, and it won't put our rainy day(/emergency vet) fund in jeopardy, but still.  Not an everyday expenditure.

Being a relative newcomer to the H/J scene, (and also having never shown more than one week in a row) I'm surprised how hard it is to actually nail down what the true cost of showing with a bonifde Show Barn is.  Some of this is due to the fact that money goes in different directions...  I tend to pay my trainer for Day Fees, Travel and any Grooming I opt for, but then the Braider is separate, which is separate from the Show Office for class entries, stabling, etc...

Regardless, at my first few A shows, in spite of my best efforts to know what it was going to cost me, there always seemed to be some expense that snuck up on me. 

Add that to the fact that people tend to politely avoid talking about costs and money in general and you get a big 'ol black hole that you just stumble through and figure out.

For those who have either never experienced these show costs, think they might want to experience it, or manage to look the other way while a spouse or fairy godmother cuts the check.  Here are some cold. hard. numbers related to taking your horse to an A show.

I labeled this post "part one" because I hope I remember to do a follow-up post that includes our actual costs.  Lord knows estimates are rarely accurate....

Here goes:

Prairie is scheduled to show at Thermal for weeks IV, V and VI (HITS uses roman numbers, and I think they are cooler than regular numbers).  This requires shipping her (and equipment) 1,300 miles each way.  While there, she will be competing in two divisions with a Pro riding and hopefully two (or three) divisions each weekend with me.  She will have grooming, braiding and a double stall since she's huge and tent stalls are not.

In addition I am still trying to figure out how much of those three weeks I will be present.  Regardless, there are plane ticket(s) and lodging for me, along with rental cars, food and the inevitable horse show shopping.

So, based on costs from last year, and my entry form this year, here's how I think that major costs will break down:

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

That brings the Preliminary Total to $11,555.  That is before shopping, office fees, tips, extra classes and feeding myself....  Which means I really should be mentally preparing to hemorrhage closer to $15,000 especially once Prair orders her matching barn clothes...

eleven thousand dollars

That's a lot of money.

Getting to the Back Gate aint cheap
In a weird way, I think the cost would have totally scared me off this adventure if I wasn't pregnant.  I'd probably hunker down for a season of local shows and aim for Thermal when I was competitive at 3' and I felt like my apr├Ęs-show bikini body was slightly more svelte.

My initial response when we found out I was pregnant was to cancel Thermal, rein in all pony related costs and hunker down.  But The Boy being The Boy, along with my proclivity for spending, means that in a weird way the pregnancy has us both saying "now or never."  Heading out of state for a multiple week show sounds even more expensive and even more difficult once a kiddo is in tow, so now it is.

There are in fact lots of things the "Thermal Money" could go toward, but we have had several open, honest conversations about it - and concluded that enjoying our already expensive, show horse someplace where we can also enjoy the sun and some time together sounds like a lot of fun. 

Additionally, our biggest household budgeting issue isn't the one-off costs (thankfully), but rather limiting regular monthly expenses.  Hence, a half lease, finding Pia the perfect home and exploring a less expensive boarding option for Gus.

So, no - I don't feel guilty.  I did for a bit when we were hemming and hawing over the pros and cons.  But now that the decision is made, I am ok with it and just trying to make sure that we enjoying this whole experience as much as possible, since it may not be an annual event.


  1. Its funny the show expenses don't seem nearly as bad when I compare paying my Master's tuition in cash or the actual cost of baby. It really is now or never.

  2. Don't feel bad. Y'all worked for your money, and you aren't putting anyone at risk by spending it... so enjoy! I hope to be able to afford, be good enough, and have all the pieces fit int place one day. Until then, I enjoy living vicariously through people who can!

  3. Now or never...the wisest words ever muttered by a first time pregnant mother. No matter the cost, do thermal! If I knew then what I know now about how hard it is to do anything just for yourself once you have a baby I would have had one heck of a show season that last summer. Go, have fun, and enjoy every moment of it guilt free!

  4. I just want to say that your boy is obviously a keeper!! I bet it will be a BLAST and cant wait to see pictures/video and get updates!

  5. Wow. Thanks for being bold and putting the numbers out there. I only show locally right now and knew the big leagues were bigger bucks, but no one ever wants to tell you how much. So I wasn't prepared for any kind of number, but that's a doozy!

    I do agree with the now or never and it sounds like you technically have the cash to blow. Because you just never know. :)

    1. I feel like this one looks "so much worse" because it's three weeks in a row *and* requires a lot of travel. Showing for one (or even two weeks) someplace where I can sleep at home really does keep the costs down a ton... and is a MUCH more affordable way to play in the big leagues without draining imaginary trust funds :)

  6. Thank you for posting this! I've never really ventured into the a shows much outside of a week at the ky horse park in high school (which I now know must have cost a fortune). I hope that you have a blast! Will be very interested to see what your actual costs run. Great post.

  7. I hope you have a wonderful, amazing time at Thermal and I can't wait to read ALL about it!

  8. Haha, and I thought going to a recognized event was expensive! Regardless of the cost, it's an amazing opportunity, and something you've always wanted to do, so DO IT and have a wonderful time! I'm looking forward to hearing all about it!

  9. Good call on the double stall--pricey, but those tent stalls are TINY. For midgets only. C-rage would fit nicely, but he is shrimp.

    So glad you are doing this. Looking forward to lots of pictures and blogs. I{ <3 Thermal. (Damn. Wish I was going this year.)

  10. I wish I had done more 'now or never' stuff pre-baby. If you can swing it, then by all means, enjoy without guilt. You're in for an epic life change, better, but different so enjoying your life as you currently know it is important too.

  11. You go rock Thermal! And don't feel guilty about it. Also, thank you for posting those numbers. I always wanted to show on the A circuit, so now I can take a realistic approach at it.

  12. Our now or never was Hawaii, but the price tag was smaller. A grand for braids? To each his own, I guess.

    1. It's a bit painful to see that much for braids, but it's $85 for mane and tail each time they go in - and realistically I'm just not good enough or even available to do them myself every day.

      I'm comfortable braiding manes for dressage (easier braids IMHO) and for schooling shows, but there's no way I am good enough to braid for big rated shows.

  13. It's beyond worth it trust me! I personally loved the Indio grounds better, but still, its a once in a lifetime opportunity.

  14. Yeah Thermal! My trainer has it on the board but I haven't signed up just yet- not quite in the "now or never" but I hear ya! And I do like how you calculated then rounded up to $15K- tack on a grand at least to your estimate and you'll be close :). Have fun!

  15. OMG! That really is a lot of money! I am so lucky that I live in Southern California and it is not a HUGE trek for me... Still, I won't be ready for a big show like that until 2015 :-)

  16. While of course that is crazy (we are horse people!), it made me feel a tiny bit better about eventing (although I do it at the "poor bastard" level, if I was serious, the numbers wouldn't be that different).

    Also, you are very right -- once you spawn (sorry, fish biologist, LOL), it WON'T be the same again. I come from a similar philosophy in the big picture (although I am a definite non-spawner): if you looked at my "books," some people would have big frowns. But I have learned in the cruelest way (not published) that you DO only get one shot at it all and ya know what, no, I don't have some giant retirement fund, but I have a helluva a lot of amazing moments and experiences with my boys.

    You can't put a price on that and it is truer than most people imagine that you can waste allll this time waiting and saving for "retirement," but there are real chances that you will (a) not make there or (b) not be able to do the things you planned on.

    So go for it, baby!

    1. So much of the cost really is shipping, set up and care for an extended amount of time. Whether you're riding down the centerline, three phases or in the baby Hunter Ring, it's hard to "save" on those costs. I've been lucky and able to haul myself and do mostly self care (even at rated shows) up to this point, but it's just not feasible for Thermal. (or realistically when I'm 8 months pregnant). So I'm trying to at least be realistic about "the costs" so we can decide what we can/can't do.

      And I agree. Retirement/Shmirement. Hopefully when I'm working the swing shift in my 80's I'll still have my photos and ribbons to stare at fondly. :)

  17. Live it up girl!

    Once the baby comes life changes- but don't think that riding isn't do able.. we have an almost 3 year old and I have stayed riding 4 days a week (while working a full time job too) and even doing some weekend shows, where there is a will there is a way!

    So excited for you!!

  18. Thermal may have a big price tag since you're traveling quite a ways, but it's a big deal show! You'll have so much fun and Prair is going to be a star


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