Cost to Compete?

While I’m not new to horses I’m definitely new to carriage driving, but I’m eager to learn. Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the cost to compete in driving, how expensive does it get and at what point (if any) does it get prohibitively so?

What are the different levels of competition (local and upwards) and what does it typically cost for the horse/pony (if the existing one isn’t suitable for anything beyond local competition) as well as the equipment (when it needs upgrading) and show fees, etc. at each level? (For reference, I have a mini and am in Canada.)

Anyone with actual experience working their way up through the different levels of competition who can put some numbers to paper (or screen) would be very much appreciated!

These are a bit of guesses since I have a large pony in the US, but some costs are the same (and this assumes you are buying the kind of equipment that you’re generally expected to have at the higher levels, obviously you can do it successfully for less and of course you could do it for a LOT more)

Cart - I’d budget about 6k, a friend of mine showed her mini up through intermediate and had a really nice cart that was safe on Marathon but also suitable for presentation. At least with a mini you don’t need a carriage, never mind two!

Harness - approx 1k for marathon, 2k for leather presentation, more of you use a true collar.

gear for you and your equine (vest, boots, helmet, bonnets, whips, gloves, stuff): 500-1k

Presentation outfit: $100 to the sky’s the limit. This really depends on how serious you are, but a really nice apron and hat can be about $700. And then you could - as we all do - need several aprons, hats and jackets. But there’s a lot of reasonably priced options available as well.

All that stuff you forgot about or didn’t know you needed until you saw it (harness racks, an assortment of driving bits which tend to not be cheap, special reins, pads for the harness, etc) - $500

The good news is you don’t need all this stuff at once and you don’t necessarily need all of it, like a presentation harness (aka a fancy leather harness). You should definitely invest in a top of the line marathon harness like yonies, IVC, Camptown or a high end zilco, because a) it’s your life and b) they look more than nice enough in dressage. Ditto for a good helmet and vest, but there’s a huge range in price one those as well. And if your plan is to move up, you really want a good 2 wheeler that’s suitable for marathon, that has a lot of stability but is still nice in dressage. After that everything else can be upgraded (for instance, xan still uses woof boots on marathon. One day I’ll get the Mr. $$$$tockings because they are awesome, but woof boots do the job).

As for fees, I generally budget $1000 per event, but those are full 5 day events*, and that is entry fees, stabling and camper hook up shavings and sometimes a paddock. I think entry and stabling are generally around 500-600. I haven’t done a 2 day trial in a while, but probably 350-500 ish for entries/stabling.

  • Once you hit intermediate or higher CDE, dressage is on Thursday, lower levels are on Friday. The joy of having all day Friday to focus on marathon is offset by the extra day cost of camping, hotel, etc.

I think that’s pretty accurate; the initial outlay is a bit of a shocker. I built up piecemeal (still need a presentation harness and the coveted Mr Stockings boots…) starting with a used zilco and a 2 wheeled vehicle. If you haunt the fb groups, you can find sweet deals on equipment–good used beats cheap new any day.

I’m guessing stuff for minis is a leetle less $$$–as noted above, you don’t need a 4 wheeled vehicle (at least until you go to multiples), you can fit the mini and cart into a trailer together without investing in ramps and a winch for the truck…

On the other paw, there are so many things: the under halter. The whip assortment. The color-coordinated ear nets. The different gloves. The Special Watch. The app that tracks distance for conditioning. The color-coordinated emergency ID bracelet. The special fluffy thing to wipe the carriage right before a dressage test.

Your local driving club may have intro days to try things out, know trainers and have a list of people selling equipment as well. NOTHING is close to me, but, if you’re lucky, and there’s an active group, they may have 2 day CDEs or HDTs, arena trials and so forth. If they do, don’t tell me. I moved 8 hrs away from anything and I’ll be jealous.

Although we don’t talk about how much I’ve spent on Mr O’Pony (unless my husband wants more computer equipment), I have never enjoyed anything so much. Hands down the most fun I’ve had with horses. Like eventing was okay, but this is awesome.


Also, you can never have enough watches. Or batteries. (But cheap stop watches found on Amazon are da bomb).

And a good whip like fleck or MCR is pricey and worth every penny


I can’t give you numbers for anything more than Intro-level stuff as my mini & I are not uber-competitive*

*Well, he has the capability & Want :smirk: to do more, I am old & Lazy & have nothing closer than 3h :sleepy:

My showcart - while perfect for Dressage & sufficient for Cones - is not intended for Marathon & our Time would be laughable if I drove the Obstacles safely.
That cart cost me just under $1500, 5yrs ago from a Mennonite carriage maker.

I’ve since traded the brass for stainless (because: Lazy)

My wire EZ- Entry cart could do Marathon & Cones, but noway, nohow suited for Dressage.

That cost me $300 5yrs ago + $300 to upgrade the bike wheels it came with later.

I started with a cheap (Tough 1) leather/brass harness & switched to biothane/stainless (again: Lazy).
I covet the IVC 2-tone that would run around $800+ with some add-ons.

I get my jackets from Goodwill & for $5 or so can get ADS-worthy turnout.
Aprons came from Chrysalis Acres (~$120 for black wool with gold border & monogram) & Sherry Lower/Hats Off ($150 & dropdead gorgeous) - see below:


Other hats are end-of-season sales that I pimp with ribbon, feathers, etc.
I had Sherry Lower redo the hat I was married in for $65.
Total well under $100 for all.

Priciest competition I did was Villa Louis Carriage Classic 4 yrs ago.
Mini was 3, so we stuck to the arena classes. The long weekend - Thurs-Sun - cost a bit over $500 including 3 nights at a motel & meals out.
Otherwise I show at Fair for around $200 (including $45 in passes for friends).
Hope this helps :grin:


Clearly I need a driving pony so I can justify a hat, or collection of hats, like that.

I feel my opportunity to own a cute pony, that I would be too big to ride, approaching.


I’m not gonna lie, Princess Grace of Alpharetta (one of my hats) is second only to my driving pony in beloved things in my life. It’s also the real reason to get a presentation carriage. It’s a big faux pas to have an uber fancy hat when you are doing dressage in your marathon carriage.

So to recap, in order to carry off the very fancy lid, you need the carriage, the trailer to deal with the extra vehicle and the truck to handle the trailer. But my estimate this could put some hats at 75k, conservatively. :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:


My grandmother says, beauty knows no pain. Guess that includes pain in the checkbook.



So you’re saying avoid the fancy hats and this can actually be a relatively affordable pursuit, right?!

In all seriousness I appreciate all the replies thus far, this is really helpful information. I think what I ordered from IVC would be considered a marathon harness (the IVC Enhanced Synthetic with an upgraded Mid-V collar) so it’s “just” the upgraded cart (later) and my own turnout equipment (sooner) to go, then!

At least now I have something to put on my Christmas list…


Post Google search comments!

  1. Yellow wheels!
  2. Feather headdress for horses?

Yes, come to the Driving Dark Side.
We have the perfect excuse to Play Dress Up :sunglasses:

Here’s my $10 Bar-Gain hat.
Pimped with ribbon ($3.95) & feathers moulted by my chickens (thanks, rooster sickle plume):

& Another post-Easter sale hat with around $10 added bling:


Yup, that’s a nice harness. My presentation harness is from IVC, Myrna has some nice equipment.

Definitely do some research on the carts. I think the go to cart is the Frey sprint, it has enough options to go between all phases and I think it has a good reputation for stability, which is critical if you are doing marathon with a 2wheeler!

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Wait, what? But lol definitely no horsefeathers :rofl:

I think you are asking what is a presentation carriage?

I googled presentation carriage and found pictures of carriages with yellow wheels and horses wearing feathers.

I’m disappointed to hear the feathers aren’t the done thing lol

Yellow wheels!!!

Hah! As far as I know head feathers aren’t strictly against the rule, so maybe you could be a trend setter (although since really obscure things like ear bonnets tied down to the noseband are illegal in dressage, who knows).

I saw that yellow wheel phaeton, it’s definitely not my cup of tea, but in all fairness if your put it behind 4 dark bay or black horses it would probably balance out nicely. An all black team plus all black carriage gets very monochromatic, and if the driver adds any color with their outfit they stick out too much and disappear if they wear black. Strangely enough, the over the top YELLOW!!! probably adds balance. (rich people problems)

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Trend setting isn’t really my strong suit. Lol

The yellow wheels are very loud. I also some some that had cute wicker picnic baskets. I’ll need that too lol.

Is the style of the pic I shared used behind a team of horses usually? That might be above my pay grade lol

@DMK Do you know, or have you seen Joni Kuhn & her team of Friesians?
She has a black carriage with yellow wheels that makes a stunning presentation :heart_eyes:
Aso saw a pair of grey Lusitanos where the Whip & passenger dressed in black with yellow scarves & hats. IIRC, carriage was black.

@lenapesadie A Phaeton can be driven to a single horse & you could probably find a carriagemaker to build one for your mini… Once you’re an Addict :sunglasses:
My current obsession is either a Gig or a Back-to-Back Market Carriage my guy made in pony-size.
First I need to win that lottery :grin:

ETA - Joni & team

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That style is universal, but the size screams team. Here’s the large pony version, Brewster green with cream striping, and the coveted wicker basket


It costs you your life lol!! We are also in Ontario and drive a pair of ponies. We tend to show in the US as we prefer 3 day CDE’s and there really isnt many in Canada (we have done Bromont and one at the new facility in Quebec as well). So it also depends on where you want to show as of course the costs go up if showing in the US (health papers, coggins, Rhino/Flu shots and of course the killer dollar).

The nice thing about minis is you can get away with a cart for now and a smaller trailer. Baby steps for sure and keep it simple to start and you can grow from there.

Great suggestions to research carts for sure before you buy. Also figure out if you would like to do CDE’s or Pleasure Driving as you can buy your cart and harness accordingly.

My husband and I have be competing in CDE’s for the past 18 years now, and our current set up is a lot, and a bit sad to put on paper. But we don’t have children so we put it into our hobby and ponies lol!

We have a nice set of leather harness with collars for our fancy Phaeton (we use for pleasure shows as well as dressage/cones), and everyday biothane harness and a pair carriage as well as a single carriage for CDE’s. We like to train single as well as pairs at home so it can be a bit costly purchasing the carriages and harness to go with it. But as I said before, we have been doing this for a long time and have bought things in bits and pieces over the years. We know what we like and what we need to do our sport, thats for sure.

FYI- Fancy hats are not allowed in Canada, hard hats must be worn in all phases at CDE"s and Pleasure Shows (EC rated shows). I’m sure the US will be following shortly with this rule as well.

We just had a 52’ custom horse trailer built as well so we can tow our 2 carriages, 4 wheeler, harness and pair of ponies to shows when we go. It also has a LQ as we like to stay on the grounds since we travel fairly far to shows.


Re the fancy hats, that debate is raging in the FEI, but I suspect USEF won’t change until the FEI does (which may only be cones initially)

On the subject of rule changes, what do you think of the new FEI scoring proposal? Cones as pure speed class?!? I’m both terrified and intrigued since I can’t see how USEF won’t adopt the same system, and if they do ADS might have to follow to avoid massive confusion…