Absolutely agree with this writer! I was making almost $200,000 a year and finally realized that I could (or would) not spend $5000 per week for 3 jumper divisions at the AA and A shows in the US and Canada. The “work harder” or “get creative” myth is just a subset of the false American dream of pulling oneself up by their bootstraps” and would be nice if USEF/USEHJA and those at the top would stop trying to sell us that nonsense!
I loved the article. Too expensive and not enough fun. I stay at home and focus on improving. I disliked the commentators at the USEF medal finals on this topic. Although someone started the topic by submitting a question, commentators should have ignored it as not the time to debate costs. Instead, they tried all those “you can do it…” stories and ended up sounding foolish.
I loved this article as well. It makes me so mad how when people HAVE to take a step back, like the poster said–to have a savings account, save for a house/retirement, or fit in physical fitness or other pursuits that might be easier to pursue on a budget–this is portrayed as “weak” or not wanting it enough. It’s easy to moralize when someone doesn’t have to sacrifice as much for horses when they have all of those things because of savings/a spouse, and so forth.
Even if you can technically afford “it”–whether it is a lesson a week or an A-show a year–when it’s a big chunk of your budget, it’s a cost-benefit calculation. Eventually a lot of people give up because they realize they could spend a quarter of the amount on another hobby (or just local bopping around on a horse, if still in horses).
YES! I was sitting there thinking “WTF am I doing wrong here???”. I have a full-time job and TWO side gigs just to afford to have ONE nice horse, take lessons, and do some local shows and maybe a bigger show once a year. I get home between 9:00-10:00 Tu/W/Th every week when I want to ride and muck stalls (one of the side gigs), not to mention the very late nights when I work my catering side gig. Am I not working hard enough? Do I not want it enough? Apparently not according to the commentators. Mind you, I lesson and clinic as often as possible, not to sound pompous, but I ride pretty damn well. Still isn’t enough.
I honestly considered writing in a response to them, but decided that this wasn’t the time.
Yup. I loved the author proudly saying that she valued goals like having a savings account or a (modest) social life as well a riding. And she sure did “get creative” in the way she found fun, non-showing things to do with her horse.
It was refreshing.
This article really resonated with me. I’ve pretty much stopped showing and started foxhunting again, after a 20 year hiatus from the hunt field spent chasing my bucket list of showing goals. My yearly membership, which allows me to hunt across beautiful country three times/week, September thru March, costs less than ONE rated horse show. And nobody cares if your horse moves like a sewing machine or doesn’t have a lead change. And there’s booze.
I appreciate Ann’s article and her candor about costs and expectations. I struggle with feeling weak for not giving everything I have to support my riding children.
I hear a lot about parents who “don’t want it enough” for their kids and don’t spend enough to buy the winner or show constantly; how riding should be a financial priority over taking family vacations, private school tuition and other sports; and that if you’re not trying to get to indoors, there is no reason to ride competitively.
Every time I hear these opinions, I feel like a bad parent.
It must be nice to believe that you can be or have one of these top riders by merely getting creative or trying harder. The way to the very top - like the kids opining from the big eq finals - is owning multiple six-figure horses so you can spend a lot of time in the saddle and then have your horses lay it down weekend after weekend. If anyone knows how to support this through sheer creativity, I’m all ears.
Great article. This pull yourself up by your bootstraps because I did it back when is a crock of S and legitimately dangerous in broader society. It feeds racism and denies poverty. One of my least favorite political ads of the last few years was of a candidate relating how he washed dishes and manned a grill at a diner when his father had to change jobs and times were tight. He got no hand outs, no sir! I did this all by myself! He didn’t mention that both his parents had pristine educations and multiple advanced degrees in one case, and that as a result of this education, his parents deep interest in the arts (and his dishwashing) he ended up with a degree from Harvard Business School and found himself successful in finance and on the road to political success. I mean, seriously. What’s my problem?
Took a few clicks, but I finally found the article.
I loved it from the first word to the last.
I’m thinking of pulling my hunter from my trainer’s barn to the rustic stable close to home with mostly trail riders.
It really hit home. Not even about the showing—I’ve never been able to afford that and frankly don’t want to spend my weekends at horse shows—but the expenses.
I just want off the carousel.
What isn’t said by a lot of people who “have sacrificed and gotten creative” is that they don’t have a retirement fund, rainy day savings, regular dentist visits, or even a day off here or there. And some of the “creativity” at least by some is… defrauding their clients and bad business practices.
Those are choices. As are everyone else’s.
Meanwhile, I came across a spotlight video from USEF for a winner of one of the classes at Capitol today that was lauding her for “making it work” - she works FOUR jobs to be able to afford to have a horse and show.
I don’t want to diminish her accomplishment, but I was astounded. How did we get to a place where someone says “yeah I have to work 4 jobs to be able to afford this” and the response is “See? Anyone can do it!” instead of “whoah. That’s really not healthy, let alone sustainable. Maybe we should make some changes so that our non-billionaire members don’t have to go to these extremes just to get here.”
For anyone else searching for the article:
As a young adult I kept a horse in a backyard, did all my own work, and was lucky that there was an excellent schooling show series and two rated shows a year that I could ride to. I’d do a few one-day away shows and maybe one or two multi-day rated shows per year, usually grooming at the latter. Things were cheaper then. Not sure I could pull that off now.
Later, my winter teaching salary was my horse show fund: when I had a series of lame horse issues, I managed to hang on to most of the money as opposed to spending it. I’m spending it now but I figure I don’t have a lot of years left of this and am having a really good time.
I haven’t read the article but found myself pondering along these same lines recently. It started with “what side jobs can I do to make more money (to show more)” and ended up with “I don’t want to work myself even more to death just to show once or twice at the rated level”. I’ve been thinking about my plans for next show season after sitting yet another one out (this year due to my trailer never getting finished). I know I’ll do the schooling H/J “circuit” local to me with the one horse, and I’d like to show my TB if we can resolve her trailering issues, but she is limited to non jumping activities so I’ve been looking at other things. I can show in multiple entire series of fun/ pleasure shows ($20/ show for the whole thing) for the cost of even one local H/J show ($350+ for 3? Classes). I’m starting to realize that the cost sucks a whole lot of the fun out of it and makes it impossible for me to afford to compete regularly enough to qualify for EOY awards (which don’t really matter, but they do as I’m a competitive person). I’ve also realized that I have more obtainable programs available to me for the TB (via TIP - the championships and the performance awards), than I do the WB who I can only find EOY (via local orgs or USHJA/ USEF, which again too much $$$$ to point chase) programs with. If you can’t tell, the whole thought process is a jumble for me but it (the cost of it all) is something that is on my mind and will likely be a big driver not just in what / where I compete in next year, but also shape how I’m involved with horses the next few years (always wanted to breed my own WB, now thinking I’ll stick to OTTBs as I greatly enjoy the TIP program).
OK, I’ll be the devil’s advocate. Why “should” we be able to afford rated horse shows? There are many lovely ways to enjoy our horses, which the author and the people here have discovered. No one is railing about the cost of Mazeratis or oceanside real estate. If it is a super important part of your life (whatever “it” is), you work to make it happen. If the joy derived isn’t worth the work it requires, reallocate your resources. Law school isn’t cheap and required many hours of intense application. For many people that would be out of reach. For many people horse ownership is out of reach. Let’s all be a little less angry and spend that energy on things that bring us joy.
The problem is, for the vast majority of the country, rated shows are the only option now. So if you can’t show those then you can’t show at all. And eventually the clients dry up, the trainers quit, and there is no hunter/jumper sport left. The billionaires cannot keep an entire sport alive on their own.
I may be over thinking it but it’s the trickle down effect that concerns them as much as the personal effect - if only the 1% can show A where do our future pros come from? If the middle class are pushed out of showing A, in many areas there are few or no B or C shows, so they end up disillusioned. and don’t see any value in competing at all anymore you loose that base of support. I am one of the walk away from showing cause the cost outweighs the value which means I don’t buy memberships or show clothes or pull coggins. Big picture too - if the middle class start walking away from a sport in general cause it’s too elitest where do all our supporting professionals come from - grooms, farriers, vets, body workers etc.
Sure they can. They can keep their little corner of the sport alive and well. Does what will be left offer anything for the rest of us? No. But so what? That doesn’t affect them.
And @Bonnie2, thanks for your post. I wrote a similar post earlier and deleted it because I just didn’t feel like stirring the pot that much. But I absolutely agree with what you wrote.
As has been discussed here ad nauseam, the availability of equestrian sports is on a long slow decline across the US for a variety of reasons. The expansion of urban areas, the migration of the population away from rural areas into those expanding urban areas, the state of the economy, the overloading of kids’ schedules with a multitude of activities…
In many places there simply isn’t enough of a base left to support those local shows. But it’s not the responsibility of rated shows to make up for that by providing cheaper showing opportunities.
Forget showing. What about the costs of owning a horse altogether? It’s becoming prohibitive for many. I make a good salary and am blessed to be able to afford unexpected vet bills, lessons, and board at a VERY reasonably priced facility… but forget any sort of rated show. (Luckily I have zero interest!)
But I’m in the know of what feed, repairs, maintenance, etc. cost and it’s not going to get ANY cheaper and our board prices will continue to increase. How long until most middle income folks are completely outpriced from even RIDING at all?
Never said it was, but they are also not guilt free in this scenario. And I’d argue the Federation indeed has some responsibility to make the sport sustainable.
For a moment it was doable for the middle & upper middle class to show rated. And in that moment, they folded all the entry level divisions into their schedules. And trainers saw that they could now take the entire barn with them to the rated shows, instead of sending them off to the smaller shows & circuits with an assistant that they maybe did or maybe did not trust.
So yes, sprawl/schedules/land prices have all played a major role in limiting equestrian sport access, but pulling the entry level client base out from under the smaller shows was the nail in the coffin of the “B” circuit.
And now that moment has passed, and the very well-off are priced out, and the alternatives are gone. And when access is limited by money over talent to that extreme, it is no longer a “sport”.
And they did that because they perceived that it was to their benefit to do so. And I think they were probably correct. Whether or not it was to the benefit of the middle class was irrelevant to them. And that’s how life works, whether we like it or not.
Sure it is. The definition of sport is:
And plenty of sports have “access limited by money over talent.” That doesn’t make them “not sports.”