Priced out of the sport?

Honestly, I haven’t competed in a recognized horse trials since 2012. But I’ve kept my hand in the sport, mostly as a groom/emotional support person for my sister who competes regularly. It just seems more and more that I’ve become priced out. I’ve tried to make my re-entry numerous times and between the rising prices of decent horses, ulcer treatments, custom saddles, and the expense of training and competing, I don’t think my household income is going very far…and we make good money.

I am very discouraged, to be honest. How do you compete in this sport if you weren’t born wealthy? Or if you don’t work in the industry? I know when I worked as a barn manager it was easier because I had more access to good horseflesh (through free leases, etc) and I didn’t have to pay board or training fees. But as a working amateur with a mortgage to pay for and retirement to fund…I just don’t see how it’s possible.

Any inspiring stories out there of those who are making it work? Maybe it’s just my area, too. It just seems like everything is 10x more expensive than it was when I was competing.


How much of it is the desire to compete and how much is the desire to have fun on X-C? While supporting my kid eventing, I’ve found that I get just as much satisfaction by going XC schooling as I did when competing. Throw in a couple of hunter paces and an unrecognized event or two, and my competitive needs are met. I’m also still riding in my dressage saddle from about 1985 (the jumping saddle is much newer).


For sure. I have basically the same story/background as you and I feel the same. I do not feel that I have the disposable income to comfortably support keeping a horse, much less compete regularly.

I will say that this is my own personal assessment and comfort level. I am not willing to forgo saving aggressively for retirement at this point in my life (for example) in order to afford a horse. I know plenty of folks in similar situations who feel differently, as is their prerogative. I also freely admit that I am not generally interested in doing the horse ownership thing “on a shoestring,” so to speak. I do not require a fancy show barn and full service care, but I am also not willing to forgo every single amenity.


Exactly, you totally get it.

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In my mind, it really depends on what your competition goals & aspirations are. If you want to make it to the top of the sport, money is going to be a big issue. But I know lots of people on “ordinary” budgets with careers completely unrelated to the equine industry who are competing and enjoying it. I don’t have custom saddles (nor do most of my eventing friends) and there are cheaper ulcer treatments available now than in the past. I take one lesson a week and do all my own training otherwise. I don’t board at a super fancy place, but it has the amenities I deem essential (obviously everyone may define “essential amenities” differently!). I agree that shows have gotten more expensive, but I just plan my season carefully. I do think the cost of a decent horse has gone up dramatically and I totally get that being a big barrier for many (myself included). I think it takes time and compromise to find something that will work in your budget - compromise on either training, experience, talent, or rideability (or several of these) will be necessary. I saved up and had to buy outside my area and compromised on training and experience to get talent and rideability. But I’m only aiming to enjoy the training process and competing when I can and I have no particular desire to go above Training level eventing although I’d also like to progress in up to at least 3rd in dressage.


Thanks for sharing your story! I really appreciate it. And best of luck with your goals!

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Eventing has become much more expensive, but owning horses in general are just that much more expensive. I struggle, my winter months are my quieter months at least.

Summer, I stick to one show a month max. I can’t afford lessons weekly, or weekly schoolings. Between travel, ship in fees and the lesson just for schooling its easily over $100. Its tough. I think you do need to ask what you love about it. I love knowing where my training is at, and I love the feeling one completing an event. In the last two years I’ve fallen more in love with schooling and just getting the adrenaline out on cross country schooling outings and pushing our limits without the excessive show cost of $300+ and walking away with a letter instead of a ribbon.


Real life is hard, isn’t it? It sucks to have to prioritize wants and needs.

I think the overall answer is that you participate in the sport and environment you love to the extent possible, and give yourself grace if you don’t meet some self-chosen measure of achievement.

“Compete” can also have many different meanings. Serving as the kindergarten teacher for an OTTB 4yo is a different experience — and different price point — than gunning for a spot on the 2024 USET. Some day I might have the funds (and orthopedic surgeon) for the former. I will never be in a position to consider the latter. And I’m (mostly) OK with that. Right now I’m just grateful (so, so grateful) that the budget allows me to swing a leg over a horse a few times a week.

mortgage + retirement + college savings + teen boy groceries + “why is the furnace making that noise?”


I feel this completely. I make a healthy salary and even purchased a place so I could keep a few horses at home cause board is $$$. I’ve accepted that my budget is never going to get me past a certain point unless magic happens or I get an insanely talented horse.

So I’m going to buy a cheap but sound, weirdly put together horse with probably little formal training that makes me giggle and call it a day. I miss competing but I just can’t justify all the money.


You are singing my song. My last recognized HT was also in 2012. I have done one unrecognized HT since. Living in an area where one has to overnight at a hotel and stable makes recognized shows even more difficult for me. Not to mention there are a limited number of unrecognized shows in my area. I would be happy to noodle about at UR levels. Unfortunately, almost everything is a 5+ hour drive, including unrecognized.

Like you, my husband and I make good money and we are “adulting” when it comes to mortgage, savings, retirement, etc. I am fortunate to have mine at home which is a money saver, but it also means I sacrificed a ring and any serious hacking. Therefore I have to haul out to school at all. Again, this comes with a cost both fiscal and time.

Planning my season this year I decided I can afford to do exactly ONE recognized event and that is only if I pinch every penny and forgo an annual family trip. That is a tough compromise. Hitting the one show will cost me upwards of $1k once I have paid fuel, entries, stabling, ground fees, hotel, food, etc. That does not even add in the cost of renewing my USEA membership or registering my new gelding so he can compete. Or of course training with my fantastic coach. :astonished:

Of course the bottom line is that the sport is expensive and the venues that host these HTs are scrambling to even make a dime on most of the shows they run (as I understand it). I do not begrudge the cost of competing. I begrudge the fact that aslo found it easier to do when I was a pro. My bosses paid the fees, I had access to top-level trainers, hauling out was easy and everything was CLOSE, not to mention horses were my job.

Growing up truly stinks.


If you love cross country, consider foxhunting. The cross country run is a lot longer than you ever get at an event! Many foxhunts let you cap several times before you join and depending on the area, they aren’t always that expensive to join. Once you are a member, you can hunt twice a week and generally you get a potluck lunch after.

I’m not a competitive person so I don’t miss the competition part at all. I really enjoy the company and the shared fun.


I feel like I am having the death of a thousand cuts here when it comes to horses - seems every time you turn around the cost of something goes up and the shows and organizations add on a new fee and a new hoop to jump thru paperwork wise. I haven’t come up with an answer beyond being ok with having the fanciest trail horses in the neighbourhood and jump around at home.


I didn’t do any recognized HTs between 2010 and 2019 either but I didn’t feel the same sticker shock…maybe my memory just isn’t great though. Around here entry fees for most lower-level recognized HTs are around $250. Accounting for inflation, that’s equivalent to only $210 in 2010. I don’t have old prize lists anymore but I don’t recall if entries were much cheaper than that then. Were they?

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I think you need to ask yourself what your end goal is? Eventing or climbing the levels and being competitive nationally?

Coming from a H/J background I find eventing very affordable but I do the LL and have zero aspirations past that. I wasn’t born wealthy-I just manage costs and try to keep in mind what is actually important to me and what is just keeping up with the Joneses. My husband and I do very well for ourselves, and while we spend a lot on my horses, we also are not willing to sacrifice long term planning and financial security to win a blue ribbon.

Looking at your list-I have two very nice horses-one cost us $5000 (way overpriced but he was an emotional buy-I had leased him for 10 years and the owners refused to sell him to me at 19 for $1) and the other was free off the track. Both very nice, maybe not UL material, but my older guy was very competitive in our area, qualified for area champs and AECs multiple times. He lost to the big money imports but we did that in the hunter world too so such is life. My younger guy isn’t the fanciest but lord he is fun and tough at the same time so I’ve really learned how to ride bringing him along. He is the ultimate adult ammie horse that I truly think will be an training level packer in the future and while he is never going to run FEI levels, he is exactly what fits my life right now.

My husband would be more willing to spend more on a been there done that horse, but for me, while it can be very frustrating at times, I have never had a horse that had experience before so why start now?

UGUS treatments-well that for me was a one time cost in both of my horses and careful management helps prevent that from being a repeated cost (I also keep my horses at home so this is doable). I own one custom saddle I got this year but for many years I did all 3 phases in a pancake flat hunter saddle and did quite well. So, not needed. Training and competing are variable, but for me, lessons are monthly fixed costs we work into our budget. I do not compete year-round so we save through the winter to pay for my April-Oct show season. I also judge locally and use that towards things like my custom saddle or entry fees.

I do find myself asking how people afford to import horses and go to FL for months on end but I also remind myself that most of the horse people I know make very poor decisions when it comes to money.

So my point is, I think it is very doable to event for reasonable costs if you are realistic about goals and not concerned with having all the things.


I too come from a h/j background. Even then, everything just adds up. I train my own free horses, ottb adoptees, and use my money to fit their tack appropriately, do body work, and very specific clinics and lessons over shows.

I used to have big dreams. But the last HT I went to I had to W as my horse was NQR, and we had been worked so hard. Walking back to my ride’s trailer, I looked around and realized I was never going to be the one with matchy truck and trailer, etc. Later that year, in a clinic I was with some ambitious wannabe UL riders who kept blowing past my fractious horse, setting her off, not respecting space or anyone else needing to do a jump.

I’ve just learned that I love the process and I don’t need to prove myself or my horses to anyone. The people’s opinions I respect let me know I’m on the right path. We are all doing the best we can.


I’m glad I’m not alone in this, although I’m sad this is true for so many of you! For those of you who are making it work, good for you! I am inspired. I ask myself what my goals are and the truth is…I think my goals have to change based on my finances NOW and the reality of my situation. I don’t think I can afford for Prelim to be my ultimate goal anymore. I don’t have the money or time for that to be a reality. So…I need to figure out a new goal. An attainable goal. It sucks having to grow up and change your goals…but I am very grateful to just have horses to ride. That’s what I need to remind myself at the end of the day…if I can still get a ride in, I am one of the lucky ones. :slight_smile:


100% agree with this. we’ve gotten back into foxhunting this year after a long time away and i forgot just how much fun it is. its like hours of xc, with longer runs and bigger natural obstacles than you see at the lower levels. and best thing you don’t have to jump any ducks or squirrels!

we did the math and essentially for the price of 2 recognized shows you can get a full season of foxhunting. your mileage may vary on the economic equation.


Your comment about how do people afford going to Florida and what not, I totally agree!

It’s always the same people going to Florida for the winter, buying new horses and trucks that I see begging for money through a Gofund me for their emergency (horse hurt, dog sick, truck part broke.)

I can’t afford any of the luxuries that they regularly participate in, but I do manage my money so that I can cover my emergency vet bills or what not!


I don’t know where you are, but you can do horses the expensive way, or the cheaper way. I used to be cheap cheap cheap but as my career progresses I’m able to go to the slightly more expensive side (just bought a new jumping saddle, car and float which I have on order).

My car I just upgraded from was cheap cheap. My current float (trailer) is over 30 years old so was also cheap cheap and I used to compete in an old $200 used Wintec. My horse is a OTTB which had no purchase price (and omg he is the best horse I’ve ever owned!).

I take lessons when I can - at $100 an hour they are costly but my trainer is so worth it. Would rather have one lesson with her than multiple with other people.

It basically all depends on you. Decide what you can budget. Then see what you can do within that budget.


Then you see a post about a 10 year old on COTH that is doing about 10 different disciplines (yes overexaggerated). Ah to live the wealthier lifestyle. But then would we all be as humble as we are? Would we have the determination and drive that we have? Always a positive to it somewhere in there.