The high cost of horse competitions has become a keen subject for conversation and consideration. It was even a topic of discussion at the most recent U.S. Equestrian Federation convention. There is great desire among the horse community to rein in costs associated with competition, create a more “level playing field,” and generally develop better horsemen.
Now, the Affordable Riding Act (or ARA), a sweeping reformation of the horse show business model, makes showing free.
That’s right, free.
Under the ARA, horse shows will cost absolutely nothing.
To start with, anyway.
Here’s how it works.
At check-in, each competitor is given a horse show account with a zero balance. It doesn’t matter how many horses you bring or how many classes you enter. You can even enter the grand prix.
That’s right. On Day 1, You. Owe. $0.
From that point on, you will only be charged for things you do. Or don’t do. Or don’t do particularly well. Or forget to do. Or that we are tired of you doing. Or that we don’t want you to ever do again.
Under the ARA, fees that may appear on your bill include:
- Post-entry fee
- Late-post-entry fee
- Forgot-to-enter-at-all fee
- Entered the wrong class and need to switch fee
- Scratch fee
- Unsure how to scratch, so we have to fill out the form for you fee
- Accidentally scratched and need to re-enter fee
- Deposit for damages fee (yeah, buddy, we remember you)
- Deposit for excess consumption of VIP wine and cheese fee (we remember your adult amateurs too, pal)
- Extra jump crew staff fee (we also remember that four-legged bulldozer of yours)
- Don’t think the steward doesn’t remember you too, how would you like to handle that? fee
- Non-member fee
- Thought I was a member fee
- Used to be a member fee
- Thought I used to be a member fee
- Can’t remember if I was ever a member fee
- How do I find out if I’m a member? fee
- Remind me why I need to be a member fee
- Your death erroneously reported on social media, and now we have to reinstate your memberships fee
- Fine, just make me a member fee
- Excessive trips to horse show office fee
- You should know the answers to these questions fee
- Seriously, you again? fee
- You honestly can’t think we want to stay here this late fee
- We really think you should pick another sport, but if you won’t then we’re going to make it worth our while to deal with you fee
- We said showing was free, not the coffee tent fee
- None of your clients can fill out an entry form fee
- Nobody picked up their number fee
- Number delivery fee
- Your clients picked up their numbers but forgot the string fee
- String delivery fee
- Please stop trying to fax your info to our cell phone fee
- Really, stop faxing our cell phone fee
- Tiny little rolls of cell phone fax paper fee
- Ornery pony measurement fee
- Ornery pony re-measurement fee
- Replacement measurement stick fee
- Replacement official to measure ponies fee
- Your horse took three hours to pee in the cup fee (charged by the minute)
- Dry cleaning for specimen collector fee
- We took a vote and decided your hunt coat is hideous fee.
- Same goes for your bling’d out helmet fee
- We know that tail is fake fee
- Purchase another refusal fee
- Excessive use of wash rack because your horse is never white enough fee
- There’s never any hot water left when he’s finally white enough fee
- Another (insert title of horse show official) is threatening to quit fee
- You’re riding too many horses in the derby fee
- Everybody is afraid to ride in the warm-up arena with you fee
- We can’t judge you if you can’t get your horse in the ring fee
- Purchase another refusal fee
- Purchase another rail fee (no, an actual rail, because you just busted one in half)
- Quit taking pictures of your photo proofs instead of buying the photo fee
- We know you bought a cheap counterfeit microchip (your horse scanned as “Secretariat”) fee
- Send the committee members flowers before your hearing fee
- Office fee (to pay for time spent collecting the other fees)
The ARA also fosters fair competition by employing a new, impartial scoring algorithm that ‘levels the playing field’ by removing judges from the process entirely.
Exhaustive research into the modern judging system revealed that, while 85 percent of people do not believe the judge pinned the class correctly, 99 percent of people believe whatever they read on the internet.
Therefore, every class will now be live-streamed to Facebook and the winners determined by which rounds receive the most “likes,” “thumbs up” and smiley-faces. And unlike a judge’s scorecard, which is cryptic at best, you’ll receive constructive, expert criticism via the comments section under each video. What could be more definitive than the unfiltered, un-spell-checked opinions of people who know nothing about hunters or show jumping and communicate entirely with animated GIFs and rows of brown curly-turd emojis?
Another innovative program, the Affordable Lesson Initiative (ALI), is also under development. Proposed by a team of professionals who are tired of yelling the same five things over and over, this program postulates that we will develop better riders if lessons are free and students pay only for the errors they make during class–the better you ride, the more you save.
Infractions include such things as incorrect leads or diagonals, missing a distance, going too fast, going too slow, going too fast and then going too slow, wrong number of strides in a line, crying during the sitting trot, spastic movement during flatwork (you, not the horse), watching the riders before you do the exercise and then still doing it wrong, bulging, drifting and overall crookedness, refusals, rails down and generally questionable judgment.
Initially, opponents of the ALI criticized that the program “missed the mark,” because it seemed intended to punish poor riding more than to reward good riding. They withdrew their objections when, after much deliberation, neither side could come up with a reason why that was a bad idea.
As this column went to publication, the rollout of the Affordable Lessons Initiative was temporarily tabled after initial testing showed that the average price of a lesson under this plan was $452.22.
After years of trying to fit in with corporate America, Jody Lynne Werner decided to pursue her true passion as a career rather than a hobby. So now, she’s an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, cartoonist, web designer, writer and humorist. You can find her work on her Misfit Designs Cafepress site. Jody is one of the winners of the Chronicle’s first writing competition. Her work also appears in print editions of The Chronicle of the Horse. Read all of Jody’s humor columns for coth.com here.