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Spin off on USDF Championship Show Fees and other stuff

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  • Spin off on USDF Championship Show Fees and other stuff

    A couple of threads have got me wondering why people, including myself, choose to show in USDF/USEF recognized shows. I recently read an article somewhere (if I can find it again I'll post a link) that discussed how riders let themselves be "shamed" into competing at levels (dressage, eventing and jumping) beyond the skill of their horses and/or themselves. Often this results in putting horse and/or rider into situations where injuries occur.

    The author shared how she wanted to get back to where she was as a young rider, putting her pony first and just enjoying the ride and the process.

    People who like pretty ribbons and prizes may choose to show at schooling shows. I can appreciate that as someone who had a very nice AQHA horse but consistently showed with other ammies that had been World Champions or Reserve and were much better mounted than I. I got off the AQHA merry-go-round and switched to schooling shows.

    Now that I'm doing dressage, I only do recognized shows. My financial situation is much different from my AQHA days in the positive direction. I say I do so because I recognize that there are only so many miles in each horse and I want all of mine to "count" but I'm questioning what that means. I'll admit that I feel a sense of accomplishment in being competitive at recognized shows. It sure isn't for the prizes which frankly are nothing to write home about in comparison to the cost. Case in point, I have two very nice ribbons from a show recently that cost $200 each.

    I'm interested in the thoughts of others on this topic; hopefully more on the philosophical side and less on the financial because we all know it's expensive.

  • #2
    I do a mix of rated and schooling shows. Since I don't have a trailer, I go to shows that my trainer is also going to, so that puts some restrictions on which shows I go to. I do want to get my Bronze medal someday, so will need to go to enough rated shows for that. I do enjoy the atmosphere and camaraderie of a bigger, multi-day show which is quite different from a one-day schooling show. It is exciting to be at the same show with riders and horses doing the FEI tests, and to watch some of the other riders go.

    ETA: my horse is still fairly young, so *all* shows "count" towards getting him used to going new places and seeing new things. I imagine as he gets older that won't be true anymore and we may show less as a result.
    Last edited by MissAriel; Aug. 30, 2019, 01:58 PM.
    "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham


    • #3
      I go to recognized shows because they (usually) have better footing (my #1 consideration), better judges, stabling, an EMT, a TD to enforce the rules, etc. We pay all that extra money for all these things. I'm not going to get 5 international judges giving me their opinions at a schooling show.


      • #4
        I spent the last decade being barely able to afford a horse and lessons, and only sporadically able to afford to show. For a long time I was in a scarcity mindset where if I was able to get to a show and was financially able to swing it, I was highly motivated to go since it was uncertain when the next opportunity would come together.

        I just started a new job at double my prior base salary, and finances are suddenly not the primary factor in my decision to show. And now that the scarcity mindset isn't driving my decision-making and the costs of showing are less of an obstacle, I'm less motivated than ever to show. There aren't any schooling shows near me that offer judging or competition that seems valuable to me, and recognized shows require such an investment of resources (time, money, travel, stress) that the payoff (validation of progress, mostly) just doesn't seem worth it when I could spend that kind of a chunk of time doing something more purely recreational, like taking a lesson at home or getting out into nature, or something that brings joy to my loved ones.

        As money has become less of a limiting factor, time has become more scarce. And as my current horse ages I'm more aware of what atlatl said about each horse's miles being limited and making them "count". I guess I'm starting to lean more and more toward seeing enjoyment of every individual ride as what "counts" and the validation of that journey through judge feedback as not as personally valuable. That said, I think my horse and I may have nearly maxed our physical potential as a pair (thus the progress that we might want to validate is slowing), and we've had a couple of near-death veterinary situations recently (thus the joy of a harmonious ride at home has become more valuable), so this viewpoint is pretty situational. If I start again with a young horse at some point in the future, maybe a little judge feedback will start to feel worth the hundreds of dollars and days away from home that it takes to show.


        • #5
          I did a lot of showing growing up, because I was at a show barn and that's just what you did. Also, my mom was financing me as a kid/teenager/partially into my early 20s when I was trying for Young Riders.

          After the YR days, I stopped showing. I had young horses that I was focusing on training and wasn't at a point where I thought it was useful to show. I also was trying to get my career going and self-finance riding. I worked three jobs just to support my horse and myself. Don't need to say how hard that is. Then, when I started in my current law career, I was working 65-70 hour weeks for the first two years and could barely manage to ride once a week. I did one show during those days (rated) and remember being really disappointed. We didn't even break 60 on one test and I was embarrassed. I had grown up being so competitive with the sport that I was unhappy with spending so much money and taking time off work, only to feel like I had no business being there. When I was riding before not showing, I had tons of fun.

          Now, I've finally got to a place where I have more control over my schedule and can afford the sport more easily. With the more consistent riding, I feel like myself again. It wasn't my idea to show, but again I'm at a sports/competitive training barn where that's what people do. My coach encouraged me to get my bronze this summer on the school master I'm leasing (I'm from Canada where that wasn't a thing), so I did. It definitely felt encouraging. Shows can be a lot of fun, if you're ready for them and have the right mindset.

          With my new horse I felt some pressure to try for regional championships since we were doing well, but that required doing lots of back to back weekend shows and SOO much money after I already just bought a damn horse, new saddle, etc. I was getting stressed about it until I finally realized this is a stupid thing to be stressed about when I didn't actually want it that badly, or much at all, for myself. I firmly shut the idea down as impossible this year and now my coach is focused on next year, which is fine.

          That's a long way to say that I guess I tend to show when I'm in an environment where that's the expectation. It's obviously helpful in gauging progress. I wouldn't do schooling shows at this point if they were off-property, because the cost of trailering, etc. - rated shows are hardly that intimidating if you're used to them. If you're an amateur and you're showing at a level you feel confident about, there's nothing to fear about a rated show, other than the money. Since the experience seems so much more "value" for the time and money than a schooling show, I'd say they're more worth my time.
          Mr. Sandman
          sand me a man
          make him so sandy
          the sandiest man


          • Original Poster

            Originally posted by fancy.pants View Post
            I go to recognized shows because they (usually) have better footing (my #1 consideration), better judges, stabling, an EMT, a TD to enforce the rules, etc. We pay all that extra money for all these things. I'm not going to get 5 international judges giving me their opinions at a schooling show.
            These are all great reasons for an upper level rider. BTW, schooling shows around my neck of the woods also have EMTs.


            • #7
              I use to campaign multiple horses to advertise my breeding program. That meant I went to almost every recognized and schooling show in the state (and a few out of state) in order to get everyone the exposure and mileage they needed. I sold my young stock and breedings that way and managed to earn my bronze and silver along the way too. Now I only have one to show, the youngest that I retained from my breeding days. He is 5 and I have no need to campaign. I have no desire to go to regionals BTDT. I have no desire to compete for All-Breeds, BTDT. I have no desire to compete at state championships at the lower levels, BTDT. I do have the desire to earn my gold. I show the occasional schooling show in order to give my young horse exposure and to practice tests in preparation for the recognized shows. I do about 2-3 recognized shows a year (one each in Nov, Feb and April) that are very close to home and convenient for my schedule. I do this to touch base and get an outside opinion of my training progress as I train my guy up the levels. He's schooling pretty solid second level at the moment. Outside of this one goal I just focus on keeping my guy healthy and sound and keeping things fun. I don't plan to change the cadence of my showing in the near future. It's expensive but far less than what I use to spend in total, all the while serving as a decent measuring stick towards my final goal in my dressage riding career.
              Ranch of Last Resort


              • #8
                The main draw for me to enter in recognized shows is pretty exclusively the caliber of judge that the facilities draw in. Not so much in a “schooling shows have soft judging” situation (maybe true maybe not depending on where you’re at) but when my local recognized shows give me the opportunity to ride for Gary Rockwell, Linda Zang, and of course Lilo Fore - all of whom are judges I respect tremendously and do an awesome job with their commentary on the test sheet - I will pay to show recognized every time.

                It also helps that the facilities I am thinking of, have excellent show management, good footing, and host a good show overall (food, first aid, farrier & vet). I am certain there are nice unrecognized shows local to me that do a good job, but they would be hard pressed to compete with the quality I experience at the recognized ones.


                • Original Poster

                  All great thoughts and really helpful to me in clarifying my goals. Thanks to all!

                  Here in SoCal, many schooling shows are held at the same facilities as recognized and many of the judges are the same (R and S) although not usually the O judges so I appreciate that reminder.


                  • #10
                    Thanks for an interesting topic, atlatl . I've been thinking about what I want to do this coming year show wise and this thread has been helpful.

                    When I first converted from H/J to dressage, my then-trainer suggested going to a schooling show. It was a fairly casual one day affair that was an easy drive/trailer ride from home and it was in fact a very nice way to get my feet wet. But in general I have always been in programs that showed at rated venues and to the poster's point above, at least in this area, they tend to be at nicer facilities with better footing, stabling, more qualified judges and so on.

                    I showed a lot the first few years after I got my then young horse. It was great fun; he was competitive, we had a nice group of friends who enjoyed showing together, and it was an easy way to measure progress and have a lot of fun in the process. Then my trainer moved back to Germany and our little team dispersed... I bought a farm, others moved to different programs, and well, Life. This year I also started a new job, bought a second young horse, and haven't shown at all. I just haven't had the desire and have been focused more on clinics. Go figure.
                    We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by atlatl View Post
                      ...clarifying my goals....
                      This is it... three years ago, after a thirty year hiatus, I got back into horses and thought I could pick where I had left off...hah! While I thought I could lesson and pick up scores on my green horse as we work up the levels I was shocked at the fact that I had turned into a timid old lady. So instead of occasional recognized shows I have discovered that I need several schooling shows and even a bit of sports psychology to get even close to the brave person I used to be. I do have my own trailer, we trailer out for lessons and shows. I have worked up from blind terror at just going down the road to being fairly confident at that part. I am lucky that have a fairly bomb proof beastie who will tie or stand in the trailer all day as long as she has hay. She is the same horse at home a lesson or a show. After a dozen plus shows this year I can actually RIDE through a test and remember what I did. It took about the same last year and the year before so I guess this is my new normal. We are working and showing Second Level. We are so much better at home and lessons (touching a few Third Level moves). My instructor is not happy that I am showing Second, but I started this year doing fair at First, that was not the emotional roadblock. Moving up the level was was the problem.

                      My goal when I got back into this was a Bronze Medal. We are half way there. Next year we will show at schooling shows, Second Level, till I am back to the confidence level I am at now. We will move up when the horse and I have all the stuff we need for Third, but at schooling shows. Last year we went to our first recognized show in April, this year June. I figure it might be August next year even if things go well. Could we do this faster? Sure, I could have bought a horse that was not so green or put this one in full time training. On the other hand, I am retired and this is the most fun I have had in decades. Plus I am not independently wealthy. Might things change, sure... who knows, miracles occur and so do disasters... that is part of the fun.


                      • #12
                        I have never shown a lot. The #1 factor for me has been convenience - which means going to the shows that are close and / or my trainer and a group from the barn are going.

                        At my old barn, this meant one-day local shows, both schooling and National. At my current barn, it’s he bigger 2 to 3-day National shows.

                        As my horse developed some soundness issues, footing became my primary consideration, limiting me to two venues in our area where the footing in all warmups and show rings are the same and hold up well in wet weather.

                        I have also done video test rides / online shows where you have someone video your test at home and you receive a scoresheet and comments from an accredited judge.


                        • #13
                          I go to the rated shows for one reason, scores that are tracked. I teach on a very small scale, but I want to be the best instructor I can be. Even if it’s only for intro, training level riders. I want to eventually get my L certification through USDF, so i needed certain scores. Don’t get me wrong, showing is fun.... but because I am so goal oriented every time I go out, it’s stressful. I will say setting realistic goals makes it more enjoyable. This year I spent the season at 3rd level getting my scores for the L program. Next years plan is to move up to 4th/PSG and try for my Silver scores. I got my bronze medal in 12 tests, over three years on a horse I trained from a 2yo. Those were 12 stressful tests as I had such a tight budget! I don’t know if I will ever just show for fun, or just go with no agenda. The last schooling show I rode at was probably the most fun I have had at a show in years. I had no pressures and just went to get a horse out, and because it was so affordable I really enjoyed it. I also appreciate having good footing, great judges, and realistic feedback. Our local schooling shows are super nice as well, so someday I might go back to doing more of those.


                          • #14
                            Many years ago when I started in dressage, I rode in both schooling and recognized shows. I was not real competitive i the recognized shows, but it was a good learning experience. And it was financially practical to do back then.

                            Now I have a new horse who, although not a WB, has some talent! While rehabbing from injury, I have been thinking about showing. First, I am retired and on a fixed income, so money matters. Second, he has never been shown, so we will certainly need to see how he reacts.

                            Years ago, I might have planned some schooling and then some recognized shows if all went well. Now? Im not sure I will ever get to recognized shows. He does not have a number, and I am not a member so costs start there. Then the recognized shows have gotten so expensive! My trainer feels he is solid First, working on Second level . So schooling shows will be great for exposure, but once we get to second, there is virtually no competition. Recognized shows offer "Opportunity" classes, but not at Second, so the costs mount. My thought right now is to invest in clinics. I am not all that competitive anyway.


                            • #15
                              I am also a goal-oriented show-er. I showed last year to get the final score for my bronze, get my scores for the L program, and then readjusted my goals and got my silver. Spent the winter training, aiming to start getting scores for the r/R while I had the horse. Have gotten a few and have gotten the first two scores for my gold. We’ll see where we go from here, will continue as long as she is happy in her work

                              My young horse showed 2x a year at 4 and 5 and will do another 2 shows this year, just to remind him about showing. He will likely do more showing next year/in the future when he’s ready for 3rd or so. Though I have no plans to sell him, you never know what will happen, and I feel it sets him up better to have a recognized show record as he progresses.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by fancy.pants View Post
                                I go to recognized shows because they (usually) have better footing (my #1 consideration), better judges, stabling, an EMT, a TD to enforce the rules, etc. We pay all that extra money for all these things. I'm not going to get 5 international judges giving me their opinions at a schooling show.
                                Yes, all of this is the reason why I show rated VS schooling.

                                Also, my horse generally tends to score better with R and S judges than she does with L grads--to the tune of 5% or more. She's correct but not fancy, and I found out the hard way that many lower-level judges don't seem to appreciate or reward that.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by atlatl View Post
                                  All great thoughts and really helpful to me in clarifying my goals. Thanks to all!

                                  Here in SoCal, many schooling shows are held at the same facilities as recognized and many of the judges are the same (R and S) although not usually the O judges so I appreciate that reminder.
                                  I must be missing something...are there really schooling shows at Galway Downs, Showpark, Fairgrounds, Flintridge and LAEC? Those all of the major facilities I can this of that host big rated shows in SoCal, and I wasn’t aware that they offer schooling shows as well. Although not consistently awesome in all of the arenas, these facilities have consistently better footing than the schooling show facilities I’m aware of.
                                  *Absolut Equestrian*

                                  "The plural of anecdote is not fact...except in the horse industry"


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Originally posted by Absolut Equestrian View Post

                                    I must be missing something...are there really schooling shows at Galway Downs, Showpark, Fairgrounds, Flintridge and LAEC? Those all of the major facilities I can this of that host big rated shows in SoCal, and I wasn’t aware that they offer schooling shows as well. Although not consistently awesome in all of the arenas, these facilities have consistently better footing than the schooling show facilities I’m aware of.
                                    Not the big venues you mention, but at The Paddock, El Sueno and others that hold smaller rated shows.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Absolut Equestrian View Post
                                      Although not consistently awesome in all of the arenas, these facilities have consistently better footing than the schooling show facilities I’m aware of.
                                      Actually, I find the footing at El Sueno to be superior to that at LAEC. It's a nice sand/fiber mix and stays pretty fluffy and dust-free. Mission Pacific is also good, although occasionally a little deep for my taste.

                                      My point being that there are several very nice facilities in the LA area that host smaller rated shows, and also schooling shows.


                                      • #20
                                        I do more recognized than schooling now.

                                        #1 reason: Cost/value. Because I don't have a trailer, I still have to pay for someone to trailer my horse and for a stall. So for me to go to a schooling show three hours away at the state fair two weeks ago, I still had to pay $250 for trailering, $50 for a stall, and about $100 in classes and office fees for a one-day show. There's a recognized show (two shows, two days) that's closer than that, so my trailering and entry fees and stabling for that end up being around $500... not much of a difference, and better as far as value, being two days instead of one. Even for a closer schooling show, I'd still be paying about $100-150 in trailering and $40 or so for a stall, and usually a day fee for my trainer since she's likely to be the one trailering me and to have other students there, so I might as well save the money and put it toward shows that give me the best overall experience.

                                        #2: I like having goals to work toward, I feel like my scores are more consistent at recognized shows; we have some experienced judges locally, but some of our schooling shows have a handful of judges that are notoriously high or notoriously low, so what's the point when I know I'm either going to have my score inflated or else do poorly? At recognized shows I can feel really darn proud if I get a high score from a respected and well-known judge, and it's easier for me to track how my scores on specific moves that we've worked on change or improve over time. Prizes and ribbons are fun, but I have enough ribbons, I'd rather work to improve my scores. Plus, if I do want prizes, my GMO does have end of the year awards for schooling shows, but they have a lot more that are based on recognized show scores. Same thing with getting awards from my breed registry or from USDF.

                                        #3: The experience. I just really like going to horse shows, and taking a whole show-cation weekend and doing all the fuss and the braiding and the white things that don't want to stay white is just a good time for me. For a one-day schooling show, I don't get that much of a sense of excitement and seriousness, and it feels simultaneously more casual and also more rushed.
                                        "Remain relentlessly cheerful."

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