February 2015 - Question Corral
Written by Rebecca Bruce
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 05:20

Question Corral with Rebecca Bruce

Reader: My horse show budget is limited and I’d like some advice on how to make the most of it. How can I determine which shows are best for me and will enable me to get the most for my investment?

Rebecca: This is a great question and an important one for everyone who competes. Regardless if you have a limited horse show budget or an unlimited horse show budget, there should be a reason and a purpose for every dollar you spend at each horse show. It’s important for you and for the well being of your horse to get the “most bang for your buck” as possible.

No one wants to waste money on unnecessary classes or get to a show and find that the courses are too difficult for you or your horse. Luckily, especially throughout California there is an abundance of horse shows that fit every level and budget.

Rebecca Bruce. Photo by Michael Bruce.

Planning and goal setting are the key to making the most of any budget. The beginning of each year, I sit down with each of my clients to determine what are their goals for the year and which shows will best meet those goals.

There are many factors to take into account beside dollar figures.

What level is your current riding ability? What level is your horse’s ability? Do you have a young horse that needs trainer schooling rides before you show or do you have an older horse that knows his job? Does your horse need to do a couple of open days at the horse show, etc? These questions, along with your budget, will help determine what type of shows you should be putting your money towards.

Another important factor is what type of classes/ divisions do you want to participate in? Are year-end awards important to you? If you do the hunter classes or the jumper classes, the year-end awards are usually based on overall points that the horse has to earn. This means you will probably have to do more shows than if you are just trying to get qualified for the year-end medal finals.  Once you qualify for a medal final, you don’t have to do that medal class again until the finals. If you are doing medals, you need to determine which ones are the most important to you and factor in when and where the finals are held.

Maybe this a year that your goal is to move up a division mid-year. If you are moving up then you wouldn’t need to worry about year-end points. Maybe your horse doesn’t like to jump open water and you need to school over this obstacle at the shows -- this would make a difference in which shows you would pick. Or maybe you have a favorite judge or course designer and you want to compete at the shows where they’re working.

Once you have determined all of these factors, then it is time to look at the year-long horse show schedule and pick your shows. I think it’s important to review this at least twice a year. Once in the beginning of the year, and once mid-summer to make sure you are on track and going to the right type of shows to get your money’s worth.

Growing up, I was always on a very tight horse show budget. My mom always hauled my horses for me (great way to save money) and for many years I did my own grooming. My parents always tried to balance out two smaller, shorter shows for every one big show. Shows or classes that don’t require braiding save a lot of money if you are doing the hunters or equitation. Save the braiding for the big medal finals or derbies.

When picking shows, the fewer days the show runs, the less it will cost. If you have a horse that needs those open days, it’s a worthwhile investment in your horse to have your trainer show him. But if he doesn’t need that mileage, pick a one-day show or a three-day show that runs over a weekend. Pick shows close to home so you can save on hotel bills, etc.

Non-braiding and shorter shows will stretch your budget a long way. Local horse shows (if they have the classes you want) will have fewer association and nomination fees and lower office charges than the larger shows. Your trainer should be able to sit down with you and go over the best shows for you throughout the year. Our barn prints a yearly horse show calendar (after meeting with everyone) and then modifies our show schedule accordingly.

Author Rebecca Bruce operates the hunter/jumper training program, Sunnybook Ranch in Santa Barbara. To find out more about her program, visit www.sunnybrookhorses.com.

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