How to Make Horse Shows More Affordable

The only thing more expensive then owning a horse is competing one! As well as membership fees, entry fees, starting fees, transporting the horse and eating out, there is the continual training costs in-between, essential if you want to be successful. By planning ahead and cutting down on a few luxuries you can make your horse show just as fun and more affordable, allowing you to go to more shows then ever!


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    Braid and trim your own horse. Although you can pay professionals to do this for you,. It is easy to learn how, even if it won't look as good at the start. If you have always done your one braiding and trimming by the time you get to higher levels you will be as good as the professionals.
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    Take some food or buy food from local shops rather then vendors. Take lots of bottled water.
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    Share transport with other people. If you want to go to a competition more than a few miles away you will have to transport your horse in a horsebox or trailer. These are expensive to buy, run and maintain and also to hire. Asking some one who is going to the same competition as you is best as you can act as each others grooms and both benefit. Otherwise you can cash in a favour and ask if they would be willing to drive your horse, or let you borrow their rig. Make sure you are comfortable manoeuvring the trailer around before you take it out with your horse inside.
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    Look at what's available locally before going further afield. Showing around the area means cheaper towing fees, and its great for the environment, too.

Grass Roots

  1. Hack to competitions. A horse and rider can cover about 6 miles (9.7 km) an hour in walk and gentle trot. Anything within this is within hacking distance. Save petrol costs and either horsebox/trailer hire or the cost and maintenance of them.
  2. Join a Riding Club. Riding clubs can vary from a centre giving members discounted entry fees to it's competitions, to adult versions of the Pony Club, with clinics, training, exams, competitions and championships. It's worth joining more than one. Not only will you get a range of experience in different disciplines, but can also built a support group, which can help, among other things, transporting your horse.

Affiliated Competitions

  1. Take full advantage of the benefits of membership to affiliated bodies. Membership to these bodies is expensive, but unavoidable if you what to compete at affiliated level. Membership often includes liability and/or personal accident insurance. If you are already covered for these by another policy, downgrade it to save money. Sponsors of the body often offer members discounts of on their products.

Staying Overnight

  1. Care for your horse yourself. At some big shows, there are often grooms that will help care for your horse. If you can, you should consider doing all or most of the work yourself.
  2. Camp or sleep in the lorry. Most show ground will let you camp. If not they will probably be able to recommend another place.
  3. Keep your horse off the show ground. Some farmers will cash in on a big competition by offering livery and camping, others may allow you to stay if you ask. Compare prices with the show ground.

Moving Through the Levels

  1. Continue competing in other disciplines. Even if you want to specialise, both you and your horse could benefit from variety. Other disciplines can uncover weaknesses that have been holding you back in your chosen discipline, i.e. dressage could uncover weaknesses in your flatwork, which have been holding you back in showjumping.
  2. Learn from your competition failures. After your class, go and talk to the judge. Introduce yourself (by rider number and horse colour and type as well as name), thank them and ask for their opinions on your weaknesses in your performance or to explain something on the test sheet you didn't understand. Work on your weaknesses at home. Going to as many competitions as possible, without training in-between is a waste. However, some judges see this as an imposition, and may be annoyed. Technically, it is not their job to talk to you about your riding. They may not even remember you specifically if they have been judging all day. Always be polite, and don't take it personally if they have no advice to give you.
  3. Find a talented amateur rider. You can pay a trainer to compete your horse for you, bringing them up though the levels, as well as doing a lot of the training at home. A talented rider can do the same, if more slowly, for free. They will be grateful for the opportunity to be released from the costs of owning a horse. Making it a condition that they have regular lessons on the horse isn't unfair. Of course, the best, and least expensive way to bring your horse up through the levels is to show them yourself!


  • Let people know you're interested in working to save money. Sometimes they feel awkward asking you to work if they don't know you are interested.
  • Riding clubs will often demand a certain level of help at shows, setting-up, running and cleaning up. If you don't want to miss opportunities to compete, volunteer early and regularly for setting up the day before or for competition which don't have classes at your level.
  • If it really isn't possible for you do one tip, skip it. There are always other options!
  • This article is based on hunter/jumper type shows. Tips work for all types of showing, but explanations could vary.
  • If you are hacking to a competition try to get another to meet you there or hack out with you. Going to a competition alone is hard enough without a safe place to put your horse and equipment. Either way it's best to let the organizers know how you will be arriving.


  • If you groom for your horse, and possibly others, be sure you have enough time to do what you came to the show to do without extra stress.
  • If you decide to have another rider share and/or compete your horse for you, make sure you have a contract stating the duties and responsibilities of both parties.
  • Judges aren't your instructors. If you are polite and they have the time, they may give you pointers and tips, but it is up to you and your instructor to make use of them. Always thank them for their time.
  • Some countries have laws about transporting horses. Find out the laws concerning welfare, liability and accepting money (even petrol money) for transporting another horse.
  • Doing lots of extra physical labor or waking up early could have effects on your health. Be sure to eat well and get lots of sleep!

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Categories: Horses