How Much Does it Cost to Show in the HITS $1 Million Dollar Classes?

BY MICHELLE FERRELL

At the start of 2019, professional show jumper and 3-time FEI World Cup qualifier, Jenni McAllister set the goal of riding in 3 of the HITS Horse Shows biggest money classes: The $1 Million Grand Prix in Thermal, CA, the $1 Million GP in Ocala, and the $500,000 GP in Saugerties, NY.

The costs associated with this specific goal are significant to say the least. But, Jenni had a string of talented horses whom she felt were up to the challenge, and was prepared to implement as many cost-cutting strategies as possible along the way. Here is how the events unfolded, along with a breakdown of the costs involved.

Part 1 – Qualify

In order to qualify to ride in any of the HITS $1 Million dollar classes, you must first ride in four HITS Grand Prix classes during four separate weeks of the winter circuit leading up to the final. Riders do not have to ride the same horse in each of these qualifying events. Having recently moved to New Mexico from California, Jenni opted to start the show season in Florida and qualify at the Ocala horse show. She and her husband, Steve McAllister, own a tractor trailer and a camper and lived in the camper with the horses stabled at a friend’s nearby stable throughout the Ocala winter circuit. 

Base Costs for Ocala Qualifiers

  • New Mexico to Florida, roughly 2,000 miles one way = $2,000.00
  • Staying in your own motorhome $350 per week for 4 weeks = $1,400.00. 
  • Rent a tent to house the horses, $300 a month.
  • Cost per week to show at Ocala to qualify, $1,500.00 per week for 4 weeks = $6,000.00

Total cost: $9,700.00

Photo courtesy of Jenni McAllister

Driving from New Mexico to Florida with 7 horses was at least $1.00 per mile per horse. The less horses you have, the more the cost goes up per mile, but having their own truck and camper allowed them to save on hotels, car rentals and eating out. Gas, maintenance and mileage costs on the equipment added to the overall costs. Having a working student helping with grooming and care for the horses saved as well, but they still absorbed the costs of feeding, housing and training that person.

During the course of the stay in Florida to qualify for the first Million in Thermal, something changed. “I had planned on showing one horse in the California million and one in the Florida million. Escada VS in Thermal and Batida PJ or Colvados in Ocala,” Jenni explained. “I was happy with all of the horses progress, and they had made a good showing. You always want to win classes, but you want to do what is best for the horse as well. It became apparent that two of the horses (Batida and Colvados) were not mentally ready for either Thermal or Ocala. The crowd and the energy that goes with that level of class is a lot of pressure and they were not mature enough to handle it.”

Part 2 – HITS Thermal

Having put in a good showing in Ocala, Jenni was now qualified for the back-to-back Thermal and Ocala Million. The original plan of showing different horses at each venue was out, and it was decided that Escada VS would do both. Since driving one horse from Ocala to Thermal was not cost-effective, they made the decision to fly Jenni, Steve and Escada VS to California. 

Photo courtesy of Jenni McAllister

Cost to Get and Stay in Thermal and Compete in the Thermal Million Grand Prix

  • Roundtrip airfare for Escada VS, including roundtrip transport from LAX to Thermal and back = $11,000.00
  • Roundtrip airfare for Jenni and Steve = $1,000.00
  • Lodging in an “overpriced” hotel (due to the demand that specific week) for Tuesday through Sunday = $600.00
  • Rental car for 6 days = $250.00
  • Food for 2 people mostly at the horse show with dinner out (definitely not VIP) $100.00 per day for 6 days = $600.00

Total cost: $13,450.00

Photo courtesy of Jenni McAllister

HITS Thermal Show Fees for the week of 3/12 – 3/17

  • $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix Entry Fee: $600.00
  • AIG $1 Million Grand Prix Entry Fee: $3,500.00
  • CDFA/USEF/USHJA/PCHA Fee: $38.00
  • Office Fee” $85.00
  • Stall – Tent Weekly: $250.00
  • IHP Horse Fee: $35.00
  • Feed: $187.90

Total cost: $4,710.46

Jenni placed 11th in the $30,000 SmartPak Grand Prix, winning $600.00

Photo © Treena Hall Photography

When preparing to head back to Ocala for the next million, the shipping company wanted to charge $1,500 to pick up Escada in Bradington and bring her to the Fort Lauderdale airport, then another $1,200.00 to bring her back to Ocala upon returning from California. Steve and Jenni opted to save the money and trailer her roundtrip themselves for this part of the journey. At Thermal, they stabled Escada next to a friend’s set up for convenience but did all of their own cleaning, grooming and feeding. Jenni estimates this saved them close to $185.00 a day in fees alone. Another groom was kind enough to watch Escada Sunday and Monday as their flight left on Sunday night and the horse did not leave until Tuesday.

Part 3 – HITS Ocala

Once back in Florida, it was now time to prepare for the Ocala Million on 3/24. They took all seven horses to show, stayed in their own camper, avoided dining out and had two working students to assist with the daily grooming and chores. 

HITS Ocala Show Fees for the week of 3/19 – 3/24

  • $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix $500.00
  • Great American Million Grand Prix $3,500.00
  • USEF Drug/Horse Fee/USHJA Fee $30.00
  • Office Fee $25.00
  • Post Entry Fee $50.00
  • IHP Horse Fee $35.00
  • Trainer Splits $443.00 (shared tack stalls, feed and bedding)
  • Retail Adjustment $3.15

Total cost:  $4,586.15

Placed 2nd in the $25,000 SmartPak Grand Prix – Winning $5,500.00
Placed 14th in the Great American Million Grand Prix – Winning $3,500.00

Photo © Treena Hall Photography

Part 4 – HITS on the Hudson

After a successful showing throughout the summer, it was time to head to Saugerties, NY. Steve drove the tractor trailer with five horses from New Mexico to upstate New York with Jenni driving the truck and camper. They were able to stay with friends and drop off one of the horses for a client along the way. By this point, Batida PJ had matured and was ready for her shot at this level of competition along with Escada VS, and both horses would be stabled on the show grounds. The other two had been brought in the hopes of selling, and they were able to stable them off site at a friend’s farm. 

Jenni admits that was a lucky break. It helped with the expenses, and also allowed her to focus on Batida, Escada and the competition at hand. Once again, they stayed in their camper, ate all of their meals at home and did their own grooming. What they spent in gas and mileage to get to the show was more cost effective than if they had rented a hotel, car and taken meals out.

Base Costs for HITS on the Hudson

  • Tractor Trailer drive from New Mexico to New York, roughly 2,000 miles one way = $2,000.00
  • Truck and camper drive from New Mexico to New York, roughly 2,000 miles one way = $1,000.00
  • Staying in your own motorhome for one week = $300.00. 

Total cost: $3,300.00

HITS on the Hudson Show Fees for the week of 9/4 – 9/8 

  • FEI Division $3,247.00
  • USEF Drug/Horse Fee/USHJA Fee $30.00
  • Office Fee $50.00
  • Night Watch $15.00
  • Stall – Weekly Silver $325.00
  • Post Entry Fee $50.00
  • FEI Deposit – Nonrefundable $500.00
  • IHP Horse Fee $35.00
  • Retail Adjustment $14.10
  • FEI Drug Horse Fee $3.00
  • Feed and Bedding $175.00

Total cost: $4,444.10

Placed 3rd in the $35,700 Horseflight Jumper Classic FEI – Winning $5,355.00
Placed 8th in the $75,000 AIG Jumper Classic FEI – Winning $1,875.00

Photo © Treena Hall Photography

Jenni’s take on these goals and their expenses:

“I knew from the beginning it was a super expensive goal. My plan was to budget, get there and be successful with these horses. I feel the two horses have come so far and that it shows what is possible if you really want to do it. Between the three shows, I think I won my money back on the entry fees but not on the travel expenses. In terms of prize money, I covered myself at Ocala and Saugerties, definitely not at Thermal.

For me, doing the bigger FEI classes is about focus and dedication. When you have multiple horses and clients at a show, you are scrambling to do everything. That is our American system. There is nothing wrong with it, but it requires a lot of staff to support it. I find that to be different than the focus I had while riding in Europe. Most of those shows were how I wanted this experience to be. Some riders have more horses so it’s no big deal. I only have these 2 horses so when I show at this level I really want to be connected to it and win with these horses.”

Total spent: $40,190.71
Total won: $16,830