BY Piper Klemm
Thinking about how we can make our sport more accessible, I always come back to the same issue. As long as we are all traveling, it is very hard to make showing more broadly affordable.
Yes, we can save money. The traditional advice is always to do it yourself and cut out the need for others. Learn to ride more types of horses so that you have more options. Do as much barnwork yourself as you can, learn to braid, work for others. Staff is expensive, traveling staff is even more expensive.
Things I’ve personally done in the last year include packing my own lunches and dinners, skipping the tail braid, sleeping on the couch, and staying at a suboptimal motel where I got a very weird rash. Yes, there are a lot of advantages you can build for yourself.
However, as many readers correctly point out, if you are horse showing, there is only so much money you can save even when you’re willing to sacrifice a lot. It is so expensive. How can we change our structure for many more of us to be at home in our beds more often?
I believe the first step is to critically evaluate which divisions need to be run over two (or even three) days and which divisions can simply move to a single day.
When I think about, say the Low Children’s or Children’s Hunters, a move to a single day at many horse shows makes so much sense. Instead of four over fences, we move to three and an under saddle. This change can make the variable costs of showing up to twice as affordable.
Shorter timing commitments could be landmark for including more families who have other children, have horses or other pets at home to care for, and the cost savings from travel to braiding to shavings go on and on. Shows would have more time for divisions on weekends to include more participants outside of traditional work or school, instead of needing to put these divisions during the work week. People could show and have more of the weekend to prioritize work, school, and family.
Many of these divisions started as a two day affair so that horses to win at the Premier Level would be judged by multiple judges for the Championship. I think this is very valid for championships and Premier Level horse shows, however, this viewpoint and schedule has trickled down to even the most local shows or entry level divisions for horses and riders. Does the Long Stirrup really need to go over two days? I do not believe that it does.
If people desired to show over multiple days, shows can still offer other divisions or splits that do not require participation of everyone (e.g. Short Stirrup Equitation on Saturday and Short Stirrup Hunter on Sunday), a split with the Classic (e.g. 3 over fences and the full Adult Hunter division on Saturday, a Classic on Sunday for those who choose to return), or a full USHJA Hunter 2’ Section A that completely goes Thursday and a section B that completely goes Friday. If people like riding two days in a row and feel like that is the source of their progression, no one is stopping them from having real lessons, practice, or getting out there for another division.
The biggest concern with changes is always horse welfare. I would argue that in this system, most horses would probably jump fewer jumps. Showing one day would mean fewer overall warm-up fences and many shows offer a Low Hunter on Saturday and maybe a classic for four total rounds when your division is two of those. Three classes would actually be fewer jumps. Divisions chasing points (all A rated divisions) probably won’t change (I’m not arguing that they should) and they are not the majority of any horse show. For the average competitor, those new to the sport, people trying to balance this sport with other aspects of their lives, this is a more accessible, attainable, cost effective, and horse-centric approach.
I believe that the biggest change we can make to make moving up our sport more affordable to the average bold and gritty child (or adult) who loves horses, barn work, and wants to be a professional one day is to increase the feasible opportunities to either ship in or spend fewer days at any given horse show. Professionals might be able to afford to make up their own horses again. The best part about this change is that it is already in the rulebook for many of these divisions. All we need is show managers and scheduling to get on board. Which means the next time you write a check, use your voice and ask for what you want.
What divisions do you think could easily be accomplished in a single day? Which ones need to be two days? Write in to email@example.com or share your thoughts with your colleagues.