Stable Beat :: Showing on a Shoestring

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Money is still tight for many and for those able to compete with their horses, saving a little here and there can really add up over an entire show season. Stable Management spoke to a variety of people from around the country to come up with a few cost-saving tips for you and your clients.

(Contributors were: Brandi Benedict, head dressage trainer at SonRise Stables in Virginia.; Melissa Lussen, owner of Infinity Farm in Connecticut; Debra Peebles, an owner and breeder of Arabians in Maryland; Melynda Silvashy who shows her mare in reining classes around Sacramento, Calif.; and Donna Thompson, instructor and trainer based in Florida.)

A Team Effort

Besides sharing hauling and gas costs, there are other ways to save money at horse shows. Donna and her clients combine forces to bring food and supplies. One person brings a grill, another brings a table, everyone brings chairs and they coordinate on different foods to share. Debra’s list includes bread, peanut butter, snacks, apples and a cooler of water.

To save money at multi-day shows, Debra suggests sharing a tack stall. Share a hotel room or condo, or, as Melissa does, borrow a friend’s camper and skip the hotel all together. Some show grounds rent RVs and Melynda suggests getting a group of people together to rent one.

Bring Your Own Stuff and Do It Yourself

Debra is a big fan of bringing your own stall supplies for overnight shows. Buying shavings and hay on the show grounds is about twice the cost. If, however, you need to buy some, try a local farm supply store, which will likely still be cheaper than the show grounds. Before you leave for the show, make a list of everything you will need, which will help keep you from having to buy once you are there. Donna again coordinates with the other attendees. She tries to bring only one or two first aid kits, grooming boxes, shampoos, and braiding kits.

Teaching clients to handle some of the grooming efforts can save a lot of money for them and free up some of your time. Winter months spent teaching clients how to braid, for example, is time well worth it. Melynda also suggests offering to let clients clean stalls or tack for you at the show in exchange for lessons or coaching during the event.

Change Your Shows

If you normally go to multi-day shows, consider just going one day and haul in and out. If your clients are looking to gain experience, consider small, local schooling shows instead of the more expensive rated and licensed shows. Odds are, they’ll be able to get twice the experience at half the cost. And you open up to a whole new level of clientele by offering less expensive, and less threatening outings. For your clients that have worked hard and are aimed at higher level points, consider dividing and conquering. Partner with a trusted trainer where one goes to a bigger, rated show, and another goes to a smaller show. It can even be someone working out of another barn. But by sharing clients, both trainers will have happy customers in the end, and both trainers will have avoid letting a revenue opportunity pass them by because they are unavailable.

Plan Ahead

Once at the show, plan ahead on what classes you want to do and enter on time to avoid late fees. Have your clients go for quality, not quantity and stick to your plan.

Melynda advises to check that all your paperwork is current and correct ahead of time. And, make sure your truck and trailer are both in good working order before you pull out—repairs on the road can be costly, indeed.

You can trim showing expenses, but it takes planning ahead of time and coordinating with others. With some forethought and attention to detail you and your clients can still show and have a good time without breaking the bank.