Wednesday, September 30, 2015


When I was a little girl, our local feed store had this sign posted:

I have remembered that quote throughout my life, and I'm always willing to pay a fair price. But, after running shows and clinics for a few years, I hear many people bitching about the cost. I think a lot of people don't really understand what goes into these types of events and why it's a fair price. So, I figure I'll give a breakdown of what actually goes into putting on a show or a clinic.


First off, we pay the clinician. Clinicians don't charge by the ride, they charge by the day and that's usually around $1000 a day.

Then, we pay the clinician's travel, hotel and other expenses. Those expenses depend on where the clinician comes from and how long they're staying. Domestic flights can be anywhere from $250 to $500, international flights start at $1000 for a round trip ticket (you do have to return your clinician to his or her home). Hotels are $100 a night. And then you still have to feed your clinician.

Oh! And then you have to pay for the venue. Maybe you get lucky and somebody offers up a suitable place for free, but usually the venue owner wants a fee or a few free rides.

And then you also have to pay for breakfast and lunch for all the auditors and clinic riders and grooms.

These are all "up front" costs. We spend this money before we even know if we're going to fill the clinic.

So, adding it all up, and assuming that the clinician is on the cheaper and geographically closer side of things and you get a free venue and a food fairy, that's:

$1000 for the clinician per day.
$250 for the flights.
$100 per night for the clinician's hotel. (That's an East Coast price. You can probably get cheaper hotels in Arkansas.)

That's $135 a ride if the clinician does 10 rides a day. Some only do 8, that's $169 a ride. That's for a "cheap" clinician. If we're getting into international flights and Olympians or SRS instructors, that price is going up!

And we haven't even factored in the cost of the venue, food and the amenities that people want for clinics.

Now, there are auditing fees, and that can help offset costs, but every auditor also ups our food bill. Generally speaking, the audit fees are where we pay for the amenities and potentially make a profit. In my club, audit fees pay for some of our members who couldn't otherwise afford it to ride in our Big Name clinics.

Bottom line: Clinics ain't cheap, we aren't gouging you on that price.


First, we pay the judge. That's usually about $300 for an "L", $350-400 for an "r", exponentially more for anything higher than that.

Each ribbon is about $2 apiece. The first place prizes are 5-$10.

The food is about $50 for the day, and that's if we cheap out and serve you muffins and hot dogs.

So, lets say we have 20 rides in a show (That's our minimum, if we have less we cancel the show) and we've got an "L" grad for the judge. That's:

$300 for the judge.
$40 for ribbons (we go to 6th place)
$50 for prizes (I'll assume 5 classes based on how my classes usually go, we split Jrs and Open)
$50 for food
$100 for the venue

That's a total cost of $27 per ride. We charge $25 per ride at our shows. Not gouging you there, either.

If we have more rides, then our profit does go up. But, it's paying for stuff like better prizes and fancier ribbons, our Youth Team going to Dressage For Kids with Lendon Gray and sponsoring cash prizes to our Adult Amateurs to pay for training. We aren't bathing in your cash while cackling maniacally. We'd like to, don't get me wrong, but that's just not in our budget.

Shit! I forgot to add in our insurance. We have to have insurance on all our shows and clinics, and I don't even know what that costs because it's not my job in the GMO.

And, I definitely didn't add in the amount of money we should be paying all the volunteers who make our shows and clinics happen. We'd be sunk without them, these events can't happen without our volunteers.

Bottom line: Quit yer bitchin'! A lot of hard work goes into these events, and we aren't motivated by money when we put them on. We want to bring great clinicians, shows, experiences and opportunities to our community, and our "profit" is when you have a good time and learn something. The price we charge is really just what it costs us to put on events of this caliber.

I suppose we could charge less, but quality is like oats....


  1. I haven't taken Courage to any expensive shows because we just aren't ready for them, but I am spending time on the volunteer/financial side of the show ring and yeah. It's eye opening. I wanted to smack someone when I was given a $5/prize budget for a show I was working. A tack store owner gave me a great discount on a cool little prize pack, and a competitor complained to other competitors in front of me about the prizes because they weren't as nice as you'd get at a big, recognized show with sponsors OH AND ABOUT 4X OUR ENTRY FEE.

    wtf people. shit costs money.

    1. I didn't even get into USEF recognized shows. For that, you need at least one USEF "S" or FEI judge (They start at $500 plus travel and hotel), a USEF Technical Delegate (also $500 plus travel and hotel), an on-site paramedic (I have no clue what that costs), USEF/USDF registration fees, plus all the usual food, prizes, venue, etc., costs. You're looking at at least $1500 in overhead, and the classes are usually only $50 per class.

      I will shamelessly beg, borrow and steal prizes, food and equipment to keep our overhead low, but we're still not making bank from shows. We're happy if we just make enough to cover the next show!

  2. Great insightful post. I'm coming to the dressage world from the eventing world where I would regularly spend $400 on an entry, for one class, for one weekend, plus whatever it costs me to get there and stay overnight and pay my trainer... I always thought the recognized shows were a great value, haha.

  3. Well said! May I reprint this in my GMO's newsletter?

    Linda Lambert, Treasurer
    Connecticut Dressage & Combined Training Association

    1. Sure, go right ahead! I'm the VP and Show and Clinic Manager for Southern Garden State Dressage Society, if you also want to include that. And my full name is Shannon Fornari, hence the blog URL. ;)

    2. I will! And thank you - a well written article!!!

  4. How many thumbs up can I give this?? I'm willing to steal thumbs! :D

  5. People are idiots. I have no idea why they think they're getting robbed. The only time I've ever complained about the costs from a show are at LA Equestrian Center - their stall fees are RIDICULOUS. I think I paid $160 for two nights just recently (no feed or shavings). LAEC, and a few other places, also charge me $50 a night to camp in my own trailer. LAEC actually charged me $200 to use their parking lot and plug for 4 days. There was no way I used that amount in electricity, and there were no extra services - just a parking spot. That was price gouging. Outside of those two instances, I pay what they ask because I know it's expensive. Thank you for doing it!!!!!!


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