BUCKLE UP, IT'S GONNA BE A LONG ONE! (also legit sorry it's so late, I was waiting for some last figures and then finally decided it could go without but forgot to schedule, whoops)
Showing recognized has been a goal of mine for actual years, but it just seemed so unattainable to me. I considered it years ago with Topaz and made it as far as printing out an entry for one that used to be held locally, but then was so overwhelmed/intimidated/confused by the paperwork that I threw it away and vowed not to try it again until I was working regularly with a trainer. So. Here we are and I have my first one under my belt. I'm going to write the kind of post I would have wanted to read when I was hoping to try this for the first time! Let's break it down into manageable chunks, which was the only way I could deal with this, otherwise I found it overwhelming. Thank you lizard brain.
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At my last lesson of 2021, my trainer helpfully included some info re: necessary memberships in my Christmas card that gave me a jumping off point - so the first week of January I started slowly making my way through the list.
- Active Amateur Membership (me): $80
- Lifetime Registration (Ruby): $300
- Participating Membership (me): $90
- Lifetime Registration (Ruby): $115
- All-Breeds Declaration (Ruby): $35
- SLADS (GMO): $65 ($60 for the membership and $5 to process it online)
- CDCTA (GMO): $45 (apparently I can fill out a form to get a $12 refund from USDF for being a member of multiple GMOs but at this point I'm so tired of paperwork I literally don't care)
In order to be eligible for All Breeds, I also had to re-join IALHA (which made me IRRATIONALLY RAGE-Y BECAUSE I DESPISE THEM) for another $50.
Total: $780 (plus the FIVE FUCKING HOURS it took me to get through the stupid SafeSport training, which could be a whole 'nother post but I digress lol)
Sidebar: could I have spent less on this? Could I have done an annual USEF registration for Ruby, or just a GMO membership for myself instead of a USDF Participating Membership? Sure. Could I have paid the non-member fees and just shown in some Opportunity classes? Absolutely. In fact, that was my plan the first time I thought about doing this, many years ago, lol. But I went all in, and I'll explain why - this method isn't one-size fits all and what makes sense for me might not make sense for you, so YMMV.
But here's the deal. I've been showing (unrecognized) dressage for years. I enjoy it. My horse has an aptitude for it. I'm not talented but I'm also not afraid to work hard. I'm finally in a place in my life where I have the free time and discretionary income to lesson regularly and then track our improvements by showing, so I want to do it. I'm a competitive person. Showing gives me a goal, and I thrive with goals. Ruby's lifetime USEF registration will pay for itself if I show her for three years. She's only 11, so I (crosses fingers) hope to have many more years showing her. Regionals for my region (region four) is at our "home" show venue (aka the closest recognized show to me, at the National Equestrian Center) this fall, so on the completely OFF chance we're marginally competent our first year trying this and manage to snag qualifying scores, I don't want the only thing stopping me from showing at Regionals to be the fact that I cheaped out and just got a GMO membership instead of a Participating Membership. And I nominated for All Breeds because the Andalusian breed is not that large, and my horse is hella fancy when I don't ride like a monkey. I looked up the All Breeds winners at First for our breed association, and those scores don't seem out of the realm of possibility at the end of a solid year lessoning and showing, so why not? The declaration is good for the rest of her show career, so might as well get it out of the way now lol.
First Recognized Show Fees
- Stall: $130 for the weekend
- Shavings: $33 (3 bags @ $11/bag - facility minimum is 2; thankfully Ruby is fairly tidy in a stall)
- USEF drug fee: $23
- Office fee: $70 ($35 x 2, since it's run as two separate shows for the purposes of qualifying scores)
- Classes: $160 (two classes each day [four total] at $40 each - I don't want to attempt any qualifying scores until we've gotten our feet wet at the level a little more, but every qualifying class will add another $15).
- My share of the tack stall: $38 (one of the perks to showing with my trainer's barn is that I can go in on their group tack stalls. If I were showing solo, it would be another $100 for the tack stall, or a whooooooooole lot of walking back and forth to my trailer lol)
- Coaching: Obviously YMMV as this will vary by trainer, or maybe you're gonna show solo, who knows
Total: $454+ coaching
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I'm going to set aside tack for the purpose of this post, because I've been showing unrecognized (schooling) dressage shows for actual years at this point, and I basically owned everything I needed. I did pick up some new stock ties and white breeches over the winter, but I didn't NEED the white breeches since they finally relaxed the dressage attire rules lol. I school in exclusively dressage legal bridles/bits, and I already owned several fancy white saddle pads I'd been saving "for a recognized show" for years, because that's the type of person I am. What can I say?
As a long-time horse owner and schooling show enthusiast (as well as confirmed pack rat lol), I didn't need to buy a ton of other stuff to feel prepared to travel/set up for my first "away" show. I have travelled for the weekend with Ruby before (our amazing trail adventure at Von Holten!), so extra hay nets/bucket straps/buckets/pitchforks/manure bucket/etc. all already live in my trailer. I did post last fall asking for anyone's "can't live without" items and picked up some of the suggestions between then and now, and I've also helped a few friends out at shows so I had a decent idea of what I needed to bring. I think the only thing I wished I had for this show that I didn't have was one of those canvas collapsible wagon things to move things back and forth - and its on my list, I just haven't gotten to it yet because money is a thing, sigh.
Originally I didn't plan to get a hotel (because $$$$) but then gas prices went through the roof. I drafted 90% of this post several weeks before the show and then worked myself into a tizzy trying to figure out exactly how to manage driving my big ass truck back and forth the entire weekend with $$$$$ gas prices after I found out DH couldn't attend Saturday due to a work event, considered and discarded the idea of sleeping in my uninsulated horse trailer on a weekend the lows were in the mid-30s, and basically was well on my way to a full on panic meltdown when two of THE VERY BEST FRIENDS booked me a hotel 10 minutes from the venue for the entire weekend on the DL and then got to giggle at my absolute speechless gratitude ♥️
I was able to (thankfully) offset my gas costs for this show by picking up two horses on my way and bringing them along to the venue. It only added a small amount of headache to work out the logistics to pick them up and then take them back home at the end of the show (they were stabled at the barn one mile down the road, that I had to drive past anyway to go to the show).
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Aside from a handful of blogger friends that I questioned incessantly (you know who you are, sorry not sorry lol) and kind ladies from my barn who walked through some questions I had about our specific entries, I also read very carefully through this (thanks Austen!) and it was very helpful, even when there were times it gave me instructions diametrically opposed to what I also found in terms of the USDF resources here (specifically the "New to Dressage" section) lol. I have a pathological fear of filling out forms incorrectly, so I did send copies to my trainer to review before sending them off, and now that I got through the first one successfully (my show packet had no angry notes about missing stuff when I arrived at the show lol), I feel much more secure in filling out future ones! I was also more than a little nervous about providing the documentation about the flu/rhino vaccines, since I do that myself, but no issues at my first show, so fingers crossed for future ones!
Seemed like a good time to publish it as I'm looking at more shows this summer! :)