Horse Showing on a Budget: Amateurs and Pros Share Tips

Keep your horse-showing costs from breaking the bank.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

There are many expenses that can accumulate when showing horses. Journal photo.

The Shows

When a trainer takes a group of youths or amateurs to a big show, very little time is spent in the hotel room, so bunking together is a painless way to save money, says AQHA Professional Horsewoman Nancy Cahill. “We’re very communal.”

That’s a common tactic of many budget-conscious horse owners, as is economizing on the food budget.

Liz Carpenter of Nashville, Tennessee, cuts costs by bringing her own grub. “We bring sausage and crackers and granola bars,” she says. Her advice for others showing on a budget? “Buy peanut butter and jelly.”

She also saves money by hauling to one-day shows within a reasonable driving distance. She and a friend once drove two and a half hours to a show in Alabama, where they were able to earn six AQHA points without a hotel bill and stall rent.

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“That was the most fun because we had no stall fees, and it was just, ‘Let’s go!’

”Get the most bang for your showing buck by choosing shows with big classes. If you can get six or seven AQHA points by winning a class, instead of a half-point, it’s much more worthwhile."

And many of Liz’s shows are compressed into a short timeframe. “Then you have three or four months of paychecks that aren’t dissipating.”

The Clothes

Heather Leigh Keller, who was the All-Around Amateur at the 2001 AQHA World Championship Show, bands and braids manes at shows to earn a little extra cash. She socks her earnings away in a “horse fund” she uses to buy show clothes or make other show-related purchases.

Some of Nancy’s youth exhibitors do the same thing. “They braid as well as anybody – probably better,” she says. For show clothes, many of the youths’ parents have learned to sew. Patterns are available for those with a certain amount of tailoring talent. Others look for used show clothes, which can often be had at a fraction of the purchase price.

Lara Toomey used her sewing know-how to earn money for a dream trip to the All American Quarter Horse Congress in 2000.

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“I made a ton of custom ‘slinky’ tops and horsemanship shirts that I sold via eBay to help pay for that show,” she says. In addition, her husband saved up vacation time for two years and worked overtime for extra Congress cash. “I was so happy and so excited just to show there,” she says.

She had bought her horse, Obvious Metal, at the Congress sale when he was a weanling, so it was extra special to take him back there to show.

Lara of Gretna, Virginia, makes almost all of her own western show clothes, including the horsemanship shirt she used at Congress. “It took me 40 hours, but it came out really good.”