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Champagne Shows on a Beer Budget

Each year, when selecting your show schedule, a significant factor in planning is budget. Virtually every facet of horse showing comes with a price tag. And showing at a World, National or Congress level show can get really expensive. Although the cost of competing at this level can be overwhelming, showing at a champagne level on a beer drinker’s budget is possible.

There is a stigma that to be competitive at this level, you need to have a silver covered saddle, designer show clothing, and even multiple horses. However, although it certainly doesn’t hurt to have unlimited funds, success is possible on a budget. We’ve put together a compilation of money saving ideas to help when planning and budgeting a trip to a big show.

Let’s break down the significant costs at a big show:

Entry Fees

-The first tip for saving on entry fees; focus on your horse’s strengths and enter classes accordingly. Entry fees are expensive and add up quickly. Save money by only entering classes you are confident competing in. Being selective can save hundreds of dollars on entry fees.

-Take advantage of entering early. Make sure to send in pre-entries. Breed associations often offer a discount on entry fees if they are postmarked before a specific date. Being prepared pays off. Literally.

Show Attire and Tack

-Showing in expensive designer show clothes and tack will not automatically put you on a judge’s card.

-Show saddles with minimal or no silver are acceptable and will not negatively affect your score when showing. Investing in a show saddle with minimal to no silver could save thousands of dollars. Show tack should be well fitted, safe, and clean.

-Wearing a button-down shirt in trail, horsemanship, western pleasure, and western riding is a great option when trying to stick to a budget.

-The fit of the garment should be your priority when shopping for show clothing. Even the most expensive outfit can look unpolished and unprofessional when sizing isn’t taken into consideration.

-As for chaps, buying from a catalog or online retailer rather than buying custom is a comfortable budget-friendly option.

-A black base is a safe bet when considering your outfits. Black is unlikely to go out of style and can complement any color of horse.

-Wearing a suit in showmanship is a cost-effective way to look professional and competitive. Remember that fit is essential. Pants should be hemmed to a correct length. Pants that are too short, or too long are undesirable and can look unpolished.

-You want to accentuate yourself to the judge so that when they look at you, they only see positives. This begins with a clean, well-shaped hat. A hat is a good investment, and a good hat helps make an excellent first impression. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be a 50X beaver, custom made hat. There are so many hats out there. Buy what you can afford and keep it clean and shaped.


-Find a trainer who has clients that compete at the level you wish to compete. Take lessons from someone familiar with this caliber of competition. Knowing what to expect in terms of your competition will be vital to preparing.

-Many trainers are open to letting clients work off portions of their training and board costs. It never hurts to ask.

-It is free to watch most national level shows online. See for yourself what the winners look like while competing. Viewing your competition will help prepare you for the level of showing you wish to reach. Get a couple of horse friends together and watch the classes you have chosen to enter online or in person at a show.

-Film yourself practicing and showing. Ask a friend or family member to film lessons on a smartphone. Watching “film” can help set a baseline, and help to make improvements in performance. Becoming aware of your caliber of performance compared to what wins is free and a great way to manage expectations.

Traveling, Hotels and Meals

-Getting to the shows can be expensive. Trailering with other show-goers gets you to the show while saving money. Splitting fuel costs makes traveling so far to show much more reasonable. Plus, traveling in groups is safer, and can be fun.

-Once you arrive at the show, hotel rooms are a considerable expense. Sharing hotel rooms while at shows is such an easy way to save money. Coordinate travel and housing expenses with others and split costs.

-Meal planning for an extended amount of time away from home is a great idea, especially when planning to save money. Before you leave for the show, take a trip to your local big box store to stock up on snacks, water, and sports drinks. It may not seem like the most important thing when packing for horse shows, but the $3 water bottles purchased from the show grounds can add up over a week. Bring some coolers along, stay hydrated, and save money.


This list only begins to describe ways to save money when packing, planning, and preparing for the biggest shows our industry has to offer. It is paramount to do as much planning and preparing as you can manage. These are the most important factors when planning to compete at a champagne level on a beer budget.

About the Author: Clara Buchal was born and raised in Minnesota. She grew up showing horses and had a successful youth and amateur show career with her horse, RedHeartChiliPepper.