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Equine Economics

Beat Inflation at Horse Shows

Photo by Tomasz Zajda/Adobe Stock

Everything has raised in price over the last couple years, but we have especially felt it this last year. Gas prices soared, horse feed became harder to find and more expensive. Trucks prices are astronomical. I just paid double for my horse’s salt licks! And that’s just the horse side. We all have families that need to eat, be clothed, get places and do things, which all cost more now. All of these costs mean that everyone is having to cut back on non-essentials. And that can include horse showing, which for many of us is a personal luxury. But it’s a luxury we love, making it hard to give up! Here are some tips to beat inflation so you can continue to show your horse.


Gas prices can really put a damper on hauling to shows. One way to combat that is to trailerpool! Ask those near you what shows they are going to and coordinate going together, so you can split gas. It helps everyone and it’s fun to have a road trip with your horse friends!

Online Shows

Online shows became popular during COVID and, thanks partly to inflation, it doesn’t look like they are going anywhere. Online shows usually have cheaper show fees than live shows, wonderful prizes and you don’t have to pay for gas, a place to stay or food out, which saves you a lot of money.

Photo courtesy Kelly Jette

Convert Tack Room to Sleeping Quarters

Hotels have always been an expensive part of showing, and their prices have risen just like everything else. Converting your tack room in your trailer to sleeping quarters so you can sleep on the fairgrounds can save a lot of money. Kelly Jette did hers during COVID for that reason. “It’s a money saver for sure,” she says. The initial cost will depend on materials used, which can be as simple or extravagant as you want, but most people find it pays for itself after the first use or two.

Bring Your Food

It’s fun to grab a coffee on the way to the show, eat out for lunch and then meet your show friends at your favorite restaurant for dinner while you discuss the day’s classes, but eating out has also gotten a lot more expensive and really adds to that show bill. Instead, bring your food! If you’re showing with a group, arrange a potluck. That way, you can all still eat together while saving money.

Finding Shows Closer to Home

Sure, we all love to go to the great big shows states away, but maybe you always miss the fun local shows because of it. Right now might be the time to hit up shows closer to home, which saves on gas. And, if it’s a one-day show, you won’t need a hotel or maybe even a stall, cutting costs even further.

Clean Out the Show Closet

One way to get some extra money for horse show entry fee is to clean out that show closet and sell the items you no longer want. I did this year and made enough money to cover two breed shows! It’s easy to sell things online, or take them to a tack sale or a consignment shop.

Becoming a Judge

Did you know judge’s get paid? If you’ve been at your discipline long enough, you might think about becoming a judge and working at shows you can’t compete at, to make money for others! Horse shows are always looking for good judges. It’s not a lot of pay, but it’s something! If you’re an amateur, just check to make sure the organizations you ride for allow amateurs to be judges, many do, but always good to check first.

Volunteering at Shows

Another way to pay for horse shows during inflation is to volunteer at shows. Some organizations give credits that can be used toward class fees if you volunteer at their shows. This is a fun way to be able to show more.

Side Jobs

Taking on a side job can help beat inflation and give you more discretionary income for horse shows. There are a lot of virtual jobs you can do on the side now, so you don’t even have to commute. Just make sure you get your weekends off, or you’ll be making money but won’t be able to show!

Take On Boarders

If you have your own property and some spare room, you might decide to board a horse or two. Just make sure you do the math correctly and include all your costs, including extra insurance; hay, shavings, and feed you provide; your time; wear and tear on your property; and make sure you’ll actually be making something extra before jumping into the boarding ring.

Have a spare room? Another thought is taking on a human boarder! A lot of people are looking for affordable housing and if you have the space, this can also help you have some extra money to go to horse shows.

Half-Lease Your Horse

If you have big show plans that inflation is just getting in the way of, you may consider half-leasing your horse to a carefully chosen individual. This can give you more money to show, but also has risks. If it’s something you’re considering, speak to others who have done it and definitely have a well-written contract.

Showing is expensive, but where there’s a will, there’s a way and horse people are some of the most willful people on the planet! The extra effort it takes to keep showing right now will be worth it when you are getting to hang out with your horse and your friends for a day of showing. And remember, these shows need you to survive. If people stop attending, they will stop putting them on. So, get creative, save those dollars and keep showing!

See you in the ring!

Materials & Tips for Tack Room Conversion

◆ We insulated with board insulation.
◆ Used wainscoting for one wall (tongue & groove for pine wall to accommodate curved wall)
◆ Carpet tile ceiling
◆ Built bed/shelves
◆ Added RV outlets

Kelly’s Tip: The Dollar Store is a great place for bits of décor!

This article about beating inflation at horse shows is a web exclusive for Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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