Paying the way

One of the things that I appreciated most when switching over from h/j to eventing was how much cheaper and more accessible this sport is to me. It’s still not cheap, of course, this is USA equestrian sports we’re talking about here, but still it’s about 1/3 of the cost to do a recognized event vs a rated h/j show. For someone who is perpetually on a tiny budget, that adds up real fast.

This feels like a few lifetimes ago.

Another big factor was the yearly fees. When I had two horses doing the rated h/j shows, the membership fees for myself and for them, for USEF and USHJA, were (IMO) exorbitant. There was no getting around them though, if I wanted to do rated shows. Then I came over to eventing and saw that the only things required to compete at Training level and below at recognized shows were a USEA membership ($95 yearly) and a one-time “Limited” horse registration status ($40). No other memberships required, and the only yearly recurring fee was my own membership. The different tiers of registration even meant that I was able to get Presto a FEH registration (the only thing he needs in order to show in FEH classes) for only $25. Cheap! I appreciate how easy and relatively affordable they make it for lower level competitors and young horses.

Of course, once you get to Prelim, things start to change. The horse has to be upgraded from it’s $40 “Limited” status to a “Full” status with USEA, which is normally $150, but if the horse already had a Limited status they let you just pay the difference of $110. The rider also has to have a USEF membership to show at Prelim and above. I’ve had just a “fan” membership ($25 normally but there are often coupon codes floating around that make it free) for the past several years, mostly so I could access the pedigree database and watch USEF network, but declined to purchase the full $80 membership since I didn’t have to. Plus full USEF members are required to complete the SafeSport training, which everyone and their grandma spent the past 6 months whining about.


I knew that this year things were probably gonna start getting serious, but still I was kind of hesitant to jump into all of this stuff. Partly because I’m a little superstitious and didn’t want to jinx myself, and partly because I’m really cheap. Spending money on memberships and upgrades isn’t something I want to do until I have to. But I also didn’t want to have to spend an extra $200 right when I was paying for a show, plus I needed time to get SafeSport training done. So in February I did the USEF membership first, convenient enough since my fan membership had expired anyway.

Then this month I upgraded Henry’s USEA membership, $110 cringeworthy dollars but hey at least it’s done forever. He’s got the highest level registration status they offer, so I won’t ever have to pay them anymore money related to Henry.

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Yesterday I finished the SafeSport training, and I’m kinda sitting here wondering WTF everyone was complaining about. It didn’t take that long, and honestly… I see the exact same kind of stuff they’re warning us about happening ALL THE TIME. Some of it has even happened to me. It was a good reminder, and now I know exactly what route to take if I ever witness anything suspicious myself. We’re waaaay past due to shed light on this issue, as an industry. Kinda can’t believe anyone is upset about it, but I guess people will complain about anything.

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And I got all of that done just in time, because today I mailed off the entry for our first recognized Prelim! Closing date is next week, so I’m a little behind the ball, but geez this season has completely snuck up on me, plus I was indecisive about it anyway. This will probably be our only recognized show for the spring. My wallet is happy about that, but the FOMO has kind of already started. Better FOMO than burnout though, I guess!

Filling out those MER’s on my entry was making me nervous, like it was some kind of test and someone might pop out and interrogate me at any moment. We’re in a whole new world now, where you have to actually show that you’ve fulfilled the prerequisites before they’ll let you compete at the level. This is new.


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So that’s exciting. But also kinda scary. And a little expensive. But hey, it’s done. We’re bonafide, all our paperwork is (hopefully) in order, and we’re officially entered in our first recognized Prelim!

What kind of membership fees to y’all have to pay to show in your respective associations? I’ve heard dressage can get expensive like h/j, but I haven’t traveled down that road. And for those who have done the SafeSport training – what are your thoughts?


20 thoughts on “Paying the way

  1. Dressage in my area is expensive. You pay USEF, $70 for USDF, and then another $70 be able to show in the region. I’m doing arabs with my trainer this season and it was the USEF fee and I think it was somewhere between $80 and $105 for my AHA membership and competition card. I was going to do the dressage until I heard it was another $70 so I was like nope, next year.


  2. It’s so weird to me how we’re often on the same wavelength. I just signed up for my USEA membership yesterday and registered my lease gelding so we can so some recognized BN events this year! I love how affordable the membership fees/registration are for USEA. I also like that usually most of the show fees are all lumped together, unlike for H/J shows where it seems like there are a million $25-50 fees that I have to add to my class fees and stabling.


  3. Dressage can get pricey for sure. I have to join USEF for my amateur card – $80, Both of my horses also have their USEF Horse ID (free). I don’t join USDF as a Participating Member (PM) because I am not interested in national awards. Both of my horses have USDF lifetime registration though ($95 one time). Instead of being a PM, I join the California Dressage Society (CDS) ( $70) which gives me a USDF Group Membership (GM). As a GM I am eligible for things like USDF rider performance awards and medals. CDS offers a gazillion types of awards as well, so I focus my energy there. Both of my horses have horse IDs with CDS which allows them to win awards ($10 annual). I show an Arab, but I don’t bother with AHA as their fees are exorbitant.

    Regarding Safesport: I grumbled. And it wasn’t because that information isn’t good to know. I grumbled because it was a one-size fits all “class” that was aimed at non-equestrian sports. You might have experienced much of the problems that Safesport showed, but in dressage, it just isn’t there. My other complaint was that there was no exemption or “pass” for teachers, nurses, law enforcement etc. that are already MANDATED REPORTERS. As a teacher, I could lose my job by not reporting suspected child abuse. Many of us sit through HOURS and HOURS of that type of “class” each year to satisfy federal and state requirements.

    I took the class thoughtfully and seriously. It took me an hour and a half, and I learned not one single new thing. I was actually annoyed at many of the “right” answers which were far too black and white and CLEARLY pertained to athletes at the highest level. An example: Is it right to send an injured player back into the game? Not if her leg is broken, but I regularly send “injured” students back into the game. Most of the time they have skinned their knees but want to continue playing. I know which answer Safesport was hoping for, but that’s my biggest complaint – too much one-size fits all.

    I heard from several people who did it in less than 30 minutes. I guarantee that they didn’t actually read or watch the videos. If the national governing body for US sports were TRULY interested in educating athletes, coaches, and trainers, the class(es) would have been less generic. Having seen a million of those videos, I thought USEF could have done a better job of targeting the equestrian community as opposed to athletes destined for the Olympics as figure skaters or gymnasts.


    1. I dunno, I can think of a few dressage people I’ve known that would definitely be suspect for SafeSport violations. I don’t think any sport is immune to these problems, even if we personally don’t see it within our inner circles. And as someone who has literally zero interaction with children on a regular basis, a lot of the SafeSport material was new information to me. I’ve never gone through any trainings even remotely like this, and I’m willing to bet that most non-kid-involved people haven’t either. Much of it was common sense, of course, but not all of it. Some things that in my mind lived in a bit of a gray area are now more black and white. Shoot, I never even realized how much of it I experienced in my own childhood, growing up in this industry as I did, until I did the training. Hey, newsflash, turns out there was rampant physical and emotional abuse happening.

      SafeSport is definitely in a one size fits all format right now, which makes sense for a new rollout that has to cover so many different sports. Most of it is applicable to us, some of it isn’t. I think it’s a decent starting point. I know it’s mainly a “cover your ass” type of thing from a legal perspective for USEF at this point, but I think there’s a lot of value in it still. It will be interesting to see how it evolves, and hopefully improves, over time. It’s something our sport really needed, and it all has to start somewhere. That hour of my life just wasn’t a big deal, especially if I learned even one thing.


  4. I don’t think of dressage as particularly expensive. It very much depends on what you want to get out of it, though. Pig was registered with a one time $25 Horse ID. I had a GMO membership for $50-$60 for USDF for much of our career. And a $65-80 USEF membership for myself every year. The shows are overall cheaper, especially if you trailer in. And you only need one kind of tack. Haha. Having grown up doing eventing, I was so excited to get to “downsize” my needs! Of course, if you’re showing for year end championships/nationals the fees are higher. But still not too bad. And the price of the shows really doesn’t skyrocket like it can in HJ. That said, I was registering for the bare minimum needed to get my bronze medal scores. Now I’m actually looking at registering Bast for year end awards…


  5. I agree about SafeSport. I think everyone in the world needs that training. I don’t have kids. I don’t really like kids. But people need to know what to do when that kind of stuff happens. No child should have to endure abuse and I’m glad that I now have some tools in my proverbial toolbox to do something about it if I see it. And I don’t think it matters what sport/event where it might occur, the reaction of a responsible adult should be the same. It’s just as applicable at a chess tournament as it is at a horse show as it is at cheer camp.
    And yes, USEF hunter/jumper shows are ridiculously expensive. I showed Quarter Horses, rodeoed some, did reining for quite a few years, stalk the prize lists of other events at the venue where I show in Katy and NONE of them cost nearly as much as hunter/jumper shows. #mylifeissohard


    1. Totally agree regarding SafeSport. My normal life really never touches on any of that stuff, and I doubt most other people’s does either, so I’m kind of glad to see the subject matter being required of the masses, honestly.


  6. I don’t think dressage us too bad, but I just do the USEF and USDF annual fees. My horse’s were both lifetime fees and not too high.

    Show fees just really depend on your area I think. I generally don’t spend more than $500-$800 per recognized show. We only enter one or two classes each day so I think that helps compared to h/j land.


  7. I can’t get into membership costs, because I will have to go weep in the corner. I’m refusing to do any of them until I have a sound horse to show though, because that’s just silly otherwise… Silliness that I partook in for two years justincase which is dumb… but I digress.
    Safesport. Honestly taking the training was fine. I agree, it’s not bad info. We have to do similar training at work. Thus, for me, it was a bit redundant, but whatever. Good info. I don’t really think we should have to do it every single year though.
    My biggest issue with safesport is how actual accusations are handled. There’s no due process, and anyone can accuse someone without actual evidence. That just doesn’t seem right to me. I am not victim blaming. I do hope anyone who had been a victim can speak up and is heard. But I also know a few nut jobs in this sport that would make an untrue accusation (in the hunter/jumper world anyway, peeps be crazy). I just think there’s a better way to be handling these things.


    1. I don’t think SafeSport is really great yet, I agree. There’s a lot of tweaking to do and improvements to be made. It was so necessary though, and it’s so important, I’m willing to give it time to evolve and see how things shake out. We have to have SOMETHING in place to protect kids, in this day and age, so it’s a matter of getting it to work as best we can, while knowing that nothing is ever going to be perfect.


  8. For me memberships are quite cheap even doing H/J shows. $50/year for local membership is all that’s required for many shows. Some might also require me to get EC which would be another $50 ($25 + amateur status). That being said, I do not compete at a high level and there are plenty of grassroots type shows that range from x-rails to 3′ courses which is exactly good for me right now.


  9. I am a dressage rider and feel that the fees and memberships really add up. Going to USDF shows is expensive. As for Safe Sport, I totally agree with Bakersfield Dresssge comment. I hated watching the very boring videos which were geared towards non-equestrian sports. It took me a good hour and a half to complete, mostly because I literally kept dosing off. I am in my early 60’s, been riding and showing for a very long time and, not that it cannot happen but, I have never once seen anything remotely similar to what Safe Sport was implying. I found it to be a ridiculous waste of time.


    1. I think you’re one of the lucky ones. I’ve seen it a heck of a lot throughout my life, across different sports, and definitely experienced it myself firsthand as a kid. To think that only a 60-90 minute investment could have possibly made a difference for me, or could still make a difference for someone else, is a sobering reality. Giving up a little bit of my time seems a small price to pay for that. I’ve certainly wasted plenty of hours on less noble causes.


  10. Exciting!

    The membership for Canada to do Prelim is “Gold” and it’s $275 a year. They don’t do lifetime. Then we pay provincially – $65, then $10 add on for your sport. $15 to declare amateur, $12 for your horse yearly.
    It’s brutal lol


    1. Minimum Elgibility Requirement. In order to get a MER, you have to score under X in dressage, have clear XC, and have fewer than X rails in stadium at an event. You need X number of MER’s before you can enter at that level. For Prelim, you have to have four MER’s at Training.


  11. I agree that all the fees get to be ridiculous! I do feel like part of the reason h/j shows are so much more expensive for some people is all the stuff they pay people to do for them. Eg: hauling your horse, stall set up, “day care”, grooming, braiding, coaching, hotels for grooms/coaches, tips for grooms, etc.
    I do everything myself (with my husband) and my bill is usually less than $600 for 4 days at a h/j show. I still consider that A LOT of money, but much more affordable than people who pay their trainer to do everything.


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