It is no secret that being an equestrian is expensive. Even if you don’t have a horse of your own, you can spend an astronomical amount on lessons, apparel, helmets, grooming and bathing supplies, footwear, etc. Add in your Very Own Pony™, and you also add the farrier, vet, board, training/lesson, first aid, tack and equipment, trailer/hauling, grain/supplement/feed, chiropractic/acupuncture/massage, breed association and miscellaneous other fees associated with them.
If you want to pick up and go to a show, there are a whole other laundry list of expenses.
If we were to add up how much we spend on our horses and horse-related things, I believe that the numbers would be absolutely nauseating. So we get used to cutting checks for board or to the vet or to the show office that rival mortgage payments without batting an eye.
When The Mare and I were showing locally, I did some minor budgeting. Basically, I had a ‘Show Fund’ kitty, and when that money ran out, then we’d be done showing for the summer. Any cash I could spare went into that fund, but I was already working 4 jobs to pay for board and all her other care, so contributing to the show fund was the lowest priority of each paycheck. I had a lovely trainer who was incredibly generous when charging for hauling and her time, and several times I was able to work out of a trailer rather than paying for a stall, or splitting a stall with someone who was only showing the first half of the weekend and I’d take the stall for the jumper classes in the last half of the weekend. We showed in a lot of unrated classes until my trainer finally convinced me to bite the bullet and renew my USEF/USHJA memberships so I could show in the rated classes, as well as avoid the non-member show fee. I even packed my own snacks and avoided spending money on horse show food (or going out to eat after the show). The show was 20 minutes from campus/my apartment, so I wasn’t paying for a hotel room.
Basically, any way I could be savvy about saving money, I did it. And on a local circuit, I think that’s a reasonable measure to incorporate into a budget. There is a lot of ways to cut corners, so to speak, to make showing on a shoestring budget a reality.
Since consciously making the decision to pursue Morgan Grand National 2018, the biggest hurdle to overcome that is within my control is the cost of attending. I have just over a year to get the funding I need for the show.
So Step 1: Put together a realistic budget.
Luckily, I have friends who have attended MGN in the past, so they were my first source. What I found from them was that they spent anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 to attend.
Yikes. I knew it would carry a hefty price tag, but I was a little sticker-shocked.
Okay, moving along – I’m not about to let that stop me.
I started a spreadsheet with every cost I can think of, as well as the cost this year (if I could find a price or get a quote).
I find myself adding to it every few days; and unlike my local shows, there are less ways for me to cut costs. I won’t have a trainer to pay, and I’ll be doing my own braiding – but other than that, I’m seeing the estimated cost quickly approaching the range from my colleagues.
All the entries/show fees/membership fees/stall/bedding; professional shipping and veterinary documents for interstate travel; hotel costs and car rental for myself, as well as food…equipment that needs replaced or upgraded for a National level show (i.e. getting a pair of white breeches, and replacing our too-large, schooling condition running martingale).
Not to mention, there is no way I am going to Morgan Grand National and leaving without some professional pics and merchandise from the show.
As a vet student, I basically live off of student loans, so I don’t have much ability to pay for a large endeavor like this just on my own. I do have a part-time job to supplement my loans, and I am relying on that job to fund a large portion of my trip, which is also why I’m starting a year in advance to fundraise. I’m looking into creative ways to add to my fundraising including braiding at horse shows in my area, selling artwork made by both myself and my horse (stay tuned on that front!), bake sales, and I am constantly researching additional channels for fundraising.
You’re probably thinking, why is a vet student trying to go to such an expensive show? Doesn’t she have more important things to be doing?
Yes, probably. But because of my education, next fall is the last time I will have the ability to do this. The following fall I will be in clinical rotations year-round. Next fall, my school’s Fall Break coincides with Morgan Grand National, which means missing minimal classes. It’s a bit of a ‘now-or-never’/’what am I waiting for’ kinda situation. I still think it’s absolutely insane, but every single person who I have talked to about going to MGN has been enthusiastically supportive, so maybe it’s not as crazy an idea as I think it is.
I know the budget is huge, and probably will continue to grow as I think of other necessities and expenses in the next year, but embracing my budget is the first step on my road to MGN.
[Shameless plug: I also do commissioned portraits and artwork in my spare time and would love to take commissions to help fund this once-in-a-lifetime trip, feel free to contact me if you are interested!].