If you’ve ever stalled a horse at a show, you’ve undoubtedly seen the “no outside shavings” rule. Perhaps it rankled you — you’ve just paid an arm and a leg to enter and get a stall for the weekend. Why can’t you save a little money and bring your own? Are show organizers trying to pry open your wallet and bleed you dry?

In a word: no. Heels Down Magazine talked to Kim Brunson, co-owner and show manager at Texas Rose Horse Park, a popular horse show venue in Tyler, Texas, to get her perspective as a show organizer on this sometimes-mystifying rule.

Foremost, organizers aren’t trying to make money from shavings, but rather are recouping costs. “If people brought in their own, we would be paying out of pocket the fees for cleaning and disposal,” explains Kim. “It’s a business when you stay in business. It’s a place to show if facility can pay bills. It has to pay for itself.”

At Texas Rose, attendees’ cost of shavings per bag factors in manpower and delivery costs that include maintaining and operating tractors, forklifts, four-wheelers, and trailers. It also includes the high cost of clean-up and disposal. In addition to the direct costs, there’s also the wear and tear on the facility and health concerns if competitors bring in shavings that are inadequate in either quantity or quality.

“We have three-bag minimum to cover the ground of stalls that are clay instead of concrete. We even include the three bags in a lot of the shows’ stall fees so we are sure the stalls are protected.”

Kim notes that the facility’s shavings rules and selection of shavings products help protect the facility and attendees — two-footed and four-footed alike — in several ways. Ensuring proper shavings use helps keep stalls dry for the next competitor as well as helps prevent holes from wearing in the stall floors – which would, of course, add to maintenance costs and eventually get passed to competitors in one way or the other. It’s also important for cleaning and disposal purposes to know exactly what’s in each stall being emptied.

Controlling for shaving quality also has health implications for you and your horse (and dogs you bring along to shows). Quality shavings help tame smells and flies as well as dust, which is critical in show facilities.

“Quality in shavings is important in keeping the dust down for human, horse and dog respiratory issues,” says Kim (for more on equine respiratory allergies, download the May issue of Heels Down Magazine ). “The shavings that we purchase are screened multiple times to keep dust down. In huge barns, can you imagine the dusty shavings brought in by everyone?”

Kim says that sometimes people who try to bring their own shavings bring lower-quality products that aren’t terribly effective. “They are dusty and do not absorb or protect. They might be three bags, but of a low cubic foot amount that doesn’t cover the floor. Our stalls are 12×12 – bigger than most show facilities.”

If your horse has an allergy or other health concern that requires a specific kind of shavings or bedding, inform the show organizer in advance so proper arrangements can be made. Being respectful and upfront can avoid headaches for everyone later.

“Respecting the facilities is the same as visiting a friend’s house. You don’t put your feet up on someone else’s coffee table or rearrange their kitchen. Honesty is always the best policy!”