Monday, August 5, 2013

To Show or Not to Show

Back in early 2012, I was pretty conflicted about showing. Not having grown up showing extensively, I wasn't terribly familiar with the process or expense of showing. I wasn't comfortable with the idea of it, and I wasn't sure what kind of goals I should be realistically be working towards. After a year really getting out in the world of competitive dressage, both by showing and volunteering, I'm happy to report that I'm not quite as conflicted. In fact, the decision to show or not is actually pretty easy for me now.

For me, the deciding factors are based heavily on three main things: long term goals, our training progress, and cost.
All packed and ready to go!
Goals: My long term goal is to earn a USDF Bronze Medal. A subset of this goal is to complete as much of this goal with Guinness as I can. As earning the USDF Bronze Medal requires scores two at 60% or above at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level, showing USDF recognized shows at Training level was not something I was particularly invested in. I still felt it was important to show at this level, but the extra money for a recognized show wasn't something I needed to spend money on. Now, we're showing 1st Level, and it is important for me to get out there and get those scores when I can.

Training Progress: As a person who mainly trains and rides alone, it's important to me to get out to shows both to gain the insight on my own riding and training from judges and to observe other riders and how they are riding and training. Without seeing the level of work that is being required at each level, I wouldn't have a good idea of where I need to be to appropriately show at the level. 
When I am deciding between attending a USDF recognized or a schooling show, I think about where I am in my training. For example, I wouldn't go out and debut a level at a USDF show. All of my moves up through the levels have been at cheaper schooling shows to get the experience without the extra stress. I also show a schooling show if I feel I am not confirmed enough to get the scores I need. An example of this is my most recent show in July. I wasn't feeling that Guinness and I were confirmed enough to do a USDF recognized show and get the scores we needed, but I still wanted feedback on where we were. That show was perfect, showing me what needed improvement and where I was on the right track. As schooling shows tend to be a little more lenient in the judging and the atmosphere slightly less demanding, they are also good for building experience.

Cost: As a young professional with a medical student spouse (read: one income household with two dogs, two people and horse - ouch), I find that money doesn't exactly grow on trees. In fact, money doesn't really seem to grow anywhere. Our budget is extremely tight, and I tend to justify spending money by asking the question "Will I die without this?" If the answer is "I will not die," then it is hard for me to spend the cash. I'm lucky to have a hoard of generous and supportive family members who don't mind giving much-appreciated horse related gifts, and a group of generous friends who are often willing to give up their homes and time to do anything from house me at shows to watching my dogs, grooming, reading tests, taking videos and anything else related to the pony-adventure. 
As such, spending money on horse shows is only allowed because horses are absolutely necessary in my life, and my riding goals are intensely precious to me. However, fitting the expense of a schooling show into my budget is hard enough, a recognized show is nearly impossible. Still, I want that bronze medal and I want that feedback, so I know that I must figure it out somehow. My show outings tend to be limited to the ones that I see as "necessary." We show at schooling shows when I need the confirmation of our training, and for the experience. We show at USDF recognized shows when I am sure we are capable of delivering work deserving of a 60% or above. I know that I'm not always going to get the scores I need, but I know there's no point for me to throw money at USDF shows until I am capable of getting the scores. That's just the reality in which I operate.

How do you make decisions on showing? What factors drive you the most? 

11 comments:

  1. I've been showing since I was a Childrens/Junior rider, but not a lot, I mainly had to work and pay for most of it by myself so I guess a lot of my drive as an adult to compete comes from the unsatisfied desire leftover from my younger days.

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    1. Oh, I completely understand that unsatisfied desire to show. As a kid, my mom would pay for lessons, but anything else was on me. We didn't own horses, so it was tough to manage anything but schooling shows. It's fun to make up for that as an adult, though the finances are a bit more stressful.

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  2. This exactly sums out how I decide when to show, where to show, rated or not, etc. I also train by myself (with some lessons thrown in maybe twice a month) and am also on a tight budget (picked the wrong career to support a horse habit apparently.) The horse does not know the difference between a USDF show and a schooling show. Experience is experience, so why spend the money on all those USDF fees when you are still pretty green at a level? I see a lot of people who do and perhaps they have the extra cash I dunno. But I am with you. Hit the schooling shows and get the miles, and then do a USDF show when you are ready.

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    1. I couldn't agree more (especially since I'm also in the wrong career to support a horse habit. Design? What was I thinking?!)!

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  3. We've had this "discussion" already. :0) I also choose shows based on my horse's experience level, but location is also a huge factor for me. I don't have a supply of schooling shows that I can choose from. The nearest schooling series is a two-hour drive, and there are only five in that series. There is a series of 4, CDS-rated shows an hour away. Aside from that, I am left with USDF shows, most of which are 2 - 3 hours away. I know it seems funny to show Intro at a USDF show, but I did it when Speedy and I were first starting out. It was that or nothing. :0)

    I found that show managers were quite happy to have us there and most of the other competitors were kind and encouraging. As we work on First Level this next season, we'll probably be doing USDF shows even though I know my scores won't be in the high 60s (always hoping to break 60). I am "fortunate" enough to be far enough along in my career that the expense of USDF shows is within my budget (having Hubby's income also helps).

    Next year, Sydney will probably get to do most of the schooling shows and the CDS shows while Speedy gets shuttled to the USDF shows. So in answer to your question, the factor that most drives my showing decision is location. :0)

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    1. Oh, location is another good factor for sure! Any show really worth the feedback (schooling or otherwise) is at least 2 1/2 hours from me. There are only a handful of schooling shows, and another handful of USDF available in that area. Any further and I'm looking at 5+ hours in the trailer, and a transportation bill I can't afford. Ouch. I actually think this is a huge stumbling block for the US equestrian sport as a whole.

      Having worked a lot of recognized shows, I'm glad you've always felt welcomed showing at all levels. I always try to give the same amount of consideration to every rider. It takes just as much work for a rider to go out and deliver a Training 2 test as it does to go out and do 3rd 3, and sometimes the nerves are worse for the lower level rider. Plus, anyone showing is helping to support and improve the sport!

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  4. I show if I can reasonably afford it (I say reasonably because it's always expensive and always a 'luxury' expense) and my horse will benefit from the experience... and if I want to! If all three things are a yes, then it's a go!

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    1. Those are always good things to keep in mind, especially the benefit of your horse. No reason to pay money to stress out your partner!

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  5. Totally agree with you Austen. My plans are to wait until First Level to compete Riva at a recognized show, and then, only after we are getting good scores at schooling shows.

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    1. I'm sure you guys will be there in no time! How is Ms. Riva?

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