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?