From Endurance to Dressage
The Price of Showing
Is it just me, or does it seem like it's getting more and more expensive to show? Here in California, December is membership renewal time. Earlier this week, I renewed both my California Dressage Society (CDS) and US Equestrian (USEF) memberships. While the cost hasn't risen per se, it seems as though I'm getting less for my money.
I've mentioned no less than a thousand times how much US Equestrian annoys the heck out of me. I get absolutely nothing from that organization other than the "privilege" of showing as an Adult Amateur. Oh, and I also "get" to take an annual course on recognizing sexual predators. Never mind that the FBI recently covered up reports of child molestation by at least one coach in gymnastics - one of the Olympic sports that made SafeSport necessary in the first place.
I've written about this a number of times, and each time I get blasted for being insensitive by those who insist that all athletes, even dressage riders who are mostly middle-aged women, should undergo training designed to teach them about child molesters. Never mind that I am a mandated reporter (as are so many others) and undergo extensive training each year as part of my job. As we all know, SafeSport has yet to be proven effective, especially if Larry Nassar was SafeSport certified. Maybe he skipped the training?
Darn it, I didn't mean to get so far off topic. What was I complaining about? Oh, yeah, how expensive riding my horse at a show is even before I've sent in an entry. US Equestrian's cheapest option, the one that lets me compete without any extra fees but doesn't make me or my horse eligible for any awards, runs $80 a year.
Membership in CDS has always felt like a bargain. It gives me Group Membership in the United States Dressage Federation (USDF) which does make me eligible for all rider performance awards (over half of which I have earned). Membership in CDS also makes me eligible for all of its awards as well, many of which I have earned.
Each year though, the awards that I earn from CDS seem to cost more to actually receive. For the twelve years that I have been a member, year-end plates have been free. Plates are earned when a rider scores 60% or higher. The plate is a small metal plate that sticks to a plaque. The plaques must be purchased; when I bought mine, I think I paid $35. It now costs $50, and in all honesty, it's not like it's all that fancy. I am pretty sure a nicer one could be ordered from your local trophy shop for less money. It might not have the CDS logo on it, but I don't think that would have discouraged me if I were to need one today.
This year, I discovered that the plates are no longer free as they have been since I joined. I know many trainers who are eligible for multiple plates - you get one for each eligible horse. In 2019, I received two plates. This year, the plates now cost $12. Yikes! That's pretty steep if you have two or three or five horses that you competed. Izzy earned one qualifying score for the 2021 season, so I feel compelled to order the plate. If I want him to be eligible for horse performance awards next year (different from the plates), I need to pay another $10 for that eligibility. In the unlikely event that we do earn enough scores, I'd be super annoyed if I hadn't coughed up the $10.
Maybe riders have indicated they'd rather be charged a la carte, not me. Just charge me whatever you think will cover the cost of the awards, and we'll call it even. If I win something, great, and if not, I've just subsidized someone else's trophy. And if we all win something, CDS can boast about the banner year its membership enjoyed.
As of right now, I'm looking at over $200 in membership and eligibility fees. That's seems like a lot, especially since Izzy and I aren't enjoying any success in the show ring.
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: