Death of the Local A Circuit?

 

Today I wanted to talk about something that has been on my mind lately.

 

What is happening to the local A circuit? Is it’s death on the horizon? Will those that scrimp and save to attend a hand full of A shows year (raises hand) be priced out completely? I am really concerned.

 

 

In Texas, we are lucky to have some great venues. There is the Great Southwest Equestrian Center, outside of Houston. The Texas Rose Horse Park, near Tyler. The Heart of Texas/Extraco Event Center, in Waco. We also have the Will Rogers Coliseum in Ft. Worth, which is hosting it’s inaugural hunter/jumper show in late May. We also have a great venue right across the border in Oklahoma. We also have an amazing state association that has a yearly banquet and great year-end prizes (THJA). So… what is the problem?

 

Low entries.

 

Imagine this. You pay around $800-1000 in show fees to attend these shows (not including hauling, hotels, trainer fees, and yearly USEF/USHJA fees etc). So what do you do when you show up and there is 2 entries in your division? Or, your division that is meant for 1/2nd year green 3′ horses gets combined with the much more experienced 3’3 greens? The 3’3 Amateur Owners and the 3’6 get combined. All the pony divisions are combined into one. You are an adult who also really enjoys doing the Eq, but it is consistently cancelled due to lack of entries.

 

Prior to the show, you carefully reviewed the prize list, and picked out some really great classes to make for a full, but manageable week. You carefully planned and picked classes based of the schedule and your horse’s fitness level. You want to maximize your experience after all. It’s not really the classes that cost a ton of money after all. Compared to everything else, the class fees are chump change. But,  half of your classes don’t fill. The show gets condensed from 5 days to 4, or even 3. Is your stall fee any cheaper? No. Your office fees any less? Nope. Was hauling less expensive? Nada. So now you are paying essentially the same cost to get there and lets say… $680 in show fees because some of your classes didn’t fill, for 2 days of experience (because the only division that filled for you is Sat/Sun). You wanted your trainer to show your horse in the Derby, but now it’s the same day as your division and he’ll be too tired. You also now don’t have time to add the jumper classes you were planning to do for fun/experience. Or, imagine that the show doesn’t get condensed, but most of the divisions get combined, and you struggle to ribbon against harder/more experienced competition that normally you wouldn’t need to compete against. You also don’t get any points for most of your classes due to not enough entries. That doesn’t make the show any less expensive though.

 

 

You see where I am going with this. The show ends up losing money (they pay out more prize money then they take in for entries) in an effort to keep their A rating. They get so desperate, that some shows even ask for donations. Donations. Yes you heard me right. People talk about how small the show was, and no one wants to come back next year. Where does it end before the local A shows die completely?

 

The elephant in the room- what needs to be done differently?

 

 

I’ve heard talk that it’s up to the trainers to support their local venues (versus going out of state for several week long shows). But, I also see it from the trainer’s perspective. This is a business after all. If it’s easier/more beneficial for them to go elsewhere, then they will.

 

We have a thriving local circuit, which is great… right? You would think that riders would “graduate” from the local circuit and eventually move up to the A’s, but sometimes the A’s are just too cost prohibitive. Juniors end up joining IEA teams, which makes barns money (from what I hear). These  juniors are having fun, and getting to compete and win ribbons, so there doesn’t seem to be any incentive for them to move up to the A circuit. That is great for juniors, but where does that leave the the amateur adults? Where is our place? We don’t have an IEA circuit, and I don’t know too many adult ammys that want to go compete against all kids/juniors all the time. Especially in an unregulated circuit, which potentially means it’s ok for lines to be set short, and there is always the risk that your competition is “prepped” to their gills without ever having to fear a drug test.

 

 

Is the issue TOO MANY show dates? Maybe there are too many options and not enough people with wallets and time enough to attend all the shows. Then the shows kind of become hit or miss on  whether their will be enough entries to make it worthwhile.

 

I’m worried that the close local venues (which are less expensive and time consuming to travel to) will start to die off. Show managers won’t want to host shows at these venues anymore, due to losing money. I’ll have to travel farther to shows, which will only increase the cost, and make it even harder for anyone new to break into the circuit. I’d imagine it’s easier to get a  new client to pay $250 in hauling fees and drive 1.5-2 hrs away for an A show, instead of $1500 in hauling (out of state of course) and $500 on a plane ticket, to show in the Hopeful Hunters.

 

 

Maybe some Adult Amateurs won’t balk at that price tag, but what about the younger set, that is maybe only a few years out of college, struggling to get back into horses on a middle class budget (raises hand again). It is just not practical.  If local A circuits dry up- I won’t be able to show the A circuit at all. It’s not practical to go across the country if you can only afford one show a year. For starters, you won’t ribbon. Horse showing is kind of one of those things you have to DO to get better at it, you can’t just practice at home. At least with local A shows I can do a handful a year, supplemented with the occasional local show, and maybe a clinic here and there. It’s not ideal of course (I’d love to show more often) but it’s at least feasible. You CAN get better that way.

 

 

From one fellow ammy to another- what say you? What is the problem, and what can be done differently?

 

 

***All photos in the post credited to MM***

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13 comments

  1. I didn’t grow up in the hunter/jumper world, but from what I’ve read I think part of the fix would come from having a more robust B or C circuit to compliment the A circuit. I think it stinks that all we have in Texas seem to be A shows or local/regional circuits. If the NTHJC shows were USE B or C rated I might go to those and then add a few A shows in between. They are certainly closer and more affordable. I’m planning to take my young horse to some Hidden Lakes shows this year because it makes more sense for me to haul her locally and pay $100 for a day of showing rather than take her to an A show and spend at least 6 times that.
    My HUGE pet peeve with A shows, at least the Texas ones, is the insane cost of stalls. Dressage riders and reiners pay almost half what we pay for the exact same stalls for the same number of nights. At the last show I attended my stall costs were more than double my entry fees and that was for ONE horse! Maybe it is because I used to show reiners and AQHA, but it blows my mind every time I write the check to pay a bill with a stall fee of well over $200 for never more than 2 nights. I guarantee you I’d go to more A shows if I didn’t have to spend so dang much on the stall!

    1. YES. I am right there with you- about stall fees. Between a stall and shavings- you pay $300. THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR A STALL. And if you show back to back weeks- it’s $600!!! It’d be nice if you only had to pay for the stall once, to help give people and incentive to show both weeks. It would also be nice if stalls were reasonably priced. When I did rated dressage shows and horse trials, I am pretty positive stalls were only $75. plus maybe $50-$60 for shavings.

  2. I agree a hundred percent. This is the reason that I don’t do A shows.It’s so expensive to pay for all the fees as well as for the actual classes. This makes people, like me, not want to show at A shows as you said. The less entries there are the more that classes have to be combine, the more you don’t ribbon, and the more worthless the money and time was at that show. I agree with what you said about having less shows a year so that more people will want to come. That sounds worth it to me. Unfortunately, it is less opportunities to show but I do believe that it would be worth it. If anything riders could do local circuits like I do in the mean time. I show in a local circuit in North Texas that I LOVE. It has more shows for less money and more opportunities to ribbon. If you do circuits like that and do a a couple of A shows a year than you will have plenty of opportunities to show. This definitely seems worth it to me.

    1. I wish that my local circuit had adult classes. I’m sorry, but I don’t love having my butt kicked by a 13 year old. I get it, juniors are better then me- that’s awesome for them, but I don’t like to show against them LOL! I’d be more inclined to do more local show if there were age specific divisions (Child/Adult). I am planning to do a few this year regardless though- because the value really is much better then the smaller A shows with barely any entries.

  3. i grew up as a kid in the midatlantic (Va Eastern Shore) Showing B and C shows and loved it. we had kids classes AND Adult classes. It was a way to get out and show and then if you could move up to the A’s. (I never did tho i did move up to As for Morgans). Seems the way to go with that. And yes when I Showed Morgans and Paints etc our stall fees for 4-5 days were like75-100 and inculded the first bale of straw and/or shavings. That is CRAZY you pay so much. UGH that really sucks. can we talk you into eventing?? 🙂 HA I am sorry i have no suggestions but I Feel for you and that sucks that they combine/cancel classes and really makes no sense to spend that much 🙁 I Hope they figure out something those are all good venues to lose!!

    1. I WISH I still has the cahoonas to event, or the desire to do straight dressage. When I was in high school a recognized horse trial cost about $500 all in. We paid my trainer around $75 I believe. Dressage shows were also pretty comparable. Not sure what they run now a days now. Currently, between show fees and trainer costs, you are about $1200-1400 in before you even factor in hauling and hotel. It’s insane, but I love it (the showing not the money hahah).

  4. The answer is simple. Two options : move to a more robust showing area or show management need to bring back the B and C shows. Specifically the 1 day C and the 3 day B. Show management can charge a bit less and hand out less in prize money. Then trainers need to find a way to support these shows and by bringing in lower cost shows people can graduate from the local circuit to slightly more competitive shows and divisions.

  5. I don’t have any answers for you, but you are not the only location seeing this. Interested in seeing the above responses too. When I was showing my mare I was always put off going to our A shows because of the confusion between classes (18-35 pretty much didn’t exist) as well as overwhelming fee changes. So why wouldn’t I stay closer to home where I can make my show experience more enjoyable and save money.

  6. This post is literally everything we’d been dealing with in my area. The problem especially here in Wellington, and that there are very few venues, so the fees for the stalls and stuff is pretty standard across the board. Regardless if you are doing a schooling show or an A rated show, they’re at the same place so stalls are always $250. One weekend at a schooling show in the hunters is around $900, which at that point why wouldn’t you jump a couple hundred more for points? It’s priced me completely out of showing unfortunately.

    We have one C-rated show, that again uses the same venue sooo still expensive. I’d rather spend the money on lessons/clinics to learn more than to show at this point.

  7. I am close to your age and have never shown “A” before. I wish I would have in high school because fees were much more doable, but my horse wasn’t exactly “A” rated material and I didn’t have control over how to spend my parents money and all of my income from my part time went towards caring for my horse. There was nothing left to play with.

    Now as an adult I have a leased horse who also technically isn’t a fancy horse and definitely not the most fabulous mover. I trust him completely though so I think I’m ready to try some “A” rated shows. We’ve done the local circuit, but as you’ve pointed out in comments that means competing against the juniors. There are a lot of different hunter/jumper shows out here that use a few different venues (including my barn which is very convenient). That is fine, but I really do want to compete against my own 18-35 amateur peers!

    We have a new facility that just got built last year. They will be hosting some of the local associations shows as well as adding “A” rateds this year. I haven’t shown their yet, but what a great experience to be able to do schooling shows and then rated shows at the same (beautiful) venue. I don’t know what the fees for rateds are going to be, but hopefully not much different from the schooling in terms of stalls. There has been a lot of interest on this facilities website, I think they did it right with all schooling and some dressage/CT last year to introduce riders to their venue to get the popularity up for “A” rateds this year. I’m hopeful that we will have lots of riders… but we’ll have to see how the divisions fill.

    1. Wow that is so awesome that you have a new close facility like that! I really hope it gets plenty of support, because our local venues are struggling. I would be very surprised though is still fees are the same as they are for schooling shows. At TRHP (one of our local venues) a stall for a schooling show costs $75 and $200 for a rated show… it’s kind of insane. Fingers crossed though, you never know!

  8. We don’t have that problem in my area. The A circuit only has about 5 shows a year, and the local shows consciously schedule to fill the gap. I see the same competitors at both levels. An A circuit show will cost you 1000-1300$ whereas the locals are $400 or less. With so little shows in the circuit I still placed top 5 for year end points despite only going to 2 A shows, while attending the local circuit at least monthly.

    1. Wow! Only 5 A shows? In Zone 7 (mainly Texas) there are basically A shows EVERY weekend. Maybe the occasional weekend without one (like in the summer) but form mid January to the end of May you can pretty much got to an A show any weekend you want within about a 6 hr hour drive.

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