Opinion: Increase in USEquestrian Fees

So I’m curious to hear people’s opinions about USE President Murray Kessler’s letter announcing an increase in participating member fee for 2018. If you haven’t already seen it, you can read the short version here on the Chronicle and the full letter here.

The price increase is from $55 to $80, but now also includes a rolling membership year, where you get a whole year of membership regardless of the date you renew/join.

Up-to-date members right here, just need to get to a show to make to fees worth it!

Personally, I’m mildly annoyed but at the same time mollified by getting a full year of membership, regardless of when I renew. I didn’t renew this year until May, since I was planning on showing at an A show with Rio in June. My plans changed when he got the spider bite, and now I probably won’t make it to an A show until September or October. It would be nice if I could do the winter shows and the spring shows before needing to renew again. For someone who hasn’t been showing at rated show consistently, that’s a pretty big perk IMO. I supposed it’s worth the extra $25.


Shirt and breeches by Kingsland, belt c4, ecogold halfpad, deniro boots, jin stirrups, swanky saddle monogram on an antares saddle,


I mean, it’s still annoying, but really- what is $25 in the grand scheme of competing at rated shows? What say you fellow bloggers?


photos from 8.2.17 hack, credit to MM

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  1. I think it’s easy to be knee-jerk annoyed at a hike in membership and drug fees, but in this instance it doesn’t really bother me. Mostly because I’m encouraged by what Mr. Kessler has done so far, and the direction he’s taking things, so I’m willing to see what else he can do if he’s got a little more capital to work with. You’re right: in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t much money. I love the anniversary membership and I love that he seems very dedicated to cracking down on drugging. I’d also like to see them give a real effort to bringing back some C and B rated shows. If they fail miserably at all of this, or if nothing ever actually comes of these ideas, I’ll be a lot more annoyed. But you’re talking about a yearly increase of less than what one class costs, and a per horse/per show increase of what you’d be spending on lunch at the concession. I say lets give them a shot.

    Granted, I currently only have a fan membership, because USEF membership is not required for eventing at my level. Next year we’ll be joining USEF for Henry to compete Prelim though, so I will be paying these increased full membership fees.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. I am glad that more is being done to enforce anti-drugging rules, even if it means paying a little more. It is not clear to me yet how an increase in membership fees will translate to there being more B and C shows, but it is something I’d absolutely love to see. A real stepping stone between schooling and A shows shows would do a LOT for the H/J community and help more people get involved.

      I didn’t realize eventers don’t have to join USEF until prelim- any idea why that is? I could see not forcing a membership at the BN level, but it seems if you are doing novice or above you could also support USEF. Curious how that was decided.

    2. I am annoyed. In order to compete at USDF events I am required to join US Equestrian. The ONLY perk I get from USEF is an amateur card. That’s it. There are no year end awards, no atta girls, nothing. I join USDF as a group member through my GMO (California Dressage Society). I get TONS of member benefits from CDS which makes that fee well worth it.

      I’ve always been irked by the $55 I have to pay to USEF. The only thing it lets me do is show AA. With the new fee structure, I’ll be paying more than my CDS membership ($70) which at least allows me to earn lots of “atta girl” recognition through both CDS AND USDF (medals, rider performance awards).

      If I wanted to join USDF as a participating member eligible for year-end awards, I would pay $75, still less than US Equestrian, and I get stuff.

      I ride a purebred Arabian, but joining Arabian Horse Society is even more expensive than CDS and USDF combined, so I’ve shrugged my shoulders at what they have for sale. Every single awards program with AHA costs money on top of the membership fees. No thank you.

      So, am I happy about tossing US Equestrian even more money? Nope.

      1. Kelly, anything Training or below is not considered a national division, so it’s under the USEA umbrella. The official lingo is “USEF endorsed, USEA recognized.”. Once you get to Prelim it’s national, so it’s USEF recognized, USEA recognized. Basically it doesn’t exist on USEF’s radar until you’re going Prelim, so USEF membership is not required until that level. For T and below all you need is USEA. So next year I get to pay for our local association, USEA, and USEF. It’s annoying to pay all of those at once (which we all have to do – h/j has USHJA, dressage has USDF, etc… we all pay a ton of membership fees to compete at the national level), but honestly it’s just a drop in the bucket of the ridiculous expense of horses lol.

        1. Thank you! I definitely did not know that. Your explanation makes total sense. And yes, it is definitely annoying to renew everything at once, but at least it’s one of those expenses that you plan for- unlike most horses expenses LOL #amiright?!

  2. I have a strong appreciation for the direction Murray Kessler is steering USEF. If it means a little more money to develop sustainable and humane drugging enforcement during competitions, among other things, then I don’t mind paying it (if I ever make it back to A shows). I love that he flat out slammed IV magnesium for how it’s abused during competitions.

  3. I’m with Amanda and Karen. We as members need to support our organization both financially and by providing feedback. I hope Kessler keeps on keeping on this path and is able to implement the changes he is seeking. I can’t imagine it is easy and that he isn’t encountering some significant roadblocks.

  4. USHJA has continued to hike fees up year after year, while USEF has been the same flat $55 for several year that I can remember. It was only a matter of time and yes in the grand scheme of showing the fees are just a small percentage. I do like the rolling membership because it means I can wait to join at the first rated show I opt to go to that year. Which I might not do until the end of next year for Sallie B Wheeler again (4yo classes) and just cut Dante’s teeth on the schooling circuit for his first real riding shows.

  5. I waffle on this, because to be honest I think h/j are the ones that get screwed a lot on association fees. Eventers don’t have to join until they’re at a certain level and Dressage get a lot of cool benefits through GMO’s. Maybe that’s just my skewed version, but I get nada.

    That being said, I thought the letter to members from Kessler was very well-written and hit on all the important topics. It left me feeling slightly annoyed at the hike in fees, rather than angry. And if he really can bring about a revival of the B & C show, I’ll consider it money very well spent!

    1. I also do not feel like I “get” much as an h/j rider from USEF. To me, it is just one of those things you have to do to play the game, and I don’t expect to get anything in return necessarily except a governing body that creates and enforces the rules, and records show results.

    2. I see a lot of people saying this “I get nothing”… but I genuinely don’t know what is expected? Honest question, by the way, not being catty at all, I’m just not sure what is meant by that. As in, what do you think you should be getting? To me personally, if they’re using this extra money to improve the sport and the horse shows, you ARE getting something. Maybe not a tangible thing, but as long as the sport continues to improve, you’re going to benefit from it.

      1. By “getting” something- I was meaning along the lines of Bakersfield Dressage’s comment about how she feels she “gets” more out of her GMO USDF membership- as far as recognition, awards, medals, etc. In that way, I do not feel that I “get” things from USEF. I simply do not show enough as a whole, so I wouldn’t expect to be up for point-earned awards, but I am also under the impression that only those with a ton of money have any chance at chasing point in H/J land, and therefore getting any kind of USEF granted award or recognition. It was easier to “get” things when I showed dressage (bronze medal, award certificates, etc. Again, this is all my general impression as an adult ammy who doesn’t have a big rated show budget.

        On the other hand, I don’t expect to get these types of things either. I pay USEF because in my eyes, they literally run the show world. They create and uphold the rules. They makes the standards, and make sure we follow them. That’s good enough for me. But if you make a case for comparison like Bakersfield Dressage did, I can see how one might feel they don’t get as much from USEF as you might from a smaller organization that does more recognition for it’s members.

        1. You can win awards and not spend a fortune and half your life on the circuit. I would choose my divisions and shows wisely for points and cost and then go and be as consistent as possible. I may not have won big HOTY coolers and Champion ribbons but I did get a National 6th once (and a lot more smaller Zone awards) and it was no less thrilling and wonderful. (Just doing 5 shows a year with my own money and while in Grad School).

      2. Amanda, Like I said above, there is plenty an organization can offer. Both USDF and the California Dressage Society (CDS) have found ways to recognize both winning scores and progress. Without paying anything extra, I am eligible for my USDF medals upon completion of a listed criteria as well as Rider Performance Awards (a certificate and patch) for achieving a certain number of scores. CDS offers simple incentives.

        I don’t get any of that with US Equestrian. If I wanted to pay even more, I would be eligible for year end awards, but US Equestrian offers zero acknowledgement for the work I do. I don’t need a certificate for every little thing, but come on, how much could a certificate cost for reaching certain milestones?

        Right now, I send US Equestrian $55 annually to be able to show at a USDF show. Basically, I am subsidizing our national equestrian teams, and that’s all I get out of being a US Equestrian member. And now, when I renew in December, I get to send them even more money so that I can compete against other adult amateurs instead of professionals.

        You said that the fees we pay are being used to improve “our” sport. I am not sure how my US Equestrian fees are helping to improve the sport of dressage or dressage shows. So what do I think I should “get?” Well, some sort of recognition from the governing body would be appreciated. While I compete at “national shows,” the reality is that I’ll NEVER go to WEG or the National Dressage Finals, yet, I am required to pay to play.

  6. Ok, so you want more awards programs or something from USEF? Am I understanding that right? I guess it really just boils down to what motivates us and our pocketbooks. IMO, or the way I see it anyway, USEF’s job is the “hard line” stuff. Rules and rule enforcement, drug testing, teams, judges, breed stuff, databases, thousands of horse shows a year, USEF network, etc. They’re the big umbrella that all the specialized fluff hides under- USEA, USHJA, USDF, etc. Most of the budget for awards and special programs resides within those associations, because they don’t have a lot of the expenses that the big umbrella does. USEF certainly DOES have a lot of awards and programs and grants in their own right, but as a lower level amateur, they don’t apply to most of us. Really though – how many more fluffy awards do we need? Seems like there are tons to me. If USEF can take my money and improve equestrian sports in general, make strides with drug testing, improve our teams, have more horse shows, better educate our judges and stewards, etc… I personally feel like I’m getting something out of that, even if it’s not something specifically for me. Granted, I did the $25 fan membership this year just to kick some of my money their way because I believe in what they’re trying to do for all equestrian sports in the US, whether I participate in them or not. Admittedly, that kind of stuff motivates me more than awards or personal recognition though.

    1. Very well said Amanda, and I certainly don’t disagree. USEF has a big job to do for the sport of equestrian, and I’m sure that means occasionally needing more funding to do it adequately. They can have my $25 more dollars. If they continue to crack down on doping of horses I’ll be more then satisfied. P.S. you could definitely be a spokesperson for them, and I mean that as a compliment!

      1. I hear you, Amanda, and I’ll continue to pay, but it’s frustrating and expensive to have to pay so many different organizations for the privilege of showing. And like Hilary said, it’s an interesting discussion. :0)

  7. No one likes when rates go up. I grimace when the farrier charges more, board increases, a lesson fee goes up, etc etc (though I have a less difficult time paying those increases then maybe membership fees).

    That said I joined USEF as a fan member even though I wouldn’t be showing at any USEF recognized events because I still wanted access to the database. If that in turn supports the sport I don’t see that as the end of the world. I still get enjoyment out of our US teams competing, I still want the sport/various events to be regulated… I don’t think that an increase to continue those efforts when rates haven’t changes in years should make everyone so outraged. If you (general you) are competing because you want a piece of paper that says go you for competing then you might be doing this for the wrong reasons. You don’t always get something physical but for any of us that show, even if not frequently, we reap the benefits of an organization that regulates our sports. Just my 2c for what its worth 🙂 Definitely and interesting discussion!

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