Ripoff report: Horse show edition

Now, I’m typically a hard one to surprise, cost-wise with horses (newsflash: everything they do, wear, eat, train for or participate in is insanely expensive.).

But, I’ve recently come across a new one that really bugs me. The ripoff horse show.

I do a few local- emphasis on local schooling shows hosted by great organizations or stables, and am proud and happy to share their names so that others can experience them at a more or less reasonable cost. They’re not cheap, nothing in horses is, but again, fairly reasonable.

These are:

  • Vancouver Island Appaloosa Club horse shows– don’t let the name fool you, they’re open to all breeds, friendly and nice. Good way to get into showing, offer very soft jump heights (for the wimps like me!!) and hack classes. Avg. $10 a class for non-members and I think $7/class for members? Cheapest game in town.
  • Sooke Saddle Club: They offer normally two ‘Show and Tell’ dressage days that are, quite frankly, a steal at the price. For $35/test, you get to ride your test, have the judge come out and put you through the wringer in the best possible way, and then you ride it again and they judge it again. I normally do two tests, so I have 4X opportunity for learning. It’s amazing!
  • Westside–I kind of hesitate with these guys–they are kind of the only game in town sometimes for shows in the off-season, and they aren’t really very cheap- think $20/class, and a $20/admin fee, but the venue is good, the courses are designed well and they have pretty good judges, from what I remember.
  • Foxstone–They only do 3 winter series shows, $45/div and a $20 admin fee- they are very reasonable and the facilities and course design are top-notch.
  • QMS–Offer both H/J and Dressage schooling shows, quite reasonable, good course design and seem to normally run on time. No quibble with these folks.
  • CDRC– SO cheap! Love them! Jumper classes are no-frills run at $10/a class, and their dressage is similarly no-frills but mega affordable.

And now to the rant part…

Westside has decided to offer a dressage show and tell, similar in format and the same judges that Sooke Saddle Club offers. I give them kudos for recognizing a need in the off-season, as Sooke doesn’t have an indoor arena and isn’t able to offer Show and Tell in the  winter. BUT…

The prices are ludicrous. A total money grab from my view (remember, this is my personal opinion) at $50/test and the nerve to tack on a $20/ring fee. Plus, you only get to ride the test once, instead of like Sooke where you sign up, ride, get your ass handed to you by the judge in a mini lesson, and then immediately ride again. So, double the cost, minus the test. No way José.

So, there’s that. Interesting chutzpah on their end but I will not be parting with my $$$ for that. For others, fair enough, it’s their dime.

Also- I saw a poster for a Halloween jumper schooling show at a local stable – Echo Ridge, which used to be called Oak Meadows, (local, like I could walk to it with Oats…) and was VERY interested. Until, I saw how much they were charging for what amounted to:

  • No real course designer
  • Tiny indoor arena to host the course- that also appears to be the only arena, no warmup ring??
  • Who is the judge?
  • No prizes/ribbons???
  • Oh wait, it’s a jackpot style class, so first place gets $8 and it goes down from there. So you can’t even make half of what the class costs back in prize money?
  • Charging for warm-up? Westside, of the ultimate money-grabber places, doesn’t even have the balls to do that. Jeeeesh.

So, for a tiny in-house jumper show hosted at their farm they were charging $20/class or 3Xclasses for $50. That’s even more than the really fancy-pants Foxstone?? Plus, they were charging $5/3 minute warm-up in the ring. I mean, really?

And you know what the worst part is? I am super disappointed. I actually wanted to take Oats in this show because it’s local, (support local!) I could walk there, it sounded really fun and offered silly classes like Gamblers Choice and some other ones.

I kind of want to write a review to them, and be like…You are pricing yourself wayyyy out of the market here. If it’s a fun in-house show, don’t charge SSITS or A-level prices. Do they know this? How could they not? I’m honestly surprised and was super taken aback by the extreme gouging level.

I think $10/class is a very reasonable price and I would be happy to pay that for this level and type of show. I do understand that the nicer venues have higher costs and nicer decorated jumps, finery, judges and prizes, not to mention course design…But it begs the question- why are their shows cheaper, have great prizes AND offer free in-ring schooling?

Just, help me out here!


Dressage Show #2: QMS. Hmmph.

Dressage Show #2: QMS. Hmmph.

So, this weekend I was back at it- in the dressage arena.

Sidenote: Last time I showed dressage at QMS, I was just learning Training 1 and 2, and scored pretty respectably- in the low 60’s for sure.

Yesterday was not the case. AGAIN.

We hauled up well, warmed up really nicely, felt super chill and good! Oats was being a great boy. And then the tests..dun dun dunnn…

Yeah, got two mega-bucks in the exact same spot. Right lead canter circle, coming back around to close up the circle. I was circling around, felt him start to fall in, and got desperate, and yanked him around with my right hand. HE, on the other hand, did NOT feel charitable with this sudden turn of events and BAM BAM! bucked as hard as he could twice.

Noooooo!!! It was otherwise quite a respectable test. FUCK.

I was sitting there, like, totally stunned. Coach yelling at me to grab up my reins and keep going!!!


The second test was quite distracted as well, with irritated me. I went 100% the other direction on my right-lead canter circle and dropped my inside rein. So, Oats broke into trot. Hahahaha…shit.

Wiggled-waggled our way down the centre line, something that is not normally an issue, and shame-faced a salute. UGH.

Oh well, our scores were pretty lousy, compared with last October. How is it that we are GETTING WORSE at dressage, when my general riding in dressage and other stuff is feeling like so much better? Does anyone have a good explanation? Cuz I’d love to hear it!!


Oats was very eager to get back on the trailer. You know, he warmed up great, was a good boy on the ground, and we got our perfect right-lead in the warm up ring after his little explosion. So…what is happening in the dressage ring?

Well, I stayed on this time, and I didn’t go off course. Small victories? Yeah I need them right now.

Hilariously, we were last in every test. Interesting, considering last year we were placing very well. ARGH.


Oats does Dressage

In these grey days, it’s nice to take a step back and reflect on how fun the summer was, and how successful!

This video is from Oats and my first dressage debut- doing walk/trot dressage at the Sooke Saddle Club’s show’n’ tell.

It was really fun, and I found the gang at Sooke Saddle Club very supportive and nice. The judges were hilarious and kind, and Oats and I had a very positive experience.

I came out of that day feeling like, you know what? Maybe we COULD do dressage- and not suck at it completely!

And we were right! I did two more dressage schooling shows- 1 more SSC show’n’ tell and 1 show at QMS, and I never came out of the ring feeling like I sucked.

So maybe there is something to this dressage world eh? My husband was very pleased with the fact that dressage offers times- so you show up at your appointed time, and when you’re done, you go home. No standing around waiting for hours like at my hunter shows. Haha.

I liked how I did feel like I was progressing, and progressing at a pretty good rate. When I am jumping, it can feel really difficult to ‘measure’ how well I am doing, as nerves tend to get in the way, and unfortunately measuring success via jump heights is a losing game…

We did our first show at QMS cantering the dressage tests, and scored well within what we had been scoring all summer. So that told me that our performance had been consistent, and nobody was necessarily giving ‘gimmies’ or overly-generous (yes that is a fear of mine, strangely!).

Here’s to more dressage days!


A very chilly ride this week & Ponytude

A very chilly ride this week & Ponytude

Well, to go along with my rollercoaster week, it has been absolutely FREEZING here in the balmy West Coast!

We actually reached a record low not met since 1948…A record of -7. Yeah, you are all probably laughing about that, but that is cold for us here. We’re not used to it!

My rides on Oats this week have been short, due to the extreme cold. He has been pretty good if a bit cranky (I will chalk that up to chill rather than to his normal ponytude).

My ankles have also been aching terribly in the cold whenever I try to do two-point. After three days in a row of riding in the chill (in the indoor arena) I am ready for our normal temps of high of 8 and low of 2 to come back! How do people do this??

I cancelled my lesson on Wed (too cold) and rescheduled for tomorrow. Should be good!

Oats is also back in his ‘remedial’ saddle pad with the extra flaps sewn on due to extreme spur rubs given by yours truly. I felt like it was time when he was really surly to ride last week- yeah I know he can be a jerk on the best of days- but he felt like a bit of a caged tiger to ride!

So, on go the flaps to deal with it, and his attitude was much improved, haha. He no longer felt like, “Oh yeah, you’re asking me to DO WHAT?”…haha with a small buck, angry tail swish or small rear!

So we are back to status quo, which is a relatively happier Oats doing mostly what I say. Phew!!

We are also anticipating signing up for a dressage test at QMS for March 1/2. I am thinking maybe Training level 1&2.

And we are still doing our small jumps every ride, every time. It’s going well so far!

Horse show #9- Not so triumphant

So, Sunday we trailered back up to QMS for a hunter show that marks the beginning of the Cowichan Winter Series. And how did it go? Well…

We warmed up pretty well, and then went into the indoor for a brief warm-up over the fences. Indoors is much tighter, twisty and the jumps come up a lot faster. We had a pretty ok warm-up, with some disunited canter and a bungled last jump in the line.

My courses were pretty easy, and I was feeling ok until…I went in for my course and got a refusal at the second fence–an oxer on the diagonal. They were pretty oxer-happy!

Picked up my canter and re-did it fine, then continued on course with 1 or two ugly fences. The next course went alright but it wasn’t fabulous. Then it was time for the equitation course, and I was freaking NAILING it! Until…I got the old ‘slam on the brakes and pop over from a standstill’ from Oats, and then we demolished the fence. And then proceeded to next diagonal oxer and performed the same awkward maneuver- and I jumped off, because I was SO not into having him leap over it from a standstill AGAIN.

WTF? So….What the heck?! Why do I fall off at horse shows? My show nerves clearly got the best of me, and all I could focus on was finishing the course. UGH. That means racing through it as fast as I possibly could.

We had entered the flat class and I was kind of not looking forward to it. To my ultimate surprise Oats was so good! He was honest, he was kind and he was so chilled out about it, I was shocked. This was the pony who had been excused from EVERY flat class I had entered him in due to bad behaviour- bucking, rearing, running backwards, everything.

He was a perfect gentleman. We placed third out of a fairly large field of 15 or so. So, our 9th show wasn’t really a triumph for jumping (man, I haven’t done that poorly at a show, ever?) but he really surprised me and was great for our flat class. Funny eh? The thing I’m better at (jumping) is kind of a disaster and the thing I’m afraid of (flat class) was perfect. How odd!

Ohh well, you win some, you lose some. 

Further adventures of Mr. Oats!- Horse show #8

That’s right, Oats and I headed up-island to the private school (Queen Margaret’s) for our first attempt at Training Level 1 & 2 dressage. This is where Oats used to live, and from what I understand, garnered quite the bad reputation for being a bit of a punk.

And how was his triumphant return? It WAS triumphant! Our tests were a bit shaky (I felt tense and Oats was distracted, I rushed through my transitions and was heavy-handed). I felt not-straight, and a little bit all over the place. 

BUT…Oats was falling asleep in the warm up ring, cool as a cucumber. Coaches recognized him and were very impressed at how much he’s ‘grown up’ in their words! They did say he used to be a wild man, a bit of a shit head to jump haha. He was able to redeem his reputation and showed very well for me that day.

Our scores were good, but I felt like they could have been better- 64% for Training Level 1 and 62% for Training Level 2. But you know what? It’s just experience. This was our first time, and I was a bit tense (judge wrote that I should hum ‘jingle bells’ in my head during my ride…!!!!) haha.

Oats was a good good pony. Yay for Honey Bunches of Oats! That was our eighth horse show this season- woo!!