Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Recognized vs. Schooling - Cost Breakdown

Now that we are well into the show season, I figured it was time to finish up this post, current for us at Training level. 




USEA Membership – annual



USEA Horse Reg – lifetime limited



Entry Fee + online convenience entry fee





$150 (rocking horse)

$300 (Terranova)





Trainer Fees

Per phase

Per phase

The beauty of N central FL is that the majority of the shows we do (Rocking Horse, Majestic Oaks, Florida Horse Park, Three Lakes) are close enough to haul in to. Terra Nova is one exception, and if we go up to Chatt Hills or Stable View those are also obviously ones we would need stabling for. Given my experience with stabling at Rocking Horse last show, we're going to try the haul in version for this weekend. It's going to mean pretty early mornings because I ride at 8:54 on Saturday and 8:50 on Sunday, but given the unseasonably warm weather, I think it will end up being more sleep than trying to sleep in my trailer without AC. Fuel costs vary depending on venue distance, but also on one- vs. two-day While a lot of the big shows offer certain classes over a one-day, I have yet to see training rider offered that way, so the recognized shows mean 2x driving and gas compared to the schooling. 

I braid Ben myself, and it is not uncommon at these shows to see people who don't braid at all at the lower levels, so fortunately that doesn't factor into the cost difference. 

I was chatting with one of the girls at the barn recently who said her goal was to just do one recognized at each level before a move up. This seems completely reasonable to me given the huge availability of schooling shows here, often run on the exact same course as the recognized. Getting way ahead of myself, but that is also my tentative plan for Goggles. 


  1. the price differential is pretty extreme between recognized and unrecognized shows, and i say that as somebody who has to maintain her usea and usef memberships anyway.... the picture gets even worse when you consider that, at least in my area, many of our unrecognized events are run at the same venues, over the same jumps, sometimes even the same exact tracks, as recognized events... plus, some of our schooling shows around here routinely get 300+ entries, meaning you can still definitely get the same atmosphere and energy of a "big show"

    so, absent any specific personal desire to compete at a recognized event (which may be for the purposes of qualifying for certain awards or championships, or to build a sale horse's record, or establish one's record as a professional etc, or just bc ya wanna, no judgement here!), it seems like most lower level riders could get twice as much bang for their buck by sticking to unrecognized events.

    if you're curious, i wrote a little bit about this a long time ago, here (tho i've since joined the associations and entered in recognized events myself):

    1. For sure on the price differential - the annual USEA membership fee isn't really that big a difference, distributed over 8 recognized events a year it only is $12/event. But the entry fee itself + the one vs. two day format (that I edited the post to expand on the driving cost there) sure makes a difference. If we were not trying to qualify for AECs this year, I would be doing way more schooling shows than recognized. But with that goal in mind, have to go recognized.

      As I think about it and look at event entries, there are actually only two venues that hold schooling shows within my normal driving range. They both hold their schooling shows over the same cross country course as the recognized. And a lot of the dressage judges are the same from schooling to recognized, so no real difference there. Similar to what was discussed in your post/comments, there are PLENTY of entries at the schooling shows, so there isn't a difference in atmosphere either. One venue though focuses solely on recognized for Jan through March and then starts doing schooling shows again after that. The other continues to fit in schooling shows between the recognized events.

      The other two venues within my day drive (Rocking Horse and Three Lakes) don't hold schooling shows at all. Chatt Hills and Poplar do, but they are a much further drive, so we would have to stable for a schooling show which would negate the difference between recognized and schooling. There is a southeast schooling show championship held at Chatt Hills that would be fun to go to if we don't end up qualifying for AECs, we are qualified for that. And I'm sure it is SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper.

      Honestly for me, the major difference (AEC goal aside) is what fits into my work schedule. In the scheme of things, I have more money availability and less time availability since I work so many weekends. If I can fit it in without having to beg a coworker for a shift swap, that is worth the extra expense. I still will not be bringing baby horse to a recognized for his first event, regardless of what fits into the schedule more easily though LOL

  2. It's structured a bit different here in Canada, but if I'm wanting to show usually it's all schooling/unrecognized, then one or two licensed shows as destination events or to support a regional/provincial level group I appreciate. There really isn't much difference between a well organized club show and a nationally licensed one - same people, same judging, same venues, same rules - except maybe if you want to accumulate provincial or national level points or year end prizes.

    1. Similar on the lack of differences here - same judges, people (although more pros with the green beans which can go stunningly or dramatically not LOL!). And agreed the destination shows (I hope, haven't done one yet!) tend to be the recognized/licensed that are worth the trip for the destination aspect of it.