Unsustainable, elitist sport... how have we made it here?

lucy_108

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I was reading the latest statements from local BE centres and from BE themselves about the situation with abandonment insurance, and it got me thinking.

I'm studying at uni whilst trying to hold down a job to pay for my horses, something I don't at all resent as it is a choice and I love it. However, I am beginning to resent the sport that I used to love, purely because it is reaching a point where it is simply unsustainable for us ''normal'' folk to afford to do what we love.

As much as I love doodling around at home, hacking out over the hills and generally having a nice time, I'm an ambitious person and really do enjoy competing. Yet, I sat here today and did some maths to try and work out how much it would cost me to register BE next year and do a handful of events that are local to me... on top of feeding, shoeing, surprise vet bills, insurance premiums, supplements, bodywork, new equipment... I was left thinking how the heck am I going to afford it. I am incredibly lucky to keep my horses at home and have no livery to pay, otherwise I think I'd be selling up now and packing it in! But realistically, what does the future of our sport look like?

Is it just going to be a competition between those with the means and the money? Or are any organisations going to even *attempt* to make it affordable for those who can't just flippantly enter an event and not give two monkeys if it gets abandoned as they make the cost of their entry fee make every 3 minutes. I don't mean to moan and complain as I am very lucky to even have my own horses and to be able to do what I do...but I just can't help but feel this is the beginning of the end for people who don't have the odd 1k lying behind the sofa no matter how hard we work or try...

Interested to hear other people's thoughts (or money saving ideas haha!).
 

milliepops

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it always was too expensive for "ordinary people" but there always seem to be enough people who can afford to keep going...
I quit eventing on cost grounds over a decade ago.
No way i could keep going. I swapped to dressage as cheaper *dry laugh* and am generally a pull my socks up and keep trying on a shoestring kinda person but there is SO MUCH money out there it feels very lonely.
 

Renvers

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Do you have good standard of UA events in your area? Disclaimer, I don't event but friends who do have stopped BE and do UA instead as we have a lot of good level competitions around here (Midlands) and whilst still cost money are not BE level costs.

I do compete BD and do find it pretty good value for what I want however UA has the benefits of lower entry costs, more prizes (money and others) so I think none of these orgs should be complacent.
 

AandK

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I keep seeing people saying how it is becoming unaffordable for 'normal people', but it has never been affordable. It is a sport/hobby for those who have deep pockets, and always has been. When I was out doing a lot of BE in the mid 2000s, I lived with my parents and so had lots of disposable income. Even though I earn double now, I have a mortgage etc so there is no way I could afford to do it regularly again sadly. If I ever get to event my 8yo it will be the odd UA or BE on a ticket.
 

ihatework

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Equestrian sports are elitist - FACT
But so are very many other sports.
To compete under a national governing body at any significant level takes time/money/support and quite frankly no one is entitled to it (although it’s lovely that some people can, for those people at least).

To be in the position that you have a horse that can be kept at home is light years ahead of many other people.

Horse sports are ultimately a business and they really cannot be subsidising our hobby!

I can obviously only draw on my own experiences but I was never supported with horses. I gave up my loan pony to go to university. Didn’t own my own until after uni. Scrabbled around building career, competing on a shoestring. Making massive compromises. Such is life.

Im super lucky now in that I have lovely competition horses and get to watch them out Eventing, it would be easy for an outsider not to appreciate what has evolved to get me to this point.
 

Littlebear

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Not helpful, but I think owning a horse in general falls into this category never mind competing. Friends I know that don't have horses would be mortified at the thought of spending £500 a month odd on one horse plus the time commitment and the cost of buying and any extras that may go on top. A lot of sport horses are easily 10-15k upwards now. I think that cost plus the monthly commitment makes it fairly elitist.
It is the cost of most peoples mortgage every month, but somehow normal folk do make it work, and the same with competing, if you want it enough you also make that work somehow, it is hard enough for those that put the events on to keep going (hence the endless closing of centres and venues) without the concern of whether others can afford it, they have to make it work too, same as the rest of us, its easy to think they have it easy in comparison and its not always the case.
 

MuddyMonster

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It's always been expensive. Horses have always been expensive, sadly. Life's expensive!

It's no different in other disciplines IMHO - I think you just learn to cut your cloth & expectations accordingly, in the end. I'm not a hugely competitive person (which probably helps) and quite happy to go places to try to do well but have a nice day out (I don't BE but talking generally). In my experience, you're always going to be up against people that have more - more time to train, more money to buy better quality horses, have more regular lessons or whatever - and ultimately I think you just have to learn to be happy with what you have whilst enjoying stretching yourselves within your means.

If I won the lottery tomorrow, I'd absolutely go out and do more than I do now but it's also not up to the organisers to ensure that I can afford to enter their events IMHO.
 

Winters100

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To me it is just that everything is relative. OP, your family has land to allow you to keep horses, which to many, or actually most people, puts you in an elite position. Of course you can always look to others who have more, and can afford to do more with their horses, but it doesn't really help you. Those who scrape and save to afford a once weekly riding school lesson for their children might look at your parents and say the same, that why should you be able to ride better than their children just because your parents have land and can allow you to keep your horses at home. Better to focus on what you can do, because actually all of us are really lucky to be able to afford a hobby that would be out of the question for the vast majority.
 

Asha

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I understand where you are coming from OP. BE has always been expensive, not just the competing but the schooling/ prep work that goes into it. The costs of competing at BD/ BS are far more achievable at grass roots level for your average pocket. i think its a real shame BE are looking at giving up the insurance
When you add that to the fact the climate is getting wetter and in our area we've seen quite a few events cancel, i can see a very different future for eventing. Such a shame
 

Nicnac

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Have you seen the entry fees for a triathlon? Cost of bikes to be competitive and swimming pool costs for training plus wetsuits, shoes etc. BUT you don't have feed your bike or give it bedding etc. etc.

As somebody who bought their first horse at the age of 28 after getting on the property ladder, you are very very lucky to be in the position you are. I have had my horses at home for past 25+ years and my daughter has benefitted from that but it's down to my hard work alone that we have been able to afford it.

One thing that's really important to remember is that you don't have to have all the new stuff. Your horse doesn't need expensive tack, supplements etc. There are ways to cut costs without cutting the horses' welfare. Do you need more than one horse? Can you turn out more saving on feed and bedding?

It is an expensive sport but it's a life choice.

On the AI for BE, if you put the 15% you save by not paying AI away, that should cover your costs in the case of abandonment unless you are really really unlucky!
 

bonny

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Have you seen the entry fees for a triathlon? Cost of bikes to be competitive and swimming pool costs for training plus wetsuits, shoes etc. BUT you don't have feed your bike or give it bedding etc. etc.

As somebody who bought their first horse at the age of 28 after getting on the property ladder, you are very very lucky to be in the position you are. I have had my horses at home for past 25+ years and my daughter has benefitted from that but it's down to my hard work alone that we have been able to afford it.

One thing that's really important to remember is that you don't have to have all the new stuff. Your horse doesn't need expensive tack, supplements etc. There are ways to cut costs without cutting the horses' welfare. Do you need more than one horse? Can you turn out more saving on feed and bedding?

It is an expensive sport but it's a life choice.

On the AI for BE, if you put the 15% you save by not paying AI away, that should cover your costs in the case of abandonment unless you are really really unlucky!
Triathlon is definitely a sport for the rich, I dropped my brothers bike off for one and couldn’t get over how every car in the car park was an expensive, top of the range vehicle. Everybody has all the gear, spends a fortune on competing and not surprisingly even the time it takes to train is a man! Ok, so I’m generalising but it’s broadly true.
 

AandK

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Everything is getting expensive these days! It's not just anything related to horses... Having a horse is a luxury at the end of the day, yes there are ways of cutting costs but a decent farrier and dentist are worth their weight IMO.
 

Nudibranch

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I agree, horses have always been expensive, competing even more so. As land becomes ever more in shortage it will get worse. If I wasn't lucky enough to have mine at home I would definitely only have one.

What I don't understand is the attitude which seems to have developed over the last 10 years or so whereby horses are supposedly affordable. Or an entitlement. They're not on either count. (Even worse are the people who spend more time and money on their horses than their kids but that's a whole other story).
 
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BE has always been expensive, its all expensive and yes, equestrianism is elitist-this is not new. Like with many other pastimes, in the 90s and early naughties more people had more disposable income an imho, it was still dirt cheap when it came to feed, hay, shoeing, livery fees (which finally went up after 2008 in the Central Belt) and buying horses etc this no longer applies.
 

lucy_108

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I'm in no way shape or form underplaying the fact that I am in a very privileged position - people are very quick to jump on the ''be grateful for what you have'' bandwagon - I absolutely am. I'm actually referring to our sport becoming EVEN MORE elitist than it was before, to the point where it will only be the big earners out there as the more ''normal'' equestrians will simply be priced out of the game.

Having regrets about posting this. I'm so grateful for all I have and all I can do, but it hasn't landed in my lap - I've worked for it all. I was simply getting a little deflated at the fact the cost is exponentially growing and making in unfeasible for even the lucky ones who can cut some cost with livery etc., like myself.. Anyway, on you all go :p
 

humblepie

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Perhaps look unaffiliated if you have good ones near you unless you are aiming for something specific. No idea how the costs compare though as I don't event. Some fab competitions and prizes unaffiliated for dressage etc.
 

stangs

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I don’t really want to be pedantic, but gotten ?
Oh I do love when people are incorrectly pedantic.

Gotten is common in a few British English dialects, not just in American/Canadian English. So, even if one were to be pedantic, OP has used it correctly. In fact, ‘gotten’ used to be in mainstream British English around the 18th century, so, if you want to play the game of “correct English” and ignore the fact that language is always evolving, OP’s technically more correct than you.
 

lucy_108

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Do you have good standard of UA events in your area? Disclaimer, I don't event but friends who do have stopped BE and do UA instead as we have a lot of good level competitions around here (Midlands) and whilst still cost money are not BE level costs.

I do compete BD and do find it pretty good value for what I want however UA has the benefits of lower entry costs, more prizes (money and others) so I think none of these orgs should be complacent.
In our area, UA are either the same price give or take (as they are usually run at BE venues) or the ground/course isn't ideal as it doesn't have the same maintenance as a BE course (understandably). I certainly enter UA where I can!
 

humblepie

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Actually thinking about what you say, when I started competing (or at least adult classes) it was very much unaffiliated until you reached a fairly decent level - Newcomers was the first class, so we jumped at the local village shows for a few pounds and that was very competitive. One or two local shows had the open class at 4' and it was be serious competing. Riding club was always pretty much viewed as not worth while - very different now as it is a high standard. Affiliated was like this magical thing to be aimed at.
 

ihatework

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I'm in no way shape or form underplaying the fact that I am in a very privileged position - people are very quick to jump on the ''be grateful for what you have'' bandwagon - I absolutely am. I'm actually referring to our sport becoming EVEN MORE elitist than it was before, to the point where it will only be the big earners out there as the more ''normal'' equestrians will simply be priced out of the game.

Having regrets about posting this. I'm so grateful for all I have and all I can do, but it hasn't landed in my lap - I've worked for it all. I was simply getting a little deflated at the fact the cost is exponentially growing and making in unfeasible for even the lucky ones who can cut some cost with livery etc., like myself.. Anyway, on you all go :p
What makes you say it’s even more elitist?

Id argue it’s actually more accessible these days.
 

milliepops

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what are you classing as ordinary though OP?
on this board there are plenty of people out doing BE who don't appear to have a gold plated life in other ways.
Granted i don't think it's possible to go eventing on the sort of wages most students can earn. I couldn't do it on the wages i earned either and got myself into a ton of debt trying to keep going (don't recommend that!!)
I don't think it's that the sport is getting more expensive particularly, just that the gap between low and middle earners is sort of growing (i'm leaving aside high earners) and yet lots of people have expectations that can't be met when you take into account all the other stuff that needs to be paid for.
 

DressageCob

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I do think equestrian sport will continue to get increasingly elitist, because the extortionate running costs are destroying the riding school industry. More and more riding schools are closing, and as they do it reduces the pool of people who have access to horse riding. Eventually it will be limited to those able to afford very expensive lessons at riding schools (assuming there is one in their locality. The expense will be unavoidable because of the school's running cost, increased cost of horses, raise in wages etc) and those who can afford their own ponies and horses.

People like me will never have the chance to even sit on a pony growing up. It's heartbreaking.
 

Birker2020

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I was reading the latest statements from local BE centres and from BE themselves about the situation with abandonment insurance, and it got me thinking.

I'm studying at uni whilst trying to hold down a job to pay for my horses, something I don't at all resent as it is a choice and I love it. However, I am beginning to resent the sport that I used to love, purely because it is reaching a point where it is simply unsustainable for us ''normal'' folk to afford to do what we love.

As much as I love doodling around at home, hacking out over the hills and generally having a nice time, I'm an ambitious person and really do enjoy competing. Yet, I sat here today and did some maths to try and work out how much it would cost me to register BE next year and do a handful of events that are local to me... on top of feeding, shoeing, surprise vet bills, insurance premiums, supplements, bodywork, new equipment... I was left thinking how the heck am I going to afford it. I am incredibly lucky to keep my horses at home and have no livery to pay, otherwise I think I'd be selling up now and packing it in! But realistically, what does the future of our sport look like?

Is it just going to be a competition between those with the means and the money? Or are any organisations going to even *attempt* to make it affordable for those who can't just flippantly enter an event and not give two monkeys if it gets abandoned as they make the cost of their entry fee make every 3 minutes. I don't mean to moan and complain as I am very lucky to even have my own horses and to be able to do what I do...but I just can't help but feel this is the beginning of the end for people who don't have the odd 1k lying behind the sofa no matter how hard we work or try...

Interested to hear other people's thoughts (or money saving ideas haha!).
I personally think they need to do less elitist stuff and bring back events like the cracking 3 day event they used to do at grass roots level at MKEC. I was lucky enough to compete three times on Bailey and I loved it, three days of long format eventing but run very seriously with vet checks and everything.

IMHO this is what they should be doing more of, as it was at an affordable level, open to everyone and great fun for family and friends alike.
 

Asha

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Correct me if im wrong OP, but what you are trying to say is, that with the proposed change at BE ( loss of abandonment insurance ), that competing at BE will be for those who can afford to not care about the loss of entry fees should the event be cancelled the day before. Which to be fair, im sure most people could, its whether it sits well . Could i afford to do that well yes. Would i want to factor that into my costs .. er no.
 

quizzie

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Expensive?...undoubtedly...always has been but with the increased safety requirements in all phases....that cost has escalated, it was much more rough and ready in the old days!

Elitist?....I think it is more that the top levels have become the province almost exclusively of the professionals, with BE effectively operating as a 2 tier sport.

Back in pre history Novice BE was the lowest affiliated level, with a very good unaffiliated system feeding into it, but it was still possible for a one-horse amateur to reach the top levels.

Now the lower BE levels of 80-100 are the equivalent of the old unaffiliated, but with the MERs/FEI qualifications required, it is now incredibly difficult for the one horse amateur to progress all the way up the ranks, as they have to complete more qualifying competitions than the multi- horse (usually) professionals. You have to be lucky with a very sound horse to manage it...and it costs a fortune when funding it yourself, not relying on owners!
 
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