Adjusting to the Costs of Competition
These are some of my rodeo friends. Sharing horses and traveling expenses have enabled us to continue to compete during this tough economic time.
Young horsemen rise to the occasion to keep doing what they love.
Horse trailer is hooked up, horses are loaded and you and the family are ready to go to an equine event. You fuel up your truck, putting at least $70 worth of gasoline or diesel in the tank, each gallon costing at least $3.90. Three-hundred miles down the road, your fuel gauge shows you’re tank is almost empty. Your finances are already being drained, and you haven’t even arrived at the event, where you’ll spend more money on entry fees, food and lodging, and stalls for your horses.
High fuel prices and a strained economy are drastically changing the horse world, making it more difficult than ever for horse people to afford to compete. But there are ways to adjust to the rising costs of the competitive horse world. Here’s how some youth riders are cutting costs so they can still compete.
Samantha Cheetham shows Quarter Horses in the American Quarter Horse Youth Association. Not being able to attend as many shows as she’s like makes it harder for Samantha, and other youths, to qualify for the AQHYA World Show.
"The price of fuel has set limits to many of us. We can’t show as much or travel as far," says 18-year-old Samantha.
The same applies to members of the National High School Rodeo Association, and other show and rodeo organizations. Traveling to each rodeo, as well as the rising costs of entry fees, stalling, dining and lodging, are major financial strains. Some families from Helena, Montana, are coming together to make traveling easier and more enjoyable without as much financial worry.
John and Kelly Hanson, along with their kids Kelsey, 17, and Garrett, 15, help by loaning their horses “DJ” and “Scotch” to any competitor who needs them. The majority of the steer wrestlers who compete in the Montana High School Rodeo Association ride DJ, and if anyone needs a roping horse, Scotch was always available. This saves some kids from having to haul so many horses.
In addition to their generous use of horses, the Hansons and other families from Helena are hauling together to the rodeos farther away from home, sharing meal and fuel costs.
At this year’s Silver State International High School Rodeo, the Hansons, Tia Hilger, Cierra and CR Kunesh and Tim Sparing made the long trip together from Montana to Fallon, Nevada, as well as made the week-long stay in Fallon, as cheap as possible.
Even though we're competitive against each other, spending time with my friends keeps us close.
"We split gas, traveled in stock trailers, shared horses and ate cheap, packing some food with us," says Kelsey about their travels.
These same ideas are being used by many different disciplines in our industry. Horse carpooling is becoming more and more popular.
"In the showing industry, we don't have much of an income, so we have to really think about what we can haul and who we can haul with,” explains Samantha. “Several people are hauling together to the same shows. Unfortunately, we can’t share horses at shows; we have to show our own.”
On a positive note, the competitive edge increased with the economy. It’s too expensive to haul to events and not try your hardest to win. With not only the money made from winnings to help with fuel and food, the sense of all the financial stress being worth it is a sweet emotion. That’s why, in our current economy, it’s smart to be prepared to compete. Practice, dedication and the love of your sport and your horses are the most important things.
Tips from a Road Warrior
There are many ways to save money when traveling with horses. Not only should you travel smart, but also use economically efficient tools and evaluate what you need and don't need. Using knowledge gathered from hauling down the road my whole life, I've made a list of ideas that you can put to good use.
Consider your trailer type. Steel trailers are more durable and have a long track record of dependability, but their heavy weight and maintenance make them expensive investments. Aluminum trailers are, according to some, not as durable as steel trailers, but weigh 10 to 15 less than steel trailers, which means they don’t require as much towing power or maintenance. The downfall is that aluminum is around three times the cost of steel, but the resale value is higher.
Consider the configuration. If you transport several horses, it would be easier to haul a stock trailer. The average stock trailer fits around seven horses comfortably, though you can find trailers that haul up to 15. The drawbacks include that the risk of injury is slightly higher considering that there is no dividers between horses. There’s also less area for storage and sleeping, although you can get stock trailers with enclosed tack rooms.
Look into a living quarters. Of course, the most popular sleeping arrangement in the horse world a living-quarters horse trailer. Although they’re expensive, in the long run they could save you money by eliminating the need to pay for staying in a hotel and eating out every weekend.
Camp out. Depending on the weather and facility rules, camping is another money-saving option. Packing tents and food, and gathering with friends can be more fun and less expensive than getting a hotel room. Buying a camper is another idea.
Create your own corral. Stalling horses at equine events can get very expensive, but in many cases it’s the only option. If the event and facility allow portable panels and electric fences in the trailer parking area, bring your own pens to save money. Companies like Gallagher electric fencing and Priefert offer a variety of portable fences and panels that are easy to set up around your horse trailer. This offers a safe, fairly roomy place for your horse to spend the night.
These ideas can help make traveling under these circumstances more enjoyable and financially easier. Every horseman, young and old, deserves the chance to compete, even if the economy is making it difficult. Working together with friends and family, you can find ways to adjust to the rising costs of the competitive horse world.
Mesa Pate is a Western Horseman youth correspondent. The 16-year-old daughter of clinicians Curt and Tammy Pate, Mesa travels to equine events throughout the country and is an all-around competitor in the National High School Rodeo Association. She lives with her family on their new ranch outside Newell, South Dakota. Send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.