The old “Dressage on a Budget”, 0verdone, ad nauseam

Dollar store barn neccesities (From Eventing Connection):

Here are my tips on how to do dressage on a budget.

Step one: Get a big budget.


If you have already failed at step one, don’t give up yet! We have an alternative method for you poor saps.

Easiest way to keep costs down

Don’t buy whatever you’re thinking of buying!

Plan out your equipment needs at the beginning of the year. Give yourself time to find the best deals on the items you need.

Don’t Impulse Buy!



Riding Attire:

Don’t bother splurging on expensive show attire. You’ll wear the entire ensemble at most 3 times a year, for a total of 6 hours a year of wear… if you’re lucky. Go the absolute cheapest you can, but thoroughly check the reviews on the product.

Read the rules!


My “Go To” sites for riding clothing are State Line Tack and SmartPak. I’ve also heard good things about the Riding Warehouse, but I haven’t ordered anything from them yet.

StateLineTack Coupons

Show Breeches: $65

If you’re worried about long term quality and durability of the cheaper breeches, ask yourself how often you can afford to compete at a show. If it’s more than 3 times a year, than this article is probably not for you.

If you only go to one day shows, then you only ever need one pair. You can even pull off the rare two day show if you’re very careful. However, if you plan on going to a lot of 2 days shows, then this article is not for you. Move along…

Show Jacket:  $40 – $100

Find your nearest 4H tack sale (usually occurs between January and late March). Check your Craigslist Farm and Garden category for listings of 4H sales or tack sales. Facebook tack swap groups are also good resources if you know your size (see bottom of post for links). You can find show coats for as low as $40.

It’s okay if the coat is dark blue and not a black. It doesn’t have to be dressage specific.

Through Fourth level, a conservative regular coat is all that is needed. I can’t find a single USEF rule that requires a coat with tails at Fourth or above, if wearing a helmet.

If you plan your shows for mid to late summer, chances are coats will be waived anyway. Why pay top dollar for a show jacket when you’ll be sporting the coatless look anyway?

Or, use rule 120.5

Riders in classes and tests at all levels in Level 1 Competitions, and riders in Opportunity classes in Level 2 and Level 3 Competitions, may compete wearing breeches and shirts of any color as permitted in DR120.8. Jackets or vests of any type are allowed but not required and neckwear may be worn only if the rider chooses to compete in a riding jacket. Boots and protective headgear are required as specified in DR120.1-6.

If you’re unclear on what level of competition your show is, it is required to be listed in the prize list. Finding it listed on the show bill is sometimes tricky, so you may have to email the show manager.

Dressage Show Designations

Choker or Stock Tie:  Choker – $Free

Chokers are perfectly acceptable below Fourth level. Plus, choker’s usually come free with a new shirt, so why buy a stock tie? You need a pin though, so find a safety pin and bedazzle that sucker.

Helmet: $65 to $150

Ok, really, you do need to splurge here. Mind your melon.

However, that doesn’t mean you need two different helmets for schooling and showing. No one cares how pretty your helmet is, as long as the helmet is black. Buy one good one that fits your head.

Riding Boots: $80 – $250

You can find decent quality tall boots for under $300 at most tack stores and tack websites. Mountain horse has a line that is less than $250, and has good reviews. If you want to spend less, second hand boots are the way to go. They go for anywhere between $40 and $200 depending on the brand and condition. Average price seems to be right around $80 for good quality, nice looking, used boots. It will take you some time and effort to hunt down an inexpensive pair in your size, that fit decently. Start early!


Saddle: $250 to $800

Buying used is the best option. However, the endless parade of ad’s that won’t list tree sizes, or that measured seat size wrong, can send even the most patient person to the brink. Weigh out the cost of increased alcohol consumption while browsing through used ad’s, versus the cost of new saddle, in order to determine the cheaper option for you.

You’ll need this for used saddle shopping:

Bridle: $40 to $200

Buy cheap, but check the reviews. A $40 bridle works fine as long as it fits correctly. Just make sure you take care of it, and check it for integrity every few weeks. (Side note: my $40 bridle has lasted for 6 years of hard use, and cleans up well for shows too.)

Bit: $10 to $150
You will be forced to pay out the nose for that one special bit your horse actually likes. It won’t matter if the day before you saw 800 of those same bits for sale for a dollar. The day you need that specific bit, every last one of them will be priced at $120.

Saddle Pads: $5 to $50

4H sales, craigslist, tack swaps, Facebook sale pages.. pretty much anywhere people are selling their used tack. Never pay more than $10 a pad. $5 is better. Make sure the underside is in good condition, haggle the price a bit, and then speed off with your new-to-you saddle pad.

For shows, the Lettia Coolmax Dressage Pad is selling for $25 currently, and has 51 five star reviews.

Additional Expenses:

Horse: $0 to $50,000

Buy cheap, but invest heavily in horse insurance, the pet care card, and the lotto.

You’re better off investing money in lessons and Lessonseducational opportunities, rather than shelling out for an upper level prospect. Your horse will only perform up to your level of competency anyway. Get good first. Learn how to take mediocre up through the levels, and afterward you can try it again with a purpose bred mount… that’s assuming you somehow become rich in the next decade and can afford to purchase, maintain, and compete that purpose bred horse.


Lessons/Education: $65 to $400

If like me, you find real life instruction a necessary component to dressage, then ensure that you choose the very best instructor you can afford.  Taking lessons with a good quality, upper level dressage instructor will save you time and money in the long run. It means less lessons overall and less time rehashing the same issues over and over. This will decrease your xanax costs, which offsets the increased lessons costs.

I can’t say this enough – Don’t cheap out on quality of instructor. Some inexpensive instructors are good, but generally you get what you pay for. Again, not always, but you need to know quite a lot about dressage in order to determine if an instructor is knowledgeable enough to teach it to the level you want to achieve. If you don’t know, then don’t look for a bargain deal in this area.

To increase the effectiveness of your lessons while keeping the quantity of lessons low, the main trick is to video tape your entire lesson, with sound. Make sure you get the instructor’s voice.

If you don’t have a person to hold the camera, set it on a rail. Even if you only capture half of your ride, as long as you have sound it will trigger your memory on how the ride felt at the moment and how you rode it.

Once you’re back home, replay the video and really pay attention to what the instructor is asking for. Visualize how the ride went. Remember how it felt. Pick out the parts you feel confident you can reproduce and use those as confidence builders. Take the parts you’re not confident with and just play with recreating the feel in short sessions.

A good instructor will give you enough exercises to work on over a month to keep you moving forward.

No money for lessons?

Youtube, free articles on the web, other blogs, audit small clinics in the area.

eTrak: USDF actually has a ton of good videos and articles for free with eTrak. You don’t have to be a current active member to use this. The catch is you have to sign up for it, and that requires a USDF member number (I believe). Once you register though, you can lapse your membership for a few years and still have access to all of the information. They do have quite a few articles and video’s that non-members can access. Those are sometimes difficult to find.

An inexpensive way to access USDF eTrak and other benefits is to join your local GMO, or purchase the Education Membership directly from USDF ($35 for adults). Frankly, joining your local GMO is more fun.

Educational Youtube Channels and Videos



Educational Facebook Groups

Follow or like Facebook groups or pages to see new articles or video’s about dressage.


Educational Podcasts

Subscribe to:


Other Educational Opportunities

Auditing clinics is good, but sometimes even auditing can be a struggle to afford. If this is the case, you can volunteer to help at the clinic to gain free admittance.

The L program is a definite must for the serious dressage rider. These sessions require a lot of volunteer effort. Volunteer to work the class or demo sessions. During downtime (which you’ll find plenty of) you can watch and learn for free. Extremely worthwhile to do. Your local GMO usually puts these on, and you can find upcoming L sessions on the USDF website.



Follow and read other dressage riders blogs. Their recaps on clinics and lessons can help you learn new things (new techniques, or better understand a concept).

Some blogs you can start checking out, if you haven’t already.

A Horse For Elinor Bakersfield Dressage
Dressage for Mere Mortals Horse Sage
EquiNovice Katmah
Dressage Training Online Blog Dressage Today Blogs
Dressage Pony Journey of a Dressage Student
Clara Etzel Dressage Horse and Hound Blogs
USDF Dressage Blog Jane Savoie Dressage Blog
Dressage Hafl Chronicle of the Horse Blogs (Lauren Sprieser Blog)


Don’t forget that The Dressage Foundation gives out scholarships to AA’s. Check out the Gifted Memorial Fund for more information.

In addition, some local GMO’s also have scholarships or grants to help AA’s or young riders afford educational opportunities. Don’t forget to check out your local GMO’s website, or contact one of their officers for information.



Schooling shows and Opportunity Classes are great ways to save money while still receiving judge’s feedback.

Opportunity Classes are exempt from USEF and USDF membership requirements and riders do not have to pay nonmember or HID fees (meaning, you don’t pay those fee’s to ride in Opportunity classes, which is a lot of money saved!). However, because there are no membership/horse Id requirements, then the scores do not count toward any USEF/USDF awards. Even without the kudo’s earned, you still receive qualified and objective feedback on the progress of your training.



Facebook sale groups have an alert feature that allows you to set up notifications for when items you’re interested in are posted. This allows you to spend less effort stalking used tack sites for the best deals. Set up alerts in multiple groups and even on days you can’t check facebook, you’ll still be notified that the item was posted. (as if you aren’t on facebook everyday. Hahahaha)


General Cost Savings:

  • Weigh out your hay and grain every meal.
  • Use a nibble net to reduce hay wastage.
  • Have your hay and grain analyzed for nutritional content, then fill in with supplements. Remove the unnecessary supplements.
  • Dollar store for scrub brushes, towels, hangers, extra buckets to soak things in, containers to store things in, etc.
  • At shows, pack in all your own food and beverages
  • If you need trainer help at shows, offer to trade slave labor for coaching a warmup session.
  • You can’t afford a groom, or to hire someone else to braid, so you better plan on doing that yourself.
  • If you do get a stall at a show, bring your own shavings.

Facebook Groups for Tack and Clothing:


I’ve found that while there are small areas you can control your spending on, the majority of expenses are always going to be above what the medium income can afford. Just focus on having fun with your horse.


Any one else have ideas/suggestions on ways to cut costs? I’d love to hear them!

The Breaking Point

I’m not sure how to write this. I’ve been struggling for the last two years against what I want, and what I have. The conflict between big dreams and lack of resources. Knowing something is out of reach does not make the desire disappear. And of course, we’re bombarded with the message that even big dreams are attainable if you simply work hard enough, sacrifice enough, want it bad enough.

It keeps the belief that it is possible, alive. Which is a rather cruel joke, because it keeps the conflict alive between wanting the big dreams and knowing the realities make it impossible.


All you have to do is work at it hard enough for long enough, right? Sacrifice more.


Except in horses…


I’m at my breaking point both financially and mentally. Both horses look fantastic. Literally shine. Shiniest little shits in the state.

Both are lame. Utterly and devastatingly lame. Unrideable. Probably not going to be rideable for quite a while.

There goes another summer.

There goes all hope of a lesson this year.

There goes another year I’m older and no closer to my dreams.

Maybe if I just work at it harder… those realities will cease to exist, right. Work harder. I’m not doing enough. I need to be working harder, putting more effort in. I’m not sacrificing enough!!


Maybe.. maybe if I sell off everything I own, quit my job, convince hubby to abandon everything to live with me in a car, so that I can beg some big name trainer to take me in as a working student… I bet a good trainer would love a middle aged lady with a bad back as their working student.

I bet that’s the kind of sacrifice it takes to get to Third Level in dressage.



Hahahaha haha


I’ve been trying to get to Third for a combined total of 10 years now.

Realty slaps me in the head everyday, and I keep getting back up to try again. Part of me is screaming “For the love of God, just stay down!” It’s depressing to see me get my ass kicked daily.

Another part of me finds this hysterical. Why is this so freaking hard? It’s not like I wanted to ride in the Olympics. FFS, I just wanted to learn how to do a clean flying change before I die!