When my daughter was little and riding at her sweet beginner barn, the trainers took care of all the paperwork required for attending shows. Since the barn owned all the ponies and only attended schooling shows, the process was relatively straightforward and we simply signed on the dotted line and wrote a check.
When we moved barns and switched to eventing, things got a little more complicated. There was no longer a big group of kids going off to the same shows. We were still attending schooling shows so that made things easier. But I found myself having to figure out how to fill out the entry forms (don’t laugh, it’s written in a foreign language) and how to read the prize list. By the way there are no prizes listed on most prize lists.
Last year my daughter attended her first USEA (United States Eventing Association) Recognized Horse Trials. That is when things got more complicated.
Every equestrian discipline has a governing body. The FederationEquestre Internationale (FEI) is the governing body of all equestrian sport in the world. The next rung down the ladder here in the US is the United StatesEquestrian Federation (USEF), which governs all equestrian sports in the US. In addition, each discipline has its own organization from the United StatesEventing Association (USEA) to the United States Hunter Jumper Association(USHJA) to the United States Dressage Federation (USDF). I assume western disciplines and the breeds have similar organizations but I’m sticking with what I know.
As you start attending fancier “recognized” horse shows of any variety, pay attention to the prize list (hunter jumper term for list of classes) or omnibus (eventing term for all pertinent information for entering a show). In addition to information regarding competition levels, judges, stabling and times this will provide guidance as to requirements for entry. It may explicitly say what memberships a participant needs to compete or it may point the reader to a rulebook.
In eventing, a rider does not need to join the USEA until the Beginner Novice level and even then event organizers can wave membership for the Beginner Novice division and instead charge a $25.00 fee. There are a couple of different options but basically if you plan to compete in more than one recognized event in a season you should just pay for a full membership. Kids under 18 get a discount so I believe we paid $60.00 for the year. Horses competing at Beginner Novice, Novice and Training level need to be registered with the USEA with restricted status at a minimum. Restricted status is free. They can also be registered with limited status for $40.00 per year, which is important if you want to be considered for year end awards, and will later need to be upgraded to full status if they begin to compete at the Preliminary level. So your basic kid going out Beginner Novice can get away with just paying $60.00 for a USEA membership and nothing more so long as they register their horse. A lifetime USEA membership costs $1,500.00 and so is a pretty nice gift for a kid who intends to compete for many years to come.
As a beginner eventing parent you won’t need to worry about USEF or FEI memberships. A rider needs a USEF membership to enter a recognized horse trials at the Preliminary level or above. USEF membership costs $55.00 per year, $165.00 for three years or $2,500.00 for a lifetime membership. FEI levels are indicated by the star system. A * is an international Preliminary Level, ** is an international Intermediate Level and *** is an international Advanced Level. Just looking at the entry form for a CIC, which is an international level competition, it does ask for an FEI number for both horse and rider. When you need to join the FEI you’ve entered the big leagues!
If your child is competing at recognized horse trials you can use evententries.com to register for most events. I find this website to be very confusing. I am in my second season of using it and I can at least do what I need to do and I like being able to pay online but it feels like some sort of exclusive club for people who know what's up and I feel like the kid who showed up uninvited, never really sure if I'm doing the right thing. First, join USEA so you have that number. Then set up an account. I choose to have a signature page and coggins on file with EventEntries.com and pay an annual $10.00 fee so that I don't have to keep sending those in separately after paying online. When you select this option a PDF pops up. You print it out and send it in with the pertinent item. I just sent in 3 - one for the coggins, one for the signature page and one for membership cards. In case you haven't done a recognized HT before, the signature page is signed by the rider, the owner of the horse and the trainer. You will need your trainer's USEA and USEF numbers as well. Registering for the individual events still confuses me. You are asked to select a division and there isn't always an appropriate option available. Fortunately, the show secretaries who receive the information and create the division lists know what they are doing and it all seems to work out! And if you screw up, they'll be sure to let you know! Just do what the show secretary says and you'll be all set!
I don’t know much about other memberships but suggest you take a look at the USHJA and USEF websites if you have a child interested in competing in the hunter, jumper or equitation disciplines. The USEF membership application actually has a space for joining the USHJA so I believe you join both if you are interested in the national competitions. I know many kids who dream of going to pony finals or competing for the various medals. USHJA membership pricing is in line with other memberships.
USDF youth memberships are $60.00 per year, so again, in line with other organizations. The dressage discipline also has schooling and recognized shows and as in other disciplines, the membership becomes necessary when a rider competes at the recognized level.
Depending on your discipline and the areas in which you compete, you may need additional memberships. My daughter competes in a dressage schooling series every summer. The membership is $50.00 per year. I know that the New England Dressage Association, which sponsors wonderful recognized shows and clinics, also offers membership. This membership is not required but offers benefits such as discounts at shows and a copy of the omnibus listing for the year.
Personally, I choose to over subscribe to memberships. When my kids were little we belonged to every museum and aquarium in Boston. We made excellent use of those facilities and I still pay for those memberships as my small contribution to maintaining organizations I am grateful to have enjoyed. Similarly, I am happy to contribute to the organizations that make my daughter’s sport possible. Everything else in equestrian sport is absurdly expensive. Memberships seem very reasonable for all they provide. Certainly we pay entry fees as well so it is not as though memberships have to cover the cost of every ribbon, venue, etc. However, providing great shows at great venues is not inexpensive. It is important to support the people who make it all possible.