John Anderson’s Rocky Mountain Show Jumping hosted a new competition, the RMSJ Fall Classic, September 13-15, that offered a $275 flat rate show fee to encourage more people to attend.

Rather than have the show sanctioned by Equestrian Canada (EC), Anderson made the show a provincial “Wild Rose” event to avoid the additional costs that can put off potential competitors. The show offered riders the opportunity to show in .90m, 1.0m, and 1.10m classes on the venue’s large grass grand prix field and also hosted a dressage competition simultaneously. The cost also covered stabling, five bags of shavings, and competitors were not charged nomination or start fees.

“By no means am I trying to criticize our national federation which does a pretty good job, but these additional costs do flow through to the exhibitor. If we don’t build the sport at the bottom end it will fail at the top end; I’m trying to develop the grass roots,” noted Anderson of his latest initiative. “I want kids to show and enjoy the sport. When you get the youngsters in, they get a taste for it and hopefully they can be cultivated into our next team members.”

As the last show of the year at the facility, Anderson could afford to offer riders the chance to ride in the big ring without the risk of damaging the footing for other events.

“Entries were huge!” he said. “We had 90 horses in the .90 class and they all got to ride in the Grand Prix ring, which normally is reserved for 1.30m or 1.40m classes. It was the end of the year, so I could sacrifice the ring because I wasn’t saving it for another show.”

By opting for the provincial show status, Anderson was able to save the $1,500 EC show licensing fee as well as a host of other costs that he would have had to charge exhibitors. This is a new trend among show organizers trying to offer budget-wise events that EC will have to consider in their financial model as they move forward. Another show in Nova Scotia, the Hants County Exhibition Hunter/Jumper Show, that was previously a gold show, also opted not to be sanctioned by EC this year in response to local interests and concerns over costs.

“We wanted more people to know about our venue and enjoy it so we can entice them to get into the sport in a bigger way,” explained Anderson. “I see the cost of entry as a big shortfall in our sport for people to get involved. Between membership costs, passports, EC fees, Jump Canada fees and more, all those costs add up.

“Competition organizers are viewed as gouging competitors, but exhibitors may not realize that we are essentially tax collectors for the national federation. The extra fees they see at the bottom of their show bills are all remitted to the national federation. By hosting a provincially sanctioned event I didn’t have to collect these fees and I also don’t need to have the most senior, and costly, officials.”

Anderson clarified that shows are licensed by EC based on the amount of prize money they offer. As his new tournament offered less prize money, he wasn’t required to charge the fees that EC would impose. “Most competitors don’t give a hoot about the prize money, they just want to compete and get better,” said Anderson.

Anderson plans on hosting a similar event next year, but will be making some changes. “People that attended were thrilled. It was such a success – there were more competitors than we expected, so next year I’ll probably add another ring to alleviate some of the congestion.”