For fun, or possibly I should say to give ourselves a fright, we decided to do a rough calculation of what it costs in cold, hard cash to get a horse to Badminton (we’ve excluded the cost of the emotional roller coaster that comes with event horse ownership as that, as a certain credit card company says, is priceless!). Now of course different horses will take differing routes to the top of the sport but for the purposes of our hypothetical horse, “The Magical Unicorn” we have assumed the following.
He was bought in the Spring of his 4 year old year, not long broken in and allegedly full of potential, for £14,000. He was sent off to a professional event rider to be given a gentle introduction to the three aspects of eventing: dressage, show jumping and cross country, and to see a bit of the world via hacking and going to a few training shows. The livery cost of having him in training with the professional rider is roughly £10k per year, based on him being at their yard for 10 months of the year, with a rest period of two months back at Money Pit Farm where the owners delude themselves that he doesn’t cost anything whilst with them!
The Magical Unicorn, or Pegasus as he’s known at home, follows a development plan which has been carefully mapped out by his owners and their professional rider. As he is quite magical, his preparations all go smoothly, he is injury fee and needs just routine support in the form of:
· Farrier every 4 weeks
· Equine sports massage & Chiropractor treatment every month 
· Veterinary treatment, as required 
There are many additional techniques used for getting horses fit and ready to compete such as the water treadmill, swimming etc but for the purposes of this exercise we’ve just assumed the above. His competition schedule each year has also been carefully planned and the following shows the route taken by Pegasus on his way to the biggest 4* of them all!
|Age||CompetitionSchedule||Cost of entries, travel & Stabling|
2 x BE 5 yr old
3 x BE100
Plus 10 other UA shows
6 x Novice
1 x CIC*YH
1 x Novice
7 x Int
1 x CCI*
1 x CIC2*
2 x Int
2 x Adv
1 x CIC2*
1 x CCI2*
1 x CIC3*
2 x OI
2 x Adv
3 x CIC3*
1 x OI
1 x Adv
1 x CIC3*
* Only for events in the Spring before Badminton
Naturally Pegasus achieved Minimum Eligibility Requirements in each of his events and so now, aged 10, he is fully qualified and thankfully has enough FEI points to get on the entry list for Badminton. How exciting!
Therefore, having been lucky enough to have this exceptionally straightforward progression from precocious 4 year old to an established 10 year old, just how much has it cost to get him to his first 4* event? Well on the basis of the above assumptions, it has cost just over £115,000 to buy, train and develop Pegasus from being a green 4 year old, to him now being ready to mix it with the world’s best at his first 4*. (and I have to admit, these are pretty conservative costings).
So, with the benefit of this knowledge, anyone fancy going horse shopping in search of the next La Biosthetique – Sam FBW/Ballaghmor Class/Lenamore /Star Witness? I’m just off to book my flight to Ireland as I hear they are pretty good at producing these talented 4 year old event horses!
 Only during competition season
 Assumed an average spend of £800/year recognising that as a horse progresses up the levels, the required input from vets many be higher than in the earlier years
We’ve looked at the ages of all the horses heading to Badminton and it is very interesting reading – the average age is 13 (13.6 to be precise). If you take the conservative total above of £115,000 for one 10 year old horse to get to a 4*, add on 3 more years of costs if the average age is 13, multiplied by the total number of horses heading to Badminton (86), the elite horsepower that we will be witnessing has had a combined spend of over £15 MILLION POUNDS by their owners.
Whilst this may make current owners weep, our back of an envelope costings will actually have cost way more – we didn’t dare include the bar bills! So if you happen to see a rather anxious looking owner, do go up and tell them how fabulous their horse is looking, offer to buy them a drink as we think they deserve it as without their generosity these events just would not happen.