I spent Sunday at the Upperville Colt & Horse Show
where I watched the $100k Grand Prix Jumping event. The top prize was $30,000. There were horses and riders there from all over the Eastern seaboard, some had come from quite far away. The whole experience prompted several questions about the economics of the event as the costs associated with fielding a horse seemed to so far outweigh the possiblity of adequate recompense.
I think the overarching question is: Is this a business or a hobby?
There seemed to be several different types of horses entered (out of 20 entrants this year):
1) Horses owned by their riders (a distinct minority, maybe 2 out of the 20). These folks could make some money by winning with their horse.
2) Horses owned by a farm but ridden by professional jumpers. ( A couple of farms had multiple horses in the competition. This seemed like straightforward marketing.)
3) Horses owned by one person but ridden by a professional jumper.
4) There seemed to be a couple of horses owned by businesses ("The Sarton Group"--I made the name up, I can't remember the names). I thought they were groups of investors that had invested in the horse, others in our group speculated that they were businesses of some kind (although there was no identifying information about what they did or where they were located) that were sponsoring the horse for advertising and raising their profile in the horsey set.
The first three categories all seem like they (possibly) take care of themselves: owner-riders actually riding for the prize money, the farms advertising their bloodlines and various services, the single owners hobbyists (like dog fanciers) who pay someone to ride for them in order to participate in the milieu. The fourth group seemed to open up the possiblity that there was money to be made beyond the (relatively) meagre 30k first prize. There was absolutely no discussion of horse bloodlines (as one would expect were the money on the *ahem* backend of breeding), and the announcing was very focussed on the riders.
Does anyone have any more information?