:) I know what you are talking about and I agree. I think that in the situation of SOC they spent so much money on the buckles, (and lets face it not that many people showed) that it would be kinda moot point to spend lots of money on top 5 prizes. The E/W program is broke and thats why it is this way. But yes an embroidered saddle pad would be cheaper then a bucket of "goodies" if the Org used their 501(c)(3) right lol.
Doing that Hunter/Jumper/Equitation ring I've been spoiled with lovely prizes when you do well, Coolers, Saddlepads, Tack Trunks, Trophies, Directors Chairs Nice saddles etc. But you only get those things if you win Finals or a Division and that would be $25-$75 dollars per class (depending on the rating) vs the $15 that SOC was. And there are usually 4-5 classes in a Division so at a rated H/J show you are basically paying $125 - $375 per division and when you think of it like that and all you win is a Cooler, well that is about equivalent to spending $15 and getting a bucket. LOL in the end you can go out and buy the prize yourself with that money.
Though frankly I'd prefer a nice Rosette with a 18"-24" streamer, those cost under $10 dollars, and they'd still make money on the class.