Do you want to know the secret to making a million dollars with horses?
Start with two million.
Okay you can stop laughing hysterically now.
No matter how you look at it, horses cost money. Unless you are blessed with a bottomless trust fund or make millions of dollars in salary you have to budget for horses. I wasn’t fortunate to fall into either of those categories. Growing up it was just my brother, my mother and I in a 2 bedroom apartment. Money was tight and there was certainly no money for riding lessons.
If you are like me you’ve heard comments that if you have horses you must be rich. For a few of you that might even be true. But I’m betting for most of you it’s not the case. Horses are a necessary part of our lives and we find ways to make it work. When I was in university I found ways to pay for riding lessons by working part time and also working at the stable. I was willing to do any chore in order to spend more time on and with horses.
Over the years I have figured out various ways to fund my addiction hobby. For a long time I had a second part time job that I used to save for things like horse trailers, saddles and fencing. When I put in my riding ring with the last of my money I was able to quit.
First accept that if you own horses you are going to have costs: vets, farrier, feed, bedding, hay for example. You may also add boarding costs to that. These are things to not skimp on and I have made sure that I had the money for the necessities. I am willing to pay for good professional work and never dicker with the farrier. The benefit is that these costs are fairly predictable and can be planned for. I also have a bit set aside for unforeseen medical costs. That said, I have become quite good at giving my horses their vaccinations and that saves some. I’ve also become educated about wounds and injuries. When I call my vet and ask him to come out he knows that it’s serious. I am comfortable handling minor things myself with a phone consult.
One of of my more genius strategies was in my choice of husband. Not that I knew that at the time but it worked out well. My husband is an accountant and likes to do chores around the farm. Both of these qualities has freed up money for my horses. Now if one of my children would marry a vet that would be awesome….
I am willing to get my hands dirty and figure out how to do things myself. I love my collection of tools and take pride in repairing things around the farm. Some of my repairs are creative and not so traditional but they work. There are some great bloggers out there who post ‘do it yourself tutorials’. Oliva at diyhorseownership.com posts them regularly.
When we were getting quotes for the riding ring they were quite high and out of our budget. So instead we did it ourselves. We hired someone to clear the space and let it settle over the winter. We then borrowed a harrow and dragged out the rocks. I spent a few weeks raking the rocks into small piles and then taking them out. We flattened the space and then put on the rubber and sand mix. My husband put the fence up. I wanted lighting but it was too expensive to run electricity to the ring. With some research I found some solar spot lights that work very well. While it was a lot of work to do this ourselves, it saved money and, to be honest, I have more pride in it.
There are many items that double in price as soon as they are identified as being for a horse. If you know what you want and do some research you can find either the same item or a very similar one for much less. When I bought my trailer I wanted to put something in there to hold smaller items. I found a rack online for a horse trailer that was quite expensive. But when I looked at it, I realized that I could this for much less money. We picked up a rack for store displays for about $40. My husband hung in in the trailer and it works a treat.
That said there are some things that you truly get what you pay for. Saddles are one of those things. Blankets are another. I don’t generally buy the most expensive- I tend to go in the middle. If you do your research you can figure out what is a good fit for you. Once I buy something I do my best to take care of it. A few minutes of care can save a fortune in the long run.
The purchase of the actual horse is probably the biggest outlay of cash but also probably the least costly part of horse ownership overall. I bought my first horse instead of living room furniture. When people asked where the furniture was my husband would smile and say ‘in the barn’ . Priorities, amiright? When I was shopping for my next dressage mount I decided to look for a yearling so that I could get a better quality of horse for less money. A good friend pointed out that buying a yearling was not cheaper in the long run and she was right. But it was easier to budget for at the moment and then pay over time. I also wanted the experience of forging a bond from the early days and carrying it through to under saddle. I have no regrets about that decision. Steele was the delight of my life.
Not everyone wants to show and that does save some money. I enjoy showing so I try to save for it over the winter. I put regular donations into savings bonds over the year and cash them in to pay for shows, clinics and other fun horse events. It doesn’t cover the full cost but it helps. Showing is not necessary and it is one of the expenses that I consider optional. When I had to put extra money into training this summer I didn’t hesitate to let showing go. I don’t regret the decision (even though I missed showing).
The truth is that there is no real way to ‘save’ money when you own a horse. There is just budgeting and prioritizing. I would have a lot more free cash (and time) if I didn’t own horses. But my soul would be a lot poorer and I know that I wouldn’t be nearly as happy.