Advice from someone who is always learning new ways to keep a horse on a budget.
There’s a common misconception that equestrians are rich. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead, the majority of us are “horse poor.” Meaning, we spend all of our hard-earned money on our horse, with nothing left for ourselves.
This blog is all about finding the happy medium. Learning how to prioritize your horse care budget so you can be the best horse(wo)man you can be, while also taking care of yourself, too.
There it is. The only piece of advice you’ll ever need from this blog. Marry a rich partner and all your troubles will go away.
Marry for love, not money, but a supportive partner really does help when you’re struggling to keep a horse on a budget. If your partner is going to throw a fit when the next vet bill comes, you will eventually have to choose between your horse and your partner– which just sounds like a mess.
Be open with your partner about the financial strain having a horse can place on your relationship. Being with someone who understands your love for horses and acknowledges that sometimes veterinary emergencies will happen, can really ease the strain of budgeting for your horse’s care.
Choose a Barn Within Your Price Range
When most equestrians dream of owning a horse, the barn where they’ll ride is a big part of that vision. Whether it has an indoor arena, miles of trails, or its own cross country field, a beautiful barn where you can enjoy all aspects of horseback riding feels like a must.
The truth is, it isn’t. The price of board adds up fast. In some areas of the United States, the cost to board your horse is equal to purchasing a second home. If you own a horse and you’re on a budget, you have to be willing to give up certain amenities.
You must prioritize high-quality staff over luxury accommodations. A knowledgeable and reliable team that treats horses and boarders with respect is worth more than any indoor arena or cross country field.
Adjust Your Expectations
Without excellent financial backing or a massive time commitment, the average equestrian will never rise to the top of our sport, no matter how excellent of a rider they are. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy your horse, ride to the best of your ability, learn something new every day, and become an amazing horse(wo)man.
It’s all about adjusting your expectations. Instead of purchasing the custom saddle of your dreams, shop used tack and spend your money on working with a quality saddle fitter instead. Take lessons once a month instead of once a week. Attend just one show per year or compete at schooling shows instead of the more expensive AA-rated competitions.
With the right mindset, you can find fulfillment in the world of horseback riding without the cost of attending highly rated shows, taking lessons with top trainers every week, and buying custom tack.
Four Star Horse Care
Forget the BEMER blankets, monthly massages, and premium quality bedding. Learn to be okay with meeting your horse’s basic needs: food, shelter, friends, and good health care.
Your horse doesn’t need magnetic blankets and thermawave therapy or whatever new equine health trend is on the market. While these things have benefits, there are many horses out there who function just fine without them. Don’t go broke trying to provide your horse with 5/5 star care. Instead, learn to be okay with providing 4/5 star care.
This doesn’t mean that you’re foregoing vet care, dental work, or saddle fitting. It means that you’re prioritizing what truly matters and not the latest health or fashion trend.
For example, don’t work with the best farrier in your area if your horse doesn’t truly need it. Instead, try and keep your horse barefoot, as long as they’re comfortable. Choose a middle of the road, experienced farrier who does a good job and can keep your horse sound.
Invest Your Sweat
There’s one asset every equestrian has and only a few invest in: your sweat. There’s so many different ways you can hustle to save some money just by working a little bit harder.
Ask your barn owner or trainer if you can pick up a few shifts a week working at the barn to get free or discounted lessons or board. Keep an eye out for “Now Hiring” signs at your local tack shop. Many tack stores offer an employee discount that can truly save you a lot of money.
Most Dover Saddlery locations hire temporary staff for their tent sales. If you sign up, you’ll have to put in some hard work for a day or two, but you usually get the first pick of the tent sale items and get an employee discount as well.
You’ll also be amazed by some of the benefits of volunteering at horse shows. Many horse shows offer volunteers discount vouchers for classes or will even waive entry fees. Plus, volunteering is a great way to give back to the community as well.
Surprise! You’ll Still Be Broke… Sometimes
A few weeks ago someone on Instagram said that if equestrians were more financially responsible (i.e. stopped buying new saddle pads and following the fashion trends), they wouldn’t be broke. As someone with a few used saddle pads, a bridle I put together from spare parts at the used tack store, and a saddle I bought on Facebook marketplace, I’m here to tell you that that’s not true.
There are times when your horse will cut their knee open or have a massive colic resulting in a big medical bill and you will be broke. However, the trick to not being “horse poor” all the time is to know where to put your money.
Prioritize your horse’s health care as number one. Put the majority of your horse budget towards farrier, vet care, and a safe barn environment with good feed and knowledgeable staff. If you cannot afford to keep your horse healthy, then you should consider half-leasing a horse instead of owning.
Next, prioritize their comfort. This includes lessons so you can learn how to be a supportive partner and asset to your horse in the saddle, as well as properly-fitted tack, blankets (if necessary), and good quality grooming products, like fly spray.
Then, you can prioritize more fashion-forward but necessary products. Saddle pads (new or used), good quality boots for you, leg protection for the horse, coolers, clippers, etc.
Finally, we get to the most frivolous items that may bring us joy, but are not necessary to enjoy your horse or be a good rider. High-end breeches (leggings work just as well), beautiful equestrian sport shirts, matchy matchy tack sets, blingy browbands, etc.
Avoiding horse poor-ness (that’s a word, right?) is all about not being afraid to follow your own financial limits and resisting the peer pressure to “look the part.” Instead, stick to your guns, surround yourself with similarly minded equestrians, and don’t mind the looks you might get when you show up to your lesson in leggings and a t-shirt with used tack.
Our ability to be good horse owners and riders does not equal the depth of our wallets.