[Top image: Horsegroomingsupplies.com]
Newsflash: Horses have a way of draining your bank account. And when your bank account is basically nothing to begin with, and you’ve got the horse bug bad, life spirals into living vicariously through Youtube GoPro videos and blogs of people who seem to have amazing equine adventures all the time (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!).
As a young adult I’ve often had to scramble to get in my horse time–from taking on horsey jobs, to going a ridiculously long time without a haircut. And despite the ups and downs of riding other people’s horses, overall it seems to work out. Here are some strategies that have worked for me to keep horses in my life despite the financial odds being stacked against me.
Create a budget–and stick to it. You may not be as broke as you think–but you’ll never know unless you actually sit down and look at where your money is going. I prefer to make a simple list in Excel about twice a year to check up on my expenses and spending, but there are lots of free apps like Mint out there that will create pie charts of your spending, help you set financial goals, etc.
Of course, the challenge is actually not stopping by the tack shop on your way to the barn–so figure out ways to remove temptation. “Do I need it, or do I want it?” is my mantra. Perhaps you start taking a new route to the barn where you don’t even pass the tack shop, or you make a huge pot of chili over the weekend so you won’t have to go out for lunch on work days. Some people even create a bank account for their horse expenses, and only allow themselves to spend the amount that they automatically transfer from their paycheck each month. This is easier than ever to do with online banking. (If you’re looking for more tips specific to budgeting and horses, She Moved to Texas had a fabulous post a few weeks ago.)
Save as much as you can. Yes, saving seems boring, but it can actually be pretty exciting when you find out you’ll need your own saddle for the opportunity to ride a nice, quiet foxhunter that needs to get back into work, and you actually have the cash reserves to buy one. (This happened to me yesterday, which is how I know.) Personally, I like to have my savings removed from my paycheck automatically so I never even miss the money I could be spending on extra lessons.
Be frugal, not cheap. Sometimes it does pay to buy quality up front–if it really does mean you’ll save money own the road. A great example of this is buying a saddle–of course, it would be cheaper up front to buy an old beater, but if it’s so far from fitting your horse that it could cause pain, of course it makes sense to save up for one that does fit.
Sell what you aren’t using. Sometimes it’s a good idea to have extras of things–but if years have passed and you haven’t used something valuable like a saddle, or you have several things in sizes that no longer fit you or the horse(s) you ride, it might be time to think about selling it. Put it in the horse fund!
Just ask! Say you can’t afford lessons, much less leasing a horse. Why not ask a local horse rescue if they need help, or a local trainer if he or she would take on a working student part time? You never know what opportunities to ride might be available if you just tell people your situation, are honest about your abilities, and are willing to pay for your horse time in work rather than money.
Got any other tips? Share in the comments below!