Universal truth: Horses are expensive. Let’s check out 5 ways to reduce bills without cutting corners.
1. Buy in bulk.
I keep my horses at home, so this step is crucial for me. I buy enough hay for a full year. Several years I’ve over purchased, which means I can make a small profit selling last year’s hay to the less prepared people come spring. Buying hay “from the field” will also save you money. My bales are $1.25 cheaper if I go and pick them up from the field myself. Sweat = Savings.
When I boarded, I ordered supplements and any other barn necessities (fly spray, treats, and even tack) with barn buddies. By combining our orders we guaranteed free shipping. The subsequent tack room party where we ripped open packaging like toddlers at Christmas was a bonus!
2. Reduce, repair, reuse, recycle.
If you have extra tack that’s been sitting in the dark corners of your tack room — sell it. Local consignment shops and Ebay are a good way to turn dust into dollars, but make sure you charge appropriately for shipping estimates. I once knew a girl who sold a guitar for $60 and it cost $65 to ship!
If the tack is broken, try to repair the damage before tossing it in the trash. Many tack suppliers sell all the little bits and pieces, particularly for bridles and halters. Always call and ask. There are also leather repair stores that can mend broken tack, even if they don’t specialize in it. I know a local shop that specializes in shoe repair, but they have mended a bridle for me. The best bet is to haul something to the store and show it to them. They’ll be able to tell you immediately if their machines can handle the job.
It goes without saying that a regimented tack cleaning/conditioning schedule is your best line of defense against repairs.
3. Weigh every meal… even if people think you’re OCD.
I started doing this about two years ago and it has made a huge difference in costs. Once I started weighing every serving, it shocked me how insignificant a 1/2 pound or even whole pound appears in the scoop. Add up all those misplaced halves though, and you’re going through a lot more feed than you should be. I also weigh my hay so that I never feed too little or waste too much.
Again, this one applies more to people who feed their own horses, but suggesting it to a barn owner would not be a bad idea. Feed costs are directly related to boarding prices. Save your barn owner some money and maybe you’ll feel the discount too!
4. Buy “non-horse” items.
I shampoo my horses with diluted Dawn dishwashing liquid. It’s antibacterial and costs a few bucks. I also use human brand conditioner (Tresemme or Suave), which is cheaper by the bottle than its horsey counterparts. I’ve found leather cleaner on sale at Walmart (shoe department) and big buckets, water hoses, etc. on sale at gardening stores during late fall.
5. Last but not least… volunteer.
This is a no-brainer for people with extra hours, but no extra cash. Many barn owners will exchange free lessons or discount your boarding fees in exchange for labor. I mucked a lot of stalls for a lot of years just so I didn’t have to pay schooling fees at local arenas.
Four things (in my opinion) you shouldn’t do to save money.
Don’t skimp on healthcare or supplements. While there are valid arguments about over-supplementing our equine friends, you should always give them what they need. I recommend discussing all supplements with a veterinarian or supplement expert to truly know if it’s important to your horse.
Don’t buy low-quality feed. Just don’t.
Don’t buy tack (particularly saddles) just because it’s on sale. I’ve been burned several times because I “just had to have that deal on Ebay.” It didn’t fit my horse, and I didn’t get my investment back.
If you have a trailer or truck… don’t sell it. Even when I boarded I had my own truck and trailer. It made me feel more secure and more flexible when choosing trainers, farriers, vets. What you could do is downsize your rig and haul friends to events to split gas expenses.
Got more money saving tips? Shout out in the comments section!