I am one of the cheapest people you’ll ever meet; I get it from my dad. I love the challenge of bargain hunting and that feeling you get when you score a great deal. This has definitely carried over into my horse expenditures. Here are a few ways I save money. Please comment and tell me yours!
1. Buy a bargain horse! I consider my horse to be my greatest bargain ever. I purchased him almost straight off the track. He had a few months at a barn with some intermediate students using him for lessons, but he was far from “finished.” He needed major improvement in his ground manners and he had to learn his new job (carting me around at a slow, steady pace), but he had great conformation, nice movement and a mellow personality. I paid $2500 for Baron which is cheap! He has turned into a fantastic partner.
I should say that a cheap horse is not necessarily a bargain. You have to be careful that you’re not buying a broke down nag or an insane horse that will get you killed. With that said, there are a lot of fantastic horses on the market right now because of the down economy. People are forced to downsize their lesson programs and farms, so there are deals to be had.
2. Buy used! I hardly ever buy anything new becasue I’ve found that I can get such great deals on used tack and equipment on websites like Craigslist and Ebay. Virtually all of my tack came off of one of those two websites. For example, I bought my saddle on Ebay for under $300. A new Crosby wasn’t in the budget so on to Ebay I went!
3. DIY boarding. I’m at a Do It Yourself barn and I save hundreds on board every month. I have to make the time to clean my stall and fill a water bucket every day, but it only takes 20 minutes and it ensures that I see my horse regularly. I think we have a stronger bond because of it. He associates me with good things like a clean water bucket and fresh shavings in his stall. If your schedule allows for a more hands on boarding situation, I highly recommend it!
4. Take group lessons. I pay $50 for an hour lesson which means that if I want one every week I’m looking at an extra $200 per month in addition to board, farrier, feed, etc… A great way to reduce the cost is to find a friend who is at about the same skill level as you and take lessons together at a discounted rate. You’ll still get some one-on-one instruction and you’ll save money. If your skill levels are similar, you’ll be able to learn from each other’s mistakes. Plus, horses love having a friend around so you may find that your horse enjoys the lesson more as well.
5. Don’t do dressage! Wait, wait, before you get offended, let me explain. Schooling dressage is great and utilizing dressage as a way to improve your riding is also great. But if you want to show in dressage, you’ll need a dressage arena to practice which means you’ll have to be at a dressage barn. In my area these are waaaaaaay more expensive. I loved the dressage lessons I took, but I can’t show in dressage because my barn doesn’t have an arena. It has everything I need to show in hunters however (a flat place to ride and room to set up jumps)!
6. Use your local library. When I can’t afford lessons, I read books by the great instructors- George Morris, Alois Podhajsky, etc… I’ve found that my library has a pretty good selection of equestrian material. Consider donating books to the library as well. You’ll be helping people like me whose budget does not equal our passion!
7. Improvise! This winter I wanted to start working Baron over crossrails, but my barn does not have any crossrails (or any jumps, for that matter). I saw this lovely thingamajig at my local tack store that consists of two jumps standards and a rail that can be set up in a bunch of different configurations. It was over $100 though, and I didn’t want to spend that. Instead, I built a crossrail out of two lawn chairs and two groundpoles. It was safe and it was free!
What about you? How do you save money as a horse owner?