Owning a horse is expensive. In fact, my dad’s most famous saying when it comes to horses is purchasing the horse is the cheapest part. While there are certain corners that shouldn’t be cut when you own a horse, there are some things you can do to make horse ownership less expensive for you!
Consider rough board: Some barns offer the option of boarding your horse outside. This is not for everyone, and if you own an expensive show horse, or are overly concerned about your horse’s health/well-being/safety while outside, boarding your horse completely outside might not be the best option for you. However, if you don’t mind your horse being outside 24/7, this is a great way to save money! Rough board is cheaper than board with a stall, and it can help you save on costs. Pro Tip: Make sure the field in which your horse will be staying has a run-in shed, or several if there will be more than one horse. This will allow your horse shelter on particularly stormy, snowy, cold, hot, or windy days.
Self-care board: This is another option but isn’t ideal for someone like a high school or college student (if you don’t have a flexible schedule). Many barns will allow you to keep your horse at their facility, but you will be responsible for literally everything regarding their care. Some barns will provide shavings and grain while others won’t. However, your mucking, feeding, turnout, etc. will greatly save on costs because you won’t be paying someone to do those things for you! Additionally, if there is a time when you can’t do self-care board, many barns often have the option to do full board for a week or two so that you can take care of other obligations.
Shop at consignment stores: Some riders think this is frowned upon, but this is actually a very smart idea. Buying riding items used, as long as they are in good condition, helps save money. You can find some pretty awesome and even high-end things for much cheaper than retail price on consignment. It’s a great way to look fashionable, get the best for your horse, and keep some money in your wallet. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to ride in the fanciest, most expensive tack and riding apparel. Many tack shops have a consignment section, and there are a lot of consignment tack/apparel websites like Equestri LifeStyle, ISellTack, TackPal, Commotion! Consignment Riding Apparel, and more. Facebook groups are also extremely popular with the most popular being English Tack Trader.
Give your own vaccinations: This is not recommended if a. you have no idea how to do this, b. you are on ColiCare from SmartPak or another insurance-type program that requires vaccinations be given by a veterinarian, or c. you don’t know how to do this. I’ve known many equestrians that are able to give their own vaccinations, and this cuts costs. Not only will you save on a farm call for having your vet out to give shots, but the price of vaccinations by a vet is obviously greatly marked up. If you know how to give shots and are comfortable doing so, giving them yourself is a great way to save money. However, certain insurance programs, like ColiCare, require that your horse be given vaccinations by a vet, and shots administered by someone other than a licensed veterinarian can invalidate the coverage. Be sure to take this into account before considering this option.
Working off costs: Some barns will allow boarders or lesson students to work off the cost of board, lessons, or showing. Be aware, though, that this may mean working your a*s off. For example, two girls at my barn attended the horse show we recently went to; however, they worked during the entirety of it to get a discount off of their fees. Additionally, if you are considered an Amateur rider, receiving a discount on board, showing, or lessons is considered remuneration under the Amateur rule and could vault you into Professional land which might not be where you want to be. However, being a “working student” and working off board is a great way not just to cut costs but also to gain more experience riding and working with horses. Being a working student is an invaluable experience, and those who are able to have that experience are extremely lucky.
Half lease your horse: If you don’t want to share your horse, this is not an option for you. But – half-leasing is another way to cut down the bills on ownership. Half-leasing typically means that you will have another rider who “shares” your horse with you. That rider will pay half the board and half the routine bills. Emergency bills and how they are handled is up to the both of you. (ps. I will be offering lease contract writing services in the fall. Check out my page describing what I’ll be offering!) Remember though that if you half-lease your horse, there will be days you cannot ride or use your horse because those are the days you agreed to allow the half-lessor use of your horse. Hence, if you are possessive and do not want to share – this isn’t for you.
Let your horse be used for lessons: This is another great option if you are someone who doesn’t mind sharing and if your horse can be used for lessons. However, having a strong written agreement between you and your trainer is imperative for this so that your generosity is not taken advantage of. Some trainers will give a discount on board if you allow your horse or pony to be used in their lesson program. The downsides? You’ll be sharing. Your horse/pony may pick up bad habits. You’ll have days where you cannot ride because your horse is being used in lessons. Something like this takes a lot of thought, and it isn’t something to jump into. Discussing this option thoroughly with your trainer to see how it can benefit you is the best option, and I would consider the aforementioned options first before resorting to this one (unless, of course, you trust your trainer immensely and are desperate to cut your costs).
Don’t spend money on unnecessary non-horse-related items: This may not be something you do, especially if you spend a ton of time at the barn, but choosing not to buy that makeup item, pair of jeans, or new pair of shoes can also be a good way to save money for horse ownership. This isn’t directly related to owning a horse, but rather than spending $100 on a pair of jeans, you can put that $100 towards a lesson, vet or farrier bill, or board. Of course, this relates to unnecessary items. Don’t skimp on buying toothpaste simply to save money to ride.
As stated, horse ownership is certainly expensive, and I am a huge advocate for saying if you can’t afford a horse, you probably shouldn’t own one. However, if you have way of cutting costs and want to pursue your passion, there is nothing wrong with that. Above are just a few tips, and there are many other ways to cut costs – just make sure your ways of keeping bills low don’t interfere with your horse’s well-being. That isn’t fair to the horse, and if your way of cutting costs does put your horse in danger, you probably shouldn’t own a horse in the first place!