Empty Wallet, Full Heart

There’s no sugar-coating it: horses are expensive.  I have never been financially stable enough to afford to own a horse.  Sometimes people ask me if I have a horse, and when I answer no, there is a change of attitude in their voice and their opinion of me.  Oddly, this especially happens with people who aren’t involved with horses at all, as if I robbed them of the opportunity to ask if they could come ride my horse.  Non-horse people are also confused as to why I take lessons if I already know how to ride, probably assuming it is like driving a car. Horse people get it though. They know how costly it is to maintain the upkeep of a 1200 pound animal who is extremely powerful and yet so fragile.  They know that balancing work, living expenses, and horse expenses is downright HARD. I do not own a horse because when I do, I want that horse to have everything they need and a cushy savings account for the inevitable emergency situation. What if I lost my job? What if they colic?  What if?

“The hardest thing I’ve found for horses is the barrier to entry. Don’t have money? Get some skills and people or trainers will trust you with their horses. How do you get skills? You need lessons and more time in the saddle. How do you get that? Money. […] The more time in the saddle, the better. If you have a choice between a great trainer/horse once a week or a sufficient trainer/horse two to three times a week, choose the sufficient trainer. The hardest thing to develop is the muscle memory, which you can’t develop without enough time in the saddle.”

– Kayla Haynes; @kaylahaynes_

On the first of December 2017, I was crying happy tears on my way home from the barn because I had FINALLY signed my first partial lease on a horse and I was overcome by emotion.  It was only for two days a week, and the lease only lasted until May, but it was such an amazing feeling to go from taking lessons to feeling like I was able to cultivate a relationship with a horse.  After the lease ended, I decided not to renew because I wanted to be able to take the monthly payment and start putting it into an account for the purpose of saving up for a horse of my own.

“In all honesty, the finances for horses is one of the major stressors in my life. Since neither my husband nor my daughter ride, I try to be careful of how much I spend on horses, but horses are expensive. To afford horses, I make lots of sacrifices: I don’t buy new clothes, I don’t own nice shoes or purses, and we rarely travel.”

– Claire Caust-Taylor; @mdadultammy

In July my husband and I got tired of renting with a roommate in a two bed one bath duplex.  We wanted more privacy and space, and although we were saving money by living with a roommate, we were frustrated.  I knew I wouldn’t want the instability from renting if my goal was to buy a horse. In August we bought a house (OMG!) and our payment for our mortgage was a significant increase from our rent.  I could no longer save monthly for a horse as I was so hoping to do, and in October our circumstances changed again and I could barely afford two lessons a month. Unexpected car payments in late fall gouged out a chunk and trying to make up ground has been a struggle.  Our mediocre savings account had to be dipped into to make ends meet. The holidays almost broke us from driving across the country, travel expenses, and getting gifts for family members. This year we will not be able to travel and will have to miss a couple of weddings.  I have been conscious to try to reduce any unnecessary spending. And of course, my riding has been reduced.

“I truly believe that when there is a will, there is a way. If you want to ride and don’t have the means to do so, there is a trainer out there that would love to give you the opportunity to ride. When my parents were not able to financially support my riding any longer, I started as a working student at a local barn, and was given lessons in exchange for the work I did two nights per week. Later, I got to exercise ride horses (for free!) and would ride three to four horses per day. Life gets more complicated as you get older and have less time, but if you work hard and always show your kindness and appreciation, eventually you’ll have friends throughout the horse industry that would love to give you the opportunity to ride.”

– Lauren Maas; @equineendeavor

It is difficult to no longer afford to ride frequently or be around horses as much as I wish I could.  I feel like I had just started to grow a new piece of my soul when I was leasing and it has been stunted prematurely.  I figure I have two options: be jealous of others and sad for myself, or I can be supportive of others and look for ways to broaden my equine experience.  Due to my full-time job, I cannot be a working student like I once was. However, I am lucky to be friends with my amazing trainer and am able to go on trail rides with her once in a while, but I make sure that I pay her properly for the lessons I am able to schedule.  I volunteered to help with a clinic she held and hope to do so again. I act as groom and paparazzi sometimes which enables me to learn through experience and exposure. I hope to be able to go to more clinics or shows this year, watching from the sidelines and helping out when I can.  These little things help me feel more involved instead of a floater in and out of lessons.

“I try to not view the money I spend on my horse Rio as a hobby. Rio is so much more than that to me. He is my therapist, my gym membership,  my way to de-stress after a hard day at work. Not only is he a member of the family that I love dearly, he is what lights my soul on fire. When I consider all that he does to enrich my life, I stop worrying about the dollars spent and just feel thankful that he is in my life.”

– Kelly Wilson; @hunky_hanoverian

I fell in love with one of the most expensive sports on the planet.  Slap the name “equestrian” next to an item and the price skyrockets. Regardless of whether a person is just starting to take lessons or a seasoned professional, every equestrian I know struggles to make ends meet.  A large misconception of equestrians is that we are all rich and have oodles of money sitting around. LIES. In my experience, equestrians are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet, frequently going without so that their horses can have the best lives possible.  

“This blog title perfectly sums up the two main themes I have running at any given time when it comes to ponies & money: frustration that much of what I want to do is financially out of reach, and gratitude for what I do have. A new job allowed me to move into my first (half) lease ever, and with it came new expenses of course, but also new goals, which happen to be the same as from my childhood (basically more saddle time!) So, on the one hand, I’m so happy and grateful that I’m finally getting to pursue my horsey dreams! On the other hand, it’s a constant struggle of balancing costs with my 4 kiddos activities and monthly bills, (1 of whom has also started riding!) and keeping that frustration at bay because I’d really like to do more, like full lease, or show, or even own one day. I wish it weren’t all so darn expensive, but in the meantime I’ll keep looking for ways to make it happen and remind myself that what I currently can do is terrific.”

– Joy Musser; @joyride4

Money may make the world go around, but it shouldn’t define who we are and what we are capable of.  Being a good horse person is not directly equated to the amount of cash in your bank account. Horses do not care.  What matters is making the most of the moments we can spend in the saddle and finding ways we can continue to educate ourselves.

“My biggest tip is to stick to your budget! Sometimes it can be challenging learning how to balance personal bills and horse bills but I find budgeting each month helps me. I see what I have to pay and what I have to set aside. Being a college student with three horses isn’t easy financially and not something I’d highly recommend. If you have the means I’d definitely say stick to one! Also there is no shame in leasing a horse out when need be!”

– Jordan Even; @westphaliandreamer

I have moments when I feel like a second-class citizen compared to those who own their own horses.  What can I do to make this goal attainable?  Is it smart to budget for this now or should I pay off the credit card?  When I start to feel low about my current financial circumstances, I need to remember the good I have and focus on ways to enhance my future.  I need to remind myself that I am not putting myself or a horse in a tense situation by not having the excess money to take care of them. And I should continue to find ways focus on what really matters: improving myself as best I can and being thankful for the opportunities I receive to pursue my passion, one paycheck at a time.

Love from a lesson pony, Connie

“In thinking about my finances related to being an equestrian, the first thing that comes to my mind is how important being at the barn is for my mental health. Without that outlet, I would be a ball of anxiety and a lot more high strung than I am now. That being said, it makes it a lot easier to justify the financial burden of riding when thinking of my overall happiness.  I wish I had a sage piece of advice about how to save money, but I’m still learning myself how to budget myself. Although one thing I have learned is that being thrifty is the way to go. Or babysitting. But do a tack trunk clean out and try to sell what you haven’t picked up in a year. It might mean that you could do one more horse show!”

– Caroline Lurie; @clurie.eq

3 thoughts on “Empty Wallet, Full Heart

  1. Ah, I loved this one too! So relatable and Kelly’s quote was my favorite. I love the way she views Rio, it gave me chills. I also am loving the way you are signing your blog posts. You are the sweetest human being.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s