Lately, I have been thinking about how to save money. This suits my nature more than making money, fortunately or unfortunately, and the distribution of wealth and the state of the economy has me really worried. I am always concerned about those types of things, even though I try to avoid reading about them (my husband reads enough for both of us and fills me in). I am pretty sure our economy is breaking in this country and this makes me think about my priorities:
Keep my family healthy and happy.
Keep my horse healthy and happy.
Oh yeah, and have I mentioned that we have one on the way? ;)
This makes me think even more about how to save or cut costs. Sometimes I wish that I was wired differently and looked for ways to make money instead. Anyone want to buy Harley paraphernalia?
My husband and I are rather frugal people. We are not penny-pinchers, but we are definitely not interested in dropping cash without good reason. We do not splurge on things like restaurants or new furniture and we traded our cell phone contracts in for contract-free service (This saved us about $100 per month and we own our phones!). When we first were married, we did not purchase cable television and hardly missed it for years. My husband only buys his electronics on sale and uses his expertise to our advantage (i.e. He chose a wireless web camera instead of a baby monitor and saved a lot of cash. Plus we can see the video from our phones or computers and control where the camera looks. Have you seen how much baby monitors with a speaker and video screen cost?). These are just a few small examples, but, in general, I think we do pretty well.
What is my single, greatest expense? You guessed it.
My horse. My beloved, Harley.
|Priceless in my heart, but to my bank account, not so much.|
I have tried to consider how I save money in the care and upkeep of my horse, but it is difficult.
My horse eats the most expensive food at the feed store (the extra cost is added to my board bill). He is a hardkeeper and won't maintain on things that seem to work for other horses like Senior Feed (not really cheap, I know), alfalfa pellets (he won't eat them), lots of hay (hay is strictly rationed around here and, apparently, expensive), or air (if you have an easy-keeper).
I do not save money with regard to my horse's health. He has regular veterinary and dental visits. He has had extensive dental work done to compensate for a lack of care before I bought him and a severe overbite. He is currently receiving immunotherapy shots for his allergies, which are not ridiculously expensive, however, I was spoiled for the first five years that I owned him and he did not require anything except routine vaccinations, so the allergy meds are a considerable new cost. I suppose I save money by administering them myself, which is common practice. If I had to pay for the vet to come out and give them every couple weeks, I would never be able to do it.
Sadly, I have wasted money on supplements trying to help my horse gain and/or maintain weight. I now give him the bare minimum (ABC's Plus prebiotics/probiotics and Cough-Free) via SmartPak. SmartPak seems to be the most economic way for me to get supplements into my horse on a daily basis. I have wasted money on supplements in buckets and weight-gain supplements with rave reviews. Bummer. I am done with those.
My horse is boarded (full care), which is very expensive in New Jersey. This is by far the greatest cost of horse ownership for me. Yes, it is very convenient and private and the farm is less than 10 minutes from my house, but there are no bells and whistles (no heated tack room, no indoor arena, no bathroom, no special footing or sprinklers, no grassy pastures, etc.), which might surprise you if I revealed what I pay for full care. Owning and maintaining a farm would be a huge expense too, of course, and I save there by boarding my horse (i.e. I do not need to own a tractor, manure spreader, truck, the land, etc.). Our little and densely populated state has some of the highest taxes in the country (income, sales, and property tax). I wish that I got some kind of tax break for boarding for my horse.
I keep my horse out 24/7 (also called pasture board), but, perhaps surprisingly, I do not receive a discount. Obviously, I do not keep my horse out for financial reasons.
I trim my horse's feet, but I do not do this to save money. I hesitate to even mention my horse's hoof care in this context, but I suppose that after purchasing my own supplies, I might come out on top. Of course, then you have to ignore the time and energy required for me to trim his feet every three weeks or so.
I do own relatively inexpensive tack, so I guess that I save some money there, sort of. My no-name bridle cost about $100 new and my saddle was purchased used, but was still expensive (Albion Original Comfort). I love my saddle, but unfortunately it was not my first saddle purchase and I burned through some cash with an (also expensive) ill-fitting saddle that I had to sell at a loss several years ago. That one hurt, but you just cannot compromise saddle fit. Lesson learned.
One area where I feel that I might actually succeed at cutting corners is riding clothes and saddle pads. I will wear my riding clothes until they are bare and "holy". This includes boots. When I buy new clothes and saddle pads, I buy them on sale. Before online shopping, I used to raid the bargain box at our local tack store (One time I found a pair of bright, purple breeches. They were awesome!). My priority with saddle pads is that they do not affect saddle fit (thin, please) and they must be easy to wash in my machine at home.
Where do I save the most money?
This would not work for some equestrians, but my greatest savings is achieved by limited participation in lessons, clinics, and horse shows. I only take lessons about six to eight times per year and I rarely enter clinics or horse shows. If I do show, I only enter schooling shows. I just cannot stomach entrance fees or expensive classes. I know that this is an important part of riding for many equine enthusiasts, but I am just not in that camp. I have also noticed that I get more out of lessons with a consistent instructor than I do at group clinics. One of the last clinics that I entered was $350 for a weekend with a very-well known clinician. This may not sound like a lot of money, but it was a lot to me. Even though I was an eager student (for $350, you better believe I was eager!) and took notes furiously in the classroom sessions and made the most of every exercise in the mounted sessions, I still felt like I didn't come away with enough new information and insight to warrant the price tag. The clinician actually had me do some exercises with Harley that I already practice and use with my own riding students. She was surprised that Harley could do them so well (didn't have the heart to tell her he knew them already), but didn't really offer the next step. I hate to admit it, but I was disappointed. Now, I save my money for occasional lessons instead. Sometimes I kind of long for the comradery and "show-off" factor of clinics. Harley always wins the heart of the instructor and auditors, which can be a lot of fun!
Oh yeah, and I do not own a truck or trailer. That definitely saves me money, but also makes the attendance of the activities described above more difficult (and more expensive since I have to pay for hauling.).
If showing and attending clinics were my focus in riding, these would be disappointing areas to cut. A great deal of my horse's training is done entirely by me. Our mistakes and short-comings are my own and our successes are mine, too. Besides literally saving money, I find great reward in this independence.
How do you save money with horses?
Practical advice welcome!