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How to Own a Horse Without Breaking the Bank


Growing up, we all dreamed of someday owning a horse. Now as grownups many of us are "living the dream". As we all know, the cost of buying a horse is nothing compared to the costs associated with horse maintenance. From vet bills to farriers to blankets to competitions, it often times feels like the bills are never ending.

So, are there really ways to save money when it comes to horses? Absolutely! Although there are some times you should never try to cut costs, there are also many creative ways to reduce your horse bills.

Don't Cut Corners

There are certain times when costs shouldn't be a factor when caring for your horse. Do not try to save money by compromising your horse's well being. If your horse appears to be colicking, has gotten tangled up in a turnout accident or has another life threatening condition, get on the phone and call your vet immediately. In emergency situations that require veterinary attention, minutes can make the difference in your horse's health and recovery time. None of us like to pay for an emergency vet call, but as horse owners it's our responsibility to always put our horse first. If the injury appears to be serious, take it seriously.

The same theory holds true when it comes to having your farrier come out. As the old adage goes, "no hoof, no horse". If your horse has a quarter crack, bad feet or a special shoeing situation make sure you stay on top of it. Horses don't have calendars, they don't know they are supposed to be shod every four to six weeks. It's your job to know when the next shoeing should occur.

Preventative Care: Know Your Horse

Money can be saved on vet bills and farrier visits simply by knowing your horse. Just like people, horses have individual quirks and traits. Does your horse get hives and rain rot from being left outside during a rain shower? If so, leaving them in will reduce your vet bill for various topical treatments and antibiotics. Does your horse need to be shod precisely at four weeks to make sure their feet don't suddenly fall apart? Knowing how your horse responds to different weather conditions, bumps and bruises and the like can save you money in the end.

For instance, growing up my horse would try to colic the minute the weather made any drastic changes in the winter. I quickly learned that he stopped drinking water once the temperature dropped. By noticing his change in behavior, I was able to make the simple change of giving him warm water rather than cold water. He drank it right up, thus alleviating his tendency to colic due to dehydration.

Knowing how your horse reacts to certain situations, or how its temperament is in general, can help alert you to potential problems. Recognizing a change in attitude early on can stop a potential health emergency. Learn what is normal when it comes to your horse's temperature and heart rate.

In addition to knowing your horse, it's also important to provide preventative care. Check with your local vet and see what vaccines are needed for horses in your area. If you are planning on shipping to competitions outside of your area, see if the vet thinks other vaccines are necessary. You can cut costs by arranging for the vet to come out and give the entire barn vaccinations at one time, thus reducing the farm visit fee. Or, if you have a barn manager in the barn or you can do vaccinations yourself, they can be purchased directly from Southern States for less money.

Remember, you don't need a veterinarian for every little bump and scrape your horse gets. Horses have lived for thousands of years without human intervention. They simply need us to know the difference between what is and is not a serious injury.

Feed What They Need

A bag of Legends Gastrotech feed

Does your horse really need additional supplements added to its feed? By feeding a good quality feed, you do not need to add in supplements just because they have attractive packaging.

At Southern States, Legends feeds have  several organic trace minerals and yeast cultures included in the formulas. Legends Performance Pelleted and Textured also contain rice bran and flaxseed. New to the Legends line is Legends Omega Plus. This 25% extruded supplement is wonderful for adding pounds to hard keepers and puts a wonderful shine on their coats. Not only does the Legends line help with your horse's coat, but it has a guaranteed amount of biotin and amino acids, making an additional hoof supplement unnecessary in most situations. All Legends feeds also have added fat, so you often won't need to add a fat supplement.

Often times horse owners try to cut costs by feeding a lower cost feed and adding on additional supplements. However, if you look into feed options you can find a feed that allows you to either eliminate all or most additional supplements. Remember at Southern States, there's a feed for every need. Contact your local Southern States Feed Specialist for a feed consultation.

Stock Up

If you have the ability to store it, buy hay in bulk. Generally the more hay you buy from a particular dealer the better the deal you can get from them. Of course this isn't usually advertised, but you can call around to different dealers to check on the best prices. Summer hay prices are the lowest of the year, so if you can keep it stored and dry you can be dollars ahead when the winter months roll around and hay prices double or triple.

Again, if storage space isn't an issue, the same is true with shavings. Buying shavings in bulk rather than in bags will help cut costs too. Contact a local mill in the area and find out what their loose bedding prices are. Some mills will deliver the shavings or sawdust to you while others will allow you to come fill up your truck bed with it.

Turnout is Your Friend

If possible, and your horse doesn't object, keep your horse turned out as much as possible. As long as there aren't bugs aggravating your horse during its turnout time, increasing turnout can be a win-win for both horse and human. Your horse will have fewer hours of boredom in its stall, thus potentially less vices such as stall walking, weaving and cribbing. Not only will you have a happier horse, but you will be saving money on bedding and hay.

Another option if you're looking to cut costs, is to move your horse from stall board to field board. This option is good for horses who easily become bored in their stalls or older horses with arthritis where the extra walking associated with field board can be a benefit. This decision must be made based on how your horse handles the elements, but it can be a great solution for some. As long as you have a run in shed and access to plenty of water, you should have a happy horse.

Spend Money Today, Save Money Tomorrow

In some cases it costs money to save money. Sometimes an upfront investment can help you save money in the long run. For an investment of $300, you can purchase a good set of body clippers and begin body clipping your own horse throughout the year. With body clipping rates around $150 these days, the clippers can pay for themselves in two clippings. If you get skilled at clipping, you can even offer your services to others in the barn, therefore not only saving money but making money. Paying for new blades or sharpening services will be small in comparison to paying for multiple clip jobs a year.

Although a bigger investment, a trailer is another good investment for any horse owner. As gas prices rise, trailering rates continue to follow suit. If you plan to travel to competitions on a regular basis investing in a trailer is something to seriously consider. Trailers do not have to be bought new, if you can find a good quality trailer that is lightly used, you can often get it for a good price. Check your local tack stores and see if they have any trailer for sale ads. Another option is to trailer co-op and go in with another horse owner, to cut your initial investment costs.

We all need tack to ride our horses. Investing in high quality tack can help you save money through the years. Some brands of saddles particularly hold their value for many years. The secret to getting a good resale value from it is to take care of your tack on a daily basis.

Clean, Condition, Repeat

We all love to get new or new to us tack and equipment. However, often times our infatuation with our tack swiftly ends and we neglect to properly care for it. Well maintained equipment will last longer and save you money in replacement costs. Make sure you keep your take cleaned, conditioned and oiled. Looking for a barn chore to do on a less than ideal riding day? Spend a few hours in the tack room and restore some of your bridles, martingales and saddles to their former glory. It's amazing what a little tender loving care can do to restore the appearance of tack. Remember, you don't have to buy new tack, you can often find used tack that is just as usable as those with new prices.

Competing on a Budget

One of the biggest expenses horse owners/riders experience are associated with going to horse shows, events and other competitions. However, there are ways to save money while you are on the road. If you have your own trailer, trailering yourself and even a friend can be the start of your money saving. Once you get to the competition, provide your own daycare services and learn to braid your horse if that is required for your discipline. Instead of making frequent trips to the overpriced food stand, try to pack a few snacks that will help get you through the day. Finally, for competitions that require an overnight hotel stay, see if any of your barnmates want to share a hotel room.

Be Creative

Use your creativity to help you save money. Remember not everything needs to be bought, some things can be made. One great example is jumps. Do a search on the internet for homemade jumps and you will find a wide variety of examples. Using your own woodworking and design skills can help you save thousands.

When it comes to repairs around the barn and you have to hire a contractor, think of your time as money as well. Try to barter. Offer to trade out lessons or board if you have a big money job that you can't do yourself. Northern-Virginia trainer Jane Nordstrom has successfully used bartering in the past. "I once traded out a combination of personal chef services and lessons with an electrician to get a small barn I was leasing rewired," Nordstrom explains. "The barn manager had received an initial quote of $2,800 to do the job and I ended up paying about $300 for materials."

Bartering can also work when you are trying to pay your board or for lessons. Ask your barn manager or trainer if there is something you can do to work off your bill. Can you update the barn's website, redo the landscaping, clean the tack rooms or have some other special skill?

Share the Wealth

Own a horse that you love, but you don't have the time to get out to the barn? Consider half leasing your horse. This will not only help make a horseless rider's dreams of having a horse come true, but it can really help you cut your costs in half. If you half lease your horse, both you and your leasor pay half for board, shoes, vet bills, and any other items you mutually agree upon. This can be a win win for both parties.

How Do You Save Money?

Do you have any other suggestions for cutting the cost of horse ownership in these tough financial times? Comment below and share your ideas!


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