Saving Money With Horses

I’m writing this sitting in a hairdresser, spending vast amounts of money on something I’d rather not be doing.  And it always makes me think….  When I had my own horses, I had no hesitation in handing over huge amounts of cash to the farrier, vet, dentist etc, but always balked at spending a fraction of that amount on my own shoes, Dr, dentist etc.  My horses would get regular back massage, while I…  Didn’t.  Keeping horses is very expensive – you have to cut costs where you can. So, where can you save money?

Farriers / trimming.

Uh, no.  Any trying to avoid spending here will cost you in the long run.  Just pay for the best farrier you can find.  Timing won’t save you money either.  Let’s say that your horse’s hooves grow fast, and he needs new shoes every 4 weeks.  That’s 13 farrier visits a year.  So, you make him go to 5 weeks, meaning only 10 visits a year…  That’s ok? No.  The extra wear on his joints every 5th week will lead to long term issues, costing you more in lameness, vet care and replacing your horse faster than you should have.  Find a really good farrier / trimmer / hoof technician and listen.  If they say your barefoot horse only needs trimming every 6 weeks lucky you.  If they need a full set of shoes every 4 weeks, sadly you just have to pay…

Does your horse need new shoes? Could he go with a half set, or barefoot?
Does your horse need new shoes? Could he go with a half set, or barefoot?

Dentists.

As with farriers, you just have to pay.  Most adult horses with no issues can see a dentist every 9 to 12 months.  If they have a slightly difficult jaw conformation, eat a long of grains or have bitting issues, it can be every 5 – 6 months.  Again, trying to save money will cost you.  Leaving the dentist too long can lead to your horse not chewing properly, so he doesn’t get full value from his feed, and is difficult in the contact.  You’re wasting money having lessons to fix the contact, or buying extra feed, when he’s just uncomfortable in his mouth.

Vet care.

Another no – if you are worried and think your horse needs a vet, call them.   Often, calling a vet out to a small problem stops it developing into a bigger problem, so saving you money in the long run.  The same goes for his vaccinations and especially to having a good de-worming schedule.  Discuss this with your vet – plan your worm egg counts / de-worming drug rotation etc, and stick to it.  As with shoeing, making him wait an extra few weeks each time will end up costing you a lot more in the long run.

Feed.

Sadly, another place where no, you aren’t going to cut corners.  Every horse is different and so requires different feeding.  Your native pony, working once a week and living out on good grazing probably doesn’t need feeding at all.  But, a three-star event horse, living in most of his time with hours of work a week most certainly will.  Talk to your vet or a feed nutritionist f you need to, make the best plan for your particular horse and situation, and then buy the best quality hay / feed / supplements that your horse needs.  Feeding them a bad quality / mouldy / dusty feed isn’t going to be a good money saver either.

Bedding.

Again, if your horse lives out, you won’t be thinking about bedding, but if he lives in, bedding is an expense that you cannot cut.  Some people think that putting a thin layer of straw or other bedding down, and removing it daily is a good way to go.  Unfortunately, this is expensive, both in replacing the bedding daily, but also if your horse manages to cut or scrape himself on the cold hard floor, or gets himself cast (stuck).  Put a good thick bed down, to keep him warm, draught free, less likely to get cast and protect him from concrete scrapes.  Skip this bed out as often as possible, at least 2 times a day.  (Skipping out is simply removing piles of manure before they get trampled and mixed into the clean bedding).  And do a thorough mucking out at least twice a day.  This way, the soiled bedding is removed, but a lot of clean bedding can be left in the stable.  Less bedding is added daily, and in the long run, saving can be made.  Even better, why not increase the amount of time he can spend outside in a paddock?  Even if you have to buy him an extra outdoor rug, spending his time outside is the best bedding money saver around.

A fresh layer of shavings on a bed
A fresh layer of shavings on a bed

So, where do I cut corners?

Well, equipment is a big one.  It shocks me when I walk through a tack shop and see people buying a bucket for $10, or a sponge for $5.  Yes, certain things you need to go to a saddler and spend money on.  A well fitted saddle is essential, and obviously you aren’t going to the corner store to buy your bridle.  But, buckets, clothes, sponges, containers, hosepipes etc can all be bought for a fraction of the cost at hardware stores, supermarkets or markets.  The same goes for basic medicines or first aid supplies.  I recently wrote an article listing many of the things that I buy for my first aid kit at the local supermarket, including Vaseline, honey and babies nappies.  The same goes for the expensive, must have winter clothing for riders.  Yes, your breeches need to come from the tack shop, but all your thermal layers, base fleeces, winter coats, rain coats and long socks are cheaper (and generally more suitable) coming from hiking, outdoor or motor biking shops.  As soon as they have an equestrian label on them, socks get ridiculously expensive!  Avoid the brand names to – does your horse need that brand name saddle pad?  Uh, no.  The local tack shop brand will be a fraction of the cost, and as long as it’s been well made and fits, your horse really won’t mind that it is boring white instead of glow in the dark pink with orange polka dots and a branded label.   On that thought, how much of what your horse wears, does he actually need?

Bling is often more expensive…
Bling is often more expensive…

Lessons

When I was a lot younger, and working as a groom for a big name evet rider, his advise was, think when you are riding, feel what is going on and work out the solution in your own mind.  Having a lesson every time you sit on a horse is never going to help you long term – as you trot up the centre line from A, or pick up your canter towards the first jump at a show, your instructor isn’t there.  You need to be able to feel, plan and do, without them telling you.  Yes, have lessons, once a week / fortnight / month.  But, ride on your own, and ask your instructor to help you by giving suggestions of your weak areas, homework ideas, and things you need to work through before you see them again.  In this day and age when most people have a camera on their phone, ask your friend to video bits of your ride and look at them afterwards, seeing what you need to work on.  It amazes me when I see people having 3 / 4 lessons a week.  And, as an instructor, I am a lot more motivated to help riders who I see trying hard to practice what we worked on, rather than those who simply wait for the next set of instructions.

But, as I am saying throughout this – spending more money initially, by buying more bedding or calling your farrier out more often, really is the best way to save money.  As the same goes – how do you want to end up with $1,000,000 after a life with horses?  Start with $2,000,000!!!

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