Cutting back on horse expenses requires self-control, organization, a little sacrifice and often a serious hands-on effort, but the reality is that we would rather live ‘on the cheap’ with our horses than without them.
While some of these ideas require an initial outlay of money, they can save you lots of scratch down the road, especially if the pandemic situation gets worse and involves another lockdown.
In the Barn
- Buy shavings at sawmills or have them delivered in bulk. Discounts are often given when buying bagged shavings in bulk, so join forces with friends and neighboring farms to increase the size of the shipments and lower the per-unit price.
- Form a ‘co-op’ with friends and neighbours to borrow equipment you don’t have and share what you do have.
- Switch to high-efficiency lighting around the barn and put outside fixtures on timers. Use partial lighting in the barn and arena whenever possible.
- Manage your pastures well so that horses can be kept on grass as long as possible to cut down on hay costs.
- Consider a quality hay-only diet for horses who are not in heavy work. Have your hay tested to make sure it contains the required levels of nutrients.
- Stock up on hay before the winter months to avoid increased mid- to late-season costs.
- Use round-bale feeders or slow-feed nets to prevent wastage from trampling and pooping-on.
- Band together with others to buy feed in bulk by the pallet or in totes (500-1,000 kg bags).
- Rethink supplementation; a quality feeding program should supply most horses with the vitamins and minerals they need. Be sure to discuss with a nutritionist to determine your horse’s requirements based on his workload, age, and other factors.
- Bake horse treats at home or contact local orchards and market gardens for ‘culls’ of apples and carrots.
- Do not scrimp on horse health! Cutting back on farrier visits or teeth floating can cost you more in the long run through vet visits for lameness or colic.
- For routine vet visits, coordinate with a group of owners from the barn or invite horse-owning friends and neighbours to ship in. You may also want to ship your horse to the vet clinic for treatment and checkups to save the farm visit fee.
- Practice prevention. Know what vital signs are normal for your horse. Make sure the barn and paddocks are safe and free from anything (nails, clutter) that could cause injury.
- Discuss with your veterinarian what vaccines are absolutely necessary based on your location and circumstances.
- Learn to properly perform standard health tasks such as deworming, bandaging, wound care and giving medications yourself rather than having your veterinarian do it.
- Consider letting your horse go barefoot, even if just for the showing off-season.
Tack & Equipment
- If you need tack or equipment, consider second-hand. Be very careful when buying sight-unseen online, however, especially for the big-ticket items such as saddles (check out these tips).
- Keep an eye on your local tack store through Facebook or Twitter ‒ there are a lot of deals and steals out there right now. Sign up for email bulletins to receive sale alerts.
- Borrow unused equipment from friends and repair basic items such as breeches and gloves.
- Make extra cash by selling unused tack or equipment.
- Shop at dollar and discount stores for grooming and stable supplies like baby wipes, sponges, storage boxes and so on.
- Consider getting tack repaired if it still has a lot of life left, but items such as bridles, reins, girths and stirrup leathers must not be skimped on for safety’s sake.
- Cut costs by switching to co-op or self-care where you contribute to all or some of the barn chores. Field board is another option, as is part-boarding, where you allow another person access to your horse (which is also handy if you can’t get out to ride as much as you should).
- If he or she is suitable, offer your horse for lessons for board reduction.
- Cut back on your lessons or switch from private to group lessons.
- If you can’t afford in-person clinics, consider the plethora of online masterclasses and virtual lessons that are available during this pandemic. There are plenty of free online seminars available as well; keep an eye on your social media feeds (join local horse owner groups) or do a Google search.
- Barter for services; for example, if you are proficient in social media, you could run a coach’s or stable’s accounts in exchange for lessons.
- If you are still determined to participate in the limited showing opportunities available, you may consider local unrated events instead to save on transport costs, hotel, food, entry fees and stall charges. Bring your own food, do fewer classes, braid and groom your horse yourself.
- Sell or lease your horse trailer if you aren’t getting enough use out of it.
And finally, create a personal budget and trim back on the ‘luxuries’. If you are working, make your own lunch, bring coffee from home, carpool with someone. If possible, arrange to work from home at least one or two days a week, or switch to 10-hr days so that you can have a four-day work week ‒ and one more day to spend with your horse!