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denny
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:30 AM
Need insights for a Between Rounds idea.
At the USEA Convention, I asked a noted tack business owner what his key demographics are.

He answered "Teenaged girls and their mothers."

The premise being that there is a sort of "missing piece" ,the age group of women between late teens, early 20s, when their parents cease to support "the horse", and late 30s and up, when time and finances allow a resurgence of horse involvement.

So is this a correct premise, or even partly correct? That those years of maybe college, maybe marriage, maybe kids, maybe low income/high expense, all that, puts a real kink in the riding years?

I know lots of 20-late 30 year old women who ride, but are they a minority?

(Forget males as statistically significant. Tack shops don`t even believe we exist!)

Thoughts from the real world of real riders???

jumpsnake
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:33 AM
I'm 34, no kids, but barely have time and money to ride- in fact would not be riding if not for the grace of others.

TB_eventer
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:38 AM
I'm 21, in my 4th year in college. I haven't been to a recognized event since senior year in high school. I work like crazy to afford to have my horse, so yeah... new anything is a big deal, and doesn't come often. Everything that I ask for as holiday gifts are for my horse, because I can't usually afford to buy anything new...

so I definitely believe that there is a gap. I'm in it!

LisaB
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:40 AM
absolutely. I started back riding after college and had very little extra money so I really didn't buy much. Not until I hit my 30's did I start buying quality stuff again. And I had a decent job since out of college.
I went shopping with a crew of hunter riders though. And they were like what I had to deal with working the Nordstrom sale. They bought a complete outfit 'for the year' because of what's in. And the 20-somethings had their mothers with them to foot the bill.

DiablosHalo
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:42 AM
I can speak for myself. I was heavily involved in horses and competition until I went to college at age 21. I retired my mare, put her at a friends house, mucked stalls to work off board for her for 4 years. I bought a house in town. Worked two jobs, went to school full time, paid a mortgage, mucked stalls and cleaned her house for board, and don't think I entered a tack shop again until I was 27.

I was a typical broke college student. Could not dream of showing until about a year after I graduated. I bought the farm 2 years later and my shopping until this day consists of farm equipment and tools.

I finally have the farm, rig, nice horses, etc and have no time to ride. I actually sent my horses south to be sold and still have 9 freeloaders here- that are almost all rideable/showable. But now- at almost 35yo- I have a farm to hold up, clients horses to care for, a full time job, a marriage, and a one year old daughter.

I can safely say that my tack shop trips will come back in a few years when my daughter starts showing. So.. your contact may have been onto something when they stated the demographic gap.

Although- I do have friends that are in their late 20s early 30s that do not have kids and they are still going strong in the ring!

eta... my friends event and have equipment and apparel that still work- they do not go to the tack shop for the latest outfit, etc. A new blanket or bridle of course- but not the latest in rider gear! LOL!

loshad
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:43 AM
That sounds about right to me. I know a lot of professional women who needed to quit (at least from the perspective of a tack store owner) either in college or just after due to lack of finances, lack of time, lack of access, etc. I personally quit mid-way through college because I could no longer afford it and didn't have a car to get out to the barn. I started again halfway through graduate school when I groomed for a polo player in order to get saddle time.

I didn't start really buying tack and equipment again until my very late 20s/early 30s. As a customer, I am still not nearly as much fun for tack store owners as the teens at my barn. :eek:

gchildean
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:44 AM
Hey Denny,
I believe the gap is very real. I really haven't competed very often in the last 3 years. I think that its due to the fact that my kids are at an age that they are getting into team sports and that takes up almost all weekends with games and such.

luise
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:45 AM
I think there is a bit of a gap. I'm 33, no kids yet, but fortunately have a job that affords me my hobby. Most of the other woman at my barn though who have their own horses are 40+ with kids already. The rest are teens. The couple other people I know close to my age who have their own horse don't have or don't want kids and so they can afford it.

mcw
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:45 AM
I think there is some truth to it. I am 25 and still riding, but not competing nearly as much as I used to. I had a very fancy young rider horse that had to retire around the same time that I graduated college and had to start paying the bills myself. I have several friends that I competed with in the same boat- now we are all riding young horses and hoping that the cash flow catches up by the time the horses are ready to really start going. I don't think it is so much a gap that girls my age aren't riding as we just aren't putting a whole lot of money back into the industry because we simply don't have it yet.

Toadie's mom
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:46 AM
I quit riding at 21, and started again at 30. At 21 I decided I had to quit the barn where I worked and get a "real" job. Then I had to buy a decent car, since I no longer lived on the property where I worked. Then I got married, and he wasn't into horses (big mistake!), but because I was married I had a little extra money, so I got back into horses. That's when I remembered how much better horses are than men, so I left him and haven't been without a horse since ;)

eponacowgirl
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:46 AM
Yep. I'd believe it. I'm 25 and in my second year of showing recognized (eventing, anyway, I showed hunters until I was 17ish), I'd been ready since I was 20 and couldn't afford/find rides/get away etc. The folks I travel with are all 30+, with the majority being above 34. Horses are also my profession, so thats why I'm able to find the time/money now. I wouldn't be able to do this with a real job.

Toadie's mom
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:47 AM
Except, of course, for you Denny. You're wonderful :D

wildlifer
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:47 AM
It's probably a real gap. I couldn't really ride after college (rode in our riding program, didn't own a horse) because I was working/in grad school & didn't have the money. I'm not breeding kids, but not exactly raking in dough either. I finally bought my horse when I was 26, am now almost 31, but still don't have any money, LOL.

CookiePony
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:49 AM
This is a good question. Some random thoughts:

I am 35. I Pony Clubbed and evented my appy mare at the lower levels until college on the parents' dime. I rode throughout my 20s but on other people's horses, only dabbling in competing. At 31 I got a horse again; at 34 I sold him and leased, then bought, a more fun/ competitive horse, and this year I competed more than I ever have.

In my case the difference was indeed school (grad school until 28) and a nice job (landed right before I got back into horse ownership). I'm not rich now by any means but I live modestly so I can pay for the horse. No kids, and an understanding SO.

I would guess that the 20-somethings you see are the full-time riding ones who are on the upper-level track. Is this true?

53
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:49 AM
I'd say that's true.

We didn't have a ton of money growing up, so we weren't exactly knocking down the tack store door.

I was lucky enough to take my horse to college and then to law school, and while i rode, I honestly cannot remember a single item I bought at a tack store during those years. I certainly wasn't showing, I was barely making board.

Funny thing is that when I really started showing again about 8 years ago, I was a tack store junkie (granted, for a while there I was starting young horses for the owner of the local tack store and was paid in tack) and it took me a while to get caught up on all the improvements that came along and styles that evolved.

I'd say my gap was probably 19 - late 20's. No kids, just school and associated debt that created my gap.

JWB
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:50 AM
I'm 34 and FINALLY in a position where I can afford to go to the tack shop and buy NICE stuff again.

When I was in high school and even college to an extent, I took it for granted that if I needed something, I could go to the Saddler, sign for it, and mom would get the bill (I know, spoiled).

Then rent, a job and the real world sunk in.
I didn't have time or money to own a horse, so I didn't need to buy horse stuff, I rode borrowed horses when I wanted to ride, eventually found horse-related jobs (Arabian Nights dinner theater, rode for a lady in Europe, taught lessons) and when I finally got a horse a few years back, I did a LOT of eBay and swap-meet shopping while I was trying to figure out a workable budget that covered board, vet, shoes, etc ALONG with the car, the rent, the insurance for the first time ever.

Three years ago I quit trying to work in horses and rejoined corporate America. I brought a horse along but saddle time is definitely a squeeze.

Last year was the FIRST year that I'd consider myself financially stable enough to make it all work without really having to scrape by at the end of the month - and even now, I've learned to be thrifty... The time thing is still an issue but I'm finally making enough to keep said horse with a trainer.

I still love a good sale and watch TOTD for a bargain like a hawk. I typically pass over Dover for the Schneider's catalog, or HorseLoverz. My last two saddles came from www.usedsaddles.com. I broke down and bought a Stubben bridle from the tack shop for myself for Christmas but honestly, that's the biggest purchase I've made in years!

CookiePony
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:52 AM
The folks I travel with are all 30+, with the majority being above 34.

Really? We are all that old? How did that happen??? :eek:

And you also fall into my theory that it is the full-time rider 20 somethings who are giving tack shops their business/ taking lessons with Denny.

curlykarot
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:53 AM
My parents stopped paying for anything horse related beyond lessons in high school. Luckily I was at a barn that enabled me to work a lot off & I was able to get in a few recognized shows each season.

After I graduated from high school, I had a 7 year break from competition - recognized or unrecognized. I still rode a little - but college and trying to find a real job and a place to live AND be able to afford everything on my own took priority.

I'm now in my mid twenties and own a great horse that I will be showing at novice next year. I still try to limit my spending at tack shops, by using old stuff or borrowing from friends if needed.

FlightCheck
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:58 AM
Yes - for both tack shopping and riding in general.

You see it all the time - kid rides, parents are Very Supportive (horse, gear, trailer, etc), all the way through college.

Then Real Life enters in, and the 20-somethings are SHOCKED to find out what everything really costs. Most of them stop, and many are not quite as motivated now that THEY are responsible for the $$.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:03 AM
Need insights for a Between Rounds idea.
At the USEA Convention, I asked a noted tack business owner what his key demographics are.

He answered "Teenaged girls and their mothers."

The premise being that there is a sort of "missing piece" ,the age group of women between late teens, early 20s, when their parents cease to support "the horse", and late 30s and up, when time and finances allow a resurgence of horse involvement.

So is this a correct premise, or even partly correct? That those years of maybe college, maybe marriage, maybe kids, maybe low income/high expense, all that, puts a real kink in the riding years?

I know lots of 20-late 30 year old women who ride, but are they a minority?

(Forget males as statistically significant. Tack shops don`t even believe we exist!)

Thoughts from the real world of real riders???



I don't think it is a real gap.

I've always been around a ton of riders in their 20s and early 30s....I can rattle off 15-20 right off the top of my head right now......but the ones that shop a ton in tack stores tend to be in their teens or older adult riders.

I supported my own horses since high school....have owned my own horses from about my mid 20s..when I hit my mid 30s, I had 3-4 horses typically at a time....and currently have 4 (I'm in my late 30s).


BUT..since I have a career and 4 horses...I don't spend much time in a tack store. Do most of my ordering online.:)

I know many others who are similar to me...so I don't think I'm that unusual. But we are perhaps not as noticeable?

eventerwannabe
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:04 AM
The 'gap' is real.

I rode until I went to graduate school at age 23 and didn't start up again until I had finished school, gotten married, and had my son. That was an 8 year gap. So at 36 I've been back at it for 5 years and can finally afford to visit a tack store and actually buy stuff as opposed to just window shopping:lol:

denny
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:04 AM
Wow, this is a hotter topic than I knew.

Yes, riding in general, not just tack shopping, was what I took the "teenaged girls and their mothers" to mean.

If true, this would apply to most or all horse sports, I assume, not mainly eventing?

Lisa Cook
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:05 AM
Definitely true in my case. Those first 10 years or so out of college...getting married, starting a career, then, just as things were settling financially, starting a family. I was very fortunate to have a nice horse out of college (bought with a bank loan, yikes. Don't know what I was thinking!) but had NO extra money. We did a couple of one-day shows and hunter paces a year. Tack shop trips? Kept to the absolute bare necessities. I still remember needing to replace my galloping boots and how I pored over my options forever, agonizing over getting the best pair for my money!

You can see the gap in the USEA leaderboard. Look at the points earned by the top riders at each level in the "Young Adult Rider" division and compare the points to the other divisions. The top Young Adult Riders generally have far fewer points than either Junior Riders or the Adult divisions.

It's a tough point in life, unless one has a trust fund or has parents who are willing to support the hobbies of their adult children.

wildlifer
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:09 AM
I think so -- the teenagers you see competing in any discipline at a recognized level are doing so because mommy and daddy are paying the bills. They are all "going to the Olympics" it seems like -- until the bill is up to them. Although I guess some get lucky and marry into enough money or work in a field that is lucrative, those are the ones who I imagine are able to bridge the gap. I didn't have a horse growing up, even though I took lessons and my parents pretty much stopped paying for things when I was about 15, so something like a horse show was so completely out of reach as to be laughable.

monstrpony
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:11 AM
My family owned horses from the time I was about seven. I was the horse-crazy "instigator" and continued to own until I was in college. Once I was married and "settled" I bought another one right away and have owned at least one since; now, at 58, I'm single, have a farm, two horses and two donks. The only time I was without was from my senior year in college (lived at home, because of the horse; my parents sold the place that year) until I finished grad school.

So I'm pretty hard-core, but even I had a break during those years. I don't think it's so much that girls get out of horses, but the money is usually really tight during those years, and its a time to experiment with "other priorities".

I'm now in a place where I watch college-aged women who are learning Economic Realities and experiencing Other Priorities, and I'd say the gap is very real. But probably not that simple.

I'll be interested to see where you go with it--

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:12 AM
Maybe it depends on where you are located and the circles you travel in.

I did my first Prelim in that "gap" period...while attending law school. I did slow down on competiting more when I was running the career race for partner at my law firm..but I still rode one or more horses daily.


But I don't think this has ANYTHING really to do with riding and often..not really money. It has to do with time.

How do I ride and have a career...I don't sleep much and I'm not married with a family. And that is true of most of the folks that I know....or they have a family and not a career.

To get married and have a family takes a lot of TIME away....to have a career that allows you to afford horses takes a lot of TIME away (just about any job that pays really well...takes it out of you in time and stress)....very rare to see the individuals who manage to do it all (career, family and horses/sports).

Lack of Time is what I see most people struggle even more than the money.

ClassAction
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:13 AM
As a grad student looking at four+ more years of school, I know that for me there's a gap. I'm fortunate to have some generous folks around the barn who ask me to ride here and there. If it weren't for that, I'd just be taking one lesson a week.

I hope that once I have my own horse I can find some "kids" to have catch-ride here and there. I know how important it is to me now!

technopony
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:14 AM
When I got a horse in high school, my parents bought him all new stuff because I didn't have any gear for him. Now I'm graduating college, and after 8 years of horse ownership, my horse already has everything he needs. Hopefully, all my old/used gear will hold together until I hit the "thirty something" mark and can afford to buy new stuff again! I am not riding any less, but certainly visit the tack store less frequently. I also manage to "scavenge" used but usable equipment that my "rich" friends are ready to throw out :)

fargaloo
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:15 AM
Describes my situation to a T! I rode from ages 7 - 17; briefly leased a horse after I finished my undergrad; grad school and children left no money in the budget for new underwear, never mind horses. When my daughter turned 7 and announced she wanted riding lessons for her birthday, my mom generously offered to pay half. Walking into a barn was like walking into a crackhouse after 10 years of being clean -- one sniff of horse and I was hooked again. Nine years later, my daughter and I are competing together.

eponacowgirl
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:17 AM
Yes, riding in general, not just tack shopping, was what I took the "teenaged girls and their mothers" to mean.


I would also go ahead and say that people shopping in tack shops ARE going to mainly be kids on their parent's dime- they don't know better, need instant gratification, have to put their hands on things/try on sizes etc. I think, by the age of 16, we all know better than to go to the local (usually overpriced) tack shop, since bargains can be found online and we pretty well know our sizes, who makes decent tack and who has free shipping etc.

So while the gap is VERY real, I imagine the tack stores see if for different reasons.

eponacowgirl
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:19 AM
Really? We are all that old? How did that happen??? :eek:

Everyone is over 34 besides Julie and Megan!


And you also fall into my theory that it is the full-time rider 20 somethings who are giving tack shops their business/ taking lessons with Denny.

You're getting me lessons with Denny for Christmas?! THANKS COOKIE! :winkgrin:

SaturdayNightLive
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:21 AM
Yes, it's a real gap, and it reaches across disciplines. I ride hunter/jumpers and I haven't done a ton of showing since I graduated high school. In 2006 I qualified for Junior Hunter Finals. Since then I have been in college and have only been to a few 'A' shows a year, all on my parents' dime. Now that I'm about to graduate from college and either go to law school or get a job, I am going to be responsible for paying for everything myself. I'm not sure if I'll be able to afford to keep my horses, let alone go to any shows.

And to whomever said that it was about time and not money, I'm not sure that's true. I can hang around the barn and ride my horses all day long, but that in no way makes it so that I can afford to go to a show. It still costs money.

Scaramouch
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:26 AM
I'm a junior in college and my riding time has taken a serious hit. Thankfully I had my horse at home anyway, so I haven't had to sell him and quit altogether. I'm not sure that there's really a major "gap" inasmuch as people stop riding during this period, as I've found that there are plenty of ways to get horse time even if you're broke and don't have your own. Personally I've pretty much stopped showing because showing without riding enough and having lessons often enough pretty much turns out to be a) an epic waste of money and b) an unqualified disaster. :lol:

Along with not showing I think definitely comes a decrease in Buying Stuff. If you don't have the expendable cash lying around, there goes making frivolous purchases. Even if something might actually need replacing, if I'm not showing I'm more likely to deal with looking less-than-polished or just go without a breastplate/xc boots/whatever altogether.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:28 AM
And to whomever said that it was about time and not money, I'm not sure that's true. I can hang around the barn and ride my horses all day long, but that in no way makes it so that I can afford to go to a show. It still costs money.

Not my point. If you have the time to hang out in the barn...you are NOT earning any money.

you are on the young side....and haven't gone through this. You still have time while you are in school...even law school...but you may not have money. But once you leave school...and start really working. You will find that time vanishes.

EVERYONE I know who had to support themselves and ride...had to make a choice. Either they got a job that gave them to the time to ride...but usually not enough money to do much more....or they pursued a career that made them enough money to do the horses but often they lost the time. And if you want to throw in starting a family...or having a social life....forget seriously competiting.


I managed to ride and compete in law school...by not sleeping much...and no hanging out at the barn. I worked at jobs that paid me the most for the shortest time....waited tables (was very good and could easily earn 200+ a night). I kept my horses on self care...and student loans paid for my school (which I'm STILL paying off). But I had no time for any social life....and no time to just hang out at the barn. It is doable...but not sure I would say it is advisable....because you also still have to get top grades (which luckily I got). In school...first priority must always be to do well...otherwise you are just throwing money down the drain.

Jleegriffith
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:29 AM
I am in my late 20's and would say most of the people that I know fit the gap you describe. I have considered myself to be a bit different because I don't know many people my age that have continued to ride/compete through college and their 20's let alone own their own farm and run a successful horse business. I also work full-time which supports my horse business. I grew up as the pony-club kid running a little side business fixing up horses and my parents did buy all of my tack but they were also horsey type of people who rode and continue to ride. Then I worked at a tack shop after college until I found another job.

I say competing but right now I don't compete at the recognized level simply because the starter trials in our area fit the needs and the needs of the horses here in training. If and when I have more money and the horses that are ready to go novice/training level then I will compete recognized. I think there has to be some give and take in where you spend your money. Using you money wisely allows you to support the horses but something has to give in the budgeting.

I will say all the majority of the tack I buy is of the highest quality (total tack snob) but I only buy via ebay or really good sales. When I go in the actual tack stores I get sticker shock and quickly depart to find what I want on ebay. I am just not at the stage in my business where I can buy at full price so that could be the difference in my age group? I still have the demand for the product but can't pay the prices for the new. I think ebay is the greatest invention ever:lol:

Jleegriffith
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:33 AM
EVERYONE I know who had to support themselves and ride...had to make a choice. Either they got a job that gave them to the time to ride...but usually not enough money to do much more....or they pursued a career that made them enough money to do the horses but often they lost the time. And if you want to throw in starting a family...or having a social life....forget seriously competiting.

That balance is extremely difficult. I made the decision a long time ago to find a job that supported my habit but gave me enough time to ride 2-3 horses a day. Can't say I make enough money but I would probably have more money if I wasn't trying to build a farm at such a young age. Give it another 10 yrs and I think I will have a lot more time to compete. I am married but there is no social life and no extra money. I suppose I am happy enough with my choices though so it doesn't bother me. Horses make me happy and I would rather be poor with horses than rich without..maybe I need my head checked:lol:

findeight
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:47 AM
Wow, this is a hotter topic than I knew.

If true, this would apply to most or all horse sports, I assume, not mainly eventing?

Yup. I can speak to some of the other disciplines. The gap is very real.

I started Western at age 18 and was never supported by my parents. Old AHSA Open format AA rateds and breed shows, AQHA and Arabian, plus some well organized locals. Did not do much, could not afford to, until I was about 25 and out of school with a full time job. The younger Ammie divisions, when offered, were always smaller then the older group. When no Ammie division was offered, I was always one of very few-or the only-young to mid 20ish rider.

Got out of horses during a bad divorce. Many friends dropped out because of pregnancy and young kids and the demands of raising a family and working at least part time. Most got back in but only after a long gap-5 to 10 years in most cases.

When I resumed I got into the Hunters at age 45. The lower age group Ammies (3') 18-35 were always way smaller then the 36 and over...and even the 51+ when offered far outnumbered the 18-35 group. Those in the 18-35 tended to be either just aged out Juniors or closer to 35-very few in their 20s.

Although I do not Event, cannot imagine it would be any different then the others. IMO, even in your Pro and advanced ranks, you have a divide where the younger 20 somethings are parent supported and the self supported seem to appear near the top later on in their lives.

JMO but one of the things that keeps more men out of the sport is the time and the fact they have always been expected to move out and start supporting selves and family earlier then the girls. No time-no money to play at horses.

Mor4ward
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:47 AM
Just remember, you asked a tack business owner for the key demographics of his customers (not who he thinks constitutes the majority of equestrians) ... I'll assume his tack business extends beyond just saddles, bits and bridles to britches and boots and saddlepads and cute tee shirts with pictures of horses on them.
So, teenage girls - getting their first batch of horse stuff.
Their mothers - getting back into riding after RAISING said teenage daughters and getting a NEW batch of horse stuff.

The rest of us that fall in the gap either have enough horse stuff or are guys, that just don't consume as much - we have maybe two pairs of britches, one pair of boots ... the rest of the time it's jeans or chaps. And guys don't really go for the cute tee shirts with pictures of horses on them ;)

Though I always seem to get horse-motif clothing for Xmas ... :lol:

asterix
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:53 AM
I think you've hit on something here, denny!

I didn't event as a kid but did jumpers/eq at a local level and had a horse; by the time I was in high school I had to give it up bc school, far away, and my at-the-time serious pursuit of music were too time-consuming.

In college I got back into it with our rag-tag IHSA team, which I then coached (club sport, no compensation allowed, but, gosh, all those horses needed schooling! free riding for me. no showing, crazy retired polo ponies, but when you have no money, a barn full of horses is still a barn full of horses!) in grad school.

By my mid20s I was working, traveling for work, no horses.

At 30 I got a better job, less travel, more money, in DC with lots of horse opportunities around. Started lessons, eventually discovered eventing, half lease, full lease, recognized events.

I think I bought my first horse at 35. 7 years later I have 2, truck, trailer, ALL extra time and ALL extra $ go to horses. That's not to say it's a lot, but it's all I got. Married, no kids, spouse learned to ride and be an excellent event spouse.

Of my many local eventing friends, a handful are in their 20s (one man, several women). The women are sort of one-foot in the horse world professionally. The rest are all mid 30s and up. Many did not ride or did not ride much for a good chunk of time in their 20s.

dixiedolphin
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:54 AM
Speaking from my own experience, the 'gap' is a legitimate thing.

I had to stop riding at about 17, when my parents staunchly refused to pay for any further lessons and all the money from my after-school job had to go towards paying for my college ambitions (which my folks refused to pay for as well).

Following a brief stint at college which left me completely broke, unable to continue taking college classes, and living out of my car for a while, I was set into survival-mode only and horses weren't even something I could dream about. I had the rare opportunity to ride somebody's pasture ornament perhaps two or three times between then and the age of about 24, when I was briefly able to afford lessons for a few months before my rent flew sky high and left me without any wiggle room each month for any luxury pursuits.

Now... finally.. pushing 28, I'm in a position where I can afford to take lessons seriously again at last. I'm also finally at a point where I can update my riding gear (with the exception of a schooling helmet I bought for my brief run at lessons a few years back, all my boots & breeches & the like are over a decade old. Thank goodness they still fit!). And hopefully, when I'm finished paying off college loans and other debts, I might finally be able to afford my own horse in a year or two.

So yeah... the gap exists. It was impossible to even consider riding as even a remote possibility when I was working crap jobs or living out of my car or scraping for pennies to eat (and I thank my lucky stars that I've pulled myself out of that dark chapter of my life!). I sure envy the folks who had the means to continue riding through those years, though.

CMCEventer
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:56 AM
Hi Denny -
I was a gap!
Evented from the time I can remember through 18. Sold my last event horse at almost 20, as had been shipped off to college and parents divorced. Rode various horses for whoever for almost 10 years - got a Masters Degree, got a job, bought a house, grew a savings account (no kids or husband!)... And as soon as I felt I could do it on my own, went out and bought an OTTB who I LOVE. I was 29 (am now 32) - and I am now, on my own, a regular contributor to tack shop income! My mom, however, still loves to indulge me at the tack shop - which I LOVE!!!

RedRazzle
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:57 AM
I managed to keep my horse throughout my undergraduate degree thanks to my Mum (who took care of the horse), my Nana (with whom I lived) and renewable scholarships (which took care of the tuition). I was then able to use my summer job money to take lessons and go to three or four shows in a summer. I made do with my existing tack and wardrobe, so I'm quite sure the tack stores don't see me as a big spender!

Now, at 23, having just completed my Master's degree with no lessons, showing, or tack, I'm looking ahead and can say with certainty that there will be no lessons, showing, or tack for at least another year. Probably two! My debt is minimal, but between an agressive repayment plan and getting a car, no tack store will be seeing me for quite some time.

Happily for me though, the car will take me out to ride my horse and to the events I plan to volunteer at this summer :)

millerra
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:03 AM
Gee, I guess I did it backwards.

I bought my first event horse in my early 20s, when I was in grad school. Yes, I paid all the bills. I didn't spend much on anything else. I did my first prelim in grad school.

Then I got married and moved to a farm and got a couple more horses. Then we had kids (when I was close to 40) and now, w/ 2 little 2 legged kids, I can't go as frequently for lessons, clinics or shows. I have had to cut back just to keep things happy at home. So my riding and my horses are progressing much more slowly. Money is not as big an issue as TIME.

fooler
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:13 AM
Yes - for both tack shopping and riding in general.

You see it all the time - kid rides, parents are Very Supportive (horse, gear, trailer, etc), all the way through college.

Then Real Life enters in, and the 20-somethings are SHOCKED to find out what everything really costs. Most of them stop, and many are not quite as motivated now that THEY are responsible for the $$.

Watched this over & over at my old barn where we have quite a few teen-age riders. Mom & Dad (and others) paid for all or almost everything so the kids could take a shot moving up or making the Area YR Team. The monies dried up once the 'goal' or the 'age' or agreed upon time period was passed.
Then parents told the kids we will help with college, but no longer for competition. So most of the kids went off to college.
Good news is YR gets kids into eventing - bad news is the overall gap between YR and young adult riders when the 'no-longer' kids must learn to support themselves.

NMK
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:14 AM
Denny, not tack shop related but those are the years that we lose a lot of good riders...the age between parental support, or not. Some of them come back in later years, some not. Its hard to teach to earn a living and travel to ride all year round. Parents and sponsors are key at this age, and it's difficult, at best.

quietann
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:15 AM
I'll join the chorus :)

I rode until I was 17, quit because of boys (dumb of me, sorry Denny!) and then was in college/grad school pretty much continuously until I was 32. If I'd really wanted to, I could have ridden if I'd taken out student loans to pay for it, but um, no. Then I was new in my career, and $40K/year doesn't go far in the Boston area! I was 42 when I got back into horses, largely through the pressure/persuasion/horse loaning of my friend J (Denny -- you've known her forever, and she was at your camp this summer, with the leggy TB/Connemara with the funny leg marking), and the financial support of my husband, which allows me to work part-time. Bought my first horse as a 44th birthday present and I am now a tack store supporter, big time :)

I'm looking at J's daughter, who's a pretty hot rider, in the independent/not groomed by a trainer eventer mode. She goes to a very tough private prep school and is probably headed to the Ivy Leagues or something similar. She doesn't want a career in horses; she knows there's no money in it... Want to bet she drops out of horses for a while, and returns later?

Also -- folks at my barn. There are some teen girls with parental support, a fair number of 40+ women like myself, and a few 20- and 30-somethings who either are ex-Junior riders desperately trying to keep themselves "in the equestrian game" professionally, or have high-powered careers and nice expensive horses they have no time to ride. Oh, and one or two 30-something men. And the guy who owns two Belgian draft horses as pets (!!!!)

ASBnTX
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:16 AM
I think there is a bit of a gap. I'm 33, no kids yet, but fortunately have a job that affords me my hobby. Most of the other woman at my barn though who have their own horses are 40+ with kids already. The rest are teens. The couple other people I know close to my age who have their own horse don't have or don't want kids and so they can afford it.

This is me too, except I'm 31 :) also a good description of my barn demographics.
I had to quit horses in my mid teens because my parents could no longer afford it. Then college, marriage, and a career that allows me to afford my horse now. So it sounds about right to me!

PenelopesGrl
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:17 AM
Such an interesting topic! And something I've definitely been thinking about a lot lately, as it happens. I think I might be a rare counterexample. :) I'm 25, definitely far from a pro, in graduate school and currently shopping for a dressage prospect. I evented and pony-clubbed through high school, then more or less stopped riding through college and my first few post-grad years where I tried working a semi-high-powered job in Chicago that left me no time to ride regularly. I did continue to own and care for my retired mare through college and beyond, though--lots of campus side jobs, etc., to pay for her board and expenses.

I'm not independently wealthy and my parents did stop covering horse expenses when I hit college. It was kind of a financial shock at the time, but it was obviously completely fair and I think learning that I could continue to support my mare on my own was a really empowering part of my college experience. Working off all my lessons in high school had also helped prepare me to pay my own horse bills.

Still, even a year ago I would not have seen myself getting back into riding (and tack-shopping, to go back to Denny's original post!) as a more serious amateur. A couple of things changed. One was that I moved for graduate school to Austin, TX, a much more livable city for horses than Chicago in terms of cost of living and driving time out to the barn. I admitted to myself that I'd been struggling with depression, and recognized that riding has always been my fail-safe cure for the blues. I also decided that in my case (and I'm not saying this is true for everybody!) my sense that I couldn't afford lessons and a second horse wasn't based on fact. I decided to live in a slightly rougher neighborhood to save on rent, and to cut all the stupid lattes I was buying. Since my grad program gives me a generous stipend, basic tightwad measures like those made my budget add up the way I wanted it to.

I think, weirdly enough, the terrible economy has also made a leap back into horse ownership seem more doable. It's such a horse buyer's market, which has given me courage to shop on a tight budget. I also think many people in their 20s' experiences with joblessness might be changing the way they look at their lives and their careers. I've found myself rethinking the way I want to fit into the rat race--do I want to make big bucks and work nonstop, or do I want to strive for balance in my life that includes family and horses and a job that lets me give back?

DLee
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:20 AM
Yes. Yes. Yes. :(
Rode and competed all my teenage years (worked hard, but also parental support). Enter Real Life.

I never quit riding, but ended up teaching lots of beginners, cleaning stalls, raising kids, surviving, unsupportive husband(s), lived in a place (west) where good instruction was hard to find and miles away, blah blah blah, any competitions I did, while incredibly rewarding, were few and far between.

FINALLY (as of age forty) have monetary resources and support to compete.... live in a dream area for instruction... and no longer have the drive I did. :( Poop.

denny
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:25 AM
So it doesn`t go away, but, like malaria, hides dormant, sometimes for years, then flares back into active existence?

Or crack!!

This is very interesting.

avezan
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:31 AM
No riding gap for me personally, other than a short gap when my kids were born. I still had my horses, I was just riding less. There is DEFINITELY a gap in terms of tack stores and buying. Its the older adults that have the money. period. So, you get teens spending their parents money, and adults 35+ spending money because they have it. 18-30's just don't have as much money, but I bet most still ride. They just get by with less and maybe don't compete as much. Here is an interesting site that discusses a tackstore's demographics:
http://www.quantcast.com/bitofbritain.com
It was interesting to note that there was a high percentage of customers in the 0-$30K salary range, but I bet that includes all the kids that shop who don't have an income. Also, the largest group of customers did not have kids living at home. I don't know. Its kind of hard to interpret these results. Its also hard to know how accurate they are.

But, there is a difference between a spending gap and a riding gap. The riding gap, if there is one, would be harder to evaluate. COTH evidence on this thread seems to indicate that there is a bit of a riding gap as well.

Janet
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:35 AM
Yes.
I mostly stopped riding and completely stopped competing, from age 17 (after getting my B and heading off to college) to age 27 (after completing college, grad school and working for 2 years).

purplnurpl
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:37 AM
I think so. But not for me--

those years were my growing years. I stayed home and went to community and local University to continue riding.

I started riding at 14 (1994). I was a competitive swimmer for 10 years and burned out with multiple joint issues as a Freshman in highschool. I then went to riding.
Went to my first HT and rode by the seat of my pants at age 18. Received coaching between ages 19-25 (early 2000s).

I was lucky that my Mother remarried and moved to BFE with new step Pop. (best Pop EVER!)

I moved myself out to their BFE farm (2006) when I realized what I was sitting on (grey horse) and started traveling out of area. I live in the barn apt for free, as does my horse--live for free (now, horse'S!)
We all pitch in where we can. I'm lucky my folks love the horses and Eventing.

I think now, with Eventing gone the way it has...only the rich kids can play anyway. But we laymen try to keep up with the Jones' as best we can.

When you have a BNT/R say, "please come be a working student, but it's going to COST you 600 bucks a month" --there is a little loss of reality in the thought process. We don't have a fighting chance.

I may have a little gift up my sleeve now though. Only time will tell. ; )

edit to add: I was engaged and had a slow year in 2005. That didn't work so well so I quickly dis-engaged myself.
So as of now I refuse to do anything that will cause a gap. Children are not an option for me--EVER. Don't like um. Husband? eh, if it happens with my current lifestyle I would be thrilled--otherwise I'm single.

curlykarot
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:45 AM
Its not only money, but time as well. I see this with alot of girls that are in high school. They want to play sports, clubs etc but they want to show as well. Our coach won't let them show recognized during that time since they are only riding a couple times a week and it isn't consistant. If you want to do this sport well, you have to put in the time.

I have a friend who was totally supported by her parents in high school - truck, trailer, 2-3 horses, clinics, lessons, showing - you name it. They still supported her thru college. Come grad school, her time got much more limited but the parental support was still there. She finally sold the last horse, sold the trailer and now has a real job. She won't come out and ride with me because she fears she will miss it too much. She has taken a clean break from horses. She probably has the time and the money for weekly lessons, but she told me if she is going to ride, she wants to ride 6 days a week and show. Right now that is not possible for her.

Trixie
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:52 AM
There is for a lot of people. I sort of had one in college and after but was fortunate that others let me ride their horses. I'm still fortunate that others let me ride their horses :) otherwise I would never in a million years be able to afford to ride on the level that I do.


When you have a BNT/R say, "please come be a working student,but it's going to COST you 600 bucks a month" --there is a little lose of reality in the thought process. We don't have a fighting chance.

This is another point - it's very very hard for a rider that doesn't have financial backing to make it in this industry. Many people take a few gap years to establish themselves in another career so they can afford to pay to play later.

JeanieClarke2141
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:58 AM
I'm an instructor and I see the gap.

My teenaged students and their parents generally set goals for the kids' riding that culminate the summer before college. We focus on getting to Young Riders (or a Pony Club rating or the T3DE or whetever), then college starts and riding takes a back seat.

My adult students are all fully grown-up with kids, spouses, and jobs.

My observation is that exceptions to this pattern are young upper level riders who are future or start-out event professionals. These people find (or have) other financial means of eventing because it is a career path and not a hobby.

JWB
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:01 PM
55+ responses in 2 1/2 hours.
I'd say YES.

KSevnter
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:04 PM
you are on the young side....and haven't gone through this. You still have time while you are in school...even law school...but you may not have money. But once you leave school...and start really working. You will find that time vanishes.

EVERYONE I know who had to support themselves and ride...had to make a choice. Either they got a job that gave them to the time to ride...but usually not enough money to do much more....or they pursued a career that made them enough money to do the horses but often they lost the time. And if you want to throw in starting a family...or having a social life....forget seriously competiting.




I have to agree with this. Throughout law school and college I was able to compete at the two star level. I even managed to compete at that level for a year or so after finishing law school, while working full time. Now my time is very limited and have found other ways to keep involved in horses. I am married now and have a house as well.

I am in the category of pursuing a career that will (one day, I hope) provide me with the funds necessary to ride at that level again. It is a long way off but that is part of life. I have other things I want to accomplish right now that are as time intensive as campaigning at the upper levels. I still own a horse and compete him a couple times a year at training level to keep us both happy.

That said, I have not set foot in a tack store for anything other than supplements in about five years.

frugalannie
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:06 PM
I don't know what show secretaries' databases are like, nor the USEA's, but I would hope that there is a data base from which you could get actual ages of entered riders. Then you can have data to back up all this wonderful anecdotal evidence. And I'm not disparaging all the comments herein: not in the least. I just think the actual distribution of entries by age and division would be interesting.

subk
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:11 PM
Not my point. If you have the time to hang out in the barn...you are NOT earning any money.
Mr. subk (having a double major in economics and finance) has a theory about that. "You are only doing one of three things at any given time: making money, spending money or sleeping." Horses for all but an extremely few fall in the "spending money" category. :)

I do think there is a "gap," but I also think Eponacowgirl has the right of it too. When we're a little older we know our sizes and know the brands we like so have less of a need to try on or do the touch and feel thing before we buy.

Then there is that better understanding of delayed gratification we get as we get older. The list making for Rolex shopping starts about May or June. There are very few things I have to have right now this minute. I plan ahead and make due, stuff twenties in my sock drawer, then shop like a crazy person for 3 days. I go to Rolex with a list and a mission and easily spend over $1K in cash. Keep in mind that often that's $1K in expense for $1.5K worth of goods that don't get bought at my local tack shop.

But yeah I got caught in the "gap' too. Sold the horse when I went to college. Rode other peoples horse's for a few years after college, even bought one three-four years out, but financially I had to be a minimalist! Then popped a couple babies out in my late twenties--and I sure wasn't buying anything for about 3 years. Then when my youngest child was 1 I bought a young horse and got back in buying mode. Finally went Preliminary for the first time ever after I was 35.

Personally, I think the gap years are inspirational and is part of why this sport--that requires an ambulance on site--has so many middle aged women taking part. I have to say the middle age women that do the sport are some of the most amazing group a women I know. (No wonder the other moms from my kids' school bore me to tears!)

Denny, I also think this "gap" is closely related to some of the challenges of our national team to nurture younger riders. Great riders have to fall to the wayside for the very same reasons the rest of us do...

Hilary
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:13 PM
Denny, I think you just don't quite know how old we are..... ;)

But yes, I fit that demographic - rode as a teen and sort of through college and then had to stop. Picked it up again after grad school - what was the first thing I spent money on once I got a job? A partial lease!

magnolia73
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:18 PM
So is this a correct premise, or even partly correct? That those years of maybe college, maybe marriage, maybe kids, maybe low income/high expense, all that, puts a real kink in the riding years?

Yup- for me, horse was sold in college, the next time I had money available to own was mid 30's, after I had established my career, home and chose to not have children. It was the first point where I had financial security to commit to horseownership. I did ride in those "tween" years, half leasing, lessons, limited showing.

Without owning, there is less to buy. And those who keep owning through college and 20's are generally living on a tight budget and not buying the extras- usually its a semi-retired horse or a "project".

I think it is kind of a good thing. LOL, if I had owned horses straight through, I'd have missed out on making a dinnerware set for myself, cooking classes and running a marathon.

Gry2Yng
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:20 PM
Took 10 years off, from 18 to 28. Scraped up every dollar I had to buy *my* first horse (one my parents didn't buy for me) . Money for tack was non-existent. Synthetic saddle and hand me downs until I was about 32. Now 41 and as long as I keep owing 16.3h TB or TB types, I will never need to buy another piece of tack.

findeight
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:23 PM
So it doesn`t go away, but, like malaria, hides dormant, sometimes for years, then flares back into active existence?

Or crack!!

This is very interesting.

Ummm, yeah.

Like any addictive substance, the abuser on rehab knows they cannot go near it. At all.

When I was unable to do it after that divorce? I did not even go to the racetrack for 5 years-I knew that just that sight of shining coats, the noise, the color and that whiff of "eau de barn" would hook me back into addiction.

Once the money got a little better...I was soon lost again-and at the tack store.

I can tell you, that first trip into a tack store after almost 8 years??? Kid in a candy store, the mere fragrance of that leather...no chance to stay "sober"..

EKLay
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:26 PM
Definately a gap for me too!

My parents have never been supportive of my horse addiction, but I was able to do barn work/horse work in exchange for lessons/horse time throughout highschool and the first two years of college. I didn't need a paying job since at the time I had enough scholarships to pay for college (though that did mean I had to spend more time keeping my grades high, which cut into horse time) and I had a deal with my parents that if I kept my scholarships I could live at home and borrow a car for free.

I then completely shredded my knee which left me unable to trade work for horse time and the timing of the injury (along with rehab and pain meds) caused a big drop in my grades and loss of scholarships. After that, I had to get jobs that would help me pay for college which didn't leave enough money to pay for horses or enough time that I could continue to work for lessons.

I am 25 right now and will have my school loans paid off in 1 1/2 to 2 years, after which I'll be looking to actively pursue horses again. I am married, but hubby and I are not going to have children and he is very supportive of me getting back into horses, which helps alot!

magnolia73
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:32 PM
So it doesn`t go away, but, like malaria, hides dormant, sometimes for years, then flares back into active existence?

It can actually be a really bad thing to lose that part of you. My first few years of college were headed down a very bad path, and honestly, had I not been at a county fair one day, and had I not found someone half leasing a TB for $75 a month... I might not have a nice life today. Bless that grubby little horse for reawakening the bug, leading to the equestrian team and better friends. After that, I always got my butt in the saddle, even if only once a week. Stepping away fully was a bad thing for my mental health. But yeah, jumping in all the way is pretty expensive in terms of time and cash for 20 somethings building a life.

Catalina
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:32 PM
I never quit riding in my 20s, but I sure turned it down several notches after college. I went from going to a lot of A rated H/J shows a year to none. I did the occassional local schooling show and rode a friend's horse a few times a week. I was 31 when I got back to the A rated show scene. Then came the farm and the kid and it took many years before I had the time, money and motivation to show full force (this time in eventing).

Flsunnfun
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:43 PM
I am so there!

High school horse had to be sold before college. I rode IHSA in college. After graduation I was extremely lucky and was able to show a young horse that needed miles on the owner's dime, but when her money ran out and the horse sold, I was done. I can't afford my mortgage and board in south Florida!

I will wait it out and keep the blankets in the garage for right now.

Cadre Noir
Dec. 15, 2009, 12:43 PM
So it doesn`t go away, but, like malaria, hides dormant, sometimes for years, then flares back into active existence?

Or crack!!

This is very interesting.


Love the crack analogy! I would definitely say riding is a lot like an addiction for most horse-lovers. We pursue it passionately when we can, save up for it when we can't, and constantly dream about the next time we can gallop through an open field. I don't think it's something we can ever fully put behind us, no matter what happens in life. Speaking only for myself, I have found it impossible to stay away from the barn, any barn, for long. I'm 26 and have been lucky to have had horses as a more or less constant factor in my life, but that's not to say I haven't indulged other interests to explore other career opportunities. I know a life of riding does not bring with it a lot of money and financial stability. I looked into other professions and jobs that ranged from the respected world of academia to the adventurous freedom of a life at sea. But none of these felt right, always felt like something was missing, and I always kept coming back to horses in whatever manner was available/possible at the time. Now after landing a dream job at a wonderful stable I finally feel like I'm on the right track and I couldn't want for much more (except maybe a nice BF who loves horses and is a great cook...I should put that on my Christmas list ;) )

As for the gap, I definitely think it exists. Be it for money, time, family, career, other obligations, most riders cannot afford to continue their passion when just starting out in life on their own unless they are independently wealthy, have an incredibly supportive family, or are just plain darn super lucky. But like a drug they always come back to horses. It's in our blood. It's our lot in life to forever muck out stalls and make enormous sacrifices for the love and affection for a four-legged animal whose individual expenses tally more than what most people make in a year. Go us. :cool:

scubed
Dec. 15, 2009, 01:13 PM
I rode during that period, but didn't own a horse until age 33 and then even when I owned didn't start buying good tack for another 4 or 5 years until I was well established in my career (borrowed tack from trainer, bought inexpensive used tack from others at barn, etc). I think that from the viewpoint of a tack store the gap definitely exists, but that doesn't mean there are no riders in there, just less spending

imapepper
Dec. 15, 2009, 01:21 PM
So it doesn`t go away, but, like malaria, hides dormant, sometimes for years, then flares back into active existence?

Or crack!!

This is very interesting.

More like the crack ;) You don't obsess about maleria when you don't have it :lol: And plot ways to get it. Horses are definately like a bad drug habit :winkgrin:

dixiedolphin
Dec. 15, 2009, 01:24 PM
Horses are definitely like a bad drug habit :winkgrin:

Pffft. Drugs would be cheaper! :eek: :winkgrin:

Ajierene
Dec. 15, 2009, 01:37 PM
So it doesn`t go away, but, like malaria, hides dormant, sometimes for years, then flares back into active existence?

Or crack!!

This is very interesting.

I think when you are talking about tack store business, you also have to consider needs. When you are growing, you are buying new clothes and boots at least once a year. By your early 20's, you have pretty much finished growing, you are no longer being supported by your parents and have to think more frugally.

I have not bought anything at a tack store in two years. I have owned at least one horse steadily during my 20's (didn't buy one until I was 19) and did compete - but why buy a new pair of show breeches when the ones I have are perfectly good? EBay is used to replace worn out schooling equipment and show equipment is put away where it stays nice.

Until all my breeches died at once, I had no bought a pair of breeches in at least 5 years. I had the same two helmets for at least two years until I lost my show helmet and bought a new one last summer.

Then, you hit your 30's and start..um...growing again...(kids, metabolism changes, job stress, etc). and find yourself needing new sizes. The old schooling stuff starts wearing out and heck, you finally start getting some extra cash and start buying new again instead of combing eBay and tack sales.

subk
Dec. 15, 2009, 01:41 PM
Then, you hit your 30's and start..um...growing again...
I hate that part!

LuvMyTB
Dec. 15, 2009, 01:59 PM
Yes! The gap DOES exist! (spoken like Santa in the M&M commercials)

I rode hunters from age 7-18. Never owned or leased--just a barn rat when I was younger, and then taught lessons when I was old enough. Showed some school shows and a few B shows when they were held on the property.

Got out of it during college as I did not have the money nor the access--school was not in a very horsey area. Got back into it at 21 by volunteering at a therapy riding place. At 23 I graduated college and was given a teenaged, crotchety OTTB mare.

I lived at home longer than I wanted in order to support her. Any tack that I got was as a gift for birthdays or Christmas. My first 2 saddles were under-$400 Collegiates off of eBay. My 3rd saddle, purchased last year (internet), is a $450 Wintec CC and it's the only one I still have.

At 27, I just bought a house and am getting married in May. Finances are tight and my local tack store only carries high-end stuff....so I don't shop there. I only go in for blanket clearning!

My mare died in June and I picked up another OTTB gelding in July. He was very cheap, but even so it was dicey to scrape the cash together. I have bought almost nothing for him, save a TO sheet and a bit--he wears my mare's old blankets and one of her old halters, my saddle pads are 3-4 years old, his medium TO blanket was given to me and so was his show bridle. I am asking for breeches, boots and a few other things for Christmas--things I can't/won't buy for myself.

It is hard sometimes....I can't afford the nice tack, the lessons, the clinics and the training I want for my guy. He could potentially do the A's but I may never have the money to get him there. Oh well--I know I am lucky to be owning and riding anyway!

Donkey
Dec. 15, 2009, 02:05 PM
I am another statistic.

I stopped riding at 22 when I retired and sold my horse, moved to a new city and went to university. Didn't look at a horse for 7 years - finished school, met husband, got married, bought first home, traveled the world etc.... Now it's several years later and I am in it up to my eyeballs and all of my spare change and time seems to be dedicated to my beast :D.


ETA - I just gotta say that in my area (fairly horsey and eventy) it is a tad lonely. 30, married, career, no kids, a horse and showing - I have yet to find another soul who really fits into my demographic. My horsey friends are either a lot older or younger or the barn parents!

Cheval Gris
Dec. 15, 2009, 02:06 PM
I am part of that gap, atleast as far as being a consumer in the horse industry, tack and all. I competed until college, leased my horse to a PCer during college. (No riding for 4 years) My parents couldn't afford tuition and horse board, so my last year I sold my horse and bought a project. So my early 20s I spent some time and money in tack shops for my new guy (money left from the sale), then after that not much time in shops. I am 26 now and occasionally go to the tack shop, but once I got my new guy outfitted there was no need.
I will have kids in the next couple of years, so my tack visits will probably dwindle even more. I am currently financially sound to shop, but student loans get in the way of that, then it will be kids. So I can imagine I wont be much of a consumer again until my later 30's when my hypothetical children are older doing their own sports ;). Horses will be around, but probably not much need for new equipment (atleast not in a way that would make a difference to any tack shop).
Oh, i think ebay and consignment stores fudge those numbers a little too these days.

Janet
Dec. 15, 2009, 02:09 PM
When I was 4 and my sister was two, we had a pony ride at the PNE (Pacific National Exposition).

My father always said it was "the most expensive 25 cents I ever spent"

jn4jenny
Dec. 15, 2009, 02:28 PM
I have little to add except that yes, I am one more statistic. 27 years old, horseless rider from ages 10 to 24, finally bought my own horse 3 years ago. Am now back in graduate school to get my PhD in a field that pays well, is in high demand and is fairly secure, and should provide me time to ride.

I am grateful to have my horse at all, much less be able to afford my lessons. I count my blessings at the barn every day. It kind of sucks not to have a competition budget, but at least I'm mounted up and have the horse of my dreams.

Right on Target
Dec. 15, 2009, 02:35 PM
For me the gap was real. After college, I realized that I was expected to support my horse and riding habit. I quickly found out that my low salary was not enough to support a horse, rent, car, gas, utilities, and food. I was able to eke by, then when I wanted to buy my first house, the only thing that could be cut out was the horse. So I got out of riding for a number of years.

It is only now that I'm in my 30's that I'm able to afford board plus all the cool, expensive toys that go along with horse ownership.

mjmvet
Dec. 15, 2009, 02:38 PM
Count me in - I did schooling shows when I was in highschool (on my parents dime) , then didn't spend anything on horses through college and vet school. I rode the college horses, then no riding in vet school. Finally, I'm 36 and can afford to buy stuff for my first horse.

pcwertb
Dec. 15, 2009, 02:40 PM
I left riding a little earlier, at 13. We moved and it was too expensive to ride, couldn't bring middle school year owned pony to Germany so I did "regular" high school sports. Catch rode a bit in college but at 22 I started half leasing and showed extensively from 22 to 30 in hunters/dressage. Mostly schooling shows though.

But at 32 I owned a farm by myself with 2 horses and 6 boarders. Got married and we sold my farm and his house for bigger farm. Now I'm up to 9 horses! My second gap was from 34 to 38, when I had my kids. Although I still rode, didn't show much. But I never went horseless or anything. Still don't spend much in tack stores, though, that is what online ordering is for!

I have to say I'm dying for my 6 year old to be able to ride more independently and for the 2.5 year old to be riding at all so I can take both of them out with me. I am going CC schooling for the first time in say 7 years though, this weekend!

Ibex
Dec. 15, 2009, 02:42 PM
I think there is a bit of a gap. I'm 33, no kids yet, but fortunately have a job that affords me my hobby. Most of the other woman at my barn though who have their own horses are 40+ with kids already. The rest are teens. The couple other people I know close to my age who have their own horse don't have or don't want kids and so they can afford it.

I'm in the same position. 34, single, childless. I can *just* afford to do it, but it takes sacrifices. When I still just leased, the tack stores loved me! Now it's the bare necessities.

carrie_girl
Dec. 15, 2009, 02:49 PM
Yep, I'm another one who's a part of "the gap". I sold my prelim eventer when I was 20 in college because my old clunker finally died and I had no $$$ for a replacement car and I had no time to ride anyway. I did keep track of him though and would visit a few times a year and then cry my eyes out in the car on the way home because I missed him so much. I started riding other people's horses again when I was 28 and got my current boy when I was 30. That year I did a few novice events and some rec. dressage shows. At 31 I had a baby, and since then (for the past 2 yrs.) I have half leased him because I just don't have the time to ride that I used to, and I live in So Cal where there is no turnout. That said, I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to ride! At two she is already smitten and I know a pony is in her future. I can't wait to be the pony club mom! :)

emaren
Dec. 15, 2009, 03:01 PM
Definite gap.

Sold my horse at 18, but kept riding through lessons and then borrowed horses, but used others equipment. Got my new horse at 27, but can't afford new stuff so I'm using mostly what I had from before. I have a list of stuff that I want and will only buy it when it's on sale or if I get some extra money for my birthday.

I only shop online now mostly because there are no tack stores in Arkansas, but also because I have to wait for a good deal and those are scarce in an actual, physical tack store.

Atigirl
Dec. 15, 2009, 03:08 PM
I am 40 (eek!) and still event. I have done so continuously since I was a teenager. The biggest difference with age comes the realization that you don't have to have brand new equipment every year:D
When I was a teenager it was fun to see if mom/checkbook wanted to go to the tack store and look around to see if there was anything that we needed. Now that the checkbook has my name on it I am way more frugal in my spending habits. I am sure that all teens grow up and realize that dropping $400 at a tack shop on the weekend is equivalent to a car payment for the month!
My mom has always supported me emotionally though the years. I am just sure she is way more happy to go to the events with me now and see me whip out my own debt card to fill the gas tank, pay the entry and of course frugally go through the vendor booths at the events:lol:

gully's pilot
Dec. 15, 2009, 03:11 PM
I started riding in college--always paid for it myself, never on my parents' dime--bought my own horse the year I graduated, but was on a very shoestring budget--I managed to hunt, because the junior annual dues were cheap (less than one horse trial!). Then I had two children. I took up eventing 8 years ago, when the children were 7 and 4. For many years I ran 1 or 2 events a year, between family commitments and horse injuries I couldn't do more. Last year I did 5 plus a week in Florida and a week of summer camp, so it's definitely getting easier, both financially and time-wise. It helps that the children can be left at home by themselves now, not overnight, but for the evening or after school until dad gets home. And it helps even more that the youngest one has taken up eventing! We go ride while Dad golfs with the older one.

Huckleberry86
Dec. 15, 2009, 03:19 PM
I just did a little bit of marketing research on this topic (for a graduate research project) and have to say that this gap does indeed exist to some extent. However, for the marketers of these tack shops the more important issue is not only who has the horses but who has the expendable income. In most cases the horse riding DDs and 30+ women fit this profile more than a young adult dealing with school loans, car payments etc for the first time on top of their riding.

eventer80
Dec. 15, 2009, 03:34 PM
I am just NOW edging out of that category. Before I was either in college, just married, trying to buy my first home etc...........Did I ride? YES!!!! But I didn't have the extra money to buy tack, take many lessons, clinic, etc........

So they are out there they just don't show up on the consumer radar.

Sakura Hill Farm
Dec. 15, 2009, 03:37 PM
We are moving into the second generation of this endeavor- and, yes, it has been in fits and starts. I rode as a junior in Colorado and quit when I came East to Middlebury College (no horses there). After graduate school, career building and landing my targeted position at the UN, I resumed riding, this time in eventing. A supervisor asked whether I was going to ride or work, and, since I could not ride if I didn't work, I took the hint and quit riding. I married a few years later and the birth of a daughter brought ponies into the equation. Soon I was a horse show mother. Unbelievably, the lameness of my daughter's mare prompted me to retire when I had 32 years of service. We took my retirement lump sum and went to Europe to buy well-bred youngsters to serve as a foundation for a jumper breeding operation. We bought a farm in Florida, sent daughter to Mount Holyoke College where she continued to ride- and even took with her our young horses to start- one of which is now owned in partnership with Aaron Vale. Our first foals were born in 2008. An Alla'Czar mare joined us to produce the occasional hunter and we are dabbling with the idea of producing an eventer or two with the addition of four well- bred European TB mares.

We frequented the tack stores most during my young adult years and during my horse show mother years. Now, we don't have the spare change- everything goes into maintaining, breeding, training and competing. We hire no help except for the trainer who comes a few days a week and the odd times we need a fence mender. Not exactly the best point in the economic cycle to begin this kind of operation, but we have faith in the future, and even more importantly, are supremely happy doing what we are doing. We have told the daughter that we can continue to put our all into this endeavor for 10-12 years at which point she must be in a position to take the helm.

We will then go back to Paris where I will make breeding decisions on a laptop in a cafe.:lol:

Wayside
Dec. 15, 2009, 03:46 PM
I agree with previous posters that the gap is real, though the boundaries are somewhat flexible. Some people stop riding for college, kids, new jobs, and so on. Some people manage to continue on. And some people (like myself) fall into a pseudo gap where we keep riding, but try not to buy much and don't have the time/money to be competitive.

Right now I'm 30, and have one non-horsey 5-year old child. Pony clubbed as a teenager, then joined the Navy and rode hunters on the east coast. GI Bill helped me keep the horses through college, but on a tight budget, so I pretty much just rode for fun, lots of trails and so on.

These days I'm taking dressage lessons, and still hacking out for fun. Though I miss the jumping, and I'd like to return to eventing eventually, I'm rusty and I just don't seem to have the time or money to get into another discipline. If I have to give my horse two weeks off for a blizzard followed by every member of the household getting the flu, a couple lousy dressage movements when I finally get back in the saddle is not as hazardous to my health as a botched combination :winkgrin:

Good tack can last a long time if I take good care of it, I get way more out of my budget spending $ on lessons than I would on shows, and if I'm not showing I can wear the same old faded breeches and slobbered on polos.

Anyhow, I guess my point is that some of us are still out there, but you won't actually see us again for a while. :lol:

Mtn trails
Dec. 15, 2009, 03:48 PM
Definitely a gap. I started riding when I was very young on dude string horses and didn't have my first formal lesson until I was 17. Went to William Woods and Potomac Horse Center where I got hooked on eventing. Came home (Long Island at the time) and went to work at a TB/STB layup barn with a swimming pool. Bought an OTTB and went to work with Kay Spears in CT. at Steinkrause's farm, that job ended and I went to work for Barney Ward in Brewster.

Moved to L.I. and started eventing seriously with my TB, Serenade. Sold her, got married, moved to Washington, dumped husband, bought new TB mare, sold her, started trail riding, bought cute appy mare, married husband No. 2 who is into horses, bought second horse, still just trail riding, gave away appy mare and adopted mustang. Mustang is now my eventer (and doing quite well), and I still have second horse (he's 22 now). I am 50 this year and think I've been horseless for about 5 years total in my adult life and by the grace of God I won't be horseless again.

By the way, I frequent tack shops and usually I see the adult riders in there and not so many kids. So there is a gap.

sunnycher
Dec. 15, 2009, 03:59 PM
I rode a ton as a young teenager, then sold my horses. Started back with a borrowed horse at 28, (babies, no money), worked for trainers for lessons, until I turned 40. Since then, have ridden again constantly. I don't do recognized events due to distance, but have fox-hunted, local shows, etc.

In my case it was definitely money and time related.

Ruth0552
Dec. 15, 2009, 04:20 PM
Well I know I'm in the Gap, but I'm not gapping. I'm 27, married, no kids, full-time job, and have 3 horses in my backyard. I am also 100% broke. I have 2 useless horses (that I love very much) and one riding horse. Who knew my pony would live to be 32? Life will get a lot cheaper when she goes.

I rode for my college while I was at school, and right after I graduated I found a nearby free lease that was absolutely adorable and his owners have pretty much given him to me. The other 2 retired horses came back to me in the year following that. They were both my horses in my teen years that I had given away before college.

I was planning on taking a break from horse ownership after college but it just didn't end up like that.

Seriously though, there is a gap. All of my horsey friends are at least 35, more of them 40, and in the past 5 years I've boarded at 5 different places, and in all those groups of women, there has been a total of 5 women in my 20-30 age group. Out of like, 40 women, PLUS all the girls. So yes, I definitely think there is a gap. I get along with more mature women better anyways. All my non-horsey friends that are my age just want to get wasted.

dab
Dec. 15, 2009, 04:23 PM
I didn't ride much as a kid, but still had a gap -- I rode at summer camp and joined the riding club in college -- Then I had an 8-year gap --

I could have afforded to trail ride from age 21-25 -- I was active duty military, and could rent horses at a nearby base for a very reasonable hourly rate -- But, I was working on my masters at night, so didn't have the time --

The cost and my focus on my civilian career kept me from riding for the next few years -- I did start taking lessons at age 29 -- I waited 4 years before I found a position with less business travel and felt financially secure enough to start shopping for a horse --

deltawave
Dec. 15, 2009, 04:23 PM
Well, I rode probably 300 days a year until the day I left for college, at which point riding came to an abrupt halt. I'd cop a ride on friends' horses at Christmas and had a job at the track or driving a carriage during summers, so I wasn't horseless altogether, but riding "for fun" was pretty much OUT during college and medical school. NO money, little time, and I was having fun doing other things.

So for me the period from age 18 to about age 28 was a time when, although I rode when I could, I was not spending very much money or time in tack stores at all, because I couldn't afford to and hadn't much reason to. So yes, I fit the "gap" demographic pretty well. :)

Outyougo
Dec. 15, 2009, 04:33 PM
I am so pre GAP I don't even know what a Tack Store is a place to buy nails?

as #3 of 4 I have a lifetime of Hand-me-downs and a brand new wheel barrow

Always had at least 1 horse and plenty of old tack!

cranky
Dec. 15, 2009, 04:36 PM
Need insights for a Between Rounds idea.
At the USEA Convention, I asked a noted tack business owner what his key demographics are.

He answered "Teenaged girls and their mothers."

The premise being that there is a sort of "missing piece" ,the age group of women between late teens, early 20s, when their parents cease to support "the horse", and late 30s and up, when time and finances allow a resurgence of horse involvement.

So is this a correct premise, or even partly correct? That those years of maybe college, maybe marriage, maybe kids, maybe low income/high expense, all that, puts a real kink in the riding years?

I know lots of 20-late 30 year old women who ride, but are they a minority?

(Forget males as statistically significant. Tack shops don`t even believe we exist!)

Thoughts from the real world of real riders???


I can tell you my own experience. I grew up riding, but never actually owned a horse. Couldn't wait to be an adult so that I could earn my own money and could have a horse of my own (that was my childhood fantasy). Reality was, I ended up working and living in NYC and gave up riding completely for over 20 years. During those years I was lucky if I could pay rent & utilities, there wasn't much left over for something like riding. Living in NYC also offers quite a logistics problem and most people don't own cars there (I didn't). All through those years I never gave up the idea of returning to riding again, so I still thought about it quite a bit, read what I could and lurked on COTH (LoL). I returned to riding a little over a year ago when I was 46. Started lessons, then did a half-lease, then bought a horse and started competing over the Summer. I guess I'm officially back -- it only took me about 22 years.

midnightride
Dec. 15, 2009, 04:44 PM
I am 31, very blessed that i didnt go to collage and have to have a real job :) so i get to spend lots of money on my horses!
and the darn things keep taking it;)

enjoytheride
Dec. 15, 2009, 04:49 PM
I didn't start riding until I was 18 although I loved horses forever, I had non supportive parents. When I was 18 I moved out and started working at a guided trail riding place then in college I started riding once - twice a week for my college riding team. I started leasing a horse and then he was giving to me when I was 20.

I worked 30 hours a week, did 12 - 15 credit hours with a 3.5 GPA, rode 4 days a week, and showed in the winter on one day of the weekend.

My liberal arts degree didn't pan out so I went to 40 hours a week after college and started showing dressage and CTs at $80 a horse show once a month with a lesson every other week.

I make under $40,000 a year. I have a small apartment, a car that runs well and is paid off, and one horse. I work at the barn 4 days a week to reduce board and freelease another horse there. I still show about once a month in the summer, sometimes twice. I split hauling costs with barn mates. In the winter I take a break from lessons because it's cold and to save money, I never haul to Aiken, I don't show recognized, and the horses I ride I have made myself.

Not riding wasn't an option for me. I'm 30 now and I have ridden consistently since I was 19. Yes I wish I made a different degree choice in college so I could have the job to support a truck and trailer, my own horse, regular lessons, clinics, recognized shows. For lots of people that's the only acceptable way.

For me there wasn't anything else to do in college to take up my time. I have a photographic memory (except for a course of jumps oddly enough). I never partied. I didn't date a lot. I'm pretty antisocial. I had a crappy relationship.

I think it's all about what makes you happy and if I dwelled on the haves and have nots I'd be miserable.

I don't go to tack stores because they are expensive. I buy used off of ebay.

RAyers
Dec. 15, 2009, 05:08 PM
Maybe it depends on where you are located and the circles you travel in.

I did my first Prelim in that "gap" period...while attending law school. I did slow down on competiting more when I was running the career race for partner at my law firm..but I still rode one or more horses daily...


BFNE, I think that you and I are a rare minority in the horse world when it comes to amateurs compared to the overall numbers in the english disciplines. All the years I did the h/j at the same barn you would see so many riders quit after college and then re-appear about 10 years later when they were either married and had their family or had a good career, or in whatever way established themselves in the life they chose.

You and I see horses very differently than the majority.

Yes, I am a guy so Denny's observation does not apply directly to me. But the "gap" is what I saw as both a boarder and trainer at the same barn, first for 17 years and then at another for 12 years when girls I trained or rode with came back as professional women.

Reed

Snapdragon
Dec. 15, 2009, 05:30 PM
I'm a gapper too. I had horses, rode others' horses, showed, etc., just about every day from 6-7 to 18. Then college came, and I missed riding but also was happy to have time to explore other endeavors. I groomed summers while in college for my horsey fix.

I started lessons again when I was in my mid-20s, but I made so little money, I couldn't keep it up. So, I volunteered for a therapeutic riding center. Plus, I met my husband, went to graduate school, did non-horse-related volunteer work, did a lot of traveling, bought a farm, funnily, with absolutely no intention of ever having horses here.

Started back again at about 34, and that was all she wrote. As far as tack buying, I pretty much could buy what I wanted up until the recession. I've been much more frugal the past 2 years or so, but with three horses, I've also accumulated a lot of stuff.

Editing to add that I do most of my tack/equipment buying online or at shows. I just don't have time to travel to a tack shop. However, for certain items, like anything leather, I like to see and feel it before buying, hence my shopping at shows. Oh, and when I forget my stud kit . . . or girth . . . or . . .

Wee Dee Trrr
Dec. 15, 2009, 05:33 PM
This is something a friend and I have noticed in our area. She is 29 and I'm 23, and we are the ONLY people at our barn in our twenties competing. Everyone else is in their forties or a teen.

When I was choosing a college my mom said I could live at home and keep a horse or go away to school and get rid of the horse. I chose to stay at home and keep him.

I just graduated, Mom and Dad are great, and help a little, but for the most part I'm on my own. I manage to eek out maybe two recognized events a year, and I usually get to ride 4-5 days a week. But I've shuffled my horse around to a few different barns over the past year to figure out where I can afford to keep him (and still have facilities to ride!) It's a definitely a rough patch to go through for someone who is used to more lessons/clinics/shows/travel/etc. I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm glad that I've worked my ass off through college to keep a horse going. :D

BBowen
Dec. 15, 2009, 05:54 PM
I am sure in that category. I rode when I was growing up and sold my horse when I went to college at 17. After than, reality set in and there was never enough money to even think about a horse. Still loved them, but was totally away from them.

Fast forward, started riding again at 41 by taking weekly lessons. That led to leasing a horse, then owning my own. And you guessed it, spending lots of money at the tack stores buying all the "stuff" that goes along with riding and horse ownership.

As FlightCheck mentioned, there is a real gap when parents are paying the bills to the point you are on your own. It is totally a disease that gets worse. :-)

clivers
Dec. 15, 2009, 05:59 PM
When i was a teenager/early 20's I rode at a small eventing barn where there were 6 of us around the same age who were serious competitors (prelim-advanced). Of the group of us - now in our mid 30's - I'm the only one who still owns horses and competes. The only way I manage to juggle work/family/career and horses is by riding at the crack of dawn while everyone else is still asleep and the horses are too dopey to complain, lol ;)

deltawave
Dec. 15, 2009, 06:24 PM
Also worth pointing out that "not having the money or the inclination to go retail shopping at tack stores every weekend" is a far cry from "not riding or being involved in horses". :) The difference is probably very obvious if you own a retail tack store.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 15, 2009, 06:26 PM
BFNE, I think that you and I are a rare minority in the horse world when it comes to amateurs compared to the overall numbers in the english disciplines. All the years I did the h/j at the same barn you would see so many riders quit after college and then re-appear about 10 years later when they were either married and had their family or had a good career, or in whatever way established themselves in the life they chose.

You and I see horses very differently than the majority.

Yes, I am a guy so Denny's observation does not apply directly to me. But the "gap" is what I saw as both a boarder and trainer at the same barn, first for 17 years and then at another for 12 years when girls I trained or rode with came back as professional women.

Reed

yeah...I'm gathering by all these posts that maybe I am a bit different:lol:

So are many of my friends. One of my closest friends who is a bit older than me was working an office job...while competing and winning at Adv. and making up more than one horse from scratch to Adv. in the "gap" period. She finally started doing horses for a living in her late 30s.


I'm also in a very competitive area...one that draws serious competitive horse people. Hell...it is the reason I came here. So I'm thinking my friends and the others at the barns that I'm at are in the minority.

And I do suspect...that I'm mistaken for a sh$t shoveler more often than an ammy rider....or even a lawyer ;)

ss3777
Dec. 15, 2009, 06:44 PM
No gap for me. Always obsessed with horses. When I was a kid-hunters, college-IHSA and foxhunting, post college-serious foxhunter, thirties-still foxhunting, a little dressage and rode my first XC course, mid thirties found eventing and never turned back! I am also a little different in that I have bounced between horse jobs and real jobs.

retreadeventer
Dec. 15, 2009, 07:12 PM
I drove through Maryland's beautiful Hunt Valley, or what's left of it, today, and I just got to thinking about the history of horse sport...foxhunting, steeplechasing, raising horses to ride and hunt and show....100 years ago or even 50 years ago, I think it was about trying to get the kids who were interested on the right educational path. Hunts promoted pony clubs and today there are a lot of leftover pony clubs with hunts as parents. From these came our eventers. Evolution. I could just see the old style saddles on the horses and the tweed jackets and kids on the ponies in my mind's eye as I drove along....like when I was a kid (I'm over 50).

Tack shops too have evolved. They are so much closer to the Walmart retail model than they used to be. A saddle would last you a lifetime. Today they want to sell you one every year. Boots were passed from one outgrown kid to another. Today boots are so inexpensive and the half chaps so easy to buy that everyone can go to a tack shop and find something to fit, unlike the old days. It's weird how things have morphed along. China makes stuff very cheap. Don't most of our horse blankets come from China now? Along with paddock shoes and just about everything else? With possible exception of good quality leather tack, I think our retail model has really followed the American one.

So if they are bemoaning a whole class of folks, it really sort of follows the classic marketing groups....recreational funds are tight for young people setting up homes and families while earning power is reduced.

wildlifer
Dec. 15, 2009, 08:33 PM
Whoever said it was more about time than money -- you can have all the time in the world, but if you don't have the money and want to train and compete, you are SOL. I had plenty of time in grad school and after, even now, I have a fairly flexible schedule most of the time, even though I work full time and often overtime. But if you don't have the money, forget owning, lessoning, competing. Easy to forget if you DO have the money. I wonder what that would be like, sigh.

hb
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:07 PM
I'm the opposite. My parents were not very supportive of my riding, so I worked off leases and catch rode while I was a kid up until my early 20s. I bought my first horse for myself when I was 22, and have owned/ridden/bought tack consistently since then, except for an 18-month break when I was in my early 30s. I competed through my 20s, have taken lessons the whole time but not competed as much in the past few years, just a handful of unrecognized events. Mainly due to the job taking more time now than when I was in my 20s.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:34 PM
. Easy to forget if you DO have the money. I wonder what that would be like, sigh.


BS..I haven't forgotten....and I still have ramen noodles in my house.

If you still have time while in school...you could be working more. The point is finding the balance where you work enough to earn enough money and still have time left. And that is the hard part and has a lot of factors (such as where you live, cost of living...and your skill levels/earning power). And many people are not willing to make it work...(work the hours or jobs it takes....getting up early to ride....sacrificing social life and other nice things).

GotSpots
Dec. 15, 2009, 09:50 PM
BFNE has it right - there are a number of us who never quit. I did horses straight through college, law school, clerkship, and starting practice. The number of nights I went from office to barn back to billing hours I can barely count, but I had a nice preliminary horse that I was trying to turn into something special and wasn't smart enough to know you couldn't have it all. There are certainly those of us who never had much of a "gap" - after the first horseless 18 months I was in college before I got so nutty for a trip to the barn that I was catch-riding barely broke three year olds, and I didn't take much of a break thereafter, 'cept as imposed by lame horses and the like.

It is doable - but takes alot of work, alot of luck, and alot of sheer dumb determination (some'd say cussedness). At least until you figure out how to find either enough money or enough time to get some help with the program anyway.

Lisa Cook
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:14 PM
I should have mentioned that, like hb, I actually bought my first horse during this "gap" time....I was 23 years old and 1 year out of college.

I had always been quite involved in horses, but received no parental help at all, ever, as a kid. I was a working student all through high school and then rode on my college team.

Because I had always worked to be able to ride as a junior rider, I guess that is what kept me going through my 20's when I worked my "real" job during the day and then spent every night and weekend working at the barn to keep my horse. My husband was in grad school for the first 5 years we were married, so fortunately, he was always busy with his studies and so he didn't miss me being gone every minute of every day!

Snapdragon
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:30 PM
Personally, I think the gap years are inspirational and is part of why this sport--that requires an ambulance on site--has so many middle aged women taking part. I have to say the middle age women that do the sport are some of the most amazing group a women I know. (No wonder the other moms from my kids' school bore me to tears!)



Completely getting off the tack-buying topic. I agree with both parts of this. Having grown up riding, and having a choice to do something completely different, I loved those completely different years; they were extremely fulfilling, and I did things I never could have done if I had still been riding.

The middle-aged women who compete in this sport are amazing--not your usual kind. I'm one of those middle-aged women, and sometimes I amaze myself.;) Who the hell else would buy a 4-year-old at the age of 54, put the time in, put themselves out there, and RIDE (that's not me--I'm not THAT crazy! But, a friend has done just that, and I know she and that horse will be a great team in a very short period of time). You have to admit, if you lived the gap, you feel like the gap never existed when you cross that XC finish line.

VicariousRider
Dec. 15, 2009, 10:55 PM
I managed to ride and compete in law school...by not sleeping much...and no hanging out at the barn. I worked at jobs that paid me the most for the shortest time....waited tables (was very good and could easily earn 200+ a night). I kept my horses on self care...and student loans paid for my school (which I'm STILL paying off). But I had no time for any social life....and no time to just hang out at the barn. It is doable...but not sure I would say it is advisable....because you also still have to get top grades (which luckily I got). In school...first priority must always be to do well...otherwise you are just throwing money down the drain.

BFNE:

Thanks for explaining how you rode in law school. I am currently a 1L (in the midst of exams) and I have heard you mention that you rode in law school before and I just could not wrap my head around HOW you managed! I am really lucky that my parents have let me turn out my mare for a year on their farm in NH for free but, since she is 1.5 hrs away I am not getting any meaningful saddle time these days.

I think that the big difference between you and me is that I do not do well when sleep deprived! I am focused on getting good grades (especially this year and in this economy!) so school is my priority right now. I also have no social life! :)

Anyhow, thanks for the details. I really hope that I can make more time for riding soon!

Thames Pirate
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:44 PM
Yep--I'm in the gap, and I really struggle. My salvation continues to be my parents, whose support enables me to do things like clinics and shows. I could ride and take the rare lesson on my own dime, but nothing more. It's a TOUGH gap; I haven't achieved enough to make the girls at the barn take me seriously (they're all still gunning for the Olympics but don't have the budget), but I'm much better, much more ambitious, and much more driven than the average adult ammie at our barn. It's tough not to be taken seriously when I work so hard and to be asked questions such as "what are your goals for the coming year" when the horse in question is for sale or "why aren't you going to the clinic" when it's no secret that I have now spent several months' salary on vet bills (and car repairs to boot). There is no reality check for the youngsters, no drive (or understanding of it) from the older crowd, and nobody at the barn who can relate to where I am in my riding.

CdnRider
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:48 PM
I think the gap is there to some extent. There are ppl in that age range that do ride (I'm one of them) but we aren't as extravagant in our purchases as teenagers or their mothers! I am a penny pincher. I was thrilled 2 years ago when I was able to purchase a bates elevation j off a website for $250 less than the other 3 ppl I knew who purchased them locally!

I too have always supported my own horse habit. I didn't buy my own until I was 19 and could afford one on my own. Before that I paid for lessons/leasing/tack and very minimal amount of showing with fly routes, stall mucking, working at a pet store. I worked really hard to afford that horse while I went to college, which I also paid my own tuition.

I think my experience, (ie my parents NOT paying for alot) made me more dedicated not to fall into that perceived gap. I do see 16/17/18 year olds move onto other things and lots of those girls have had lots handed to them without working for it.

5 years ago I was able to buy, with my husband 4 acres and a house. So in the past 5 years (28 now) I've flipped a couple (mostly with good results!) and I've been able to take 2, OTTB mares up to training, (my current one I hope to do a T3D next summer) and I have a coming 3 year old (surprise baby from one of those flips!) who I adore. I still work full time and I do put rides on horses for a bit of extra money.

LLDM
Dec. 15, 2009, 11:49 PM
Also worth pointing out that "not having the money or the inclination to go retail shopping at tack stores every weekend" is a far cry from "not riding or being involved in horses". :) The difference is probably very obvious if you own a retail tack store.

Exactly. In my early twenties right out of college I gave up everything but the horses. Every cent went into feed and maintenance. I was so far off the radar even the Marines couldn't have found me. I was renting little old barns and literally rebuilding them. I bought my first house with land and a small barn by combining my own and horse property rents and the money I spent at Hechinger.

I did not shop for stuff, I did not compete, or take lessons or belong to anything. We just hunkered down until I got established enough to return to the world of consumers. Sometimes I really miss that mode. But I don't miss worrying that my credit card balance would exceed the vet bill!

MY Pony Club horse is buried here on my farm. He made it this far with me. My first pony is buried at my first house, where my Mom lives now. It is a real continuity for me.

"The Gap" is real, but it is different things to different people.

SCFarm

ohhthatgirl
Dec. 16, 2009, 02:13 AM
I'm breaching the gap, and man, its a scary thing.

My parents bought my first (and only) horse at age 13, and I got into eventing and pony club shortly after. At 16, I started to compete at recognized trials a few times a year and finished up my last event at Champagne Run in July 2007, just after graduation. I went off to college in Birmingham and exercised a few horses my freshman year. I even got the chance to compete a couple times on a borrowed horse. Then the sophomore slump hit. It was our "weed out" semester, and I also made the decision to transfer schools. Trying to juggle everything (Especially transferring. PITA.) made riding rare. Sometimes I didn't ride for months, and if I did get a chance to ride, it wasn't more than once a week.

I just completed my first semester at my new school now, and riding still doesn't come as nicely as I want it to. I keep telling myself that next semester should be easier, but who knows. (We have some competitive GPA and portfolio cuts in the program that I just got through with -- and passed! Thank God.) In the meantime, I'm fortunate enough to have this sweet girl lend me her extra horse that I can hack around... usually once every week or two. And I also try to go volunteer at horse trials to get my horse fix. (Poplar's only an hour away! Yay!)

But I've been thinking about how to support riding once I graduate. (And my other bills!) It's incredibly daunting. I've researched internships, design firms, and possible place to live upon graduation. (And yes, a large part of where I want to live has been influenced by how active the eventing community is. Ha!) I'm just in shock on costs of living, let alone having any luxuries. Hopefully, the worst of it will be bumming a horse off of someone for a few years, and not having to give them up entirely. It is encouraging to hear that some of y'all have made it through, or at least have been able to go back to it.

On the flip side, you have my mom, who has entered the post-gap upon my graduation. She rode western as a kid, sold her horse in high school, and married my dad at 19. After starting and raising a family, my mom is finally back in the saddle after shipping the last kid (me!) off to school. My horse (the same one I've had since I was 13) is back at home teaching my mom the ropes of Dressage, and she's enjoying every minute of it. She's having her weekly lessons and has gone off to do a few clinics around the area. And after far as tack shops go... she has the tack store thing down. Charles Owens, Ariat, Tailored Sportsmans, FITS... all for schooling. I often joke about where this stuff was when I was competing with my Devon-Aire coat and IRH. ;) But hey, she deserves it; she sacrificed way too much time and money for me to have my fun. Its her turn now.

IFG
Dec. 16, 2009, 03:46 AM
I have always thought that riders who worked for their riding were much more likely to stick with it through their 20's when funds were scarce than were those who had it covered by parents.

I pretty much worked for my riding all my childhood. Never owned my own horse. Only rode during the summers in college, then when I went to grad school went back to working off my lessons. After grad school, half leased. Went back to grad school and worked off riding. About 3 years off to finish grad school and raise little ones, then back to working off riding. Finally bought my own horse at 39.

apachepony
Dec. 16, 2009, 04:00 AM
I guess i'm another that falls into the non-gap, at 23 years old.

My parents payed for weekly lessons from 7-18. I got my first pony at 16 (when they no longer had to drive me to the barn :lol:) and was warned then that they couldn't afford to send both me and the pony to college. We sold him for a good profit, which my parents split with me. That let me go into college with some extra money, which I bought a used trailer with.

Under my parents orders, I stayed horseless through my first semester freshman year. I was still occasionally catch exercising horses in the area, which helped my sanity.

My parents payed my necessities in college, and I had some money saved up from teaching lessons in high school, so 2nd semester freshman year I bought and sold a horse for a small profit, then bought and sold another tripled his (reasonably small) price. That gave me enough to put some away for the next. After a horsey summer break I bought a pony Sept of my sophomore year. I kept him for two years, and between sophomore and junior year had to pick up a full time 3rd shift at the college's horse-pital to afford to monthly local shows. Sold that one two years later for double what I paid, which was probably about $20k in the hole when you consider boarding and showing.

My thoughts with the buying/selling was the I could either pay to lease a horse, and have my money "gone", or pay to buy a horse and board it in hopes that I eventually could recoup some money. Worked great with the first two, and was just as if I was paying to lease something on the third one.

That did give me enough money to buy my "keeper" horse though. Thinking back, i'm still not sure how I managed to go to school full time, work nights full time, and ride 7 days a week at a barn that was almost an hour away. Thankfully now i'm graduated, kept the same job and have more time for sleep.

I do struggle for money though. I have a state job with good benefits, but I still make what you expect a $hit shoveler to make. I keep my horse on pasture board, buy as little new stuff as possible, bargain shop when I do and rarely lesson or show. I struggle with motivation to ride more than anything now. I'm very competitive and love showing, but need lessons, and can't really afford either. So some days I have to force myself to just go practice what I know, without moping about what I don't know.

inquisitive
Dec. 16, 2009, 07:31 AM
I'm very lucky in the opportunities I've had but I'm 25 and struggle a lot to be able to still ride and compete. 2009 was my first year doing recognized competitions since I rode ponies (hunters and eq). All my horses since then have been very green because that is all I can afford.

Thankfully I had a full scholarship so my parents helped support my riding through college, though I also worked to pay for it.

After college I was on my own, and was able to get a solid-paying job. It's not easy seeing more than half your pay going to the horses, but well worth it :)

I struggle more because in order to have this solid-paying job, I work a ton and find it more difficult to ride 6 days a week like I used to!

Highflyer
Dec. 16, 2009, 08:07 AM
Definitely. I'm 30, grew up with parents in racing, did pony club, rode all through college by working off my lessons/ showing IHSA,etc., took a year off to do Americorps, than decided to do the horses for a living(ish).

I've ridden consistently and mostly had my own horses, but competing is tough. My horses live at my parents', so no board, but I have to scrape up the money for vetwork and shoes and supplements. I only get to compete or even take lessons if my mom is going. I've had to make a lot of compromises as far as where I work/ live, and pretty much every thing I own is secondhand or older. About the only things I buy new are saddlepads and galloping boots, and only when the old ones die!

Of the kids I grew up with in PC, VERY few ride, even the ones who were super dedicated at the time. Pretty much all of those who do are professionals, and either teach lessons, ride racehorses, or are working students. Almost all of them are the children of pros, too, or at least had their horses at home as kids and keep them with their parents now.

Honestly, my friends who went to college and got student loans and then real jobs and car/ house payments are still, nine years later, in a place where it would be really a struggle to do more than maybe at most keep one horse at a very cheap boarding barn and not really compete. I don't think any of them, even the thrifty ones, could afford a truck/ trailer, or a hefty competition schedule, or fancy horses. And if you had/ want kids, even with two incomes a horse would be a huge luxury.

I wonder about this sometimes when I see people comment on the ages of the Olympic riders, or complain that there should be more top women in their 20s and 30s. If you went to college and have loans, or if you want kids, or if you're not independently wealthy, HOW EXACTLY ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO PAY FOR EVENTING?:)

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 16, 2009, 08:51 AM
BFNE:

Thanks for explaining how you rode in law school. I am currently a 1L (in the midst of exams) and I have heard you mention that you rode in law school before and I just could not wrap my head around HOW you managed! I am really lucky that my parents have let me turn out my mare for a year on their farm in NH for free but, since she is 1.5 hrs away I am not getting any meaningful saddle time these days.

I think that the big difference between you and me is that I do not do well when sleep deprived! I am focused on getting good grades (especially this year and in this economy!) so school is my priority right now. I also have no social life! :)

Anyhow, thanks for the details. I really hope that I can make more time for riding soon!


I should say...I also didn't socialize or hang out at law school. I treated law school like a job. Got there early and went to a quiet spot and studied. Studied on every break...and then went home or to work or the horse. I lived near the horse since I commuted to school 5 days a week but saw the horse 7.

I also found law school pretty easy even though I was at a top tier school (it isn't brain surgery...don't make it more complicated than it is)....so it might not work for everyone (although it worked for GotSpots and others as well!). It was a good prep for work.....I hate to tell you, but if you want to be a top law firm...you may need to get use to working with sleep deprivation...it is sort of part of the job (and they don't tell you that in law school!)

ETA: Good luck at law school....the market is picking back up, you might have timed things really well. Get those good grades, law review...and kick ass at your summer job after next year...that will give you the most choices.

tullio
Dec. 16, 2009, 09:05 AM
I can honestly say that of all my riding friends in my age group (mid - late 20s), the only ones logging significant riding time or spending any kind of real money on tack, etc are the ones who are actually making money riding (either as pros, or retraining/selling horses on their own.)

I'm 29 and ride as much as possible but do not own a horse (so it's lessons or helping out a friend with extra ponies for me!) When you don't own a horse, there's not much in a tack shop that you need - I am still wearing breeches I bought in college, when I was riding and competing regularly. If I had a pony to shop for, well, I'd be able to justify a lot more stuff. ;)

I am pretty thrilled that my husband has fallen in love with foxhunting, and we are working on making horses a bigger part of our lives again. When that happens I will definitely be back on the tack shopping scene... but there will certainly have been a looooong gap since the teenage days when Mom and Dad were footing the bill. I've been riding since then, but I sure haven't been shopping!

circusponydreams
Dec. 16, 2009, 09:54 AM
I have always thought that riders who worked for their riding were much more likely to stick with it through their 20's when funds were scarce than were those who had it covered by parents.


I do agree with this. Growing up, my non-horsey parents were supportive, but pretty gobsmacked at how expensive the whole thing is. I did a lot of barn work to be able to afford my lessons! Out of a barnful of girls, the ones who were expected to work for it are mostly still riding. I still remember being flabbergasted when one girl, whose parents had just bought her a super fancy, expensive eventer, decided she just wasn't really interested anymore.

In college I did IHSA, and then in the five years since, I started with lessons, which lead to half leasing and doing a handful of hunter shows, which has lead to a full lease and back into eventing. I'm lucky to have a job that offers some flexibility in scheduling, and I have a lot of secondhand tack that works great for me. :yes:

Petstorejunkie
Dec. 16, 2009, 10:33 AM
I'm in my late 20's and I spend enough at the tack store to be considered a key demographic. That said I'm further along in my career than my peers, so my income flexibility is probably more of someone in their mid thirties

seeuatx
Dec. 16, 2009, 10:48 AM
I'm in that Gap... though right now it feels like more of a chasm. I'm 25.

My parents payed for the horse through college, and they still help me from time to time because he is retired and unsound and they know selling would not be a good situation for him. We get by, and are looking for a decent but less expensive boarding option to cut some costs, and an event prospect is out of the question for now.

Hubby and I are both working two jobs right now, trying to squeek through because his car died and we had to buy a new one. He is up for a big promotion, which would almost double his salary and would ease our finances a great deal (fingers crossed). I keep putting resumes out, hoping for a "real job" that pays well, but they are few and far between. Currently I work in the bank at the local track/casino because it pays well enough and has good benefits, and the part time job is retail.

Maybe with a promotion for hubby, and a better job for me I'll be able to get a new pony and get back to eventing... but as things are It'll be a long time before that ever happens. :no:

EventingChase
Dec. 16, 2009, 11:05 AM
I am 25 and have been riding and showing more in the last three years then I ever did when I was a teenager. My mom was a single mom with two horse crazy daughters so our riding budget was tight! Horses were kept in the backyard, most of our lessons were through pony club, and horse shows/events were given as Christmas and Birthday gifts or I paid with them though money I made at a part time job. I did everything in high school: worked as a vet tech, mucked stalls, waited tables, and even laid bricks to finance my horse habit!

College and graduate school were way easier! I had a full scholorship with a small stipend for both. I made money breaking ponies, galloping race horses and super money waiting tables. I didn't show much my first two years of college because my horse was young but by my senior year and all through graduate school I was doing recognized events.

My first year out of graduate school and working full time as a social worker I got myself into a bit of trouble with tack and horse shows. I thought I could put everything on a credit card and pay it off with my next pay check. That did not work so well as my pay check is well-tiny! So, I got a second job- on the days I have to work doubles I ride before work. My credit card is nearly paid off and I am starting to build some savings. It was very scary there for a while as I was one car repair of vet bill away from being sunk! I still take lessons and am able to event at least once a month if I want to. It is definitly a financial strain but I make it work and am able to work two jobs and ride 6 days a week.

I just moved the horse up to prelim and won a training 3-day this past fall. I probably won't buy any tack for a while because- ummm I bought it all in the last 2 years and am just clearing the bill for it. When I decide to return to school for my doctorate (sometimes in the next year) I will probably sell my current horse to help pay for it, but I do have a yearling to bring up behind him. So in short- NO! There was no gap for me between 18 and 25. In fact, being able to make my own money to spend on what I wanted to do has made me more able to ride and compete then ever before. Not that my mother was not supportive- she was extremly supportive but the budget was NOT there!

OffTheHook
Dec. 16, 2009, 11:14 AM
I am in the age gap and own a horse although I avoid the tack shop like it's the plague. I graduated college, moved home, got an ok job with my biochemistry degree and started taking lessons. At 24 I bought my first horse ever. I'm 25 now and work off board, take lessons, still live at home and really, really need to go back to school for a career change. I don't show, so I don't have those expenses, but I am really involved in dog agility and that adds up. Once I decide about graduate school (or whenever my parents kick me out) one or the other is going to have to give. I'm a more talented dog handler/trainer than rider so I'm afraid I know which one...

I would love to know Jn4jenny, what is this magical career you speak of that pays well, is fairly secure, and will allow you time for riding? I'm quite intrigued!

sidepasser
Dec. 16, 2009, 11:47 AM
I don't know where I fall - but have never had a gap in horse ownership since age of 9, I'm 50 now. Have shown all through the teen years and most of my 20's, quit showing and paid for daughters to ride and show.

Own my farm free and clear, have a trainer who comes out, and am aiming for some small shows next year just to have fun with my horse. I've made a good run of horses for the past 40 years, had a lot of fun, spent way too much money and still managed to raise three children, go to college and maintain a career of sorts. I made a choice early on that I would always have horses and then I arranged my life to accomodate them.

It is doable and there will be times when you don't buy tack, don't show, and don't pay for lessons. Then one day that little voice awakens and says "it's time to get off the farm" and you take some lessons, buy some tack and haul to a few shows to see if you still want to show.

At any rate, it's been a darned fine life for me and the horses and now I am more relaxed about it all, not so worried about showing/lessons/career. I figure I have made it through a lot of life..lol..I can keep it up a little longer. So don't know if I "gapped" or not. I've always bought tack, mostly used and in good condition, but when the girls rode, of course, they outgrew everything so was constantly buying for them. I've had custom saddles made and that sort of thing, but don't remember the last time I actually shopped in a local tack store. Might help if we had a local tack store..lol..have to travel a pretty far piece to find one in Atlanta, so I buy pretty much everything on line.

I am hauling the walker up to N. Ga after Christmas and getting her a saddle fitted for trail riding, that will be the only "new" purchase I make this year for myself or my horses. Everything else, I either have already or will buy used. That is my secret to affording horses through all phases of life. Make do, use it up, wear it out or do without.

Carol Ames
Dec. 16, 2009, 12:14 PM
I just lost another post:sadsmile: , can't wait until I can do a home ;)"visit" and get on my own keyboard which, is "schooled to mt touch/ mistouch :lol:; My ankle has healed fully but, unfortunately, I must find a new live aide/ companion in order to be allowed home; drat!:mad:If anyone needs a place, rent free VERY close to Domino/ Dovertack store; please put them in touch with me!but, best news isthat the ankle is healed!:cool:

Granada
Dec. 16, 2009, 12:26 PM
This is a great topic, really enjoying everyone's experiences.

I'm 26 and have and support three horses but I'm in the gap too.

I've had horses since being a teen, but parents stopped paying 2nd year of undergrad. Despite this, I've hung onto three horses including my first pony club horse who's nearing 30. Horses are the reason I have my current career, which has very little to do with horses, but it's really fun and I can make enough $ to keep the horses.

For my career, I've move DH and me, the dog and the horses from California, to North Carolina, and now to Michigan in the spring. Luckily I have a very supportive DH who has transferred across country mid veterinary school and is now jumping for joy to move to Michigan after he graduates this year... go figure.

For time... I don't have a lot, and I definitely sacrifice in the social/ friends aspect on weekdays. I also don't have time to ride more than three days a week but I'm at the barn every day since it's 2 min drive from my home (when I relocated I looked for the barn first:lol:) I only trailer out to go trail riding or go to schooling shows once or twice a month when the days get longer. There is no way I could compete regularly but we have fun :)

For money... Mine doesn't go on tack or lessons or any of the extras-- I'm the sole bread winner for myself and my DH, who's still in vet school, and three horses. I have gobbs of equipment from growing up with horses and doing pony club and luckily my parents paid for great instructors when I was their dependant.... but A LOT of my paycheck goes to the farrier, boarding, feed store, and vet.

I'm horse crazy, I couldn't live without horses and luckily my hubby doesn't yet see that as a personality flaw. My goal is that by the time I'm 40 I'll have started a family and my career will contribute enough to pay for regular recognized events and riding lessons again, but it's a lot of work to get from here to there-- so that's my gap 18 to 40 yrs

hey101
Dec. 16, 2009, 12:31 PM
I've only read a few of the responses, but... no, I don't think that a "20's-something" gap exists. I think a "doesn't want it bad enough" gap exists. Even if you aren't hanging out in the tack shop buying brand new Vogels and Butet's every weekend (boo-hoo), you can still work your ass off and be involved with horses even if you have no money. To use the excuse that mommy and daddy are no longer funding the bills is simply that- an excuse. Those of us who wanted it bad enough paid for their first horse on payments, lived in a cheap apartment with a folding card table and a futon on the floor, drove their car to 300K+ miles, and worked at the barn on the weekends for lessons. Yeah- as my income caught up to me, I started buying nice Fleeceworks pads and a Barnsby saddle and Ariat boots and a farm - all by the time I was 27. But if all that stuff had to be sold tomorrow, I'd still do whatever it took to stay involved with horses- catch-riding, working at the barn, whatever. KNowing that eventually, because of my hard work and perserverance, I'd be back on top of my game sooner rather than later.

jn4jenny
Dec. 16, 2009, 01:21 PM
I would love to know Jn4jenny, what is this magical career you speak of that pays well, is fairly secure, and will allow you time for riding? I'm quite intrigued!

Alas, it is not a free-for-all career that's available to everyone. Although if we want to talk about those, radiography tech is a hot one: minimal schooling required, excellent move-up potential with increasingly flexible scheduling as you move up, and almost impossible to outsource.

I'm in grad school studying Digital Media Studies, which is a subset of Rhetoric and Composition Studies. Few people are studying it, and most colleges are clamoring to get a DMS professor (or two or three) onto their faculty. It's not a stress-free job, but the schedule is flexible and the money is very decent. I happen to love the work, but not everyone would.

Getting back to the topic at hand, being a twentysomething rider is all about trade-offs (as is most of life, of course). Do I sell DH and I's second car to finance a competition budget? Do I sell the horse before grad school, which would be a great financial decision but a terrible emotional decision? Do I leave the full board barn and put my horse on co-op board, saving me lots of money but costing me lots of time?

I'd be curious to know, for Denny's purposes, how many of us think we could theoretically compete *if we made enough sacrifices that we are not currently willing to make.* It's one thing to be a car repair bill away from ruin, living on ramen noodles and doing co-op board. In that situation, nothing short of illegal activity would provide you a competition budget. :lol: But I know that if I made some uncomfortable choices--like taking the bus to school every day instead of driving (which would be an extra 1.5 hours out of my day), or cancelling our home broadband Internet, or selling my car and relying on DH's car to get to the barn...then yes, I could theoretically have a competition budget. I am not willing to go there. As hey101 says, I "don't want it bad enough." Especially when I know it will be waiting for me in my thirties.

inquisitive
Dec. 16, 2009, 01:36 PM
I'd be curious to know, for Denny's purposes, how many of us think we could theoretically compete *if we made enough sacrifices that we are not currently willing to make.* It's one thing to be a car repair bill away from ruin, living on ramen noodles and doing co-op board. In that situation, nothing short of illegal activity would provide you a competition budget. :lol: But I know that if I made some uncomfortable choices--like taking the bus to school every day instead of driving (which would be an extra 1.5 hours out of my day), or cancelling our home broadband Internet, or selling my car and relying on DH's car to get to the barn...then yes, I could theoretically have a competition budget. I am not willing to go there. As hey101 says, I "don't want it bad enough." Especially when I know it will be waiting for me in my thirties.

:yes: I now take the metro to work which saves $150 in parking and a lot on gas every month. Though it does add about twice the commute time... so it just means less sleep :lol: But there's a couple lessons I wouldn't have otherwise :) Of course the don't go out to dinner, movies, etc. savings add up too. But I'd rather sacrifice those 'little things' to be able to lesson and compete now, rather than ride non-competitively only.


I've only read a few of the responses, but... no, I don't think that a "20's-something" gap exists. I think a "doesn't want it bad enough" gap exists. Even if you aren't hanging out in the tack shop buying brand new Vogels and Butet's every weekend (boo-hoo), you can still work your ass off and be involved with horses even if you have no money. To use the excuse that mommy and daddy are no longer funding the bills is simply that- an excuse. Those of us who wanted it bad enough paid for their first horse on payments, lived in a cheap apartment with a folding card table and a futon on the floor, drove their car to 300K+ miles, and worked at the barn on the weekends for lessons. Yeah- as my income caught up to me, I started buying nice Fleeceworks pads and a Barnsby saddle and Ariat boots and a farm - all by the time I was 27. But if all that stuff had to be sold tomorrow, I'd still do whatever it took to stay involved with horses- catch-riding, working at the barn, whatever. KNowing that eventually, because of my hard work and perserverance, I'd be back on top of my game sooner rather than later.

Although I'm not in either 'extreme' you mention (never stopped doing the horse thing because parents didn't pay for it, and haven't had to do everything possible to scrape up enough money for it) I don't think anyone here is saying the gap exists because they can't buy Vogels. Sometimes it simply isn't doable, even if you got rid of everything and lived paycheck to paycheck, working 5 jobs and living in a crappy apartment.

I'd say based on your post you've worked very hard for what you have and I don't want to downplay that, but I think for some people it really isn't doable, be it family, job type, paying off debt, etc, and you have to be respectful of that.

Beam Me Up
Dec. 16, 2009, 01:50 PM
I know a lot of people in that age gap who are involved with horses, but they money, both in the sport and just in life, takes a while to accumulate.

I sold my horse to go to college, rode a bit in the summers, bought one OTT at 23 and started up again. Now I'm 32 and have 3, hopefully soon down to 2. I still don't have much money to do luxury shopping though. Supporting the horses, having a driveable vehicle, lessons/shows is MORE than enough.

So I am well in the tack shopping gap.

IME a lot of riders sell their horses to go to college and trickle back from graduation on to after career/marriage/family, so throughout the gap.

I agree with IFG that the more you supported your own horses early, the easier it is to come back early. I was able to keep my horses at my parents' house as a kid, and they paid for some upkeep and $100/yr toward showing, but having lived as a very low budget eventer, I didn't associate eventing as requiring a high salary so I got back into it faster than I would have if I'd grown up with a 5 figure eventing budget.

Because I "designed" my life (good job, telecommuting) to support the horses, I now spend way more on them than my parents did (not affluent, not horsey, a decade of horse expense sticker shock), but STILL not enough for the tack store :-)

hey101
Dec. 16, 2009, 02:14 PM
I'd say based on your post you've worked very hard for what you have and I don't want to downplay that, but I think for some people it really isn't doable, be it family, job type, paying off debt, etc, and you have to be respectful of that.

I understand what you are saying, and I certainly respect everyone's choices- and that's how I see it, everyone has made choices that has brought them to where they are now in life (for the most part of course, barring unforeseen emergencies/ injuries/ illnesses). One can make a choice to spend within their means, or not. One can make a choice to pay off credit card bills and go to the cheaper state school and buy a cheap used car so as not to accumulate debt, or not. One can make a choice to spend their free time and free dollars on horses, or not. Just because the free time and free dollars become limited as life goes on, doesn't mean that choices can't be made within the means at hand to do what one can to stay involved in horses. Will sacrificies need to be made? of course. And that's where it comes down to wanting it badly enough, or not.
Don't get me wrong, there have been several times in my life where I made the choice to give up horses for other things in my life. But I've always come back to them, eventually. I just don't think one can say it's "life getting in the way of 20-somethings that causes them to give up horses for awhile". I think it is the choice of the individual person, no matter their age. :)

inquisitive
Dec. 16, 2009, 02:33 PM
I think it is the choice of the individual person, no matter their age. :)

That makes sense to me, but at the same time I wonder why I have found that I'm one of the only people my age still riding? Maybe I'm at the 'wrong stable' but I see it at events too. Lots of people up to age 18, then lots over age 35.

Maybe it's just that many people this age decide to not sacrifice all those other things for horses?

I guess Denny's original question was just around whether or not there is a more limited number of individuals in 20's to 30's, and I think I'd say yes, based on what I've seen. I guess everyone has their own reasons :)

Hony
Dec. 16, 2009, 02:53 PM
This is something I noticed when everyone was selling their horses to go to university but me. After uni I found there were few people my age still riding and when I went to shows it seemed to be professionals, teens and more established adults. The mid twenty somethings is a hard time with regard to money unless one has outside support so it's not suprising that there is a gap at that age.

Thames Pirate
Dec. 16, 2009, 03:15 PM
It IS about choices to some degree, but there are other factors.

I have made the sacrifices necessary to compete in a few HT/year (3 in a year with a car repair, 5 otherwise). I have a supportive significant other--he knows what he wants and he knows how much I am or am not willing to pay in terms of bills, mortgage, etc. I do sometimes need to choose between a show or a clinic or a month of regular lessons. That's okay; I can live with that choice. Unfortunately I have run into the world's worst karma. In the last 18 months my mare has been seen by the vet once for each leg (twice for the right front), mastitis, and has been hospitalized for renal failure. The cat also had kidney issues. The vet bills have just about killed me. I have been at the barn before and after work to treat the horse with great regularity--which didn't leave time for a second job to pay the vet bills. Catch rides have been limited, and the time to actually take them up on it even more so. We're coming out of that slump, and I hope to have the vet paid off within two months. That's not choice--that's karma.

In talking with my instructor, we discussed what I am and am not willing to sacrifice to do well and to compete. There are certainly choices involved in many ways. I am willing to sacrifice the "stuff"--the fancy saddles, the new show coat (mine is about 35 years old and was never quite the right size for me) and I am willing to sacrifice discretionary spending and time. I am NOT willing to sacrifice my relationship with my SO or other people. I'm not willing to compromise the opportunities I've been given in life to do other cool things or the talents I do have. I fully realize that I'm privileged in many ways, and I'd be a fool to throw away some of the other things in my life for a slim shot at horse glory. I can compete, have fun, work hard, and enjoy the process, but there are limits. For many of us, it IS a choice--to a degree.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 16, 2009, 03:16 PM
That makes sense to me, but at the same time I wonder why I have found that I'm one of the only people my age still riding? Maybe I'm at the 'wrong stable' but I see it at events too. Lots of people up to age 18, then lots over age 35.

Maybe it's just that many people this age decide to not sacrifice all those other things for horses?



Correct...it is about choices...and more importantly priorities.

While LOTs of people enjoy riding....and LOTs love horses....not many make it a high priority that they are willing to put in the effort and drive to have (and forego other things). So many will only have it in their lives when it is easier....and their other priorities have been satisfied....or something in their life changes and it becomes a higher priority.

None of those choices are wrong....and having different priorities at different times in your life is normal.

For some of us....horses have always had a higher priority (often above sleeping and eating;))...and therefore...we made it work. Doesn't make me any better or worse than anyone else....I just have different priorities.



It is true for MOST things in life.....

cranky
Dec. 16, 2009, 03:33 PM
For me, in addition to the money issue, it really was a matter of location. I think if I had remained in New England I would have managed to find away to keep riding in some way after school. I actually managed to ride through college, even though I had to pay for it myself. I could do it because I had a car, there were riding facilities within a reasonable distance and I was able to braid and groom for shows to help pay for riding lessons. I couldn't have kept a horse this way and I really only rode once a week, but at least I kept it going.

When I transitioned to the working world, I didn't know what I was going to do and didn't have any savings. I lived with my parents for the first couple of years while I got on my feet. During that time I had use of a car and managed to continue one lesson per week. Once I moved to NYC to work, however, I had no car, there were no riding facilities very close and my rent was about 50% of my income. Sure, I probably could have lived in some miserable slum or maybe with a horde of roommates or something to have a bit more disposable income, but there is something to be said for quality of daily life. If I had stayed in New England (or perhaps moved somewhere other than NYC) I think that riding and horses would have been much more doable for me. Even if it was just a once a week thing for years.

evans36
Dec. 16, 2009, 03:48 PM
I would also go ahead and say that people shopping in tack shops ARE going to mainly be kids on their parent's dime- they don't know better, need instant gratification, have to put their hands on things/try on sizes etc. I think, by the age of 16, we all know better than to go to the local (usually overpriced) tack shop, since bargains can be found online and we pretty well know our sizes, who makes decent tack and who has free shipping etc.

So while the gap is VERY real, I imagine the tack stores see if for different reasons.

I have to dispute this a little. I just sold my horse for financial reasons and I'm 27, but I have always bought things at tack shops unless it was a huge investment. I do this because I make a conscious effort to keep money in my community instead of sending it to God-knows-where on the internet. It might cost me an extra $10 for that supplement, but I think it's worth it to keep the tack shops in business so that when I need something that requires good customer service, I'll get it. I don't know any of the mail order services that allow you to buy an expensive bit and return it after two weeks of rides if it's not working (my local tack shop let me do this and it ended up saving me tons of $$ in the long run).

To address the other question - I think it depends on what for. If you ask a retailer his main demographic, he's probably talking more about who comes in to buy trendy clothes and things. Because his MAIN demographic is horse-owners/riders. I mean, you're not shopping by demographic when you make decisions about which wormers to stock. You're stocking what horse owners buy. The rest are just sub-demographics.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 16, 2009, 03:56 PM
If I had stayed in New England (or perhaps moved somewhere other than NYC) I think that riding and horses would have been much more doable for me. Even if it was just a once a week thing for years.


Right...and you chose NYC...very hard to ride while working there.

I interviewed with some big firms in NYC..and could have gone there to work. But knew that would mean giving up on riding for a while.....and decided that wasn't a choice I was willing to make.

Where you live...and the cost of living in that area is a HUGE factor in being able to continue riding while working.

Highflyer
Dec. 16, 2009, 03:57 PM
Have you ever BOUGHT a dewormer at a tack store? I was forced to once for a client's horse. It was $10! The people who buy them there, vs. get the generic brand from Tractor Supply or Jeffers for $2--ARE a demographic.

cranky
Dec. 16, 2009, 04:30 PM
Right...and you chose NYC...very hard to ride while working there.

I interviewed with some big firms in NYC..and could have go their to work. But knew that would me giving up on riding for a while.....and decided that wasn't a choice I was willing to make.

Where you live...and the cost of living in that area is a HUGE factor in being able to continue riding while working.

Part of the NYC decision was that that was where my family lived. I had a free place to live while I was trying to get started. I was not going to have that option anywhere else in the World. I'm not saying that I couldn't have started somewhere else, but it definitely would have been extremely hard. I was lucky to finally get a job that paid me enough for the commuting costs, I did not have a law degree that gave me tons of options with big name corporations. Even though I was coming out of college, in those days all anyone wanted to know was whether I could type. Having few living options at that point really made it seem like my choices were pretty narrow. I was also young and overwhelmed and thought that I had plenty of time to work things out for myself (time has a way of getting away from one however). While I did enjoy living in NYC for a good while, there came a time when I also felt trapped by the city. I wanted to move out years before I was finally able to. Wanting to have horses in my life was a big part of that want, but the desire was one thing, finding the opportunity was a completely different ball of wax and it took me YEARS.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 16, 2009, 04:36 PM
I did not have a law degree that gave me tons of options with big name corporations. .


I wasn't saying you made a wrong choice...I came out of college with very little savings and no parental support (but also not a lot of debt)....and got a horse job. Why...because it gave me housing and kept me with the horses while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life. Didn't know anyone in the area I first worked...family was over 3000 miles away.

I choose law school after working for a while because that degree gave me the quickest and greatest return on my investment in school...and then worked my a$$ off again..and still do (actually need to get back to work;))


I think Hey101 nailed it....it still comes down to the choices that we make. And while like everyone....there are some choices I regret making....you live and you learn.

hey101
Dec. 16, 2009, 04:40 PM
There are certainly choices involved in many ways. I am willing to sacrifice the "stuff"--the fancy saddles, the new show coat (mine is about 35 years old and was never quite the right size for me) and I am willing to sacrifice discretionary spending and time. I am NOT willing to sacrifice my relationship with my SO or other people. I'm not willing to compromise the opportunities I've been given in life to do other cool things or the talents I do have. I fully realize that I'm privileged in many ways, and I'd be a fool to throw away some of the other things in my life for a slim shot at horse glory. I can compete, have fun, work hard, and enjoy the process, but there are limits. For many of us, it IS a choice--to a degree.

Well put. I agree completely. Also with BFNE's comments about noone's choices being wrong FOR THEM, and that having different priorities in your life at different times being totally normal. Quite frankly ~I~ would not WANT to be so singular in my life and interests that horses-horses-horses were the only thing I lived and breathed for. Some people DO live and breathe horses-horses-horses, and they are the ones who want it bad enough to be the pros and ride at a level I never will. I support and respect their choice, even while knowing it's a choice I will never make. I love my husband and daughter, my career, my friends and family, where we live... DH and I are angling to move the fam overseas again in 2-4 years, and like the last large chunk of horseless time in my life while we were in Singapore, I would most likely sell my horse and live La Vita Dolce in the Old Country for awhile, shades of Frances Mayes. Will I miss the horses? Absolutely. Will it be a worthy sacrifice for a few years? Absolutely. This is what works for me and I could not be happier with the balance of horses and other interests in my life thus far. HOpefully most other people on here are in the same position, for the most part.

Lori B
Dec. 16, 2009, 04:56 PM
Uninterested / unsupportive family, always wanted to ride and have a horse, and now have my first -- at 45. My best friend is a classic gapper, who stopped riding after college - horse died, and she went to grad school. After law school when there was money and time, horses were back in her life.

When I took my first lessons 5 years ago, my class was full of women in their late 30s who had always wanted to ride, and there we were. We joked that our male peers were shopping for Harleys with their spare cash.

Very interesting thread.

Like the t-shirt says "I wasn't born in a barn, but I got there as quick as I could!"

enjoytheride
Dec. 16, 2009, 05:03 PM
Although horses are my life money gets in the way. I'd like to be competing at a higher level, on an easier horse, taking more lessons, clinics, and going to Aiken with my friends. The choices I made in life prevented that but I can either be fine with that or be miserable.

I supported myself through college and have student loan debt to prove it. I didn't have the option of living at home during college or in a dorm or the option of my parents paying for school. So I'm not really worried about paying those debts off right away. I'll get to it in due time and I think I can have a little fun while paying things off instead of zero fun and paying them off sooner.

Honestly had I known college would be useless I would have skipped it and the cost involved all together. Or I would have made a different degree choice.

I think people go into college and get told that now is the time to "be an adult" give up the silly riding thing, buy a house, buy a car, get a couple kids, etc. So they do as they are told and figure out in a few years that they really like horses and go at it again. If they get told "ok now is the time to be an adult and make choices and you can keep the horse if you want" they might do that.

Since my parents were never supportive of riding or of college it was all my choices. I didn't know anything about showing then and it wasn't until I was done with school I discovered local shows and eventing. Not having a horse wasn't an option. Having a used car so I could board a horse was an option. Renting instead of buying was. Not buying name brand was. Not having kids was.

sisu27
Dec. 16, 2009, 05:21 PM
Yes - for both tack shopping and riding in general.

You see it all the time - kid rides, parents are Very Supportive (horse, gear, trailer, etc), all the way through college.

Then Real Life enters in, and the 20-somethings are SHOCKED to find out what everything really costs. Most of them stop, and many are not quite as motivated now that THEY are responsible for the $$.

Yes. I wouldn't say my motivation was lacking but the bank to continue on as I had been doing was. My parents paid for everything until I quit in my 20's. I had the best of everything. Then when I went back and I was paying....it was a shock. I was stupid though....had no idea what it cost to even keep shoes on my horses! They still buy the odd blanket, pay for the odd clinic and did buy my current horse for me for Christmas but I pay for everything else. I have two vehicles, my own home, two dogs and am pretty chronically broke! But happy. I don't buy the best now if I can find something else that will do and don't care to chase trends (I also event again and no longer do the H/Js). I have sacrificed a normal relationship or two and would rather use money to pay my entries than to buy expensive clothing now. Many of my friends are similar.

Anyone think that it also has something to do with the fact that when you get a little older your priorities change? In my early 20's I though I had to have the most expensive "stuff" and be in a "normal" relationship. These two things did not allow me to dedicate the time or the money to riding that I do now....at the expense of those other things. I don't mind....in fact I am happy to do so. Either it is part of growing up or learning the hard way for some of us.

Ruperman
Dec. 16, 2009, 05:39 PM
I don't know if this has been mentioned, I didn't read all eight pages, but I can tell you about me.

I have been riding my whole life, h/j, dressage, now eventing with dabbles here and there in other disciplines. I did Young Riders in 2005 at the CCI* at 17. Prior to that my Mom and I spent tons of money in tack shops getting EVERYTHING. I remember having conversations with her where she asked me if I was going to ride forever otherwise she wasn't going to spend the money. We are by no means rich, but my brother and I weren't in college at the time.

Flash forward to now. I'm 21 in my senior year of college. I haven't been in to a tack shop for tack because I bought it all before Young Riders. Yes, I would like to have nicer things, but my saddles/bridles/bits/saddle pads are all still functioning and fit my horse, so I don't need the big purchases, let alone afford them. I do go and buy the occasional bell boots/fly spray/tack cleaner/etc. My parents are helping me out with college tuition and I would rather have that and miss a show or two. And like many others, I still muck stalls to pay for board.

If I hadn't been the teenager who went out and bought everything, then maybe I would be in the tack stores now. Probably not, but my point is, the teenagers have now purchased "it" so they aren't going to need it replaced very soon. It comes down to the choice factor for the teenager that it seems others were talking about as well.

One other point I just remembered, our sport is unique, men and women of all ages compete on a level playing field. So we are okay taking a break to go to college/get a job/whatever because our sport (equestrians) doesn't have an "age limit" like say, gymnastics does.

denny
Dec. 16, 2009, 06:48 PM
I had no idea this topic would stir up such an intense amount of interest and passion.

I could write a Between Rounds article, but it seems too big and important a topic to be so easily dealt with and "dismissed".

Any thoughts?

Arbitrary
Dec. 16, 2009, 07:25 PM
So it doesn`t go away, but, like malaria, hides dormant, sometimes for years, then flares back into active existence?

Or crack!!



Perfect!

Rode/competed H/J until college years - then had long gap for education, mating rituals :lol:, and job/income stability and security. Started by taking lessons again - and at 37, was given an OTTB. The addiction came back in leaps/bounds. I don't compete, primarily because Horse isn't sound enough, and my job doesn't have much flexibility.

All of my (eventer) barnmates are teenagers, or over 35 or so.

Peggy
Dec. 16, 2009, 07:28 PM
Writing the Between Rounds article doesn't necessarily mean it's dismissed, just perhaps partially dealt with. Perhaps said article will open up more dialogue.

In my case, I kept a horse thru undergrad then sold her when I went to grad school (moving across the country to a cold climate didn't seem fair to a 15+ y.o. horse). Five years of grad school gave me some time away from horses which may have been a good thing. I'd still ride when I went to visit my family and rode with the precursor to ISHA and had a tendency to go into shoe stores to inhale the leather smell. I don't know that I truly knew how much I missed it until I got a fairly large check from my grandma for graduation and my first thought was "I could buy a horse with this." So maybe it is like malaria or LSD in that it lies dormant in your system.

I was horseless for five years, and competition free for nine.

Bought an inexpensive, but fun, horse and managed to take a lesson or two a week while doing all my own barn work and going to local shows to which I could hack while on a postdoc salary. It also helped that I moved into my parents' guest house and had minimal rent. Worked as a groom at the few away shows I did. There's that choice thing again. But I wasn't spending a lot of money in tack stores.

Crept my way up the academic ladder with an assortment of long-term temporary teaching jobs, while maintaining pretty much the same program tho with a bit more money to spend in tack stores. Finally scored the FT permanent job, in an area where I could afford a horse and wanted to ride, six years after getting a PhD.

Now, I do have the time to hang out at the barn, but it comes at the cost of teaching mostly at night. I can hack that extra horse that belongs to someone with less time but more money. I still don't have the money to hit the A-circuit, but definitely enough to keep a horse in training and show at the regional, and sometimes the A level. I made a career choice that gave me more time to ride, even if it means having less money to show and to buy fancier horses.

Thames Pirate
Dec. 16, 2009, 08:39 PM
One thing you could touch on is the "loneliness" factor--watching those around you compete, attend every clinic and schooling show known to man, buy nice stuff, etc. while you are scraping together enough for your one horse trial of the year. I enjoy going to the barn and hanging out with the girls and older ladies there (and the lone teenage guy), but none of them can relate to me on a more personal level, nor can they relate to my horse goals. I compete at Training and would love to one day do a P3DE, CCI*, and possibly more. I'm not content to just trail ride or hop over little logs. But I know I'm not going pro, and I'm not likely to ever get to Rolex (haven't ruled it out yet, but I'm coming to terms with the fact that it isn't in my future). The older ladies at the barn don't understand the competitive drive (for the most part) while the kids don't understand that I have to earn the money to do all the things for which their parents pay. Almost nobody understands why I keep it up after such a tough year (and that's not counting all my previous bad luck). It's a lonely place, and without a phenomenally understanding instructor, some moral boosts from my parents, and an immensely supportive SO I might have given up at some point--and been miserable as a result. Being surrounded by friends and other horsey folk does NOT equate to being surrounded by the like-minded.

quietann
Dec. 16, 2009, 09:19 PM
Ummm, yeah.

Like any addictive substance, the abuser on rehab knows they cannot go near it. At all.


When I was in my Ph.D. program, the university leased land to a rag-tag boarding operation, with something around 50 horses all privately owned and boarded there. One of the ways I could walk to the grocery store took me right past the place, and I found very quickly that I needed to avoid that route at all costs!

It was only through the pressure of J and another friend that I took up riding again. It was something I thought I was too old and fat to do. J was having a rough time in her life and wanted company when she rode her old gelding out. That turned into her returning to eventing after many years off, and eventually purchasing a *very* nice eventer that could take her where her old guy could not. Her daughter and I then rode the old guy and he taught us a lot.

Someone said something about "the good old days" of quality tack etc. Yes, quality, but that meant a lot of us were closed out of many horse activities. I couldn't afford custom leather boots as a teenager, didn't fit into the few off the rack ones available (and couldn't afford them either), so I suffered in rubber boots for all my lessons and trail rides. My father had to yank them off of me after every ride while I tried not to scream from the pain. The lack of funds meant I couldn't show, couldn't foxhunt, etc.... but I still rode, pain and all. The fact that I can now buy "cheap" leather dress boots for $150 is a good thing IMHO, though some of you old-timers may look down your noses at them.

deltawave
Dec. 16, 2009, 09:23 PM
people shopping in tack shops ARE going to mainly be kids on their parent's dime- they don't know better, need instant gratification, have to put their hands on things/try on sizes etc.Perhaps, but I would also argue that putting my hands on things is something I consider pretty important for things like galloping boots, saddle pads, girths, and shoes/boots for me. Also breeches, although I'm pretty much set on the styles and brands that fit me now and rarely have to try them on. Some stuff you just want to TOUCH before you buy.

I might go fondle stuff at the tack store, then go home and buy it on line. :D But in that same vein, I *do* try to make a fair number of purchases from my local tack store because I'd like it to still be there next season, next year, and 5 years from now. :)

jn4jenny
Dec. 16, 2009, 09:26 PM
I had no idea this topic would stir up such an intense amount of interest and passion.

I could write a Between Rounds article, but it seems too big and important a topic to be so easily dealt with and "dismissed".

Any thoughts?

Denny, I'd love to see a column focused on what you think this phenemon may be doing--positive and negative--for the professional eventing community. What does it mean to conduct business in this kind of environment? What does it mean for clients, trainers, those bringing along sale horses, etc.? Does it mean we should be doing something to encourage (or make it easier for) the twentysomething to lesson and compete more actively, or should we let people continue as they have and let those who are most hungry find their way to competition?

Maybe this phenomemon means nothing and everything's business as usual, but based on my anecdotal observations, that's not the case. I have seen "the gap" affect the way that local and/or little name trainers conduct their business. Some of them actively shun thirtysomething clients, some inadvertently push the thirtysomething clients away by not understanding that client's story and needs, and other trainers have barns FULL of happy thirtysomethings stroking off check after check. My former trainer was in that third category, and I found it to be a very supportive environment for a twentysomething rider. Those women had walked in my shoes, or similar shoes, just a decade or two earlier. They were extremely supportive toward me and my horse, and my trainer never treated differently than her more lucrative clients. I ended up being a pretty lucrative client in the end (spent about half of my First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit with her this summer!), but she had no reason to think I'd have ever been more than a once-a-week offsite lesson client.

pharmgirl
Dec. 16, 2009, 09:57 PM
So it doesn`t go away, but, like malaria, hides dormant, sometimes for years, then flares back into active existence?

Or crack!!

This is very interesting.

:lol::lol::lol:

I think my husband would totally agree, denny!

I rode as a kid but didn't during high school and college/grad school (part due to time, others due to family finances b/c they couldn't afford more than weekly lessons). I met my husband in college and got married right after graduating from undergrad. Once I finished grad school and had money and time available, I immediately started riding again. Now I finally have my first horse, trailer, truck, and a husband that said I totally hid this obsession from him. My response to that was "my pre-vet major, horse pillows, horse trash can, horse checks, etc, were not big enough clues?" ;)

wookie
Dec. 16, 2009, 10:00 PM
well, i am 43. i have always supported my own riding even though my father was a ceo of a lg company. worked for lessons at age11...bought my first horse at age 21 on a spur of the moment. have never been married...i am the runaway bride. i am an er nurse who is in the middle of a 124 hour work stretch in 10 days. my friends say i work for my passion---horses..not nursing. i own two horses and always have an eye open for the next. even with my grueling work schedule these past ten days i have fit in a will coleman clinic and lessons with my regular trainer mogie (who is awesome)...but the social life has had to wait. but no gap in shopping for me...my trailer is a tack shop and my horses have more winter/spring clothing then me. and that shop owner..john nunn has my credit card on file....in fact all the vendors do at shows...very dangerous.

Jazzy Lady
Dec. 17, 2009, 09:24 AM
Yes, the gap is for sure real. I just finished 6 years of post secondary education and had to get one of those *gasp* career things. Now I love my job, but I managed to make it to one local unsanctioned combined test and xc schooling once. And to a few lessons with a friend (luckily the friend rides *** so she's pretty good ;))

I have pulled my horses shoes for the first time this winter, he is furry and fat and I haven't seen him in 2 weeks (and he lives 5 minutes from me) that's how busy I've been. It's so pathetic. I drive past his barn on the way to work and get so sad that I don't get to see him often. I'm hoping to ride more in the new year, but I work until it's dark out and around here, it doesn't get light until it's time to go to work, I don't have an indoor or lights and it's far too cold to ride in the dark.

So I'm 25. Money is also an issue. I can barely afford to keep him in quality shoes. My board bill is very small, but I pay for feed which is nothing really, but it all adds up. When you get out of school and graduate into the construction industry... you're lucky to get out from under the poverty line. And I moved home to be able to afford just to keep him. It's getting scary really... but the gap is definitely real.


That being said, I was very fortunate to have full parental support all through school. While I was in my program (which was crazy demanding of time) I managed to ride 5-6 days a week, compete at intermediate and go to florida for a month in the winter and maintain a 95% average... so having the time management skills for me isn't the problem, especially in the light hours... it's the money.

frugalannie
Dec. 17, 2009, 09:59 AM
Denny, to make a suggestion more to the point of your last query;

Perhaps COTH would consider devoting an issue to this topic, reporting the statistics for each discipline and, as jnforjenny posted, exploring the ramifications at many levels. A rider or two within each decade could have a thumbnail profile showing how they dealt with pre-gap, gap and post-gap. Some would be "riding is and has been my priority" types like BFNE, whose story is incredibly inspiring. Some could be those who are equally inspiring, like Deltawave, who made other choices but came back to their passion. I won't mention any more names, but the concerns of a Young Rider knowing that they are about to "age out" of the Mom and Dad supported portion of their lives to the very real fears of a {ahem} more mature rider taking up a sport that they know is dangerous with a body that doesn't seem to do anything quite as obediently as it used to may also be of interest.

I give you and John Nunn huge props for identifying this issue and raising it for discussion. I'd also love to see if it carries across other disciplines (my gut says it does) and most of all, I'd love the collective brainpower of COTH BB to weigh in on the next logical questions: what creative approaches are there to making the gap less of a necessity for those who truly want to continue riding or should the status quo remain?

frugalannie
Dec. 17, 2009, 10:07 AM
Oh, and I forgot to mention that the guy's perspective should be included, although I'm not sure that anything Gnep says can be printed.:lol:

curlykarot
Dec. 17, 2009, 10:10 AM
frugalannie - I like your idea of the whole issue. My guess would be that this does extend across disciplines - I see so many threads in the H/J forum about a Junior career and trying to rack up the points before they age out. Doesn't seem like much is offered after you age of of juniors - or is it that juniors are super important? I don't know much about H/J showing so I'm just throwing this out there.

LexInVA
Dec. 17, 2009, 10:29 AM
In the H/J world, juniors are important because that is the part of the sport where the money is. The 10-16 riders are the financial backbone of that segment of the industry because that is when they have the family money behind them which means far more expensive horses and associated merchandise is sold than what the meager number of adults are moving. The better you do as a Junior, the more likely you can get someone with money and horses to back you as an adult rider though most junior riders quit well before they "age out" for obvious reasons such as being in high school where you have to focus on preparing for college and moving on to healthier sports and far more enjoyable activities. The same holds true for Eventing as well though the sport has a significantly higher rate of recidivism and conversion from other Equestrian sports than H/J does. Oddly enough, the Western disciplines don't really have the gap problem because of the culture, expense, and structure of their competitive sports.

CookiePony
Dec. 17, 2009, 10:31 AM
...the sport has a significantly higher rate of recidivism ...

Yep, just like crack. ;)

quietann
Dec. 17, 2009, 10:33 AM
oh, also... my BO got one of her horses for free from a young woman who hit the no-parental-support stage of life and stopped paying board. It was that or the MSPCA for the horse; he was and is a bit crazy and he is the most mare-ish gelding :eek: you will ever meet, but he jumps 3'6" like it's nothing. But BO still feels bad for the previous owner.

Ravencrest_Camp
Dec. 17, 2009, 11:25 AM
Haven't had time to read through the entire thread.

But here is a possible explanation why 20 somethings and early 30's women don't shop in the tack stores.

When someone is in their teens, their mothers buy them all of their equipment and tack. To the point that they are full outfitted and do not need to make any more purchases. It is not until they are in thier mid to late 30s that they need to start replacing the tack and equipment that their mother bought for them when they were in their teens. Also at this time they themselves may have daughters starting to ride, and in need of outfitting.

Maybe? :confused:

Donkey
Dec. 17, 2009, 11:46 AM
frugalannie - I like your idea of the whole issue. My guess would be that this does extend across disciplines - I see so many threads in the H/J forum about a Junior career and trying to rack up the points before they age out. Doesn't seem like much is offered after you age of of juniors - or is it that juniors are super important? I don't know much about H/J showing so I'm just throwing this out there.

I was recently discussing this with some barn mates - it started with a comment on how nice it is in the eventing community that they put on all of theses training events and camps for young riders that weren't there when we were kids and the response from the other adult riders was WHY AREN"T THEY DOING THE SAME AND MORE FOR THE ADULTS who pay the majority of the eventing memberships and fees and fill the shows. The Adults are in it for the long haul - the teenagers are only around for a few years. Why are we, the adults, being dismissed just because we may not dream about Rolex and the Olympics????

I have to say i agree and it makes sense.

I understand that in some areas of the US there are adult only training camps etc and I would like to see similar things introduced to my area instead of the focus on the flash in a pan young riders that fizzle into nothing once reality hits.

WillowRidgeJ
Dec. 17, 2009, 01:10 PM
If the gap question is asking who is buying in tack shops, well in my area the ones that exist only cater to teenagers (and younger). There are literally hundreds of woman in my area that ride and a more than a couple of men as well. These folks are mostly in the 40 -70+ age range and fox hunt, H/J, event, trail, and some showing, but the local tack shops dont know we even exist. This age range generally rides pretty regularly and spends a considerable amount of money, but I dont buy anything locally since I dont wear size 22 breeches or a size 2 coat. Like you said about the men, you have to mail order or do day trips to find a place to buy anything. The 40+ range is the other gap, but we do exist, we ride, take lessons and buy.

lalahartma1
Dec. 17, 2009, 01:14 PM
Yup, I rode as a teen, went to college and onto the 'real world.' As a singleton with no kids, I started up again late 30s.

deltawave
Dec. 17, 2009, 01:30 PM
I dont buy anything locally since I dont wear size 22 breeches or a size 2 coat.

This is so true! Almost everything you see in "retail" tack stores is sort of "fashion-based" rather than the truly practical, workaday stuff. Probably this is because the profit margin is larger? I dunno. I mean, all these fashionable riding shirts and jackets are cool, but I sure as heck am not looking to buy them. Give me technical fabrics, hard-wearing stuff, some stinking WORK GLOVES without silly bling or logos and I'll buy. Heck, sell me some plain socks and I'll be happy. No? OK, guess I'll continue to buy that stuff at the TSC. And while I'm at it, they sell halters, lead ropes, and salt blocks, too.

Maybe "retail" is just not what us "mature" buyers are looking for, either in price or in the sense that "retail" = "latest and greatest". My dream tack shop would be 10% show clothes and 90% GEAR.

Trixie
Dec. 17, 2009, 02:01 PM
That makes sense to me, but at the same time I wonder why I have found that I'm one of the only people my age still riding? Maybe I'm at the 'wrong stable' but I see it at events too. Lots of people up to age 18, then lots over age 35.

Maybe it's just that many people this age decide to not sacrifice all those other things for horses?

I think it's just so much less feasible, even if you do make sacrifices - how much can you realistically cut?

We're told that in order to afford to play, we're going to have to have a decent job, and that means college. College is exorbitantly expensive. More and more students are needing to take out student loans.

Horses are expensive to the point that most entry-level jobs won't cover them - many of those jobs pay hardly enough to get by. Heck, in this economy "entry level" jobs are going to people that are not entry level whatsoever.

Some will find a way, others will choose to wait. It's part choice and part logic. Some folks have endless energy and can "do it all." Others, not so much.

AUeventer
Dec. 17, 2009, 03:11 PM
Yes that's dead on. I've had a horse since I was 13. Now at 23 I am being forced to sell because I am no longer being supported and I am still in school. I can't really take out more student loans just to pay board. That seems ludicrous. I imagine that a few years down the road when I am out of school and have my own farm I will get another one.

EvntDad
Dec. 17, 2009, 03:21 PM
I believe the gap is real, but I also believe it’s as it should be.

My daughter is a high school senior and about to enter the gap years. She has spent the last 6 yrs living and breathing eventing. She was lucky to have a fabulous been-there-done-that horse that took her to the upper levels, and she was very lucky to have parents that could afford (barely) to fund her efforts. She won our area Prelim Championship, was riding and winning Int at age 15, and was able to establish close working relationships with BNT’s in our area. She chose not to compete at NAYRC due to concerns about the impact to her horses soundness, but instead was able to spend the summer in Germany working for a top dressage trainer. These are fabulous life-experiences that I’m sure she will cherish forever.

But now the real world is calling. She knows she doesn’t want a career in horses, but even if she did, we would still want her to attend college. College is simply too important these days to pass up, both for personal and professional growth. Even if she changes her mind and decides to pursue a career in horses, the college experience will be invaluable.

Yes, she has big 4-star dreams just like the next kid, and I hope she gets there someday. But while I am so proud of her horsey accomplishment and shared in the emotions of both her successes and setbacks, my bigger concern as a parent is that she put herself in a position to be successful in and enjoy her entire life. I remember a commencement speaker many years ago encouraging the graduates to not let their high school years be the highlight of their life…and I think that is great advice.

So, while she waits for the college acceptance/rejection letters to arrive, she also wonders what the future will bring in the world of horses. The plan is for her to take her younger horse to college, but we secretly hope things don’t go too well as we don’t want her desire to compete to distract her from her primary job, which is to both enjoy the college experience and continue to excel in her academics. As for life after college – it’s hard to imagine her not riding and competing. But we also know that good, well-paying jobs are demanding for a reason, especially in the early years when you have to fight to establish yourself. I’m sure she’ll make it work to some degree. As for those 4-star aspirations…my suggestion to her is to fall in love with somebody that has $$$ and worships the ground on which she walks…and would like nothing better than to watch her ride around Rolex.

JFS
Dec. 17, 2009, 03:48 PM
If you're looking for it from a guys perspective I should be able to help in a few months. My oldest son will be graduating from college in June. He has a lovely, albeit sometimes frustrating, horse serious upper level potential and a young OTTB mare that someone gave us who is quite nice. The first two years he went to school a little more than an hour away and came home and rode every weekend. After transferring to main campus the drive was two and a half hours or more depending on traffic. He usually was home 3 out of four weekends and managed to do a CCI* in the fall. After spending this summer as a working student and his horse got hurt he has spent most of his time enjoying his senior year on campus. However, he knows that once he graduates he has to start paying the bills. If he can find a good job near home, which isn't very likely, the horses can stay home but there are still bills to be paid. We've had a few interesting conversations while he has been home over break which I won't bore you with here but suffice it to say, if he really wants to keep competing it's going to be difficult. We'll see how much he really wants it.

Number two son goes to a State University about 50 minutes from home and after living on campus for a year and hating living in the city has decided to live at home and commute to school so he can ride more. Interestingly enough a girl from school needed a ride to our event last fall and contacted him for a ride. It seems his only friends are girls who ride :) At least a girl isn't going to be a problem at this time anyway since she is horse crazy too :)

As for me, I started riding when I was 9 and had a very supportive father, (mother was scared of horses) went to a horsey college, stayed on to teach at said horsey college, tried a civilian job for a year, hated it went back to working at horsey college, met and married my husband. At that time my mother thought I was going to grow up and give up the horses which were, according to her, only intended to keep me out of trouble during those 'teen years' not become a life long obsession. When I rode three horses the day before my first child was born she gave up :) Even two pregnancies haven't slowed me down much, but for the first time in years I didn't compete this year because having two kids who compete who are also in college doesn't leave much money for me. But I must say, when they don't have time to ride it's nice to have three more nice horses to ride :)

In fact, the day is a wasting, the sun is shinning and it's above freezing I'm going out to ride with number one son :)

Jackie

Kaelurus
Dec. 17, 2009, 03:53 PM
I have been watching this thread (though I have not read every single post), and I definitely think there is a gap, and it stretches across disciplines (I am primarily a dressage rider at this point in my life, but was a h/j)...

I am 28 now, and have been riding since I was 5. I grew up on a cattle ranch, so horses were always around, but when I want to learn to jump, I was on my own. I worked off my lessons, and leases until I was in college. I managed to pay for an occasional C show by grooming for all of my wealthy friends at the A shows. When I went to college, I rode IHSA for four years, then went strait to grad school, when I bought, with my own saved money, my first "sport" horse (ie not a cow pony). I managed to make it through grad school and into a career that afforded me my hobby. I moved to a nicer barn, with better trainers, etc., until I realized that I hated my cushy career. Now I am back in school, making a career change to veterinary medicine, so that I can be a part of the horse world full time. And I'm poor again, with a horse to feed, but giving up in the interim isn't an option. So I eat ramen and grilled cheese for most meals, but thats a sacrifice I happily make.

I can only look forward to the day when I will have a real income again, and be able to afford this sport and food for myself! Until then, ride on :yes:

Would it be nice to have some sort of grant or scholarship program for people like me? Abso-freakin-lutely! Do I think its realistic? Not at all. This sport is far to expensive for that. But I will cross my fingers and hope!

Trixie
Dec. 17, 2009, 04:16 PM
I remember a commencement speaker many years ago encouraging the graduates to not let their high school years be the highlight of their life…and I think that is great advice.

Honestly, I think that's one of the best things about horse sports - there's ALWAYS later. We don't age out at 18 like in some sports. You can continue to ride and compete forever if you stay sound enough to do so.

KSevnter
Dec. 17, 2009, 04:32 PM
The plan is for her to take her younger horse to college, but we secretly hope things don’t go too well as we don’t want her desire to compete to distract her from her primary job, which is to both enjoy the college experience and continue to excel in her academics. As for life after college – it’s hard to imagine her not riding and competing.

Somewhat off topic, but my parents sent me off to college with similar outlook. It is an experience in and of itself and you should participate. That said, I went to college 1200 miles away from home with my 6 year old and did my first CCI* the first month of college, even taking an exam early to do so. I had him there all four years and continued to campaign him throughout.

There is a way to balance the academics, horses, and a social life. If she is a good student and a well-adjusted kid (and it sounds like she is) she will do just fine.

I think I did it pretty well. I did all the normal stuff fraternity formals, parties etc and emersed myself in college life whenever I wasn't competing. I made life-long nonhorsey friends, met my future husband and went on to law school.

I know that as a parent you don't want your daughter to involve herself in horses to the point where it is a detriment to all other aspects of the college experience but any child who has been raised with the awareness that an education and career are important will find a way to balance it all.

EvntDad
Dec. 17, 2009, 04:59 PM
KSevnter - sounds like you did it right and things worked out well...that's great to hear...and thanks for the encouraging words.

denny
Dec. 17, 2009, 06:16 PM
One thought. So many avid younger riders seem to hit a wall when their parents stop paying the bills, college or school is finished, they have a real 9 to 5 job, all that "reality."

So instead of continuing to ride "around the edges", a weekend here, an afternoon there, the occasional catch ride, they simply quit.

As if it must be "all, or nothing at all" to quote a Frank Sinatra song lyric.

Maybe this isn`t such a good solution, maybe there can be "life after death" so to speak!

We---the Royal WE---, which means the riding community, we need to start talking about this whole "gap thing", so that there aren`t so many sad stories of people who simply abandon their dreams.

There ARE ways to help bridge the gap. It just takes some creative thinking, I think.

skip916
Dec. 17, 2009, 06:18 PM
Im 26, work FOUR jobs and am in nursing school, am a newlywed and a recent 1st time homeowner. I have been riding since childhood but just got my own horse again (two weeks ago) and have spent the college years and beyond riding other people horses, training whatever no one else wanted to ride, and dreaming about being able to shop for nice tack. I ride in a Ernst Goedicke saddle made in the 60's that I LOVE but it doesnt fit my new horse so I am nannying extra hours to afford something used that fits her. I shop only for new horse related stuff when it can be put on a birthday or Christmas list or I find a super sale. I stalk things I want for MONTHS until they go one sale or I can find the same item for less somewhere else.

I miss the days when my parents would drive me to ATL just to visit all the tack shops, but appreciate that they made me earn my first saddle and work off my lease on my horse.

I look foward to climbing out of the GAP one day and being able to shop again without great anxiety, angst and overdraft fees, but for now, I am developing my "find the deal" skills! So yes, I totally think it exists and the tack store owner is a smart man to know where his bread is buttered!

I also think there should be a "poor 20-something girl" scholarship somewhere out there- we really are the forgotten demographic!

If you really are committed to this sport/lifestyle, you can make it work. I used to feed and muck 30 something horses before my 8am in college to work off a lease. My mantra is: I'd rather be poor and happy with horses in my life, than have a little more money in my pocket and be miserable.

GotSpots
Dec. 17, 2009, 06:23 PM
But I don't think it is all or nothing for many of us. There is a "gap" but I think it's often much more shifting of priorities and emphasis, than really quitting altogether. Sure, when I went to undergrad I sold my YRs horse and catch rode alot of not so great horses (and some very nice ones as well). I just didn't show as much for those four years, because I was working at, as EventDad puts it so nicely, the job of enjoying college and doing well academically. The priorities shifted somewhat because school became a priority; shifted back to riding some my junior/senior year once law school etc was sorted out; shifted back to school during my 1L year, and has bounced back and forth ever since as I juggle work/riding/life.

Though I sure wasn't buying much at tack shops during those years. I milked my YR era gear a long, looong, time while I was paying off those student loans.

Lisa Cook
Dec. 17, 2009, 06:33 PM
One thought. So many avid younger riders seem to hit a wall when their parents stop paying the bills, college or school is finished, they have a real 9 to 5 job, all that "reality."

So instead of continuing to ride "around the edges", a weekend here, an afternoon there, the occasional catch ride, they simply quit.

As if it must be "all, or nothing at all" to quote a Frank Sinatra song lyric.

Maybe this isn`t such a good solution, maybe there can be "life after death" so to speak!

We---the Royal WE---, which means the riding community, we need to start talking about this whole "gap thing", so that there aren`t so many sad stories of people who simply abandon their dreams.

There ARE ways to help bridge the gap. It just takes some creative thinking, I think.

I think the gap can be bridged...but someone has to want it bad enough to make it happen. I wanted it bad enough that at the age of 23, I convinced a bank to loan me $6,000 (when my annual salary was $15,000) to buy a 3 year old "investment horse" and then spend every spare minute of my life working at the barn to support that investment horse. I wanted it bad enough to make riding possible.

Meanwhile, here I am a few decades later, giving my son the childhood with horses I never had...but will he want it bad enough when he hits that gap time? He can't even come up with an ice cream cone to pay off a bet ;) ...I can't picture him working as hard as I did to keep riding and horses in his life. It takes hunger and passion and those who have it will make it happen, one way or another.

CookiePony
Dec. 17, 2009, 06:41 PM
As if it must be "all, or nothing at all" to quote a Frank Sinatra song lyric.

The "gap" wasn't all or nothing for me, except for my senior year of college. Sometimes I would go once a week, but I would still ride. Then when I was in grad school I would lease horses. I was not buying much from tack shops, but I was definitely riding.

subk
Dec. 17, 2009, 06:44 PM
So instead of continuing to ride "around the edges", a weekend here, an afternoon there, the occasional catch ride, they simply quit.

As if it must be "all, or nothing at all" to quote a Frank Sinatra song lyric...

There ARE ways to help bridge the gap. It just takes some creative thinking, I think.
I rode through some of my gap...well not college or the 2 1/2 years where I had two babies in 15 months. I couldn't ride in a car long enough without getting sick to make it to the barn! (Yes, sometimes you are so lucky you have morning sickness for 9 1/2 months.) But right after college I found an older gentleman who needed his young TBs ridden. They didn't need much, but riding one or two of them a few times a week cost me zero and was a great help to him. Because I wouldn't take his money to ride I was free to come and go as my schedule allowed. It worked for three or four years.

YRs out there, you need to take care of your tack and don't throw anything away! Those ratty old boots may just be godsends in a few years, even if they are ugly...

I think the intensity of training for eventing is such that when you are young it might be hard to understand that it can be fun even without some major goal to work toward. It took a while for me to realize that riding a couple times a week was enjoyable.

I wonder if we should start a sticky at the top of the page--"Rides available for gap riders." By spring I'll have enough on my plate that I could happily provide a ride or two a week for some experience rider who maybe horseless, but happens to attend a local college...

VicariousRider
Dec. 17, 2009, 06:59 PM
So instead of continuing to ride "around the edges", a weekend here, an afternoon there, the occasional catch ride, they simply quit.

As if it must be "all, or nothing at all" to quote a Frank Sinatra song lyric.


Denny:

I fully agree! I have competed very minimally throughout college but continued to ride with very short breaks (now being one of them). I actually found that when the financial support stopped coming in I realized exactly how much I love riding. I was a substantially successful junior h/j rider on the AA circuit but realized that riding is so much more than competing for me. It's about being with and on horses.

In my "gap" years (which I am still in at 25), I have become 100 times the horse woman I was when I was competing regularly. When money was tight I had to get creative and take what I could find. I galloped steeplechase horses, foxhunted, exercised eventers, ran eventing & steeplechase barns and was a full-time vet tech for a sports medicine vet along the way.

These days, time is tight. I hope in the spring or at least by next fall to find a great metro-boston dressage trainer who has nice school horses so I can get a better foundation on the flat. We will see if that fall into pace, but overall, my "gap" years are proving to be the best equestrian education I have ever gotten!!

Peggy
Dec. 17, 2009, 07:01 PM
I did ride around the edges thru undergrad and grad school. With my own horse thru undergrad, tho not showing and riding a lot less frequently and more casually (somewhere there is a photo of me sitting on my horse bareback in the middle of the UCI dorms:D). What enabled that was a parental until willing to foot the bills for college and for minimal horse expenses along with my willingness to ride more casually and do a lot of the care myself. I can't see a parent sending a kid off to the same situation with their six-figure big eq horse or junior hunter and keeping a horse at a BNT's along with college expenses could definitely get pricey.

Rode far less frequently in grad school. Did ride when I would come home for a few weeks over the summer and at Christmas break. That was enabled by a mother who had a horse. One summer she arranged for me to "lease" a horse for a couple of weeks while I was home. After the first year of grad school my parents had horse property. It's a lot easier to ride (lower activation energy, as we say in chemistry) when the horses are right there outside the back door.

But I graduated from HS in 1973:eek:. I suspect that the situations that allowed me to ride thru college are less common now than they were then.

sdfarm
Dec. 17, 2009, 08:04 PM
I sold the horses when I went to college. I couldn't afford to do both at the same time.

Got married, got another horse, got divorced, kept the horse:)

Back in college again at 30. Still have the horse, and just now am able to spend, spend, spend. I do believe there is a gap, but I don't believe EVERYONE goes through it. Of my horsie friends, roughly 3/4 of them have the same pattern. Many because they had kids to pay attention to for a while:)

luvmycabanaboy
Dec. 17, 2009, 09:47 PM
Consider me gappy....

I'm 22 and graduated college in May (WHOOP!) I got a job that pays ridiculously well so paying for the horse now that mom and dad aren't isn't reallya problem

The transition from high school to college was WAY easier than the transition from college to "real world" for me.
It was easy to ride everyday in college, i was only in class 3 hours a day. Now im in the office at 8 and don't usually leave until 7 pm. Now that its cold and dark its very hard to get out to the barn as often...so my horse sits in the barn waiting for me...

However sometimes i don't think its such a bad thing to have a few gap years to get your life together and learn how to be a grownup..

wildlifer
Dec. 18, 2009, 08:51 AM
Sometimes there is only so much you can do. I disagree with the opinion "oh, if you only work harder and give up more, you can do it." That's not always the case. Sometimes, short of living in a box, there is little else to give up. There are family problems, there are health problems, there are lost jobs, there are times you have to draw the line.

I do agree that it doesn't have to be all or nothing either. A person should feel like because they can't afford to do recognized shows, then they are less worthy or less dedicated than someone who was lucky enough to be able to do so. There shouldn't be a message that you have to prostitute yourself to a job that you hate just to make more money so you can participate in the sport. Because for some folks that is the case -- I could make more money, but I would have to leave a field that I feel is vital and enter one that is to me, would be merely about personal profit, not the way I want to live my life. This is certainly not the case for everyone, as we have seen here -- some folks have the good fortune to find enjoyment and fulfillment in a career that is much more lucrative or to live in a two-income household. But if you don't fall into this category, I don't think that you should feel as if you aren't "working hard enough" or "making the right choices" to be considered a dedicated horseperson.

gully's pilot
Dec. 18, 2009, 09:01 AM
One way to look at the gap is that it's a gap in spending, not necessarily riding. For sure when I was 22 and newly married, I wasn't frequenting the local tack store. I had my old boots patched twice, and when they wouldn't hold another patch I bought $80 leather field boots from a discount riding catalog--the cheapest boots that were still actual leather. I had one saddle pad for over a year--only one, I mean, I think I've still got the sucker--and my first saddle, including fittings and a bridle, cost $200 (it was a horrible saddle!). But I rode, and I stayed within my means, and that was what mattered.

Trixie
Dec. 18, 2009, 09:31 AM
For many it is more of a gap in spending than a gap in riding. I rode. I'm still in the category of what could technically be called "gap" years but have a bit more security then I did when I left college. But then again, I ride other people's horses, which means I'm reliant on their generosity in order to ride as much as I do. I've been extremely fortunate - but not everyone is. Many people just don't have the opportunity, or the time to find the opportunity. When you're working until 6 or 7 in the evening and then trying to find a horse to ride, there are few folks that are going to tell you, by all means, show up at 8 p.m. or later and ride.

There have definitely been times where I know life would be simpler if I didn't ride. But alas, I would be miserable, so maybe not so simple.

purplnurpl
Dec. 18, 2009, 10:15 AM
As if it must be "all, or nothing at all" to quote a Frank Sinatra song lyric.

"so that there aren`t so many sad stories of people who simply abandon their dreams."

There ARE ways to help bridge the gap. It just takes some creative thinking, I think.

I disagree. If these dreams were 'abandoned' then they must not have been dreams at all.

Maybe the gap--facing reality--is a great cross over to weed out the hard workers from the others. It's much easier when you have $$$ backing and a fancy horse to prance around on.

Yes, there are ways to bridge the gap. Love the dream more than you love relationships and beer at college. If you are in for your life's dreams then you are in for the long run and you will make it happen no matter what the cost.

There will always be a riderless horse that needs a horseless rider. Somewhere.

porter83
Dec. 18, 2009, 11:10 AM
Wow. Reading all of your posts has been extremely cathartic for me; it's nice to know I'm not alone in the "gap"!

My story: I was blessed enough with understanding, though not horsey, parents who enabled me to take weekly H/J lessons starting at age 8. At 13, an appendix mare became available for lease with the "potential" to do the AA shows. At that point, I had only done local schooling shows, so it was exciting, but not a neccessity. My parents agreed, and we (um, my parents :) wound up buying her when I was 16. All through highschool I showed at local schooling shows and the occasional 'C' shows. The sticker shock on those alone was enough for my parents. I was at a big time barn in Dallas, and all my friends were going to the big shows every week, but I was happy participting when I could.

At 18, I went to college, and my supportive parents agreed to send my horse with me. We found an old rundown event barn just outside the college town that had been the home of the '89 Olympic trials, and it would be a no-pressure barn. While the, um, trainer (I use the term loosely...rather quickly it became clear that she was not the most reliable person in the world) wasn't the best, I got HOOKED on cross country. I only did one recognized event during college, but did some local schooling shows in the immediate area. I was busy with class, sorority and boys, but still managed to ride 3 or 4 times a week.

During my senior year, things really deteriorated at my barn, so I moved my mare to self care for a year before moving to a very nice barn with a good steady trainer. No cross country, but you can't always have it all, can you :) ?

I kept my horse on full board (on my dime) and was able to take weekly lessons and the occasional xcountry schooling. When my husband and I got married and moved to NC for his residency, we decided to leave my girl behind. She was approaching 20 and wasn't able to go at the level I wanted to, so she became a school horse for my wonderful trainer.

Now I'm 26, horseless, but with some opportunities. One of my husband's attendings has a private barn with 40 welsh and arabs that need working. Now, it's not exactly my cup of tea, but it's horses, and it's FREE. One of my husband's co-worker's wife is big big big time into the HJ scene, and has a friend who needs to half lease her TB jumper...so I'm edging my way back into the horse world. I'd been out here a year without riding, and it was becoming depressing. Thankfully, that gap seems to be closing for us. Money will be a LITTLE bit better when the DH can begin moonlighting, and while I don't make nearly as much as I did in OKC, I'm making enough to eek out a few purchases (some schooling tights, for one, since I'd, um, outgrown my ones purchased sophomore year of college...).

I know my story was long, sorry, but it was just as cathartic to write it out as it was to read (yes, all 10 pages!) of yours. Good luck everyone in the gap!

deltawave
Dec. 18, 2009, 11:17 AM
If these dreams were 'abandoned' then they must not have been dreams at all.

Are you trying to say that unless every single dream a person has is realized, that they never existed as dreams in the first place? :confused:

I dream about all sorts of things, but have a sufficient grasp on reality that I realize not all of them can or will come true unless there are earth-shattering events such as winning the Power Ball or something. :D So do these dreams of mine not exist, simply because I don't really expect them to happen?

Perhaps you mean to stipulate a difference between 'dreams' and 'goals'? Because that I can grasp. Goals are something you commit yourself to and (if you're a grownup and using your brain) are set with reality in mind. Dreams are more in the realm of fantasy and "what if" and they don't have to come true for them to have a place. :)


If you are in for your life's dreams then you are in for the long run and you will make it happen no matter what the cost.

Unless you can't. Sometimes being willing to sacrifice everything, do everything, try everything and work as hard as possible is just not enough. Sh*t happens, and life can be cruel and unfair. This does not make the 'dreamer' to whom life hands a bad hand any less of a dreamer, or a person. :no:

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 18, 2009, 11:35 AM
Sometimes there is only so much you can do. I disagree with the opinion "oh, if you only work harder and give up more, you can do it." That's not always the case. Sometimes, short of living in a box, there is little else to give up. There are family problems, there are health problems, there are lost jobs, there are times you have to draw the line.



I think that you missed the other point...you said you had pleanty of time...but not money. Well if you have "time" you can either make more money by working more (but then you may run out of time)...or you can find other ways to have horses a part of your life....no, you may not be able to own your own horse...but you can find other opportunities. If you have family issues, health issues etc...than you likely also do not have time.


I absolutely think that the right choice for some people is to give up horses for a while. And ABSOLUTELY think that there are times in everyone's life where you may not be able to afford your OWN horse. We all make choices. And there are always ways to be invovled in horses IF you have the time....but it may not be riding and competing your own horse.

And if riding and competiting your own horse ARE a high priority to you, then you do what it takes to get there. But if you want to, for example, work in a field that doesn't pay well...but YOU think is important and gives you self satisfaction...that's great, but it may be that you give up horses in exchange....that is a choice.

There could be things in your life that happen that limit your choices (or eliminate them) (illness, family needing all your support--time and money)...and horses may go for a period of time. But it isn't the most common situation that you have absolutely no choice.

MOST of us have to give up something(s) we want or dream about in our lives. It is very very VERY rare that you can have it all....right when you want it all!

fooler
Dec. 18, 2009, 12:09 PM
One thought. So many avid younger riders seem to hit a wall when their parents stop paying the bills, college or school is finished, they have a real 9 to 5 job, all that "reality."

So instead of continuing to ride "around the edges", a weekend here, an afternoon there, the occasional catch ride, they simply quit.

As if it must be "all, or nothing at all" to quote a Frank Sinatra song lyric.

Maybe this isn`t such a good solution, maybe there can be "life after death" so to speak!

We---the Royal WE---, which means the riding community, we need to start talking about this whole "gap thing", so that there aren`t so many sad stories of people who simply abandon their dreams.

There ARE ways to help bridge the gap. It just takes some creative thinking, I think.

Just thinking out loud here.
I got my 1st horse at 14 and was promptly put to work at the family restaurant to earn horse's keep. Back then (1969) there were only local Western/Gaited horse shows available for our group that ran mainly late March into September. So showing was something done on the side - our main purpose was to RIDE - everywhere and every chance we got. So our focus as teenagers and our parents' focus was on us enjoying ourselves and hopefully not getting into trouble or injured.
Since the YR program grew legs - most teenages "seem to be" focused on making a team. There are individuals around, coaches - owners - parents, helping them achieve that goal. Seldom do I hear of HORSE goals or focus beyond the YR time.
So, instead of the teen years being a enjoy horses & riding thing it seems to be more a competitive "we must be at a certain point/level by this date or all is lost" mindset.
This causes burn out of parents and often the kids. Maybe we need review how we, yes the Royal WE, look upon our up and coming riders in relation to the YR and other programs specifically for 21 and under.
We should be building horsemen, not competitors. Too often the YR's don't come back to the sport because they lost the pure joy of everything involved with it or they don't know how or want to do it without all of the financial and emotional support.
The problem doesn't begin when the kids graduate HS - it begins before.

CookiePony
Dec. 18, 2009, 12:28 PM
Since the YR program grew legs - most teenages "seem to be" focused on making a team. There are individuals around, coaches - owners - parents, helping them achieve that goal. Seldom do I hear of HORSE goals or focus beyond the YR time.


I worry about this too. I know there are kids who are not on the FEI/ YR track, however. Luckily, there is another goal for them and for those of us who (ahem) said goodbye to our YR years long ago: classic T3Ds and P3Ds. And those competitions do teach horsemanship. :cool:

purplnurpl
Dec. 18, 2009, 01:06 PM
Perhaps you mean to stipulate a difference between 'dreams' and 'goals'? Because that I can grasp. Goals are something you commit yourself to and (if you're a grownup and using your brain) are set with reality in mind. Dreams are more in the realm of fantasy and "what if" and they don't have to come true for them to have a place. :)



I guess it hits a little bit of a grey area between dream and fantasy.

I fantasize about non reality.
My goals and dreams are somewhat the same.

I dream of what I'm going to accomplish with my two horses. That is something that I will never give up.

goal:the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

dream: an aspiration; goal; aim:

fantasy: a supposition based on no solid foundation; visionary idea;
when unreal or fantastic

Many young riders are living in a fantasy which, if not a dream, is then abandoned at some point in the life cycle.

I was a competitve swimmer until the age of 15. And I was darn good at it. But I didn't sit around and dream about swimming, I dreamed about horses.
It's the same with many very good teenage riders. When it comes down to the knit and gritty you find out who your hard ball hitters are. :yes: The gap is not such a bad thing. Those who come out on the other side are there for the long haul.

frugalannie
Dec. 18, 2009, 02:01 PM
Yes but...

I think Denny's last comment was if there was something between full-bore commitment to riding and not having any riding in one's life. Fooler's point is a good one: many younger riders may get involved with the sport, then get competitive and for them it can be a difficult or impossible transition to riding for fun or with lesser aspirations. It becomes about the results instead of the process.

For myself, I have "finally" matured to the point where the process is what brings me fulfillment and pleasure. But there was a while there that being competitive had me by the throat, and I wasn't as happy riding because fundamentally I'm a process person. Does that make any sense?

Anyway, it is true that many will not choose to make the adjustments necessary to either stay on the upper level competitive fast track, or reorient their priorities so that any involvement with horses brings them pleasure. And that is a shame because so many wonderful horsemen/women are then lost to the sport, and they lose what was once central to their being. The gap may be a period during which they come to terms with this transition and then re-enter the sport when they are ready to redefine what participation means to them.

Does anyone think that some sort of mentoring program pairing up young transition riders (for lack of a better term) with older riders who have been through the process of redefinition would be helpful? Would setting up a more formal network of college-age/ twenty-somethings needing a horse fix with more established riders who would be willing to share their horse a day or two a week?

I never got to ride as a kid: got my first horse in grad school, and now spend waaaaay too much time and money pursuing this passion, so the younger rider dilemma is not one I've ever been through.

HelloAgain
Dec. 18, 2009, 02:18 PM
One thought. So many avid younger riders seem to hit a wall when their parents stop paying the bills, college or school is finished, they have a real 9 to 5 job, all that "reality."

So instead of continuing to ride "around the edges", a weekend here, an afternoon there, the occasional catch ride, they simply quit.

It's not at all easy to find occasional rides, other than your basic super-sketchy public trail barn.

A. When you move to a new town and no one knows you, people aren't going to let some stranger ride their horse.
B. If you're really not all that good (lets say you rode at summer camp as a child and did walk/trot in IHSA, this describes me when I graduated college) people don't let some beginner ride their horse. I mean "catchrides" it's to laugh in this context.
C. When you don't have the money for regular lessons, trainers don't let some stranger just wander in and take one off lessons whenever they can afford it. If they do, they are probably sketchy or desperate.

In other words, the things you are talking about are fine for people who already were networked and remain networked. But if you lose your network by moving or never had one to begin with, you can't make the connections that provide opportunities for occasional riding.

Plus, occasional riding just... isn't fun to me. It's not about "competition" its about developing skills and a relationship with the horse and you simply don't do that riding once every 3 months. So yeah, it makes a lot more sense to quit for a bit than make a lot of effort to participate in a way that isn't very satisfying.

Blugal
Dec. 18, 2009, 02:32 PM
Plus, occasional riding just... isn't fun to me. It's not about "competition" its about developing skills and a relationship with the horse and you simply don't do that riding once every 3 months. So yeah, it makes a lot more sense to quit for a bit than make a lot of effort to participate in a way that isn't very satisfying.


Very good point. I feel the same way. I have been lucky to have people allow me to ride their horses. What I've learned is that I like to be able to form relationships and goals with the horses. Whether the goal is to become broke enough for it's owner to safely ride, or to go out XC schooling, or to complete a Pre-Training, or even to do a full-format one-star, it doesn't matter as much as having a goal to work towards, period.

It is hugely unsatisfying to me to ride horses that need some schooling, but that I can only ride once a week. I NEVER make progress with them.

Last year I was lucky to be able to ride at a place 2-3 times per week, but different horses each time. Again, I could get somewhere by the end of the ride, but it was the same "somewhere" each week. No progress. I wasn't allowed to ride them out on trails and I had to be mindful of not making them tired as they often had to do lessons the next day (or unfortunately, they were left tacked up for a lesson after I was done!!).

My goal was to go hunting in Ireland. With my goal accomplished, I had no motivation to go riding any more until I got my "own" horse again - something that could be "mine" on a regular basis, that I could dote on and who wouldn't be confused by tons of different people riding it, and who would remember our lessons and be able to feel the progress with.

deltawave
Dec. 18, 2009, 03:02 PM
When you don't have the money for regular lessons, trainers don't let some stranger just wander in and take one off lessons whenever they can afford it

But a lot of them will make things work for a rider who demonstrates the commitment to want to ride and is willing to work for it--I cleaned stalls, tacked horses and basically was a barn slave all through Jr. High and HS because I had *no* money for lessons or showing. I got to ride almost every day, hunt, and even compete now and then.

So after college (during which I literally rode only at Christmas and when I worked at the track a couple of summers) it was perfectly natural for me to show up at a local lesson barn, tell the BO/trainers I had no money for lessons but was perfectly willing to work for some. Bingo--I rode 2-3x per week, paid nothing for lessons, and after a while developing relationships with a couple of the trainers had more rides available than I could handle. At that point in my life I was a very stickable (thanks to riding ponies bareback my whole life and galloping TBs) but otherwise totally mediocre/intermediate rider, able to W-T-C and sort of jump if a horse was generous and going to go no matter what I did. :p

My time was not unlimited, my money was nonexistent, and the horses I got to ride were not show horses, but it was do-able. Being comfortable handling horses and willing to do the dirty work is a great way to endear yourself to a busy lesson barn. :) Then when the time and money came I didn't have nearly as much catching up to do as I would have if I'd just taken all those years off for lack of the ideal situation.

frugalannie
Dec. 18, 2009, 04:04 PM
It's not at all easy to find occasional rides, other than your basic super-sketchy public trail barn.

A. When you move to a new town and no one knows you, people aren't going to let some stranger ride their horse.
B. If you're really not all that good (lets say you rode at summer camp as a child and did walk/trot in IHSA, this describes me when I graduated college) people don't let some beginner ride their horse.

In other words, the things you are talking about are fine for people who already were networked and remain networked. But if you lose your network by moving or never had one to begin with, you can't make the connections that provide opportunities for occasional riding.

Plus, occasional riding just... isn't fun to me. It's not about "competition" its about developing skills and a relationship with the horse and you simply don't do that riding once every 3 months. So yeah, it makes a lot more sense to quit for a bit than make a lot of effort to participate in a way that isn't very satisfying.


Good points all. Just to flesh out some other ideas, what if there was a way to get your previous trainer or a dressage judge who saw you several times or someone with a name (a clinician or someone) to write you a recommendation that you could show to someone who might not know you? And you'd have to show that you had insurance (that's one of the biggest hangups with loaning horses, I think).

I honestly don't know what would work, and as you point out, not everyone wants just the occasional ride. But there are currently in our barn several riders who fit this category. One is a high school senior who got his creds as a working student for a pro last summer. He impressed folks enough that he had a horse loaned to him until he gores to college that is residing on my barn. He's a great kid and will be welcome here whenever he's on school break. Another is a girl I met when she was a young rider. She's back in the area some ten years later and is coming out tomorrow to talk about riding one of my horses. A third is a friend who was a hotshot hunter rider in her youth. Now married with three young boys and a full time job, she comes out one morning a week for a "sanity" ride on my husband horse.

I'm all for developing a relationship with a horse: that's why I have my darling mares. But I'll tell you with my hand on a Bible that possibly the best experience for my riding was working polo where I'd ride many different horses every day.

Bottom line: what may work for one person may not work for another. I'd love to see a broad array of possibilities developed so that individuals could find the right fit for them, even if it meant not riding.

jn4jenny
Dec. 18, 2009, 04:25 PM
What Blugal said. I think most people who are attracted to eventing are process-driven, goal-oriented folks. I was grateful to "ride at the edges" because it beats being horseless, but it's not without its frustrations. I played polo in college and loved it, but that was its own process--I had a new horse sport that required new skills. But if I'd been playing polo twice a month? I'd have lost my muscle memory and my goals. I had to play at least 2-3x weekly to make progress.

I ditto frugalannie's suggestion for a better, more visible, more centralized Horseless Rider/Riderless Horse location system for eventers. A painless, easy place for this would be the Eventing USA Facebook Fan Page, which already has 2,036 fans and a Discussion Forum where the riderless horse/horseless rider thing could take place. If US Eventing would draw attention to this through their marketing emails and/or by just posting about it on their Facebook wall, it would grow very quickly. And I bet you horses and riders would come spilling out of the woodwork.

My other thought is for owners/trainers to consider lease-to-buy arrangements for their sale horses. I didn't quite do a lease to buy, but it was close: I agreed to leg up a horse for sale, and if I liked him when our contract ended, I had Right of First Purchase for less than the sales price. $3K was a lot of money for me at the time, and I wanted to be sure sure SURE that this was the right horse. If I had walked away from the deal, the owner would still have a legged-up horse who was more appropriate for sale. It was a win-win situation. My friend did a true lease-to-buy with her trainer in Kentucky and it worked out very well and saved them both a lot of money.

Finally--and this is less practical--trainers, please offer more pasture board. I know your upper-level darlings need stall board, but your twentysomething cash-poor client needs somewhere cheap to park their Novice horse, and it's a lot easier to pay for cheap board than to work off expensive board. I can see the barriers in that department, but really, it would be such a help. I can count on one hand the (good, worthwhile) trainers in my area who also offer pasture board. It would not only lower the owner's expenses but it might make half-leasing more tenable; half of $300 is much cheaper than half of $450, and that might bring in a twentysomething client who can't swing $250 but can swing $150 just fine.

Hilary
Dec. 18, 2009, 04:47 PM
While I gave up "riding" as I do it now, I did manage to 'ride around the edges' - when I'd go home, we still had retirees I could hop on, and I found that my PC HA rating opend a TON of doors and people did let me ride their horses once they saw me ride. I had a summer job taking out trail rides which actually put my butt in a saddle more hours per day than any other time I've been eventing.

But I did other things when I didn't ride seriously - I learned to mountain bike, I climbed Mt. Shasta (and a bunch of smaller ones). I stayed up until the wee hours and slept late (Ok, maybe 9:30, but that's late for a horse person!). I lived in both big and small cities and didn't own a car for several years.

I actually didn't think I missed it when I was busy doing all those other things, but once I started up seriously again, I realized how very very happy it made me and I'd never give it up again. Maybe all along I knew it was just a hiatus?

Fancy That
Dec. 18, 2009, 05:52 PM
Ditto what many others have said.

I grew up from age 7 doing the H/J thing with all expenses paid by my parents.

When college hit - reality struck. I sold my horse mid-way.

Then I totally switched and got into Morgans, Natural Horsemanship and just rode for pleasure. This was because I needed a horse that could sit in a pasture, not be ridden regularly, had a good mind and could be a "weekend warrior" This was in my early 20's. <EDITED TO ADD: Because I was broke, I bought an unstarted, halter-broke 3 year old and started her myself. That's where all the NH stuff came into play and I enjoyed it!>

In my early 30's, I had more solid finances and got more serious about riding.....swung back to my competitive roots and started showing and dabbling in eventing.

I just turned 36 and I still have Morgans due to thier easy maintenance, ease of owning and enjoying......and my goal for 2010 is to do more XC schooling and unrecognized HTs! I also have alot more disposable income and flexibility with my job to be able to do the "horse thing" more seriously.

So yes - a real gap exists once parents stop paying for everything (Junior Rider) and one has to "wait" for life to solidify enough (time/money balance) to be able to do the horse-thing seriously again! (mid-30's on upwards)

JenEM
Dec. 18, 2009, 09:36 PM
As someone in that age gap, yes, I think it is very real. Out of a barn of maybe 40 horses, I think there are 3 of us in my age range. It definitely feels to me that we're the exception.

I didn't have a horse as a kid, because we didn't have money. I just took lessons, so maybe that's a little different. I kept taking lessons, through college (where I was lucky to be part of an excellent program) and after. All I'd known were lessons, so that didn't feel like being "on the fringes" to me. I was happy just to ride. Now I'm in my late 20s, and have an OTTB who is coming along nicely. In the past year, I've also bought my first home, I couldn't afford to do a lot with her show-wise last year, but we've been doing lessons and progressing nicely. I plan on doing local stuff this year, and maybe next. By the time we're ready to be competitive, I should have enough disposable income to make that a bit more of a reality.

But I don't see a lot of other people my age doing the same. Maybe because having a horse of my own had always been a dream of mine, and what I really wanted. So I made it happen. Other people my age who have already experienced that, maybe are more willing to put that on the back burner and go pop out some kids or whatever. I don't like kids, so I got the horse, and am happy with that. Money is definitely another factor. A lot of people my age going into professional careers like law or medicine are just starting out, working crazy hours for very little money, with huge student loans. They couldn't afford to ride regularly, let alone own a horse. I know I'm very, very lucky in that respect.

Purple Danny
Dec. 21, 2009, 08:26 AM
Hi Denny,
I often wonder why I'm not in a position to keep at least one horse going full time anymore. I'm 42 now, and chose a career path that I thought would afford me the money to always keep going with at least a horse or two. And in a way, it has. My parents were not especially wealthy, but they worked hard and I always had my fair share of competing and supplies through out my teenage years.
Now I wonder what I've done wrong. Although I can afford to keep my horse in pretty basic circumstances, my main hindrance is a lack of time. Competitions have been limited to local affairs - although I can afford to keep my horse, I can't afford or justify a truck and trailer. Also, although my horse is now semi-retired at age 25, when I was able to compete him, I needed a lot of help to keep him exercised! There was no way I could go out at weekends without having to pay people to hack and exercise him during the week. And I also can't blame it on getting married and having a family. I've only had an "instant family" since I got together with my partner and his two kids a few years back. The kids are only about at weekends, so that has not taken up much of my extra time and extra cash.
In my case, I guess it boils down to the fact that in this day and age, there is a bit of a vicious circle for some of us working ladies. Because of my job commitments, I will never have the opportunity to ride consistently. And that means that I'll always be in a bit of a hole regarding how I would prefer to train/exercise my horse.
Now that I am looking at the prospect of at some point perhaps replacing my old horse, I can honestly say I don't think I will until I probably get to retirement age myself. If I was able to buy a nice young prospect, I would never be able to ride him consistently and that would always be quite frustrating. As it is now, I am paying a lot of money for a horse I don't often see...It is worth it, but only because this horse is an old friend. Not sure I could justify it for another one...
Terri D :winkgrin:
Merry Christmas to you and May!

redlight
Dec. 21, 2009, 06:06 PM
I find that the older you get the harder it gets to be serious about riding. When I was in high school and college I brought along and competed my own horse plus rode any horse I could get my hands on. I was able to work off most of the costs and the rest my father paid for. I lived at home during college so that I could keep the horse and continue competing. After graduation I worked in the corporate world so that I could ride but sacrificed a career to have the time to ride. I then left the corporate world and went back to horses full time teaching, training and caring for other's horses. I got married, had two kids and was always able to juggle everything. Then I was lucky enough to build a barn at my house and ran a boarding stable which was plenty of work but I also rode as much as I wanted and owned two horses. But it was a constant conflict between caring for my family and caring for the horses.

Then I was hit with a serious health issue and we wound up selling the farm and moving to a "regular" house. I had to find homes for my two horses. Horses quickly took a back seat to my family and beating my illness. It's been three years and I've had alot of time to reflect on my involvement with horses and my wishes to ride. When you have kids and a family that has to come first and with that comes the many expenses of having said kids and family. Mortgages, taxes, health insurance, car expenses, food, clothes, etc. take a huge bite out of the budget and the costs only go one way - up! Let's not even mention college and oh yeah, all the sports and activities kids do that eat up even more of the budget. Our economy is in sad shape and unemployment is around ten percent. People who don't ride can't believe how much I spent on horses! I would love to ride and compete but just don't see where that is realistic given the other expenses. I started my own company this year with the hope that in a few years I would have the money to by a nice horse but with the amount of time a business requires along with all the other demands on my time and money I think I will live vicariously through others. I did start riding again recently through the generousity of a friend but am going to have to be happy with a couple of hacks a week as there is no extra time. Despite the challenges I am grateful for what I've been able to do with horses.

What is the solution to "the gap"? I don't know, but as long as the society we live in continues to become more complicated I think the problem is going to get worse. I would hate to think that riding and competing becomes a sport for the super wealthy. We are all in a bind, from the professional trying to pay their bills and many times just cover costs to the young corporate working professional with no time or the mother with family that has no time or money, it is just tough.

So Denny, now that you've heard from all of us "gapsters" what do you think should be done?

denny
Dec. 21, 2009, 08:21 PM
What should be done? The first thing might be to take a couple of hours and read, really read, all these accounts from the front line.

My guess is that kids simply don`t see it coming. Then they get hit by a train.

This may be because it`s a quietly taboo subject. It doesn`t mesh with the "and then they all lived happily ever after" dream, the sanitized, "Walt Disney-esque" version of the little girl and her horse scenario.

No horse book I ever read told me about this subject.

Any authors out there?

gully's pilot
Dec. 21, 2009, 08:46 PM
Well, I'm an author--but one of the reasons I've never written a horse novel (I write for middle-schoolers, which is roughly ages 10 to 13) is because all editors seem to love the schmaltzy horse stories, and those aren't the ones I have to tell.

I know lots of children through pony club who event on some level, and none do young riders--only a handful have serious upper-level aspirations. Many of them have a realistic understanding of what horses cost in terms of time and money.

I think that some teens get very wound up in the idea of being an upper level rider--Olympics and all that--but they don't really understand the lifestyle commitment that it takes. Parents don't either; sometimes their blind encouragement does much more harm than good. If it's not okay to be riding at training level for a few years, getting an occaisonal ribbon, it's hard to stick with the sport.

I know some upper-level riders; to a man (or woman) you couldn't have stopped them from flinging themselves wholly into a life with horses. But also the ones I know were well-supported emotionally, but had to work a decent part of the financial side out for themselves. I also know a few younger riders who are still in their mid-20s, living at home fully supported by parents--and to be honest, they aren't working as hard as they think they are, and I doubt they'll be as successful as they think they are going to be. I think they'd be better off if they had to face real life with a real job, and be free to chose horses to the extent that it worked for them.

Is this just a mish-mash Denny? Am I making sense at all?

gully's pilot
Dec. 21, 2009, 08:52 PM
I just had a brainwave! Denny, it IS like writing, to some extent. I can't tell you the number of people I've had tell me, "I'd love to be a writer, if I just had the time..." They usually then go on to tell me about this fabulous idea for a novel that they have, that maybe I'd like to write for them?

It took me nine years of work (hard work, but part time since I had a real corporate job at the time as well) to get my first novel published, and I'm reasonably talented and had some good mentors. And the truth is, all those people without time to write have just as much time as I do. They just didn't love it as much or want to work as hard. They liked the idea of being a writer more than the act of writing.

Which is fine.

But then some parents have brought their poor abashed teenagers to me, wanting to know the name of my agent so they can get poopkin's novel published. And so now this child who wrote for joy and exploration is being told to write for money because that will make her writing worthwhile. What it does is take away the freedom to be mediocre, to not be good enough yet. It's a terrible thing to do to a child.

Meanwhile there are people who eventually, as adults, start to squeeze in time for things that they do only for joy. Riding can be one, and so can writing.

Snapdragon
Dec. 21, 2009, 09:42 PM
I think the only thing that can be done is doing it on a personal level, from people like you Denny and your cohorts--trying to seek out or recognize that kid who doesn't have much financially but wants to work hard and wants to have a life with horses. Too many upper-level riders only want the kids (and by kids, I mean teens and adults into their 20s) with the bucks and a nice horse to pay a lot of money to ride with them.

I worked two summers as a groom--not in the riding program--at the Potomac Horse Center in the early 80s, which I think was just at the end of its prime. One girl who was in the riding program there was just scraping by, unlike a lot of the others. She was serious, hard working, and a sweetheart, etc., but I remember she spent, for her, a lot of money to travel up and interview with one of the big-name eventers in NE for a working student position--can't remember who it was. I thought for sure she would be moving up there to work, but she came back really heart-broken. I was surprised she didn't get the position. Afterall, I got paid to groom (and ride a bit) at the center and also worked for an Olympic jumper rider one summer. I wasn't nearly as serious at making horses my life as she was.

It seemed it was easier to work (i.e., slave) for these people than to be a working student. They would pay me (not much) to do a lot of work, but they wanted to be paid by someone else to work for them.

As I said before, for someone like me, the gap years were great. For those who really want to make a go of it in horses professionally and don't have even a little bit of money, without someone to give them a leg up, it's pretty tough.

JenEM
Dec. 21, 2009, 10:59 PM
What should be done? The first thing might be to take a couple of hours and read, really read, all these accounts from the front line.

My guess is that kids simply don`t see it coming. Then they get hit by a train.



I would hazard to guess that a lot of us have been hit by the reality train when we graduated college and entered the "real world". Knowing there would be bills for things like water and electricity are different than actually having to make a budget and pay them. For most of us right out of school, there's not a lot of money left over at the end of the month for things like horses. Heck, even as an employed young adult with a horse, I was eating peanut butter sandwiches last month so I could pay for the horse's MRI. That's a harsh choice, and one I don't think a lot of young people understand is even there to be made.

At the end of the day it's different than writing, too, because while it's a matter of time, all you need to write is a pen and paper and your imagination. Keeping a horse is a whole other ball of wax that requires financing. Paper doesn't require dinner and a farrier ;)

Maybe, too, its a difference in expectations between adults and kids. Even as gap-aged young adults, we're starting to grasp that we're not going to the Olympics. I'll be shocked if I ever go Training. But that doesn't mean we don't want to work with good trainers and coaches and learn the most we can, and be a good solid base for the sport. We know we're not good enough to be pros, and know we never will be, but are happy to just participate and be the best we can.

BaroquePony
Dec. 21, 2009, 11:21 PM
:p

Natalie A
Dec. 21, 2009, 11:35 PM
Not talented enough to event, but being in a dressage barn I definitely feel the "gap"--In my trainer's small lesson program, I am the only person in their 20s who rides, and there are only a few others who own horses in the barn with the other trainer who are my age or slightly older. The rest are middle-aged women and a few young girls. I'm actually riding more than ever right now, having just finished grad school and being in the process of applying to post-grad fellowships and jobs, but it's different perhaps from what I imagined. I think I take a more pragmatic approach to horses now than I did in my teenage years when I was just starting to ride more seriously. I have been around horses and the barn long enough to see the "bad" side of things... horses becoming lame and unrideable, riders not ending up with the horse they thought they were getting, etc. And, ultimately, I think I'm pretty happy where I am even though I think that dream of owning my own horse still lingers a bit. I can see myself riding other people's horses for the rest of my riding career, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

I might end up moving for work next year, and I'm kind of terrified about finding my way in a new horse community, probably with no connections. As a 20-something novice rider without my own horse but with clear ideas of what I want out of my riding and my lessons the prospect of searching for a barn for the first time as an adult makes me slightly worried.

JER
Dec. 21, 2009, 11:49 PM
Any authors out there?

Sort of. If you count screenplays as legitimate writing. :)

There's a good YA novel from the 70s, a brutal little book called Last Junior Year, that touches on the realities we're talking about, although it's set in the h/j world. Like the movies of that era, books of the 70s were a heyday for hard-luck stories and kicks to the gut. A lot of the great YAs from that time would never find a publisher now.

Purple Danny
Dec. 22, 2009, 04:53 AM
I had another thought going back to Denny's original comment on the tack shop customer profile.

Not only is my current horse my only horse purchased in the last twenty plus years, but he is also the last horse my parents bought me when I was a teenager (I am now almost 43!)

Furthermore, I am still using all of my old tack, including my dressage saddle and my old bridles, mostly paid for by my parents in the 80's and early 90's. In fact, even the leather halter I'm using now was bought at State Line in about 1991. (I do remember paying for this myself with waitressing money!)
I did buy a new jumping saddle a few years back, but I spend very little in tack shops compared to what my parents must have spent on my behalf when I was a kid.

The only other purchases I have made in the past ten years or so have been a new turn-out rug or two and maybe some saddle pads. Some of my original woof boots from the 1980's and 1990's are still in service, though a couple of new pairs are probably the only other "major" things I've bought.

I'm even still using my old boots and jacket etc on the odd occasion when I do need to "dress up." Luckily, they all still fit! :)

Even though I have a horse, I don't really contribute to the tack shop industry anymore!

fordtraktor
Dec. 22, 2009, 08:30 AM
One thought. So many avid younger riders seem to hit a wall when their parents stop paying the bills, college or school is finished, they have a real 9 to 5 job, all that "reality."

So instead of continuing to ride "around the edges", a weekend here, an afternoon there, the occasional catch ride, they simply quit.

As if it must be "all, or nothing at all" to quote a Frank Sinatra song lyric.

Maybe this isn`t such a good solution, maybe there can be "life after death" so to speak!

We---the Royal WE---, which means the riding community, we need to start talking about this whole "gap thing", so that there aren`t so many sad stories of people who simply abandon their dreams.

There ARE ways to help bridge the gap. It just takes some creative thinking, I think.

While another poster noted that this is not as satisfying, it is at least SOMETHING.

I rode through college as a working student and small-time trainer, mostly on other people's green or sale horses. At that point, I was riding 12 horses a day, 5 days a week and going to school the rest of the time.

For me, the break was a temporary sacrifice I had to make to get my family on solid economic footing. Horses are an extreme luxury, and I just can't justify dropping a lot of money on competing while I still had, for example, law school debt. My plan has always been to get back into competition, and even during these years away I have been working toward that goal, if not from the back of a horse. I don't think that's a bad thing. Sure my riding is a little rusty, but it will come back.

That said, I would be happy to help young adults out by letting them ride my horses, as long as they have the skills (none of mine are safe for a novice). I think those of us who have multiple horses and not enough time to ride them should try to create opportunities for those who have time but not $$.

That said, it is HARD to find someone who cares enough to want to ride for free. A lot of young adults think too much of their own riding and want to be compensated. Is it just me that experiences this trend? I want to help people ride, but I'm not going to pay them. If I wanted to pay, I would hire a good pro, not a kid with no experience bringing horses up.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 22, 2009, 08:46 AM
That said, it is HARD to find someone who cares enough to want to ride for free. A lot of young adults think too much of their own riding and want to be compensated. Is it just me that experiences this trend? I want to help people ride, but I'm not going to pay them. If I wanted to pay, I would hire a good pro, not a kid with no experience bringing horses up.


I had the same experience....I had some nice horses and was willing to even pay for show fees on some of them. Only "gap" riders who wanted to ride them...wanted to be paid. Sorry...but most really were NOT that good yet and my horses were/are NICE. I was giving them a chance to make more of a name for themselves if they wanted to be a pro...or just a nice ride (Novice/training horses that you could easily win on...easy to ride). Sorry...but if I'm going to pay for it...I'm going to pay for my trainer to ride them (who didn't charge much more than the "gap" riders)....or just ride my horses myself.




Back to Denny's point about YRs not seeing the train coming... That could be true. I know that I faced some pretty harsh realities about money, and supporting yourself pretty early in life (as a result of my parent's divorce--someone did write a book about it to give you an idea of how bad it was). So I certainly saw that train coming as it hit me at age 10. Perhaps those people that lived less sheltered lives....or struggled a bit more as teens are the ones who are a bit more equipped to hand those gap years to make things happen and make it work if they really want it.

Just a thought.....but I don't think it holds true for everyone. I do think it ultimately just comes down to your own drive (some of us are very driven people and I'm finding that is more the exception than the rule...and we are driven in many areas, not just horses).

redlight
Dec. 22, 2009, 09:42 AM
I read the first post again and had some additional comments. Since we know how expensive it is to keep a competition horse in this day and age how is someone in those "gap" years going to pay for it? Back in the day, event horses were actually given the winter off from competing. There were no winter circuits in Aiken, Florida and the like. You hacked out for the winter or maybe you rode in a big field in the snow because there were few indoor rings back then. If your horse went lame you gave it bute because there wasn't anything else. It was a simpler life and much more affordable. Now we have competitions all year, have specialized shoeing, chiropractors, acupuncturists, mri, nuclear scans, hundreds of supplements to choose from, specialized feeds, the list of new expenses goes on and on.

I give alot of credit to the parents who sacrifice so much to have their kids ride and compete at the upper levels as they are the true unsung heroes in this. Without their support many of these kids would struggle or give up.

I wonder what the percentage of kids coming out of young riders without some kind of financial support can continue to ride? There is a fine line between riding and not getting paid in order to build a name for ones self and the need to be able to put food on the table. The owner who has spent a small fortune in bills to breed and raise a promising prospect doesn't want to risk putting an "unknown" on that horse. The sacrifices to stay in the sport are huge.

Back in the old days the USET had owners who would loan horses to team members to use in competition but that was a different era. Would something like that work today or would it be thwarted by politics? I do think programs like the ICP would help alot of young professionals build their careers and I also think some kind of discussion group or mentoring program would go a long way towards helping some of these riders find a way to remain in the sport. Maybe at some of the competition venues some of the BNRs could host a panel discussion about what it takes to build a business or how to afford riding. Working student programs are certainly a viable option but you still need money in the bank to support yourself.

Age gap = financial gap. Until you can rectify this the problem is only going to get worse.

Catalina
Dec. 22, 2009, 09:52 AM
That said, it is HARD to find someone who cares enough to want to ride for free.

When I was in my early 20s, I was given the opportunity to ride several nice horses for free and to even show them (entries paid for by the owners). I was so beyond grateful to have horses to ride that I went to two different barns just about every day while also working two jobs and going to college to finish my pre-med requirements (and keeping a 4.0 average). I can't even find somebody to ride one of my horses once a week now....

RunForIt
Dec. 22, 2009, 10:27 AM
But I don't think this has ANYTHING really to do with riding and often..not really money. It has to do with time.

How do I ride and have a career...I don't sleep much and I'm not married with a family. And that is true of most of the folks that I know....or they have a family and not a career.

To get married and have a family takes a lot of TIME away....to have a career that allows you to afford horses takes a lot of TIME away (just about any job that pays really well...takes it out of you in time and stress)....very rare to see the individuals who manage to do it all (career, family and horses/sports).

Lack of Time is what I see most people struggle even more than the money.

I'll add on BFNE's comments...TIME to ride (which of course includes bringing in horse, cleaning/grooming, tacking up, untacking, cleaning/grooming, blanketing, turning out, mucking stall, etc.) is compounded by the fact that the low paying career I'm passionate about - public school teacher in GA - is paying less and less, so I tutor after school which brings in $$$$ to fill in the gaps now left in my paycheck due to nonpaid furlough days and a 2 year salary freeze. Have to tutor 2x as much to have the extra funds for lessons and training...

But, I'm driven...and determined. The clock is ticking and that's a good motivator when I don't feel like riding in the dark on cold nights...:D :cool:

Kaelurus
Dec. 22, 2009, 10:44 AM
What should be done? The first thing might be to take a couple of hours and read, really read, all these accounts from the front line.

My guess is that kids simply don`t see it coming. Then they get hit by a train.

This may be because it`s a quietly taboo subject. It doesn`t mesh with the "and then they all lived happily ever after" dream, the sanitized, "Walt Disney-esque" version of the little girl and her horse scenario.

No horse book I ever read told me about this subject.

Any authors out there?

I've authored technical papers, but nothing of this sort ;)

In any case, I would love to help work on a project here, and offer a non-eventer's perspective from the frontline of "the gap." Helping others through this trying stage may further justify my state of abject poverty while my horse lives the high life :lol:

hey101
Dec. 22, 2009, 11:21 AM
Age gap = financial gap. Until you can rectify this the problem is only going to get worse.

I am shaking my head over some of these responses. Why does this even need to be rectified by anyone other than the individual getting off their ass and getting out there and making something happen for themself? I'm sorry but I just don't have a lot of patience for people who sit around and wait for someone else to solve their problems (whether it be financial, time, access to horses, whatever). I stand by my opinion that it comes back to personal choice. Those who want to stay involved in horses at whatever level will make it happen, somehow, some way. Maybe not at the level that they'd like and almost always something's gotta give on some level, but that's the cold harsh reality of life.

Purple Danny
Dec. 22, 2009, 02:08 PM
[QUOTE=hey101;4570725]I am shaking my head over some of these responses. Why does this even need to be rectified by anyone other than the individual getting off their ass and getting out there and making something happen for themself?

It's true that people have to make things happen for themselves, and like you, I am not a huge fan of people who expect rewards just because they feel they deserve them.

But I thought Denny was just canvassing for opinions on why women in particular seem to fall off the radar after they leave the nest, as it were.

I'm not complaining I don't get to ride as much as I used to, but it's not how I thought it would be. Back when I was a teenager, I just thought I'd have to be as successful as my parents to keep on riding at the same sort of level.

What I think I neglected to notice was that while my parents were off working, I was the one who got home from school at a reasonable time in the afternoon to ride my horse. And now I also realize, the main reason I also rode my mother's horse most of the time back then was because she had very little time to ride herself!

Now it is similar for the younger people in my life; they get more use out of my horse than I do. Though I'm the one now paying for it!

You're right. If I really wanted to do nothing but horses, I'm sure I'd find a way. But in the meantime, I've found other pastimes, perhaps not as rewarding, but much less time-consuming, and much less expensive.

These days, I play golf as my main sport. No where near as fun as riding. But a lot cheaper, a and pretty rewarding when it goes well.

And every time I go out on the course I laugh because I find yet another parallel between eventing and golf. Some days I drive well, but can't putt. Other days I can use my irons, but can't drive for beans. Some days I have a great short game, but can't use any of the longer clubs...I've never been able to put it all together on one day!

So in a way I have found other outlets to satisfy my competitive streak these days. And while I'll hopefully always have a horse around, and do miss the sport, you won't necessarily find me out eventing anymore.

TuxWink
Dec. 22, 2009, 03:49 PM
I am shaking my head over some of these responses. Why does this even need to be rectified by anyone other than the individual getting off their ass and getting out there and making something happen for themself? I'm sorry but I just don't have a lot of patience for people who sit around and wait for someone else to solve their problems (whether it be financial, time, access to horses, whatever). I stand by my opinion that it comes back to personal choice. Those who want to stay involved in horses at whatever level will make it happen, somehow, some way. Maybe not at the level that they'd like and almost always something's gotta give on some level, but that's the cold harsh reality of life.

Maybe I'm just cranky today, but that's how I feel too. I think there ARE opportunities for young people who want to be professionals in eventing. I've seen many posts like BFNE or Phoenix Farm looking for a working student or assistant. They offer more than fair arrangements, yet they can't find the right person to help them out.

That said, it is not an easy life and it is not an easy choice. You need to have talent, a fantastic work ethic and find SOMEONE to pay the bills - either your parents, owners or yourself. You also need to make sacrifices, and I don't blame a young rider for choosing an alternative career to horses. I mean, you are looking at a SPORT. Something that 98% of the participants do in their spare time and with the money they make from their job. It's not some sort of right that just because you can ride well you can or should make a living off it. I think those with enough passion, drive and work ethic will continue to become professionals, and those "gap" years will weed out those that don't.

HelloAgain
Dec. 22, 2009, 03:53 PM
Maybe I'm just cranky today, but that's how I feel too. I think there ARE opportunities for young people who want to be professionals in eventing. I've seen many posts like BFNE or Phoenix Farm looking for a working student or assistant. They offer more than fair arrangements, yet they can't find the right person to help them out.
.
Wait a minute, who said anything about wanting to be a professional in eventing? The OP was about if, and why it is common for women riders to quit for a time after college, as described by a tack store owner who said his clients were teens and their moms.

This thread is about why the gap occurs. Not about aspiring pros specifically. I think this thread is very much about the recreational rider, actually.

TuxWink
Dec. 22, 2009, 04:11 PM
I should have added more onto my response. The "gap" years are an adjustment for everybody. Those that want to find a way to ride generally do, or they wait until they can afford it and/or have enough time. I'm not trying to be harsh; I guess I'm in the camp that doesn't see anything wrong with this demographic being underrepresented. Riding is a privilege, not a right. You can either pay for lessons or riding time, or you can't.

We have a lot of riders at my barn who are "gap" riders. They may not be out there showing, but they are coming once a week for a lesson, or trading out chores for riding time. This is the reality for what a lot of people can afford to do, especially in Los Angeles since horse keeping is so expensive.

I think you either work out a way to make the horses happen, as a pro or amateur, or you don't. I just don't think anything "needs to be done."

BaroquePony
Dec. 22, 2009, 04:13 PM
Originally posted by hey101:



Originally Posted by redlight
Age gap = financial gap. Until you can rectify this the problem is only going to get worse.

I am shaking my head over some of these responses. Why does this even need to be rectified by anyone other than the individual getting off their ass and getting out there and making something happen for themself? I'm sorry but I just don't have a lot of patience for people who sit around and wait for someone else to solve their problems (whether it be financial, time, access to horses, whatever). I stand by my opinion that it comes back to personal choice. Those who want to stay involved in horses at whatever level will make it happen, somehow, some way. Maybe not at the level that they'd like and almost always something's gotta give on some level, but that's the cold harsh reality of life.

hey101, this type of commentary leaves me to believe that you have absolutely no awareness of how our banking sytem combined with our legal system and the stock market have devastated the base income, savings and assets of a very large percentage of the American people.

Since you seem to be so ignorant, I will ad that it has a direct effect on the horse industry, among other things. That is noticeable by how poorly we have done in the Olympics lately.

The "cold, harsh reality of life" is that our system of government is not working very well, and it is effecting all of us.

jackalini
Dec. 22, 2009, 04:17 PM
I consider myself to have been a very responsible kid. I was all straight A's, honors classes, yearbook editor - but I still was at the barn, doing self care, 7 days a week. If I was really ill, my dad would help me out (best dad ever). My parents shared with me the costs and burdens of having a horse. I was lucky and was "allowed" to pick 2 events in spring and 2 in fall at the cost of getting smaller birthday and Christmas presents. I mucked 2 extra stalls for a year and a half to save up for my first close contact saddle. And I did half-care (evening feeding and mucking stall) all the way through college.

The point of all of this is that I was well aware of the costs, sacrifices and dedication it took to have a horse and ride on my own dollar. I am a proud NON-gapper. I am 27 and have never taken more than 4 months off of riding (horse injury) since age 8 when I started riding.

It has been hard. I have been broke. I have gone without regular lessons for 8 years until recently, when I finished my masters. I cut corners, ate Ramen (with peas, yum), and worked my rear off to stay a "rider" because it is who I am on a basic level.

I say this with no intent to offend or comment negatively upon anyone's parenting skills, but I think I turned out the way I did because my parents prepared me for the road ahead. I understood the work involved ahead of time - no surprises.

I also think that if true desire and determination are there, deep down, a rider will be a rider no matter the circumstances.

ETA: And I am a further anomaly as I am at a barn full of "gap" riders - at least 5 other 18-32 year old women - who own or lesson at the barn. 2 of them are friends from way back (15 years ago) I found again after moving back into the area. Something in the water perhaps? :lol:

JER
Dec. 22, 2009, 04:17 PM
From the Goals for 2010 thread (http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=237310):


keep vet bills under 10K for once....

Get off of the vet's speed dial list (3x)

stop paying for my vet's kids' college

Pay off vet bills (4x)

Keep Vet bills under $14,000!

A young person with a basic grasp of this reality might be very wise to take a break from horse ownership until they have the means to cope with unpredictable vet issues.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 22, 2009, 04:35 PM
A young person with a basic grasp of this reality might be very wise to take a break from horse ownership until they have the means to cope with unpredictable vet issues.


Oh...I agree on the horse OWNERship part. I did have a gap of that...from the time I was 14 until I was 26 (did some free leases...but didnt fully own my own).

BUT I didn't have a gap from riding or even really from competing (some years less competing than others)...other than a few weeks from my own injuries here and there. I mostly rode other people's horses....and most years was riding 4-6 days a weeks on more than one horse. Maybe a few years as a teen where it was only 2-3 days a week because I was competing on other sport teams (volleyball, basketball, softball and ran xc)

I did what it took to stay a rider and invovled with horses.....that is where the "Gap" doesn't have to be a total gap from horses. It isn't often an all or nothing choice...but some may choose a complete break.

I also agree that I don't think having a gap is always a bad thing or somthing that needs to be fixed. I think it can be absolutely the right thing for some people....just not what I wanted so I didn't have such a gap......but have perhaps given up other things that other people would not have given up.

Just different life choices.

JER
Dec. 22, 2009, 04:58 PM
BUT I didn't have a gap from riding or even really from competing (some years less competing than others)...other than a few weeks from my own injuries here and there.

Which brings up an interesting point. There are many, many, many jobs -- day jobs or actual professional careers -- in which time off for injury means you can't work and earn income. Waiting tables or bartending become difficult with a broken collarbone, arm or leg. A per diem health care professional (like an RN) would be out of work for a while.

When I was in the proverbial gap, I worked in an industry where your only job security is the job you have today. Hours are labor-law-violatingly long and erratic, you're working all over the map and it's very hard to make/keep commitments outside of work.

However, I'd gone into that industry with the idea of making enough money to get out early and live life on my own terms. And it worked. :) (I highly recommend taking this path in life.)

I did this because horses were a priority -- a huge priority -- so I hatched a plan that was geared to long-term gain but included a short-term gap.

I don't think those without a gap necessarily want it more than those who take a break.

redlight
Dec. 22, 2009, 04:58 PM
I totally agree we make a choice to pursue riding or something else in life and I'm not one for crying about not being able to do something because in the end it was my choice that influenced the outcome. However, if the cost of living and the cost of horse keeping continues to rise at the pace it is there will be more people who "choose" to get out horses. That's not a lack of drive, it's economic reality. Is that healthy for our sport?

TuxWink
Dec. 22, 2009, 05:03 PM
hey101, this type of commentary leaves me to believe that you have absolutely no awareness of how our banking sytem combined with our legal system and the stock market have devastated the base income, savings and assets of a very large percentage of the American people.

Since you seem to be so ignorant, I will ad that it has a direct effect on the horse industry, among other things. That is noticeable by how poorly we have done in the Olympics lately.

The "cold, harsh reality of life" is that our system of government is not working very well, and it is effecting all of us.

I can't speak for Hey101, but I do know that everyone except the very rich have been affected by the tanking of the economy and I am not "ignorant" of this fact. However, horses are a LUXURY. Of course the horse industry has been hit hard - horses are a privilege, not a necessity. While the Olympics are a celebration of sport, and it is unfortunate the United States did poorly in eventing in 2008, I don't really think this is at the forefront of most people's thoughts or financial concerns.

The "cold, harsh reality of life" is that most people couldn't afford to keep a horse and spend money on tack even before the economy went South.

Edited to add...The rising costs are definitely NOT conducive to encouraging horse riding or ownership or growing the sport of eventing. I'm not really sure what the solution is to this. Better urban planning? More open space? A change in zoning to allow horse keeping on city plots? ;) Even with lessening the cost of horse ownership, the costs of competing in a recognized event are still out of control. I just accept this and make decisions accordingly.

Zephyr
Dec. 22, 2009, 05:29 PM
I must be more horse-crazy than I thought; my only "sort-of gap" was during college... had to sell my event horse at the end of high school.

18-22, went to college in L.A., but still took lessons and learned polo during jr. and sr. years when I had a car. During the summers I rode my old horse and worked as a horse camp counselor.

22-24, went to grad school in KY, exercised horses for a little money just to get back in the saddle. Mostly did their conditioning work (snooze), but a lot of good experience riding different types of foxhunters and eventers.

As soon as I finished grad school, I bought an OTTB that I have to this day (I'm now 32). Many, many lean years of rough board without lessons and shows though, until about 2 years ago, when I was finally able to take lessons and enter some recognized events again (HOORAY!).

My barn consists of 26yo trainer, college-age working students, several teens, several middle-aged, and a few around my age. Can't think of any boarders in their 20's now that I think about it.

Lori B
Dec. 22, 2009, 05:50 PM
I don't understand where all this punitive anger comes from. I don't think anyone is suggesting that we hold a telethon to keep Muffy and Buffy from having to muck stalls to pay for board. It is also just silly that some consider this a thread where they can prove that they love horses by explaining how they never had a new pair of (human) shoes between 18 and 28 so that they could keep riding straight through. I know a number of young women who, between costs and school time commitments, felt compelled to let horses lapse out of their lives for a long period, basically 20-30. Seems a waste. Not one that someone else should bankroll a solution for, but one which isn't good for our sport's continuity, and one which could be addressed in other creative ways.

Are horses a luxury? Yes. Would it be nice if young riders (and I don't mean Young Riders, I mean, young people who ride) could be better acquainted with a realistic understanding of both horsemanship (to enjoy riding in a less $$ dependent way) and economics (to pay for their sport, if they choose to continue)? Yes.

It would never have occurred to me that there was any way to ride when I was a basically broke young adult. I didn't have the skills that many of you have that enable you to catch ride. And the poster who noted that when one moves from one part of the country to another, it can be tricky to re-establish oneself as a trustworthy horse person. It can seem like an all or nothing proposition.

Think how many threads we read on this board about how riders lose their nerve for galloping and jumping during 'the gap', for one thing. I think that starting over when one is older, less fit, and have lost some nerve is very daunting. Much easier in this regard never to have stopped.

JER
Dec. 22, 2009, 05:53 PM
A must-read on this subject...

Dreams Delayed (http://www.elcc.org/archive_newsletter/1986/LotusLines_1986_SepOct.pdf) (note: link is to a pdf, the relevant piece starts on page 7)

This is a memorable column from Road & Track magazine's Peter Egan. It's about how we do what we want to do. If you really want to do something, you don't make excuses or look for justifications. You do it.

hey101
Dec. 22, 2009, 06:01 PM
hey101, this type of commentary leaves me to believe that you have absolutely no awareness of how our banking sytem combined with our legal system and the stock market have devastated the base income, savings and assets of a very large percentage of the American people.

Since you seem to be so ignorant, I will ad that it has a direct effect on the horse industry, among other things. That is noticeable by how poorly we have done in the Olympics lately.

The "cold, harsh reality of life" is that our system of government is not working very well, and it is effecting all of us.

The question posed in this thread was whether we thought a gap existed for people in their 20's. Clearly people define "gap" differently- anything from continuing to have a fancy horse and a fancy saddle and trips to FL every winter, to calling up the local barns and asking if one can come and do barn work in exchange for riding their nice or not-so-nice horses and maybe translating that into the opportunity to compete and ride and just remain involved with horses somehow, some way (FWIW I define "gap" as the latter). It is the opinion of myself and others that no, this gap does not exist at any age for those who are motivated enough to make it happen, to pick up that phone and call that BO and say "hey, I don't have any money but I can ride anything and I'll do it for free AND i'll muck your stalls".

If you make a choice not to make that phone call because you have a family/ another sport to enjoy/ a job you love that requires 80 hour weeks/ or you just plain don't want to muck stalls for the chance to ride recalcitrant school horses since that's all they will give you to start, that's FINE. It's your choice and your life. But please do not sit around and whine that the gubmint is screwing you out of your opportunity to ride.

bornfreenowexpensive
Dec. 22, 2009, 06:36 PM
A must-read on this subject...

Dreams Delayed (http://www.elcc.org/archive_newsletter/1986/LotusLines_1986_SepOct.pdf) (note: link is to a pdf, the relevant piece starts on page 7)

This is a memorable column from Road & Track magazine's Peter Egan. It's about how we do what we want to do. If you really want to do something, you don't make excuses or look for justifications. You do it.

Very interesting. That was basically what I was trying to say...but his story is much more well written than mine!

And for the record...if I haven't been clear...I personally don't think there is anything wrong with having a gap or break from horses...for any reason. It doesn't make me a better horseman or rider because I didn't take a break...just someone who made different choices. I should be a better rider than I am for not taking any break...but that is just a sadder story about how all the drive in the world doesn't always mean you have or develop any talent;)

LLDM
Dec. 22, 2009, 08:08 PM
The question posed in this thread was whether we thought a gap existed for people in their 20's. Clearly people define "gap" differently- anything from continuing to have a fancy horse and a fancy saddle and trips to FL every winter, to calling up the local barns and asking if one can come and do barn work in exchange for riding their nice or not-so-nice horses and maybe translating that into the opportunity to compete and ride and just remain involved with horses somehow, some way (FWIW I define "gap" as the latter). It is the opinion of myself and others that no, this gap does not exist at any age for those who are motivated enough to make it happen, to pick up that phone and call that BO and say "hey, I don't have any money but I can ride anything and I'll do it for free AND i'll muck your stalls".

If you make a choice not to make that phone call because you have a family/ another sport to enjoy/ a job you love that requires 80 hour weeks/ or you just plain don't want to muck stalls for the chance to ride recalcitrant school horses since that's all they will give you to start, that's FINE. It's your choice and your life. But please do not sit around and whine that the gubmint is screwing you out of your opportunity to ride.

Exactly. I am one who made some non-standard choices and kept my own horses in my life all the way through. But dropped out of the rest of the horses scene.

However, I am now one that generally has one or more twenty somethings in my barn trying to keep a toe in it somehow, someway. Anyone willing to muck for free will ride for free - somehow we will work it out as long as they are willing to listen, learn, try and be kind.

SCFarm

Viva
Dec. 22, 2009, 08:09 PM
I was definitely in the minority when I was competing in my 20s, and not having kids was a major factor in being able to do it. Now I'm able to continue doing it partially because I don't have college educations to pay for.
A very supportive husband has been key to the whole thing as well....as a matter of fact, Denny, I seem to remember you telling him that he deserved the Congressional Medal of Honor for putting up with me.
Of course, that puts May on the fast track to sainthood....:D
Andrea

jn4jenny
Dec. 22, 2009, 08:48 PM
It would never have occurred to me that there was any way to ride when I was a basically broke young adult. I didn't have the skills that many of you have that enable you to catch ride. And the poster who noted that when one moves from one part of the country to another, it can be tricky to re-establish oneself as a trustworthy horse person. It can seem like an all or nothing proposition.

Lori B, let me first say that I thought your post was excellent overall. In fact, I feel like an ass having cut out everything that I agreed with from the quoted section. :lol:

But I guess I don't see what these magical mystical "skills" are that you refer to above. When I was a not-just-basically-but-ACTUALLY-broke young student, I was not much of a rider. I grew up at a hunt seat lesson barn with subpar instruction; I learned more there about horsemanship on the ground by working off my lessons than I ever learned in the saddle. I knew how to sit on a horse and not fall off of it, at least most of the time. I had sucky/high hands, basically I had no contact with the mouth. I had an okay seat but tended to drive my seat at the canter. I could w/t/c without falling off. I didn't have any trainer name that anyone would have recognized, and if anything, I had to kind of hide the name of the stable where I grew up (because anyone in northern Virginia would have recognized the name and turned up their nose). And somehow I always managed to stay mounted. Funny that. The racehorse trainer didn't give two craps what my hands look like since the instructions were to keep them planted firmly in the neck. The college polo team was okay with the driving seat because I was going to stay in jump position the whole time anyway. And many generous horsepeople figured that while I wouldn't help their schoolmaster, I wouldn't harm him either. And of course, the more rides I got, the better of a rider I became. I still suck, but not terribly. :lol:

As for moving around the country and establishing yourself? When I moved to Michigan at age 20, the third or fourth thing out of my mouth when I met ANYONE was, "I'm a horseback rider. Do you know anyone who rides or has horses? I'd love to talk to them. Can I have their email/phone, or can I give you mine?" Not everyone I met was a horseperson, but EVERYONE could tell me about their "crazy horseperson friend who talks about horses all the time." Yes I had to talk to a few backyard owners and a few idiots and a few people who rode Western Pleasure, but eventually I was pointed toward an administrative assistant in a neighboring academic department who had a retired showjumper who needed an extra hack or two each week. And from there, I met the "right people."

When I wanted to start eventing, I went up to a trainer that I wasn't even working with and asked her how I could volunteer for a local horse trial. She wrote down an email address, I emailed the lady, and the rest is history. Before I knew it, I knew practically every eventing trainer and organizer in the state of Michigan.

And I don't think I'm lucky. I think I was tenacious and shameless about asking for connections/help. I repeated this whole rigamarole when I moved to Ohio, even though by then I had my own horse. It worked again! Not to mention that eventing is an awfully small world. Many of my Michigan connections were able to point me to the right folks in Ohio--even if they didn't "know know" them, they knew OF them and told me who were the best folks to start with. :yes:

I agree 100% that there are things we can do to facilitate "gap riders" without doing a telethon so that Buffy and Muffy can ride. As I mentioned above, I think a better Horseless Rider/Riderless Horse hookup system wouldn't hurt. I rather liked frugalannie's idea of "letters of introduction" vouching for a rider's seriousness and/or skill in the saddle, although IMO that should be the rider's idea to suggest to their surrounding pro's instead of a formalized process. And I think pasture board, and/or lease-to-buy, would go a long way toward putting an event horse under a gap rider's butt. There would still be plenty of stalls to muck, plenty of work to be done, plenty of sacrifices to be made. But at least gappers would have a fighting chance of staying mounted.

But I also hear hey101's point that some gap riders are beyond saving. They want to have it all, a bag of chips, and salsa on the side, and they are whining (either good-naturedly or ill-naturedly) about how they're having trouble getting just the right salsa for their chips. :rolleyes: But I think many riders on this thread, and in the world, are NOT clueless and NOT lacking in motivation and NOT trying to balance an unreasonable package. To be really frank, some people suck at life re: negotiation/getting what you want/tenacity/thinking outside the box, especially in their early twenties, but are otherwise good riders and good horsepeople. And those are the people that I think both you, and I, are interested in helping. Not the ones that hey101 identifies as bumps on a log.

TuxWink
Dec. 22, 2009, 09:17 PM
But I think many riders on this thread, and in the world, are NOT clueless and NOT lacking in motivation and NOT trying to balance an unreasonable package. To be really frank, some people suck at life re: negotiation/getting what you want/tenacity/thinking outside the box, especially in their early twenties, but are otherwise good riders and good horsepeople. And those are the people that I think both you, and I, are interested in helping.
I just wanted to say I totally agree with this. I wasn't trying to be too much of a grump in my previous posts, but I think sometimes people forget on this bulletin board what a luxury horses and riding are. IF you want it bad enough, there are ways to make it possible. I wouldn't have a horse today without an encouraging family member and a trainer that helped me get there. However, it wasn't easy - my job got in the way, money got in the way, time got in the way - and I think this is where the honest stories of the people who have been there / done that in their twenties are helpful.

For example, in my case the best thing was a flexible trainer who could give me a lesson at 7am because that was the only time I could ride and a barn that allowed me to come and ride at 9pm if I had to because I was working late. Time was my biggest obstacle because in order to make enough money to board your horse you have to put in a lot of hours! There were several years where I could only show maybe two or three days a year, and only on Sundays, because I was working every Saturday. However, the riding time was my stress relief so showing wasn't a huge priority.

I genuinely wish anyone who is willing to work for it the joy of horses and riding.