Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2024

A Hitching Post At Safeway?

When I was a child, for fun we used to ride our ponies and horses to a local country store to get ice cream. The storeowner had an ancient, sagging hitching post at the side of the building, and on hot summer days he even set out buckets of water for our patient mounts.
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When I was a child, for fun we used to ride our ponies and horses to a local country store to get ice cream. The storeowner had an ancient, sagging hitching post at the side of the building, and on hot summer days he even set out buckets of water for our patient mounts.

Last spring I reflected on this story with some friends, and we joked that this transport might be a way to save some money today. But now with the particularly painful prices we’re paying at the gas pumps, perhaps it truly won’t be long before we see a return to horses as a viable mode of local transportation.
   
Editorial staff member Kat Netzler contacted some horsemen from around the country to see how the fuel prices and the downturn in the economy have affected equine professionals who rely on their vehicles for their livelihoods. See “Fueling The Equine Economy” on p. 16. Unfortunately, most of them must pass on their added expenses to us, the consumer, but a few are thinking outside the box and have creative ways to keep costs from escalating.

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But before we turn to retraining our show hunters, eventers and dressage horses to harness or adding trot sets to the grocery store, there are ways to save a little money.
   
One friend mentioned that whenever she drives through town from her rural farmette, she stops at the feed store and picks up a few bags of grain or shavings. Her local feed supply company began charging a delivery fee, so she now saves about $50 per month by hauling her own. The one drawback is that she does sometimes have stray grain and shavings rolling around in the trunk of her car, but she said the aromatic smell of the sweet feed and pine offsets the mess.
   
Another fellow amateur asked me over the weekend if she could borrow my two-horse trailer on occasion
to transport her daughters’ ponies to local shows. She noted that with today’s gas prices soaring, hiring a professional to haul her ponies even just 20 miles down the road was costing three times as much as the entry fees! In exchange for teaching her how to hitch up and drive a trailer, she offered to help pay my insurance. Hmm. Is there a message here?
   
I’m also hearing more and more people say that in order to cut costs and afford to compete they’re making sacrifices. Some are losing precious sleep (depending on the talent, it could sometimes be hours) to braid their own horses, coercing a family member to groom (one prom dress equals a weekend of grooming!) and even “camping out” at the competitions (OK, sleeping in their vehicles).
   
It’s a tough economy for everyone, and keeping horses and showing is an increasingly expensive and challenging proposition. While it’s hard to predict what the future will bring, it’s safe to say it will be awhile before most of us won’t shudder when we pull into the gas station with our hauling vehicles. Nevertheless, the one bright side to this bear-market economy is that it’s inspiring people to expand their horizons, acquire new skills and improve their horsemanship.
   
And perhaps in 30 years another child will fondly remember “the good old days” when people drove vehicles with internal combustion engines to Safeway.

Tricia Booker, Editor

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