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The joy of paying for a horse in college

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  • The joy of paying for a horse in college

    Longtime reader here and a high school senior with an acceptance letter from Davis(still waiting on the others). My family is not wealthy but has saved up some money for school and I've got a few little scholarships. I've been a working student for the past 6 years and dread the idea of not riding so horses are definitely a factor in my school decision. Since Davis has a horsey reputation I am hoping board up there will be relatively cheap, or that I could somehow find a way to work off part of it. Boarding at the school's barn is $250/month pasture, $415/month stall but limited space so I need to start looking for other options.

    Am I crazy for trying to take a horse to college? My parents have made it clear they can't lend any support for the horse financially, so I will definitely need a job. I'm thinking it would be better to go horseless for a semester or year and get settled, save a bit of money and then bring the horse, but I will miss the pony like crazy.

    Right now I'm working off a lease of a horse from my coach and could easily work off lease for the year this summer before school. He is an easy keeper, barefoot , and tough as nails, not even an abscess *knock on wood.* He's the type that can have a week off and then walk out on the trail like a gentleman, which would be nice to have during the craziness of finals. So he is definitely low maintenance and low cost (relatively).

    My worry is if I don't take him this year is that coach will sell him. I know there are other horses out there, but I really love this horse. He's not fancy and will never show past novice, but he has the cutest face and this adorable little nicker when he knows I have food. Even on the crappiest days he puts a smile on my face when I walk up to his paddock and he stares at me through the gate with his perky little ears up.

    If you have any advice, barn or contact suggestions please let me know. If I'm being crazy and irrational or blinded by love, please speak up before I do something too stupid.
  • Original Poster

    *Edit: I've heard a variety of figures but what are your estimates that a college student could earn per year? Enough to cover horse costs?


    • #3
      I just graduated and had my horse with me for all of college. He was definitely a stress reliever once I found a great barn. I'd never had to board before, and I found out not everyone is honest or a good horseperson, which made my first year probably more stressful than it would have been without him! During college, I worked, on average, 18 hours/week at two different jobs and made $640/month, which would not have been enough to afford vet bills (even just routine stuff), board, farrier, and gas driving to and from the barn in S FL where I went to school. Board there was a killer, as were hay prices when he was at a self care barn. Fortunately, my parents were able to help me out, and I am very grateful for that! If I had wanted to go the serving route for a job as I did in high school, I probably could have made more, but I wanted to find resume building jobs. However, the area you're going to be in sounds like it is a lot cheaper than S FL was, so perhaps a parttime job would be enough to pay the bills. I assume your lease agreement details it, but I would worry what happened in an emergency situation- what if he colics and needs surgery, will that be your responsibility to pay for? What if he has an injury that needs a long rehab time? If that rehab is your responsibility, will you have time to be out at the barn every day handwalking?

      I would wait until you found a job there before bringing the horse up, but I would also be aware that depending on the job, some people will want a year round commitment, which might make returning home for the summer to work off the next year's lease difficult.


      • #4
        I would leave the horse at home for at least a semester while you settle in and figure out what's realistic. If you find that you can manage your course load, land a job, have some sort of social life, and still find that you have time left over for a horse without being one giant ball of stress...then bring him down next semester. It will give you a chance to scout out the local horse community first and decide on a barn and all that good stuff.

        My horse stayed home while I went to college. I joined the equestrian team and then found project horses to ride for free. I learned so much riding and competing other people's horses, and for the most part I did it on their dime. It was a win-win because I didn't have to pick up a job just to pay for my own horse, therefore I had more hours to ride the horses available to me.
        The big guy: Lincoln

        Southern Maryland Equestrian


        • Original Poster

          Thanks for the replies. It really is looking like I should go without him first, which would also give me more time this summer to save up if I'm not working off his lease for next year. And scouting out barns is probably a good idea and I'll find a way to get some horse time in no matter what. I'm just so spoiled being able to ride every day right now that it'll be a big shock when I can't.


          • #6
            Depends on you. Both of my daughters took horses to college with support from me because in the past they always worked off lessons, etc. when possible (high school). In college, neither of them has had lessons or competed much if at all because of the cost. As far as stressor vs. stress-reliever - both of them would vastly prefer to be at the barn instead of at a bar... If you can do it, do it - it all depends on you and what makes you happy.


            • #7
              Originally posted by KokiriForest View Post
              My worry is if I don't take him this year is that coach will sell him. I know there are other horses out there, but I really love this horse. He's not fancy and will never show past novice, but he has the cutest face and this adorable little nicker when he knows I have food. Even on the crappiest days he puts a smile on my face when I walk up to his paddock and he stares at me through the gate with his perky little ears up.

              Because of this..I would take him if I were you. I worked all 4 years in college to pay for my riding (lease). I owned horses all through law school. I worked in the barn and waited tables.

              They are what kept me grounded, organized and sane. Every person is different but it is what worked for me. School comes first. Then came horses...then came social life.

              I would take the horse with you initially. IF you struggle AT ALL with keeping your grades up....then send him back to your trainer. Having the horse and having to work will cut into your social life some....if that is fine with you...I bet you will be fine.

              Good luck!
              ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


              • #8
                Hi. I actually bought my first horse my Junior Year in college after leasing him for a year. I pasture boarded him. I went to school full time and worked a part time job for 25 - 30 hours a week and split rent on an apartment.

                I studied between classes and at work on my breaks, and I rode on the days I didn't work about 3 - 4 days a week depending on what I was doing in school. I didn't go to any parties. I did spend time with friends on the weekends after I got off work, and they did want to pressure me into partying or spending money.

                I missed out on the exploring myself and drinking myself silly in college phase but I didn't really miss it.


                • #9
                  Actually, $250 for pasture board sounds like a pretty good rate - if you can keep the horse at school that would likely be a good idea, less travel that way (if you board a distance away you have to factor in gas).

                  I know it can be done, depending on what you do for $ you can often earn that in a weekend or two at most.

                  That said, I've known college students that spend more then that per month on booze, so if you can channel that into your horse habit instead that's certainly a plus!


                  • #10
                    I went to Davis and took my horse to college with me. I boarded privately and worked off my board by cleaning stalls. I was also on the event team. If you have any questions about barns or anything Davis related, PM me. I loved my college experience with horses. It was hard, but totally worth it!


                    • #11
                      Can you not work something out with your coach so the horse is not sold? Is it not your horse, and therefore your decision?

                      It is quite possible to ride and be around horses while in school without necessarily owning (and therefore having to pay for) them. When I was in college I drove a horse and carriage on weekends, worked at the racetrack summers and during breaks, and offered to exercise any horse I could. My skills back then (as now) were better "on the ground" than in the saddle so horse-sitting, etc. were all things I did to get my horsey fix without having to pay a dime.

                      Since I basically had NO money from my family for school, it was all on me, and I had never owned one anyhow before school. I always, always rode friends' horses, worked off lessons, hacked, and worked to ride so doing so in school was no different. No regrets--I could be around horses any time I wanted to, even though I went to school in the city of Detroit, and I didn't have any commitments.

                      Horses will always be there. Prioritize, and if horses fit very nicely into that list, go for it. If not, find other ways than ownership to keep up with your horsey addiction.
                      Click here before you buy.


                      • #12
                        I have my horse at college, but around here I board at the one of the most expensive places... $250/month for full board in a 12x24 covered run, full board but I provide grain. I love having my horse here. The only way I can afford him is because board out here is really cheap.

                        As far as expenses... I work a teaching job that pays 5 hr/week, and I only do that for the resume and killer reference (I teach a lab for a class taught by the head of the biology department... awesome guy to have at my back when I'm looking for a job), I'm on the equestrian team (takes up a pretty intense chunk of my life, and I'm not even showing IHSA yet, I'm not ready, it takes awhile to reform myself to this "hunt seat equitation" stuff), and on all my breaks from school I work back home and save all that money for board/horsey things that I want. I'm pretty sure people are convinced I have no life, but I don't care, and I don't like being around large groups of people anyway. I'd rather spend every night out at the barn with my horse

                        It's been quite the experience... Being totally responsible (every decision... from what to feed him and whether to put shoes on him to... anything) for the horse. My parents were not on board with me having him in the first place, but I rode him back in high school as an ugly 4 year old off the track and when his owners went to sell him, no one would buy him, or the only people who wanted to buy him were not appropriate homes (pretty much any person who said they wanted a first horse for their teenage daughter, got politely sent looking elsewhere, since he had a history of bucking), so they offered to let me have him, and I'm so glad I did. He's undergone quite the transformation in the year I've had him, it's incredible to look back at pictures from a year ago, it's like two different horses. I am happy every day for any money I've spent keeping this horse - I'd have a lot more money if I didn't have him, but I'd also be an unhappy, depressed person, like I spent my freshman year being.
                        RIP Don - 3/28/2004-8/15/2012


                        • #13
                          Davis is a GREAT place to have a horse!! I am a "townie" so of course I love it here. But I also worked out at the Eq Center and know the staff pretty well. Every student that I talked to were really stressed out with out their horse, and when they brought their horse there made a huge difference in how they coped with things and what not. Also as a freshman you are not allowed to have a car, so other boarding stables are kinda out of the question, and the EQC is probably the cheapest. Davis has a lot of jobs that are exclusively available to students, so I know that you can make money here for sure, if you check out the website I believe you can find a link to student jobs to get an idea of what may be available. Also I know a lot of students part leased their horses to people on the Eq Team for lessons, so it helped pay their board, and the riders rode one day with the coach and one day on their own, so they knew that they were pretty well watched. I'd say do it!!


                          • #14
                            Having my horse at school was a lot of work (I was fortunate that my parents helped out with board), I was in quite a few extra curriculars and pretty tough classes. Since I didn't have a job that took up more than a few hours a week (doing TA stuff), I was able to balance the time pretty easily. Because I had a bunch of academic scholarships from working my butt off in high school (and riding less then than I did in college) my parents were cool with helping with the horse habit. Plus I was at a small school in a smaller town so everything was very reasonable and my horse was pasture boarded at a really amazing family's barn who were not in it to make money, just to cover their costs.

                            School and tests had to come first (though I was guilty on occasion of maybe spending a little too much time at the barn before a test). But I found that I was one of the least stressed of my friends because when I needed a horse fix, my horse was about 2 miles up the road and I could just swing up there for half an hour to feed her and hang out. There were weeks that I barely rode, but I saw her most days as I was the one giving her supplements, etc. I think getting that time around her and just getting off campus for a little bit really helped me stay less stressed and happier. I will say that my preferred Friday night activity especially for the first few years was to go ride instead of go to the bars. Though I may not had quite the same "social scene" as a lot of people in college, I probably would have found a way to avoid a lot of that even without my horse haha. I also found a great volunteering opportunity with a small therapeautic riding program that used our barn once a week during the nicer months that was one of my very favorite things I did in college and I miss it a lot!


                            • #15
                              I completely understand wanting to take a horse with you to college. I took mine with me for a semester, but sent him home once I realized how unhappy he was at the new barn (he missed his old friends!).

                              That said, you have to remember why you're going to school: to get an education. I only say this because college is much more difficult than you might think. You suddenly have to manage your own time and make sure that you allow yourself enough time to study, work, socialize, relax, etc. What career path are you thinking of going into? If it requires grad school, remember that your undergraduate grades are extremely important and ultimately will decide what grad programs are available to you.

                              I think adjusting to life in college would be extremely difficult with a horse depending on you. I would suggest leaving the horse at home during your first semester so you can find your place at school. You're going to want to hang out with new friends and participate in group activities. Although it seems like having a horse might be a great stress reliever, think of all the time it's going to require. You'll have to work to pay for the horse, and then ride it 4 to 5 times a week and care for it.

                              Also, you need to find a job before you commit to bringing the horse with you. You want to make sure that you can afford, and it would probably be a good idea to save up a little money first anyway. Maybe you could try talking to your coach and telling her that you would like to bring the horse in the spring semester. I'm sure your coach could hold off on selling the horse until then. Good luck!! :-)


                              • #16
                                I'd say go for a semester without the horse if you can come to an agreement with the trainer. It does take a while to get adjusted to college life and all that goes with it, but once you figure out how to make it all work, it's a piece of cake.

                                I had my horse with me at school but I half-leased her out to an adult ammy to help with board cost, etc. It was a great stress reliever during college to be able to ride and spend time at the barn. I didn't compete much during college but took lessons and kept up with my riding skills. I also taught a few lessons on the weekends for extra money.

                                My other suggestion is to get a job waiting tables and/or bartending. This is typically the best way to make $$ in the shortest amount of time (especially in a college town), the money will be much better than a job that pays min. wage.

                                Good luck!
                                No Trouble
                                2/2/05 - 7/29/13
                                Rest In Peace my quirky brave boy, I will love you forever.


                                • #17
                                  My best friend I took our horses with us to college. I saved the summer before starting school and had one semester worth of board saved, so that was a huge help starting out. Even though I had that money saved, I still tried to come up with the board money without touching what I saved, that way if I was short one month it wasn't a big deal.

                                  We did stall board since the fencing was pretty bad at the barn we were at. We arranged with the barn owner that we would turn the horses out ourselves. We would go out every afternoon or evening and work the horses, then turn them out in the arena or the one pasture with good fencing (was empty at night) and sit in the wash room (had heat and AC) and study and complete homework.

                                  I worked every weekend and all weekend long at a restaurant and was able to support my horse on my own. Where there is a will there is a way. This schedule worked for us. No we didn't have a social life outside of barn friends, but that was ok with us.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Thanks for the replies and insights. It's nice to know it's possible to bring a horse to college on your own dime, albeit a lot of work.

                                    I'm not looking for the "college experience." I want a decent education to get a job in a field I like so I can pay for all my future ponies. Right now all I do is work at the barn and I really don't mind missing out on a big social life. It's actually saved me from a lot of drama/bs that my friends have gone through.

                                    At this point I think my best bet is to save up some money this summer and first semester. I have a bit of time to figure out what to do about the horse and my coach is pretty cool so I'll probably be able to work something out to make sure she keeps him for at least a semester. Plus, in this market he probably won't sell right away. Luckily my coach is very careful about who she sells to, so he won't end up in a bad place if it turns out I can't take him. I know there will always be other horses, I'm just very attached to this one.


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by KokiriForest View Post
                                      Thanks for the replies and insights. It's nice to know it's possible to bring a horse to college on your own dime, albeit a lot of work.

                                      I'm not looking for the "college experience." I want a decent education to get a job in a field I like so I can pay for all my future ponies. Right now all I do is work at the barn and I really don't mind missing out on a big social life. It's actually saved me from a lot of drama/bs that my friends have gone through.

                                      At this point I think my best bet is to save up some money this summer and first semester. I have a bit of time to figure out what to do about the horse and my coach is pretty cool so I'll probably be able to work something out to make sure she keeps him for at least a semester. Plus, in this market he probably won't sell right away. Luckily my coach is very careful about who she sells to, so he won't end up in a bad place if it turns out I can't take him. I know there will always be other horses, I'm just very attached to this one.
                                      Don't short yourself on your college experiences. There are a lot of opportunities to do things that you will probably never get again. Studying abroad for instance, volunteering, internships, etc. Depending on your course of study.
                                      I have CDO. It's like OCD, but all the letters are in alphabetical order, as they should be!


                                      • #20
                                        Selling my horse at the end of my first semester in college was one of the most painful things I ever did. It was also the right thing to do, both for him and for me. I did not really have time to ride, and he was neglected. I could not do school things that you can only do while you're a student.

                                        It can still make me cry.


                                        School is something you only do for a short time, and it is a concentrated time in your life. You will have opportunities as a student that you will have at no other time - including chances to intern, to travel, to work in research labs, etc. The networking you do at school will have a great deal to do with the career you're trying to build, the career that will give you big money and a flexible schedule that will let you ride and show for the rest of your life.

                                        THAT is the college experience.

                                        What did I do instead of having a horse? I worked at an observatory one summer doing independent research. I worked in the lab of an internationally known physicist. I spent a lot of late nights talking with people about important, interesting things that they did in my field and related fields.

                                        I will also say that the realities of college in the UC system right now are painful. Jobs are not easy to come by. Tuition is skyrocketing. Getting the classes you need so you can get out in 4 years can be a logistical challenge. If you end up needing a 5th year, most of the scholarship money you have goes away, and you'll have to pay for it all with loans.

                                        The good news is that there are good barns in the area, and no doubt horses with busy owners that need riding. You can still ride, but with a lot less expense and responsibility. And you'll learn a lot from riding those other horses.

                                        You love this horse... but the fact is, there are many horses out there that you can and will love. Kiss him on the nose goodbye, and know there's a dedicated girl out there for him who is in a time where she can work with him all the time, and that there will be horses for you that need catch riding and eventually a special horse or horses that will be yours.

                                        It was very sad to sell my horse, even though I knew he was going back to people who knew him and cared about him. But, after college, I was able to buy a quite nice horse and a truck and trailer and ride with fabulous instructors and show regularly. That nice horse, who I also love with all my heart, is grazing in my backyard now... as is my current riding horse.
                                        If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket