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Caring for a horse on minimum wage

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  • Caring for a horse on minimum wage

    Last edited by maudie; Feb. 22, 2011, 10:58 AM.

  • #2
    It's a big committment. As you probably know, buying a horse is the lowest cost of ownership. I am currently getting ready to trial a new project horse but I am going to be forced to cut down on A LOT to be able to afford it.

    I would honestly hold off if I were you. Working hourly while in high school does not necessarily earn enough to provide for a horse unless you can work off some board (which is looks like you're looking into) and/or can find a pasture board/lower cost board option. It IS possible, but it's risky. If your horse colics or has some other illness or injury, how will you handle the situation? How old is the horse you're looking at? The older they are, the more maintenance he/she is going to need. Etc etc. There are a lot of costs that go into the big picture.

    I'm not trying to discourage you, but without any help from anyone on board or upkeep I would think it would be an awful lot of stress to keep up with the bills, exercise AND school at the same time.

    What about leasing? Is that an option? that's what I did in high school and while being the only one of my friends who didn't own (and all of my friends basically had theirs paid for) sucked, it still was much more affordable and I got the perks of riding "my" horse whenever I wanted, basically.

    I'm sure others will chime in too, and like I said I'm not trying to discourage you I would just hate for you to get into a situation where you either end up with an unsound horse (why did his price suddenly drop $10,000?) and/or end up not being able to support him and biting off more than you can chew.

    Good luck with whatever you decide on.
    "Lord if we should fall, my horse and I, please pick my horse up first."



    • #3
      at 16 you are probably allowed to work about 20 hours a week (legally) including weekends. after taking out taxes (you'll get those back at tax time, and will be minimal amounts ), SS, etc.. I think $146.00/wk is probably the most you'll make. Unless you have parental help, I don't think financially, that you'll be able to really care for a horse and all the misc expenses that come up. Especially paying your own car insurance, gas, etc.
      Last edited by DandyMatiz; Aug. 2, 2010, 12:35 AM. Reason: misspelled stuff


      • #4
        you would be working after school and riding and studying.... sounds like you may be getting in over your head. It sounds like a lovely offer, but if you are working and studying too much to enjoy the horse is it really worth it? I worked long hours in junior high through university to be able to keep a horse, and I will admit my school work definately suffered.

        What if you loose your job? What if you are sick/hurt and can't work for a week or two?

        My advice is to spend September trying to keep up the work schedule and see if you can earn enough to keep a horse. See if you can keep up the school work and still have time to ride.

        If you can, then keep that up for a few months until you have saved up an emergency fund just in case something happens to your or the horse.

        If you can do that, then I would start looking for a horse!

        Good luck!
        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


        • #5
          I think it would be difficult enough to just pay the horse expenses, but if you are also planning on using the money you earn to pay car insurance and have spending money to go out with friends I don't think it is nearly enough. If you are also paying for gas, and you say the barn is about 30 min away, you will be spending a lot on gas to get to the barn also. Maybe a half lease would work? Especially one where you only had to pay 1/2 the horse's expenses and no lease fee? Good luck!


          • #6
            I'm not 16 (I'm 23), but I can relate to your situation. I graduated from college last year, and have been in the job market for 8 months now. Despite having interned in a competitive government office, having a competitive degree, and graduating magna cum laude from a good state school, I'm finding the job market to be every bit as bad as people say it is. One offer so far that I declined when I discovered the organization was currently involved in a class action lawsuit re: not paying employees for overtime and not conforming to living wage laws in certain cities... The position I was offered paid under $30k/year, so I passed. I might kick myself for it later, but...

            Anyway, this means I struggle to pay my horsey expenses. I am married, and my husband has a good job, but it's a stretch to pay for the horse. Our "people" bills come out around $2300/month when all's said and done (this includes student loan payments). The horse's bills run about $1k-$1200/month. I board at a barn that's competitively priced for the facility, and try to cut costs where I can, but I know I'm not going to make it much longer at this rate.

            I've had my horse since I was 15, and have been financially responsible for him since I turned 18. I was in no position to pay board, farrier, and vet bills at that age, so I leased him out for 2 years while I got my act together. The lease situation suddenly went south, and I suddenly had to take him on in a little more than 2 weeks- everything.

            I've been doing it (somehow) since I was 20 now, but it's terrible. Honestly. It's a constant struggle. My horse came up with a mysterious soundness issue over the winter, and after a $600 soundness exam, we didn't really have any answers. So we started him on a course of Adequan (adding $250 initially+ $40/month, all in addition to his $75/month supplement bill) and corrective shoeing, which costs me $250 every 4-5 weeks. So in addition to board, I got stuck with a ton of extra expenses back in March that I wasn't counting on. And my horse was unrideable for 10 weeks.

            You know how they say when it rains, it pours? Well, with horses, when it rains, it floods. At the worst possible moment, you will need an extra $1000 in the bank to cover a vet bill. Or your horse throws a shoe mid-cycle, and you've got to pay the farrier a farm-call plus the cost of putting the shoe back on. Or he decides he's going to destroy something (tack, property, etc), and you've got to replace it.

            If it weren't for the fact that I love my horse more than I love anything, really, I would NEVER own a horse at this point in time. Truthfully, if I didn't know I could count on my parents to help me out in really dire straits, I'd have no business owning a horse at all. I can't imagine looking at him if he were truly, truly hurting and saying, "I don't have the money". I am also fortunate to be able to retire him to my family's farm when that time comes, so I don't have to worry about what would happen if he became totally unsound. That being said, most people do, and it's not an easy road to cross.

            Bottom line is this: if you're not financially prepared to handle a SERIOUS vet bill, or prepared to have the horse laid up for months on end due to an injury (during which time those board, farrier, and vet bills really seem like torture), you're not prepared to own a horse. It's not a smart decision for anyone making minimum wage, and that's magnified tenfold for a 16 year old girl that's still in HS.
            Here today, gone tomorrow...


            • #7
              I second the "lease" rather than buy option for someone your age. When I look at many of the young riders in my area, lots of them are leasing horses that are much nicer than they could ever afford to buy.

              And you also have to think about how you would handle a catastrophic event, not just routine expenses. WHen my horse had a sinus infection last year that actually turned out to be an issue with a tooth penetrating his sinus cavity, my vet bill for that ended up being close to $4000. Without treatment, the infection could have become life threatening, and the normal inexpensive antibiotics just couldn't kick it-he was in a vet hospital for a week where they had to irrigate his sinus and have him on IV antibiotics. If something like this happened would your parents be willing or able to help you foot the bill?

              You are showing a lot of maturity thinking this through and trying to come up with a realistic budget.

              I would also be cautious about any horse whose price dropped that significantly. This is usually a sign that there is some kind of issue- although typically the seller doesn't want to tell you this....


              • Original Poster

                Last edited by maudie; Feb. 22, 2011, 10:59 AM.


                • #9
                  It sounds flat out like working is not going to earn you enough money to pay for the upkeep of a horse. If I was your mom, I would tell you that your 'job' right now is to go to school, learn, and get good grades. Work should be for learning job skills and getting spending money, not to interfere with your main job in life right now: school.

                  It's wonderful that there are people in the world that are willing to help you out like this. I think she would be very impressed with your maturity. Maybe you can take some of these concerns back to her and say that maybe a lease would be a better idea. Tying yourself down to horse ownership at 16 is a HUGE responsibility. Working 4 hours a day is a HUGE commitment - how would that affect your grades? Are you planning on taking advantage of her offer and going to college?

                  Plus what about having fun?

                  Could you go back to this woman and suggest a partial lease? Or suggest she buy the horse and have you train or show the horse for her? It's wonderful that she cares about you so much but I think you have to (as you are...) look at the bigger picture.

                  Good luck with your decision.


                  • #10
                    where there's a will...

                    Just to chime in, I did it. My step-mom and father surprised me at 16 with my own horse with the understanding that I would pay for everything. I worked at a small restaurant two or three nights a week and one weekend day and pulled in less (on average) than what you estimated at $146.00. However, I paid partial board for the first two months and then moved him to pasture board to make it cheaper. Full board was 350 partial was 250 and pasture was 150 (very rural area). I paid for my own lessons but worked out with the trainer a way to earn my lessons (hacking other horses, barn chores) and luckily never had any huge vet expenses. I saved for shows and spent tons of time at the barn on weekends and after school and still maintained a 4.0 and graduated 4th in my class with honors (so studies weren't affected by my job or barn time). It is entirely possible to make something work on your salary but you have to find A) board that you can either work off (feeding, mucking stalls, etc) or at a lower rate and B) and agreement for vet bills. You have to be able to provide quality care for your horse and one injury, even getting caught in a fence and needing some stitches, can mean an unexpected $500 you have to pay immediately. Perhaps you could work something out with the woman offering this amazing deal like Ellebeaux suggested?
                    Just make sure you think it completely through-even to what you will do when college/life/moving happens.
                    Good luck!


                    • #11
                      Do you have a trainer that you ride with that you can discuss costs/terms with? what skills do you have to offer that could offset the cost of your horse's board (eg can you teach beginner classes or do schooling rides?)

                      Are there any barns closer to you? especially private barns that may be much cheaper in board (but you may have to compromise on facilities)? any co-op barns?

                      Chances are the $15K "sale" horse has some issues (or someone should've snapped it up at $5K already) - what is your skill level? can you work through issues with just the occasional guidance from a trainer or would you need 2-3 lessons a week? (of course it may really just BE a $5K horse )

                      Talk to your Mom's friend & find out what expectations she may have for the horse (she may have this picture in her head of going to shows etc or riding occasionally herself ...); has she thought about an emergency fund for vet bills (it's unrealistic that you'd be able to afford any more than the basics, so what happens if horse needs surgery?), what happens if you decide to sell the horse? or horse has an injury resulting in permanent lameness? (alot depends if she's had horses personally or not).

                      Can anyone in your family assist with the board/lessons?

                      Leasing out your horse to offset costs can work out very well if the other rider is at a similar level to yourself - definitely require that any leaser take at least 1 lesson/week with your coach ie someone that knows the horse & you; make sure you have a written contract & require at least 30days notice to any changes in the lease arrangement.
                      This may also work out very well when you're busy with school work or ill - you know that your horse is still being cared for & ridden (it's great if your coach can assist in finding a leaser).

                      Note I'm assumimg that you have a great coach


                      • #12
                        Aside from Board, Farrier, and routine Vet bills....you need to consider Emergency Vet bills. One major injury or sickness can add up big time....$100's, if not $1,000's. What will you do when your horse comes in dead lame at dinner time? Or colics real bad one night?

                        Personally, I'd wait if I were you. Or consider a lease.
                        <3 Vinnie <3
                        Jackie's Punt ("Bailey") My Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbred


                        • #13
                          When I was in high school, I had a horse I was responsible for. I paid for hay, feed, vet and tack. I paid for occasional lessons. I had my horse in my own back yard. Sometimes I got a friend to come over and watch me and give suggestions.

                          I was allowed to go to probably 6-8 local HJ circuit shows a year, and my parents paid for that. They also paid for my car and car insurance. I paid for gas. I worked as a nursing assistant part time during the school year, on weekends, and full time with overtime during the summer.

                          In short, I worked REALLY hard. Trying to work, ride, do barn work, and study is hard. I got in trouble my senior year. My teachers called my parents in to school and told them I was sleeping in class and my grades weren't as good as they should have been. They were right. I ended up having to cut back on showing...

                          Lesson here, just make sure school doesn't suffer. That's the most important thing at your age. I bet you can find rides at your local barn. You will get more experience that way. Horses are a VERY big responsibility. It's like having a kid!
                          Nobody puts baby in a corner


                          • #14
                            Short answer is "no". I don't feel that you have a realistic view of what keeping a horse costs, altho I do applaud you for looking into this before leaping into horse ownership. If you really want to pursue this, I think you may need two "jobs" that is, find a barn where you can work of part of the board, and use your "real" job to pay for farrier, vet etc. But I can tell you scrap the idea of movies, hanging out at the mall etc! You won't have the money OR the time. If you are willing to make THIS big of a commitment then BEFORE you get the horse, secure a paying job AND find a barn you can start working at. Be prepared to work HARD. Don't rely on someone part leasing your horse, that may or may not happen. And even if it does it may last for a few months and then they change their minds. Have an UPFRONT TALK with both the person wanting to buy the horse for you AND your parents about this. Make a LIST of costs, vet, farrier, "startup" costs, that is, do you own a saddle, bridle, other tack, blankets, grooming supplies etc? if not then you need to be able to purchase those as well. Find out if the horse needs routine maintenance, that can be costly as well. So look REALLY hard at this and I think you will find that, unless your parents or the person wanting to buy the horse wants to help foot part of the bill, it is not realistic for you right now


                            • #15
                              If you are dedicated and feel that you can support this horse, then I say go for it. Like the others have said, where there's a will theres a way. There are multiple ways you can get the board cheaper, maybe let the barn owner use the horse for a couple lessons a week (if your comfortable with that), partial lease is a good idea, just make sure to get someone as responsible as you are and is not going to flake on you. Have a really good contract with them, get your parents involved in that of course. I remember making minimum wage at 16, I was really good with my money and managed to pay for my expenses. Unfortunately I had no horse at that time but paid for lessons, showing and my car and always had a good amount left over where if I had a horse I could have supported it. Also, if you get a horse that can live on pasture board, that will help a lot in the price. I keep most of my horses on full pasture board and they enjoy it thoroughly, even my yearling and that's during winter and summer.
                              Grassfield Sport Horses, LLC

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                              • #16
                                I hate to say it, but while you MIGHT work off/earn enough money to cover the board, I can ASSURE you that you aren't gonna have enough time to ride/enjoy your horse and still keep up with school/friends. I've been there, and it just wasn't a plausible idea for me. I would try leasing, as good as this offer seems, I just don't think it's a solid plan.


                                • #17
                                  If your parents could afford to help support the horse or you had a barn owner who would give you a greatly reduced rate, I'd say go for it, but as it is right now, there is just no way that you could 1)be prepared for emergencies (a colic, stitches, even a lost shoe) and 2)still have time to ride and enjoy your horse.

                                  When I was younger I kept a horse that I WORKED like crazy to pay for. He sat in a field and got fat because I didn't have time to ride him (I had to work) and I didn't have money to show him. In the end I sold him and put my money towards weekly lessons on a nice school horse. Years later I have the horse of my dreams but it's so much more fun because now I have the financial means to support her and show her!

                                  While he may sound like a great deal, keep in mind that there will be tons of other great deals that will come along in your lifetime, perhaps when you are better prepared to ENJOY it.
                                  The rebel in the grey shirt


                                  • #18
                                    I lived and breathed horses when I was your age. I had a job the day I turned 16, worked what the law legally allowed, worked at the barn several days a week to pay off board, lessons, AND I had a social life, being on the high school's dance team. I made A's and B's, got into college no problem. I received an early graduation present from my mom and her mom, a filly from the barn I rode at. When I went to college, I had a job that paid for her board and when she was ready to be trained, I had mad arrangements with a local friend and trainer near the college I attended. We kind of bartered a lot in college, but we did it and showed as well. It can be done. I wouldn't change a thing I did back then. It sounds like you are a very responsible, grounded young person who knows their limits and are thinking about all aspects of horse ownership. I wish you the best, but realize it will be busy for you so you have to have priorities and keep them in place. Best of luck with what you decide.


                                    • #19
                                      I htink before you take on a horse, you need to get the hard costs....not just "board will be about $500-700" or whatever, but find someplace you will keep the horse with the lowest possible board, or get an agreement with the BO to work off your board and lessons. My parents bought my horse for me with the understanding I'd work off my lessons and board, which I did for many years. Finally in my last junior year, they allowed me to change barns to a big show barn and spend the last year showing heavily and not having to groom or braid

                                      BUT, my point is, you need to have this fully planned out before you take the horse on, otherwise the horse will suffer for your inability to take care of it.


                                      • #20
                                        You are 16, so here is a general financial guideline to live by which will serve you well in life if you get some practice following it.

                                        Out of your after tax income
                                        25% goes to rent
                                        25% goes to expenses (car insurance, gas, etc)
                                        25% goes to SAVINGS
                                        25% goes to fun (the horse, the movies, restaurants)

                                        It is not wise to start off spending 80% of your budget on the horse; it sets up bad habits.

                                        If one aspect of your life is taking up significantly more than its fair share of the budget, something is out of whack.

                                        It is EXTREMELY wise to set up the expectation that you kiss at least 25% of your income goodbye to savings as a matter of course.

                                        Do not get in the habit of living pay check to pay check. I have known people making $160,000 a year who spent so much money they lived pay check to pay check.

                                        Somebody usually gives me flack every time I post this about "who on earth can save 25% of their income?!" and the answer is, of course, "Everyone who makes 75% of what you make is getting along so how do you think they do it?"
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