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Keeping a horse on a graduate school stipend in the USA: is it possible?

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  • #21
    I went to grad school (science field) in a small college town where there was certainly some cheaper boarding around- and I would have had the time. Grad school is a little different now. Lots of work but you can do so much more from home than even 15 years ago. That kind of gives a flexible schedule which is helpful for getting in riding.

    Its possible depending on where you go and how much your stipend is. My stipend was pretty low so I had no extra $$ for anything but i think they are better these days at many places.


    • #22
      I did it but I was in Auburn, Alabama where things are very cheap and I pasture boarded my pony. I want to say her board was $250 a month and I pulled her shoes at the time. I wasn't showing or anything just riding for my enjoyment. My stipend was about $24k a year and it was enough to cover my cheap apartment, gas, groceries, and her board. My car and phone were still covered by my parents, so that helped. I made it work but I also only got to ride a couple days a week. Weekends reliably, weekdays were really tough with the work load.

      I also made the choice when I applied to grad schools NOT to apply to universities in major cities that would have made bringing her with my extremely expensive and difficult. I really wanted to apply to Columbia but did not bother accordingly. My priority was that I still be able to have her with me, I made that decision early on in my application process.


      • #23
        I went to science grad school in a fairly expensive town (Boulder, CO) 20 years ago and half-leased a horse the entire time. But full board would have been hard to cover. Perhaps if you can find inexpensive pasture board?

        As far as the time commitment, there are many toxic graduate advisors that think you are making a 365/24/7 commitment to them. I would try to avoid that situation whether you take the horse with you or not. It’s not healthy.


        • #24
          I don’t think so. Not around here. I’m a full-time law student at Maryland ( in Baltimore) and also work 16-25 hours a week bartending, so the money is decent. Let’s say I make $400/week. I have a car and all I pay for is gas and insurance. Leasing out one of my horses pays my monthly rent. If I kept my horse in the area, I’d be looking at at least an hour round trip plus a minimum of $500/month in stall every 6 weeks at $200...even if I could swing it and keep him in a friend’s field, I literally wouldn’t have enough hours in the week to do much with him.

          So while it may be very possible to keep the horse, it’d be hard to find time to do much with it. And I’d totally forget about it in the DC area.


          • #25
            Originally posted by Annie53642 View Post
            However, a lot of the schools I'm applying to (Georgetown, John Hopkins, etc) are located in cities, and keeping a horse while living in the city on a graduate stipend (~30k/year, little less after fees) is starting to seem daunting. Does anyone have tips for keeping a horse through graduate school? (Especially if you went to said school in a big city?) I'm not against living out of the city and commuting to school, but commutes of 1hr+ seem daunting as well.
            It can be done, but it helps if you live in a rural area. If you pick something in the city, your living expenses will eat into every cent of your stipend, because that is all the stipend is intended to be for: living expenses. Horses are a luxury.

            I am in grad school at a public university and I get a stipend of $16k/academic year. I also work two remote jobs to make up the difference and I make about $24k a year total. I live in a very rural area and commute to school (30min each way). My car, rent, board, shoes, **small** showing budget, food, and vet bills take every single penny of my income. I have a small bit of savings for emergencies. Rent is less than board.

            I picked my school because I liked the program. I recommend you do the same. Having a horse and continuing training turned out to be an unexpected bonus.

            I work my a** off and have no life outside of school/work/horses. Sometimes I miss having friends. My grades would probably be better if I didn't have a horse, but they are satisfactory and enough for me to keep my assistantship. Your workload will vary by your program and advisor. My assistantship is mainly research based. I do no teaching and make my own hours. You may not be able to do the same.


            • #26
              Owning a horse can be both, a stress reliever and a source of stress.

              Standard advice is to try not to own a horse while our lives are not settled yet.
              To get horse time, take lessons, catch ride, exercise for a trainer, any that lets you go do things with horses, but you don't have the stress of owning and caring and providing for one.

              In a way, not having only one horse you own, but working with many other horses will be more helpful to your riding, learn way more, if done right be very fulfilling almost like the idea of a horse of our own to dote over.

              Unless the only way to enjoy horses is owning one all yours, which is for some, I would say, wait to do that until life is more settled.

              Since you already own a horse, as you say, for some years one you won't be able to really enjoy and will be hard to care for with all else going on in your life, your question then is, what to do with her if you decide not to have a horse for the foreseeable future?

              That only you can answer.


              • #27
                One of the boarders where I keep my horse just finished grad school (kept her horse there the whole time) . She did self-care and found someone to share duties with. Her horse is on field board but does have a stall if she needs it. Maybe you could find someone to half-lease or something similar
                Wouldst thou like the taste of butter and pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?


                • #28
                  Originally posted by mvp View Post
                  I did that (just about) at Cornell 15 years ago. I'm not sure you could do that now. And I chose that PhD program in part because Horsing would be possible in a way that it would not be if I attended an urban university.

                  I think you will need either full care as a grad student, or you will need to live and work on the farm where your horse is. But grad school with a stipend is more than a 40-hour-a-week job. I don't think that partial care or commuting will work well.

                  That said, this might be one time in your life that you borrow money. If you spent, say, $8K/year feeding your mare, you wouldn't rack up an insane amount of debt. I'd try to borrow that from family or see if the 'rents would get a line of equity on their house before I took on student loan debt. There are lots of reasons for being smart about choosing your lender. I can elaborate if you want. But I would borrow to keep my horse for at least some of those years in grad school before I'd essentially shelve her and your riding career for 7 years. You and she cannot get back that time at any price. If she just gets older and not more rideable, you will still have to pension her out (while you are starting to build your career-- another hard time) and never have gotten to enjoy a full riding life with her. Plus, I think your horse might be a much-needed break from grad school life and pressure. My gelding was that way for me.

                  I had worked hard to get to grad school. I worked hard to get to him to the start of his show career (I had bred him from an OTTB and done all the riding myself). So I don't regret being really poor and going into some debt to have him with me and to do some modest showing while I was in school. He helped make that a great chapter of my life.
                  I don’t think it’s fair to borrow from her parents or ask them to mortgage their home to pay for a horse they already don’t want to keep paying for at home. It’s a luxury, not a necessity, to bring the mare along.


                  • #29
                    Originally posted by JustTheTicket View Post

                    I don’t think it’s fair to borrow from her parents or ask them to mortgage their home to pay for a horse they already don’t want to keep paying for at home. It’s a luxury, not a necessity, to bring the mare along.
                    I have no opinion about the ethics of this.

                    I come from a family who would not and did not financially support my riding. But I am always surprised to learn the kind of support that parents give their college-age and beyond kids. What would have been laughable hand-holding in my day (making car payments for the kid in the first job) or stuff done by much wealthier families (giving kid a downpayment for their first house), or even continuing to fund a horse for a kid in college are all things I have been surprised to learn about. Families work in mysterious ways. This one should do whatever they think is right.
                    The armchair saddler
                    Politically Pro-Cat


                    • #30
                      It doesn't sound like much fun, so you'd be spending a lot of money (PLEASE don't borrow for this!) to support a hobby you can't even indulge in much for several years. (6???)

                      Sell the mare (she won't be the same horse in 6 years), take some lessons at a local barn for your horsey fix.