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Spin off: Financial strain of horses

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    Single person, multiple horses here. I've had two horses for most of my horse owning life apart from nine months between losing #1 and aquiring #3, and having three for sixteen months before losing #2.

    I would have lots more money if I'd only had one horse, but when I think about it it's not the money it's the time. I could have done more with one horse - longer rides, more outings, more riding other horses (I've often been asked to ride other people's horses, but just didn't have time). I don't regret having two though. I do intend to not add another for several years after the next horse goes. We'll see what actually happens when that time comes.

    If I didn't do the horse thing I'd probably be a fat lump on the couch in front of the TV, or dead. Okay, maybe not that bad, but horses are my passion and I work to earn money to spend doing what I want to do. Without some thing like that (whether it's horses or an annual trip to Disneyland) what's the point?

    That sounds worse than it is, I think. ;-) Kids, marriage and the like are not options for me so no, I'm not missing out or replacing "normal relationships" with the horses.


      I no longer feel the need to justify expenses, because once we euthanized my (very expensive) old man TB, I was left with a pony who honestly costs me almost nothing (except when he needs to see the vet). It was a huge relief to go from $600+/mo in regular expenses to <$100 and I don't cherish the idea of spending that much again.

      That said, if I didn't have the pony I'd probably spend it on gardens, landscaping, upgrading the quality of our house remodel...that sort of thing. Aside from the mortgage and loan on the tractor we don't have any debt, so maybe focus some of it on paying those two off sooner.


        I used to be able to afford to own a horse, and when I got my land that ended up being several horses (one time I owned 7 horses).

        No longer. Yes I am retired, and on SS, but since my last horse died decades ago we have become more prosperous every year. Feed prices have gone up so much, and the veterinary bills, well I just cannot see treating an old horse with expensive operations just so the horse can have another year or two of life (specifically my 33 year old heart horse, first colic episode in his life, and the veterinarian refused to put him down (twisted gut) since he wanted me to pay over $6,000 USD for an operation, no guarantees the horse would survive. The next vet did put him down after around an hour of me begging him to.) I MIGHT be able to "afford" owning a horse that lived on my land, but when I think of the farrier bills, and the veterinary bills I quickly realize that there is NO WAY I can afford to own a horse again.

        I miss having horses, but I am old enough for the threat of a new horse outliving me. I DO NOT miss trudging through ice and snow to feed and water the horses though. I LOVE having enough money so I can ride other people's horses (lesson barn) and enough money so I can buy whatever tack I think will help the horses I ride. I do not have the close personal connection with the lesson horses, life is imperfect but hey, at least now I can afford to get riding lessons, something I could not afford when I owned several horses.

        I am so glad that I seized the opportunity to own horses while average Americans could afford to own a horse. I do not think that my descendants will be that lucky, because what I see now is that horse ownership is only for remarkably prosperous people now.


          I know people who fox hunt who find it is much cheaper to hire a horse for the day and hunt a few times a year than keep one, pay board, vet, travel, etc. I can see that. When I was young and single in the nineties I could survive on a teacher's salary, keep my horse at my dad's place ( great pasture, little old barn) and hunt. It was way cheaper than showing and I got a lot more riding and adventure from my yearly dues then from entry fees and lessons . It was still a stretch and things were a lot cheaper then.


            I work 5 jobs to afford my horses (1 full time plus 4 part times). I'm single, don't have anyone to split mortgage, living expenses, etc with. I don't have a trainer, I compete very little and then usually at cheap local schooling shows. But it's the rest of the upkeep that has gotten so expensive: farrier, vet, grain, gas money spent commuting an hour round trip to the barn 7 days a week. One of my part time jobs is at the barn - cleaning stalls, feeding, mowing, etc in exchange for pasture and hay. There are days when I don't have time to work with my own horses and I do wonder "why am I doing this?" I get burnt out. Of course I do. But then I think of my life without horses of my own and it's unimaginable. After growing up a horse-less horse crazy kid I got my first horse right out of high school - started working a full time job instead of going to college right away. Back then the local boarding stable was cheap (less than $100/month - hay, feed, and turnout included.) In the ensuing 25 years I've had to move the various horses I've owned many, many times. Some places were pretty nice, others just brief stays in crappy conditions while I found someplace better, but now when I look back I'm kind of proud of myself that despite the ups and downs and hardships and adversity I've always managed to make horse ownership work.


              If horses really are a financial hardship, as they seem to be for many who post on these forums, then I think they should be eliminated from your budget, or people need to find a less expensive alternative than their current situation. Cut back to a weekly lesson, or a free lease, or a partial lease of a lesson horse, which allows you to ride while leaving money in your budget for other necessities. I realize its not the same as horse ownership, but life isn't perfect. I stopped riding several years ago, for reasons that had nothing to do with finances, with a plan to go back after the winter. But I was having so much fun doing "normal" stuff like going to the beach and having time to socialize with friends who weren't from the barn, and saving so much money, that I never went back. Do what fits comfortably into your budget as far as horses are concerned but don't let it jeopardize your financial stability, or prevent you from preparing for the future, especially retirement. No one can live decently on just their social security!


                Originally posted by BAC View Post
                If horses really are a financial hardship, as they seem to be for many who post on these forums, then I think they should be eliminated from your budget, or people need to find a less expensive alternative than their current situation.y!
                might want to chuck that dog out the door also...

                It turns out owning a pet over its lifetime, likely over 10 years, . Even excluding expensive and unforeseen veterinarian visits, the likely cost of owning a dog through its lifetime, as calculated by the PDSA, falls in a range of $27,074 to $42,545, depending on the breed


                  I can easily believe those figures, considering what I pay my cats' vet every year. Sometimes the vet gets my entire year end bonus!


                    Originally posted by katherineyyyy View Post

                    I don’t want to derail the thread but I’m wondering how some of you all work out finances with your significant other. How do you split up the finances for horse stuff vs life stuff if you have a non-horsey SO?
                    In our household, my non-horsey husband knows how important horses are to me. And I ask for very little else in life, materially anyway. He's lovely about it and I'm lucky. We keep them at home and we keep them very simply. I don't show; I don't have a trainer or coach. But we don't really split things up in terms of "his" stuff and "my" stuff and "our" stuff. We're all in and its all ours.


                      Originally posted by GraceLikeRain View Post

                      Since I was 6 years old there is nothing I've wanted to do more than be a horse owner, learn about horses, and grow as a horsewoman. I started reading COTH when I was still young enough that I was doing weekly lessons and waiting each summer for horse camp. If I have a down moment I'm researching a product or reading a training article. It is in my blood and gives me life.

                      Ditto. Trying to explain how we horsepeople rationalize the time and money spend on our passion is really hard. Its not logical. Its a heart thing. You either have the obsession or you don't. It never leaves you.

                      That being said, if I had always lived in the region I currently live in, I really don't think I would own a horse. Its an extremely high cost of living area with few boarding options and horses are pretty much stall-bound. It makes being a DIY AA striving to do lower level dressage a little hard. Most people here are either backyard weekend warrior trail riders, or affluent people who can write a bunch of zeros for full training at a pristine facility on their imported WB.

                      When I got my horse 6 years ago, I lived in a different area with lower cost of living and was able to work of board and had a fabulous horse network of kind people who all helped each other. I was on a tight budget even then, and living in a more expensive area now has just slowly eaten up more and more funds. Sometimes I sit down and do my budget and wonder where it all goes! I earn more now, but horsekeeping now is more costly then what it was in my original set up. My SO also went through a period of under employment after our move, so that complicated matters as well. All told, I have an amount of debt that I know would not have been acquired if I didn't spend about $1,000 a month on Dobbin.

                      So, if I had no horse, I would have a much better credit score (hahaha) and have a cute little house or condo as opposed to renting an apartment for years, and drive a car that is not 15 years old. I would try to lesson or find a 1/2 lease arrangement to satisfy that horse bug, but I would certainly take a break from ownership if all other living costs are equal. When Dobbin was out to pasture for rehab a few years ago, he was about 1.5 hours away, meaning I could really only do that drive on the weekends. I used my weeknights to take yoga classes or exercise and I must admit it was nice to focus on me. It was easier to set attainable goals when I only had my body to control, not me and a 1300 lb flight mammal. I also had more time to spend w/ friends and the SO, but I still spent my free time reading books and articles and everything else to prepare myself to be the best rider I could be when Dobbin's rest period was over.

                      So, even though my bank account would appreciate the break from not owning, I know I would find my way back there eventually. Probably when I'm a bit older and live in a more affordable region.


                        My SO tells his friends and coworkers- I thought I scored a Sugar Momma.... but she has horses
                        Come to the dark side, we have cookies


                          Six months after euthanizing my big guy, I can honestly say I needed the break. Emotionally and financially. Not having the monthly board, feed, farrier, supplements, and various other bills that come with horses has allowed us to get a bunch of home projects done a lot faster than we would have otherwise. We also have a little girl on the way. The timing was...odd. I got pregnant the same month I lost my horse, as if the universe knew I would need something.

                          I miss it, I really do. I miss riding. I miss the joy, the freedom...and horses were a part of me for over twenty years. I still feel like a piece of my soul is missing, but it is admittedly peaceful not stressing about money or barn time. DH was/is supportive, but he did his fair share of complaining about the costs as well. My income paled in comparison, but went towards horse expenses so we at least broke even. However, if I'd still been paying for a horse during our COVID shutdown, and even now....oof. He knows I'll own another one day. I still have my trailer and all of my tack and gear (which desperately needs cleaned). I also believe if I were in a more supportive barn situation and not Eventer Wasteland I would at least have been riding, and probably moved horse shopping up a few months. I'm due in October. I would love to find something I could let sit for a couple months (probably an OTTB) then send to a trainer for a 30 day wet saddle blanket routine. As it stands, I don't want to board at my former barn for various reasons, and the options in my area are very limited so my motivation is lacking. Until I see videos of my friends in CA cruising around cross country courses, or having an awesome lesson either show-jumping or dressage...then my heart sinks, I tear up, and the little green envy monster flares. How I miss that feeling...
                          runnjump86 Instagram

                          Horse Junkies United guest blogger


                            I have had a horse much of my adult life. The horse and the type of boarding and activities varied with my resources but were never really "high end". When I didnt have a horse, I had less expenses, but generally less income too (hence the no horse!) During those periods when I did have good income but no horse I did save more, but I discovered that I had no burning desire for travel or other expensive stuff.

                            Over the years I did manage to save enough to buy a house (now paid off) and support myself and often a horse and a dog. When my old horse died after I retired, I took a short break from horses (hadnt ridden in about six years of my horse's retirement) then eased back into the horsey life. Eventually I bought a new horse with my savings and pension and have no regrets! I had thought about travelling, but my dog developed special needs, so that wasnt going to happen anyway!

                            My dad was big on saving for retirement. But he was to the point of not spending on things he would have enjoyed. He saved a lot and my parents were financially comfortable in retirement. But cancer took my mom and my dad developed dementia. The memory care place cost the rest of his savings. So I want to be frugal, but enjoy my life as well. And for me, a horse is a big part of it.


                              I'd be a sad, sad waste of human flesh. Horses are my joy, hard stop.

                              Now that said, I've all but stopped showing. Showing literally doubles or triples my cost of horse ownership. And the older I get, the less I want to spend long hours away from my family, patiently waiting to spend huge sums on being judged by strangers (for a 99 cent ribbon).


                                I do sometimes think about this....

                                We'd have nicer things in the house and it would probably be bigger. Probably more "toys" for our property (because we're country people no matter what). Definitely more vacations. Invest more time and money into my other hobby (running).

                                But if I did all of those things I'd just be fantasizing about riding and horses.

                                We do keep our horses "cheap". I have two and they are at home. I usually only do one or two big shows a year and one or two schooling shows. Maybe a clinic or two. And a lesson every month or so. Just about everything I buy is used. I believe good nutrition and turnout negate the need for most supplements. I get just as much joy from trail riding and working at home to improve our dressage as I do actually showing. I really just like the showing for the camaraderie--which I can get just tagging along with no horse.

                                If I spent as much as some people on unnecessary items I think it would breed resentment from both me and my husband.


                                  Being a horse owner for 25 years, the only reason my horses (3) aren't a financial "strain" is because I have built my entire life and financial structure around them.

                                  All of my life choices and plans have revolved around horses. That means I've sacrificed in other areas of my life in exchange for 2+ decades of the horsey lifestyle. In hindsight, I do have a few regrets, now that I'm older, wiser, and starting to look down the other side of the hill.

                                  I'm so lucky to still have my first horse, he's 40 years young and still romping around. The journey with him has been so deeply profound, such a cornerstone of who I am as a person, how I've developed emotionally and spiritually. I am so incredibly blessed.

                                  As the years have worn on, however, my dreams have become less lofty, my goals more humble, and as I board 3 equines whose better days are behind them -- but to whom I am still indebted -- I selfishly find myself daydreaming of a day of being freed from the shackles of ownership.

                                  How would I spend my extra money and time? The cost of boarding 3 equines would easily cover the costs of a second home, someplace I could retire to in the future, and still have money left over to lease a schoolmaster for the simple joy of riding.

                                  I'd also need a gym membership though as the daily horsey routine is my only activity, and I love to cook!

                                  Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                                    Horses are a discretionary expense. Nobody "needs" a horse transportation or work. We have them because we like them. I am NOT saying they are pets, but the are something we have chosen to have in our lives because we want them in it. I totally understand that preferences change in life as well as unexpected economic stresses hit. The current economic issues come into mind since so many people are unemployed or their businesses have gone bust.

                                    I am lucky to own a farm and have plenty of space for horses. I have a girlfriend's herd of 4 right now. She has a pony party business and a petting zoo. She made very good money with the business for years. Covid-19 has closed her business. When she told me that she was being challenged with getting hay for her animals, my response was to bring the Fjords to me. No charge, just bring them and they can live in a field and get ration balancer just like my horses. And that's what they are doing. My farrier has donated trims to her, so they are maintained. Do I think she would be better off selling them -- yes because the market for the breed is strong and these horse would get her a good amount of money. But she wants to hang on to them despite the financial strain. I get it and they can stay. I realize that this means they are likely to be here for a year or more. That's okay since she needs to figure out what the future looks like. I think she needs a vaccine to make her business viable again.

                                    I will say this much. She was willing to ask for help. There are people out there under serious financial stress who are saying nothing. We are going to have a pile of horses that need help by the time the fall comes around. I hope everyone will help where they can.
                                    Where Norwegian Fjords Rule


                                      Originally posted by BAC View Post
                                      No one can live decently on just their social security!
                                      Yes they can and they do.
                                      Just without horses.
                                      Rack on!


                                        Originally posted by Rackonteur View Post

                                        Yes they can and they do.
                                        Just without horses.
                                        I guess it depends on what you consider "decently." Not where I live and I'm getting close to the maximum SS. Luckily I have other income and savings.


                                          I have a sign hanging in my cube that says, "I work hard so my horse can have a better life." That "horse" has sometimes been as few as one or as many as five, and I have made most of my life's decisions, as others have said, to accommodate them. I had my first job at fifteen, and the first $300.00 I saved went to buy the horse I came out of the womb wanting. Sold my own two when I left for college, where I studied equine repro and ag in general, and rode a ton of the school's horses. I took a lot of classes that did nothing for my degree, but got me horseback.

                                          As soon as I graduated (literally the day after) I bought a yearling mare at a sale our school was hosting with the last of my student loan - no job, no home, but hey! I had a horse! But then came a longer period of time when I was horseless - it coincided with a non-supportive spouse who oh-so-gradually pushed them out of my life. Then he left, and the first thing I did when the shock wore off was to embrace who I really was again, and bam - three new horses!

                                          A few years later I moved from one part of the state to another, specifically so I could afford to purchase more land and have the kind of lifestyle I wanted. Was fortunate to get a good job where I wanted to live, found the land I wanted, put a TON of sweat equity into it, and now it's almost paid off. I found another husband along the way, a good man this time, who knows that the horses were here before he was. So no issue there - in fact, he is a little bit of an enabler (Mustangs? Let's get two!), but is not a horse person himself. He just wants me to be happy, and knows that horses do that for me, so the more the merrier.

                                          I will say that he has his money and I have mine - we have a joint account for paying common bills (utilities and such), but we also both keep the vast majority our own paychecks and manage our finances independently. The fact that the horses live at home keeps my expenses way down, and I don't show or do things with them that costs a lot, aside from the occasional clinic. I'm down to two now, and don't ride as much, but it's an easy, manageable number and I can't imagine not ever having at least a couple hanging around. As long as I'm physically able to care for them, that is.

                                          I have no idea what else I would do, otherwise. Honestly. Maybe mow more?