November 4, 2011

Horse Keeping on a Budget

My family wasn’t rich when I was growing up, but we were never lacking in anything either, and I primarily have my parents’ good money management skills and frugal instincts to thank for that.  My mom got me into the whole horse thing, and she taught me that it’s possible to keep a horse on a tight budget.

How many times can I post the pictures from last month?  Get counting.
My own views on money deviate slightly from my parents; I like to channel my frugal side into spending more money on something once and never re-buying it, than buying something that will get me through for a while just because it’s cheap.  Neither is right or wrong, but my own philosophy means a lot in a world where leather tack can last a lifetime and snaffle bits never go out of style.  This led me to purchase a used Butet saddle off of Ebay and things like my five year old Ariat paddock boots, which I take very good care of and recently had re-worked by Nu-Shoe Inc. instead of buying a new pair (who I highly recommend and will review sometime!).

So, here I find myself with a horse and, like most women, a decidedly non-horsey husband whose only exposure to the horse world so far (besides a riding lesson in Italy) has come from our mutual friend’s accident-prone, arthritic Thoroughbred – let’s face it, Thoroughbreds are not the poster children for low-maintenance horse keeping.  Anyone?  Everyone?  Yeah, I thought you’d agree with me.  He’s heard lots of horror stories from her husband about the expenses related to that horse, and he’s understandably gun shy about the TCO of a horse.
Look at the size of those feet, folks.

And that brings me to one of the reasons why I like Welsh Cobs: ‘hardy’ is in the breed description.  These are ponies bred to keep up with horses in stride and to be hardy enough to keep up with a military in the winter on very little rations and care.  Lisa’s ponies, including this healthy fellow on the right, mostly live completely outside, and only get grain if they’re in a health or career situation that warrants it.  Her ponies’ feet are almost across the board textbook examples of what a horse foot should ideally look like, and they’re quite large and very hard – none wear shoes.  By definition, these ponies are bred to be a frugal horse owner’s best friend.

So how have I kept costs down in the past, and how am I planning to keep costs down with this pony?
  • Buying a hardy horse with good conformation for what I’m planning to do with him 
  •   Continuing to keep him on pasture board
  • Giving my own yearly shots
  • Purchasing generic versions of name-brand dewormers online
  • Working off some of my board
  • Trimming my own feet (I took a class in college that left me with my own set of top of the line farrier tools/an apron, and the skills necessary to take a shoe off/tack one back on in an emergency, and do my own foot analysis and trims.  By no means am I a professional farrier, but I do have the skills necessary to care for my own horse’s otherwise healthy, hardy foot.)
  • Purchasing used tack, which so far in my life has included:
o   Free stirrup irons (friend)
o   $500 Butet close contact saddle (eBay)
o   $50 high-quality leather halter and leather lead (friend)
o   Used stirrup leathers (off of my Collegiate all-purpose that I hang on to in case I ever go foxhunting…they really need to go though, they’re 60” man leathers – they’re as long as I am tall!)
o   $95 total: Plastic tack trunk filled with breeches, bits, halters, lead ropes, buckets, a show coat, etc etc etc (Yeah, that was a garage sale find that set me up for life!)
o   Tracking down tack I’ve loaned to other people.  The equestrian program at a women’s program is a black hole for lost tack.

How do you keep costs down?


  1. I think your husband should thank his lucky stars he found a smart horse woman :) Sounds like you have a plan to keep expenses down with your new baby.

  2. Thanks, Kelly, I will make sure that my husband sees that!

  3. I'm with you all the way! We think alike on every level! Currently, I keep my gelding on pasture on my property and ride to the neighbors place to use their indoor arena, and I'm always looking for good deals on used tack and clothing. Ebay is a godsend!
    Something you might look into is using food grade diatomaceous earth as a daily wormer. It's inexpensive and you can find it at most feed stores (or they'll order it). It actually works better then chemical wormers and you don't have to keep rotating wormers to keep the effectiveness up. It kills em all naturally! You just mix the correct amount for your horses weight in some grain or pellets each day. Check it out!