Stretch Your Horse Budget: 33 Money Saving Tips
By Melanie Huggett
While the economy may be slowly improving, many horse people are still looking for ways to save money and make their horse budget go further. We’ve gathered 33 tips from equestrians across the country to help you keep your horse budget on track in any economy.
1. Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk generally reduces the cost per item or mass. Hay, bedding, and grain are a few things that can commonly be bought for less by ordering in bulk. Even carrots can be bought in bulk. If you don’t have the storage space available for a bulk order, consider splitting a load with a friend or neighbour. A word of caution: before handing over a cheque for a bulk order, inspect the hay or feed to make sure it isn’t moldy or dusty.
2. Grow or make your own
There’s a lot to be said for doing it yourself, at least as far as cost is concerned. While it may not be feasible to grow and harvest your own hay or oats, treats such as carrots and apples can be grown relatively easily in a small space. Carrots can also be packed in a cold room and will last all winter if properly stored (as long as your horse doesn’t eat them all first). If your horse prefers cookies to carrots, make your own. For those who enjoy sewing, or cooking, there are a number of items that can be created at home: horse treats, saddle pads, coolers, quarter sheets, helmet covers, and even riding clothes.
3. Compost and sell your horse manure
Properly composted horse manure is “black gold” to gardeners and farmers. Not only can composted manure make you a few extra bucks, but it also helps the environment by protecting local water and wildlife, and reducing breeding areas for insect pests (meaning you’ll need less fly spray). Old feed bags can also be filled with compost to be sold to further reduce waste.
4. Turn out the lights
Use lights only when you are in the room or barn, and remind others to turn them off when they leave as well. Glow-in-the-dark stickers can be put on the light switches to make them easier to see in the dark.
Photo: Robin Duncan Photography
5. Save water
It is relatively easy to cut down on water costs. Installing a simple on/off or adjustable nozzle to the end of your hose means no wasted water as you travel between water buckets. An auto-waterer for buckets and troughs fills the container as your horse drinks it. Don’t let the water run down the drain or into the yard when you are bathing your horse; and before giving a bath, first consider if it’s really necessary — maybe a good grooming would do the job. Empty water buckets onto plants and shrubs to save on watering costs. Install a rain barrel and use rainwater for the garden and general cleanup jobs around the barn.
6. Use a spray bottle to save shampoo
Rather than pouring large globs of shampoo directly on your horse or into a bucket, which invariably leads to waste, mix some with water in a spray bottle and spray onto your horse’s coat. Not only will you use less, but any extra at the end of the bath can be saved for next time.
7. Get a properly fitted saddle
Invest in your horse’s well-being by ensuring that your saddle fits properly, either by buying a quality new saddle or having your existing saddle adjusted by a saddle fitter. Ill-fitting saddles can cause serious damage to you horse’s back, requiring months of expensive veterinary and chiropractic care and time off from work. Not only does a properly fitted saddle help ensure the long-term health of your horse, but it will also improve his performance.
Mom was right, we all must learn to share! Sharing saves money by allowing multiple users of resources and space. Here are just a few examples of an almost endless list of sharing opportunities: share trailering to a show or event to save on gas; share appointments with the vet and farrier to save on farm call fees; share a lesson with a friend, as group lessons are usually cheaper.
9. Appreciate volunteers
Volunteers are the glue that holds our horse industry together. Without an army of volunteers selflessly giving of their time, energy, and expertise, the horse industry as we know it could not afford to exist. Make the effort to let the volunteers working in your horse community know they’re appreciated. And if you’re able, one of the best ways to support and improve your club or local horse industry is by lending a helping hand and becoming a volunteer yourself.
“Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.” – Sherry Anderson
Photo: Robin Duncan Photography
10. Buy and sell used
Used items often have a lot of life left in them and are a great way to save money. This is especially true for tack — for example, you may be able to buy a great used saddle that you could never afford new.
At least once a year, go through all your tack and gear and put aside anything you no longer use or want. These items can be sold for some extra cash, or consider donating them to a local therapeutic riding program. Used tack sales make great fundraisers for your local club, and everybody benefits!
11. Choose quality
While buying cheap equipment will save you money in the short term, eventually repair and replacement costs will overcome any savings you may have had. Good quality tack and equipment will pay for itself.
12. Care for tack and equipment
Protect your investment in tack and equipment by keeping it clean and well maintained. Properly cared for tack and equipment will last a lifetime.
13. Maintain barns and fences
Repair or replace worn or damaged fence rails or posts, barn roofs, gate or door latches and hinges, and equipment. Not only is it cheaper to do small repairs rather than a huge overhaul, but it reduces the chance of accidents or injuries for horse and human. Fence boards that have been chewed or broken can be reused by cutting off the damaged area and using the shorter boards in a different location.
14. Curb your impulses
While it may feel good to get that thing you want right now, it’s certainly not the best way to save money. First, ask yourself if the item is really a necessity, or simply an extra expense you could do without (e.g. “Do I really need another saddle pad?”). If you do need something, take the time to do some research and find out where your money is best spent. Be sure to take into consideration not only base cost, but also quality, longevity, warrantees, service, and further discounts that may be available.
15. Save for the sales
Many stores have annual inventory sales or end-of-season sales. Saving up for items you don’t need immediately or waiting until the end of the winter to buy your horse a new blanket for next season, for example, will save you money.
16. Get insurance coverage
Horse sports and working with horses in general carries a certain amount of risk. Most equestrians, however, could not afford to pay the costs if someone sued over a riding accident or if a severe injury requiring long-term care occurred. Every province has an equestrian association that offers basic liability coverage for a reasonable rate, typically around the cost of a single riding lesson! Coaches, trainers, outfitters, boarding or event facility owners, and horse owners may also need to obtain additional insurance coverage.
17. Slow down
Whoa, Nelly! Save on gas costs by driving your vehicle more slowly to the barn or events, which reduces the amount of gas you use (it also stops you from getting expensive speeding tickets!).
18. Keep tires properly inflated
Keep the tires on your car, truck, trailer, and tractor properly inflated to manufacturer specifications. Deflated tires can decrease your gas mileage by as much as three percent.
19. Store feed correctly
Make sure to store your hay and grain correctly to avoid waste. Keep both away from damp, which can cause mold. Hay should be stored so that air is able to circulate; wooden pallets, which can be had for free from local businesses, should be placed on the ground beneath the hay, and leave gaps between rows of stacks of hay. Grains should be kept in metal containers to stop rodents from accessing and contaminating the feed.
Photo: Robin Duncan Photography
20. Shop & show locally
Shopping locally is good for the environment, the local economy, and your wallet. Local businesses employ local workers, use local resources, and invest in your community. You save on travelling costs, reduce environmental impact, and your support allows local businesses to offer a wider range of products at more competitive prices. Everybody wins.
Support local horse shows and save on gas, trailering costs, food and hotel costs, and often entry fees.
21. Rent your facility
Help cover costs by leasing out parts of your facility that you don’t use or take on boarders if you have extra stalls. If you have a ring, then consider renting it by the hour or by the day to neighbouring equestrians. Keep in mind that you may need extra liability insurance for these activities, so make sure that the numbers add up to a benefit.
22. Consider leasing
If you can’t afford to own and maintain a horse by yourself but still want to ride, consider the leasing option. Leases can be very flexible depending on your needs, from a single day a week to a full lease.
23. Ignore show ring trends
Unless you are actively competing at an upper level, don’t try to keep up with all the latest trends in rider and horse fashion. Your horse won’t care, and it could save you thousands of dollars a year.
24. Invest in education
By investing in education, you can learn how to take better care of your horse and property, which will save you money in all areas of horsekeeping. A wealth of information is available in a wide range of formats, from very affordable magazine subscriptions, to books, clinics, seminars, and courses.
Photo: Robin Duncan Photography
Photo: Robin Duncan Photography
25. Take great care of your horse
Don’t skimp on horse health care. Following a regular exercise and health schedule for your horse is the best way to avoid costly vet and chiropractic bills later on. Regular exercise will also reduce the chance of him developing vices such as wood chewing and cribbing that can damage the barn and fences.
Good health care will save money on feed by eliminating food-stealing parasites and allowing your horse to fully process and digest his feed. Routine care should include deworming, farrier care, vaccinations, and teeth floating.
26. Buy concentrated products
Concentrated products such as supplements and fly spray allow you to use less, saving money in the long run.
27. Reuse baling twine
Baling twine is the horseman’s equivalent to a normal man’s duct tape. Use it to make crossties and hitching posts safer by making easily-broken tie loops, tie back trees and shrubs that are getting in the way of your bridle path, attach labels to equipment — be creative!
28. Manage your pastures
Good pasture management, including control of intrusive weeds and preventing overgrazing, can give your horses a steady supply of renewable feed during the spring, summer, and fall, resulting in good savings on feed costs. A rotating system to avoid overgrazing works well and is easy to set up.
29. Work off board or lessons
Many stables will let you do barn work in exchange for reduced board or lesson fees.
30. Avoid obese equines
Unlike many people believe, a fat horse is not a happy horse — and he is definitely not a healthy horse. Obesity can cause lameness and laminitis, as well as other serious health conditions requiring vet care. Feeding your horse according to his need, rather than satisfying his bottomless stomach, will help save on feed bills.
31. Feed more hay, more often
Hay can provide most or all of the nutrition an average horse or pony needs. Fed free choice or at many times scattered throughout the day, hay will keep a horse busy and satisfied. Not only is hay less expensive to feed than grains and supplements, but a diet that is based mostly on forage reduces the chance of colic and ulcers, and creates a happier, healthier horse.
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Main article photo: Robin Duncan Photography - Try buying in bulk as it generally reduces the cost per item or mass.