We’re not going to lie, we have far too many horses than is quite necessary, spread across 2 yards and only 3 in full-time work (Granted 2/8 are youngsters). I know 8 horses is too many for any sane and rational person… But we’ve never said we were sane or rational, or sensible for that matter and the old, lame and delinquent ones are pets, so it’s only like owning 3 huge guinea pigs, right? Anyhow, back to the job in hand. This week, we are going to share a few of our budget friendly tips for keeping horses on a budget.
- Buy in bulk where you can. This is so much easier if you have storage for feed and bedding but for those of us on DIY livery, who kind of have to make do with the space given (Which is likely the size of a postage stamp), it’s a great excuse to clear out the garage/shed/summer house/insert relevant, potential storage place. When stacked high, feed or bedding actually only takes up the size of a pallet and can be taken to the yard as and when you need it. Plus, when you can save up 20% Off from buying single pieces, who wouldn’t do this?
- Share lessons with friends. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from watching other people and listening to comments from trainers to friends. A lot of trainers will also only charge a small amount more for having another person in a lesson – Split the cost with a friend and in a couple of lessons time, you’ll have gained a ‘free’ lesson.
- Swap yard duties with friends. Not only do you get a lay in every so often but you’ll save fuel on driving to and from the yard – Also an excuse to pop a few more hours in at the office?
- Plan events in plenty of advance and choose wisely. We don’t event at the moment – Mainly because my proposed event horse/racehorse doesn’t like Stressage and I don’t want to waste my entry fees on him giving us a 70-dressage score. But, just by choosing to only go to events that are x number of miles away or by substituting an event for a lesson, schooling session or even embracing the dark side and going show-jumping, can save an awful lot on fuel or entry fees.
- Do you actually really NEED it? I know we all like nice things but it’s a case of priorities. Learn to save for quality rather than fashion. Research before you make purchases, ask on forums and phone suppliers/tack shops. There is a lot of knowledge out there from others, use it to your advantage and it won’t cost a penny.
- Voucher codes. While we are on the subject of researching before buying. Hunt for voucher codes. Companies always have codes of some description going on.
- Make the most of ‘Zone visits’ for vaccinations/treatments. Our vaccinations vets are different to our ‘proper vets’, purely because I don’t want to pay a £80 call out fee for an injection (Out of area, we refuse to swap to cheaper visit vets for important stuff) We actually save a lot of money by using 2 vets for this purpose. Some Physiotherapists and Chiropractors also offer ‘zone days’ as well. Failing that club together with others and get several horses on one yard done at the same time.
- Give the horse a holiday. During the depths of winter, we know how hard it can be to find motivation to get out of bed, let alone drag yourself off to a competition in the wind, rain and sleet. We survive during the winter, not live, and have learnt to really ease off on ourselves. If you can, give yourself and your horse a mini holiday, cut back his/her feed, whip shoes off, rug well, put the clippers away and enjoy having a hairy mammoth as a pet for a few weeks – This is even better if you have a horse who can winter out for a few weeks. Even the most precious of TB can manage it – Monty did in 2016. He had a super heavy-weight rug on, plenty of hay, a bit of bucket feed and he came out the other end looking really quite well for it.
- Love second hand stuff. We love Ebay, Facebook marketplace and that new one that advertises on the TV with the really annoying advert. (Can never remember its name) Bargains galore. The old saying ‘One man’s rubbish is another’s treasure’ is so true. Be cheeky on offers, you never know what the answer will be.
- Embrace charity shops/tack sales. Just like the above but for clothing for yourself. We are charity shop hoarders; yard clothes don’t have to be pristine and nice. They get covered in poo, wee, slobber, hair, and mud – That’s on a good day. The bad days are sweat, tears and blood and blood takes some removing from beige breaches, saddlepads and white shirts.
- Supermarkets are great. Show shirts, ties, shampoo… We have ‘posh shampoo’ for shows and everyday shampoo for quick washes (We actually use washing up liquid on tails and socks as find it actually gets white bits white). As soon as you put the word horse in front of something it raises the price – Just do a skin test before using anything not made for horses.
- Does it need to be matching? I will be the first to admit that I love matching stuff, so long as it’s brown or brown or occasionally navy blue. Is anyone actually going to notice you riding in a brown bridle and black saddle or a black saddle cloth with blue and yellow X-Country colours? Is anyone going to notice your cooler doesn’t match your tail bandage and lead rope? – Which are only going to end up covered in poo and slobber anyway. The bonus of muted colours is they go with everything as well and are usually the first coloured thing that people sell/give away when they upgrade to ‘Matchy matchy’.
- Consider rubber matting. Yes, I know it’s the initial outlay but we’ve worked out that by buying matting to go in stables, they will have paid for themselves in one winter.
- Does he/she have to live in? I love a nice cosy, deep bed. The horses probably prefer to be out with a massive pile of hay, a thick rug and as much space as they please. It will actually save a small fortune if you can turn your horse out 24/7 during the summer months, let alone attempt to embrace winter.
- Feed what your horse needs. We feed by ‘eye’. If a horse is looking lean, we increase the feed, if it’s looking a bit too tubby, we cut it down. The key is keeping it balanced… I have never actually weighed our feed out, with the exception of once, yesterday actually, I decided to weigh a cup of balancer. Shock, horror. And while we are at it, be honest about how much work your horse is in. A lot of RC level horses are only in light work (Equine nutritionist stated this to me) A lot of feeds these days are balanced anyway so actually no need to feed a balancer alongside it. Just give feed companies a ring. I have found most are really helpful and not always wanting to just promote their products.
- Get a bundle of rugs together before sending them away. Again, friends come in handy here or, if like us your horses have a huge wardrobe you don’t actually need any help from friends. A lot of companies who wash and proof rugs will give a really good discount for larger numbers of rugs and be cheeky and ask for discounts if they don’t! Worse they can say is no.
- Volunteer for freebies. I know a lot of people already do this but volunteering is great for networking, great for giving something back to other people who are competing and can also be great for the pocket. I know some of our local venues give away vouchers for schooling, tack shops and feed AND without helpers, events couldn’t run.
- Step away from the chip van. We love lorry picnics (helped because Mum TT makes such awesome pack-ups) but they don’t take long to make up really and are a lot cheaper than chips and cheese and will keep you fuller for longer. Take a flask as well to avoid the horrendous coffee that sometimes frequents shows and events.
- Make Google/Facebook your new best friend for training exercises. We’re not talking the posts that we all roll our eyes at that make you want to type in CAP’s “Get a bloody instructor/vet/saddler” … There is so much experience on the t’internet that it seems a shame to waste it. We very often look on Youtube for schooling exercises when stuck in a rut. 20m circles in leg-yield, shoulder-in before transitions, ¾ line exercises, poles. Most of us will have done one of these exercises at some point but forgotten them and sometimes we just need a refresher about how, why or when to incorporate them into our schooling sessions.
- Keep a log. Yes, it’s boring but try it. Log absolutely everything you spend on essentials and also on luxuries (Separately) You may be pleasantly surprised or shocked. It just helps to keep track of where money is going and what it’s being spent on. Try and have a budget in mind and stick to it.
- Put some aside from a rainy day. I know it’s difficult when every penny is accounted for but even £10 a month, this time next year can go towards a vet bill, vehicle maintenance, new bridle to replace the one your Diva decided to kill…
Well, if you’ve made it this far a huge well done. Perhaps a glass of wine? Aldi of course though – Gotta keep them costs down…
Ta-Ta for now.