Friday, May 29, 2009

Money-Saving Tip

One might wonder how I'm saving money in this photo. It would appear that I am riding a really nice horse in a really nice arena at a really nice barn. All of that would be true. In fact, the day also involved a clinic with a really good clinician (judge and trainer Linnea Seaman). Not exactly sobbing into my peanut butter sandwich on the front stoop, right?

The money-saving tip for today is: Ride someone else's horse.

Yes, I'm serious.

This is not my horse. This is my daughter's horse. She's the one paying to keep and train the lovely mare, Dolly, while I just nip in occasionally for a quick lesson. Her cost for this outing: Over $350/month plus the clinic fee (which I happily paid on this occasion). Mine: Probably $10 in gas and less than $200 for the rest--clinic fees, lunch, coffee and donuts, and horse cookies. I can do this a lot of times before I even come close to the thousands of dollars she's putting out, right?

Now, not everyone is lucky enough to have a relative with a horse they can ride for free (or in this case for the price of a clinic spot), but you might be surprised at how many horse friends and acquaintances you can scare up who would like someone to ride their horses either as a companion or while they're away or laid up. My daughter was an invaluable resource when I was busy for nine months with eye surgery. Her once- or twice-weekly sessions on Zip kept him from moldering, which I sincerely appreciated.

Of course you have to be a decent rider and your friends need to have faith in your ability, but it can't hurt to offer. Of the eight responses I got in the first hour of my "barn slave wanted" Craigslist ad, all but two would have been more than able to keep any horses I had ridden and in shape, and I'd have paid them for the service. I know I'm not alone. Over the years I've needed help of the riding kind, and was grateful for the responsible people who offered it.

I also know at least one teen who has never actually owned a horse but has managed to ride several successfully for five show seasons. She worked off the free leases or rented school horses just for the day, so her end cost was minimal: Show clothes (which can be had cheap on eBay, by the way), horse rental, some tack (also available on eBay), hot dogs at the concession stand, and maybe Valium for Mom.

So if you're not exactly in a position to own a horse but are physically able and talented enough to ride horses belonging to others, make some calls, send out some emails, post a free ad on Craigslist, and see who climbs the flagpole to kiss your jeans-clad butt for offering. You might be pleasantly surprised. A few thousand dollars saved is... a few thousand dollars saved!

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