Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Doing Horses on the Cheap...Really?

Cut Horse Costs

I found the linked article interesting, mostly because the author makes several assumptions.  The assumptions that I found a little out-of-place involve writing an article about going cheap with your horse life and aiming it at people who are at higher-level stables, going to shows, and buying luxury horse items.  Most of those people don't really need advice on cutting costs. They've got the money to spend, and they're spending it with abandon.

Yes, my friends and I delighted in haunting eBay and consignment shops looking for bargains on high-end products, but it was a lark, not a necessity.  And the annual clearance sale at Beval's Saddlery was a fun time to load up on all sorts of odds and ends (like last year's Breyer Christmas ornament and nearly-expired horse cookies) for pennies.  But we always ended with lunch at a nice restaurant in an area where "nice" means $15 tuna salad sandwiches.

In reality, there are a lot of people who got into the horse game when they had money (or thought they had money) (or were pretending they had money) who no longer have the disposable income.  Nothing disposes of income like a high-maintenance hobby that eats.  You can simply not drive your Maserati and save a few bucks on gas this week.  You can't not feed your horse.  Not if you want to avoid the huge vet bills and rancor that come with not feeding him.

Can one actually do horses on the cheap?
Cheap horses

This is a question that pops up whenever I see pushes on social media for people to adopt animals of any species.  My first thought is "if they're looking for a freebie, they probably can't afford it."  There's no such thing as a free animal.

I adopted a cat.  I've adopted many, but usually from people I knew who found a clutch of kittens under their deck or in their tool shed and were hoping to send them packing ASAP.  Those were free in the sense that they didn't have a purchase price.  At least one friend would have paid me to take the  kitten off his highly allergic hands.

Yes, they were free for the taking...and then came the trip to the pet store for all the accessory necessities like food, litter, flea collar, ear mite treatment (why do all free cats have ear mites?), toys, and so on.  That was followed by the vet visit for an overall check. shots, de-worming, blood work and the other procedures that keep my small animal vet in digital x-ray machines.

The last adoptee, however, came from a rescue.  I went there and picked her out on purpose.  By the time I paid the adoption fee, made a small donation for food for the rescue (not required, but damn they know how to lay the guilt on), then did the vet visit, the shots and neutering, and got all the other stuff (I had to pick one that can't tolerate scented litter, so add a few bottles of carpet cleaner), my adopted kitten had cost me over $1000.  That's four digits.
Not-cheap horses

Now multiply that by the size difference between a 2-pound kitten and a 1200-pound horse.  It's amazing anyone can keep a horse at all!

My recommendation is that if the suggestions in the linked article make your eyes bug out because you can't imagine being in a situation where cutting down on your lesson time is the key to financial peace, you're in the wrong sport.  If finding out that a barn without an indoor is the only one you can afford sends you into a crying fit over the inhumanity of your situation, you're reading the wrong blog.  If you can't afford to buy a new pair of low-price breeches and have to shop second hand, but you still feel you "need" to ride in horse shows with all the ridiculous expense even the low-level competitions command, you're in need of more help than you're going to get here.

And it's that huge communication and finance gap that is the crux of the problem in the horse world.  It's fine to introduce young kids to horses if you also intend to take on the financial burden of their growing horse lust.  If not, then keep your hobby to yourself.  Let the kids pet Fuzz Butt when you're not headed for a show, then send them home with warning stickers pasted to their jackets so Mommy and Daddy won't get sucked into the "But everyone else has a pony!" whine.  The sticker should warn parents that the "free" pony their beady-eyed neighbor is offering their child is going to cost a minimum of $1200/year if they keep it in the garage and feed it home-grown grain and hay.

There's a way to keep costs down assuming you can afford the basics.  But horses on the cheap?  Nope.  Not happening.
Shop Books

No comments: