Horses are an expensive hobby, as any equine lover will tell you. Most people scrimp and save, cutting corners elsewhere in life to afford their horsey hobby. If your paycheck isn’t going as far as it used to, whether because of a rise in horsekeeping costs (think board hikes, a rise in feed costs, etc.), or because of a change in life circumstances (divorce, kids, elderly parents, etc.), it might be time to consider some creative ways to help make affording your horse a little easier.
It’s best to plan for potential financial hardship well ahead of time, before your bills become insurmountable. If you know you’re headed down the slippery slope of chronically being late on board, it could be worthwhile to investigate these options to make sure you stay a client in good standing.
- Work off board. Many barn owners are willing to let boarders work off a portion of their board by mucking stalls, feeding, turning out, holding for the vet or farrier or some by performing some other essential barn tasks.
- Barter. Think outside the box on this one. If you simply can’t get out to the barn to do barn chores, but you’re a marketing whiz or an Internet guru, offer your services in exchange for board. Many barn owners don’t have time to focus on marketing or on updating their sale horses online; your skills might be just the ticket for a reduced board bill.
- Let your horse be used in a lesson program. If your horse is sane, sound and a fairly decent ride, and if the barn where you board offers a lesson program, utilizing your horse may be a boon for both you and the instructor. An added bonus? Your horse will be fit whenever you come out to ride!
- Half-lease out your horse. It can be hard to let someone else ride and care for your horse, but if it’s between that and losing your horse entirely, many people would opt to share. As the owner, you can fully vet anyone who comes to try him, and lay out your wishes before anyone signs on the dotted line. Half-leasing can be an option for owners who keep their horses at home, too. Just make sure you cover liability issues in your lease agreement.
- Step down in boarding options. If your horse is in training, consider stepping up your own riding. If your horse is on full board (which typically includes turning in and out and stall cleaning) ask if partial or self-care is an option. While it would be more work for you (and a hefty time investment), it could mean the difference between keeping your horse and selling him.
- Locate another boarding barn. While this might be a very difficult option, finding a less-expensive ban, or one that offers partial-, self- or pasture-care might be the best way to keep your horse within your budget.
Sometimes, even all the hard work and creative thinking in the world can’t keep your horse within your budget. If you are already struggling, it would be prudent to think ahead about selling him, while you still have time to be selective about where he goes.
If you know this will be the case, begin by contacting people you know and trust to see if they are in the market or know someone who is. The earlier you begin finding him a new home, the more picky you can be about where he goes. Deciding to sell your horse can be an incredibly difficult decision to make, but it’s not fair to him or to the barn owner if you can’t fully care for or afford him.