Saturday, July 12, 2008

Using the "R" Word

I looked up the definition of “responsible” in the dictionary today. There were several entries, but the ones that resonated with me were: 1) being accountable for something within one’s power, control or management 2) having a capacity for moral decisions and being capable of rational thought or action 3) reliable or dependable.

The reason I was considering the meaning of “responsible” was because I was thinking about how we are all being forced to really tighten our belts. The reality of our country’s economic situation is that no matter which guy is elected as president, things won’t be improving much over the next two years. Let’s face it, they could get worse. So, as a horse owner, I need to stop and seriously look at how costs are rising and how I plan to take care of these two expensive darlings that live in my backyard. I’m only hoping that more people who have taken on a responsibility to care for horses are doing the same.

I read a statistic recently in the Wall Street Journal that of the two million Americans who own horses, one third of them have a household income of less than $50,000. Every time I go to the feed store, the cost of grain seems to have gone up another couple of dollars. We all know what’s happened to the price of hay and the lack of it. I’ve been really taking a long hard look at what it’s going to take to weather this economic storm.

I came up with three things that I can do, starting right now. 1) I can prepare for what I know is coming. I always say I will, but life and all its endless expenses keeps flooding along. There are certain big costs, like buying hay in September for the winter and vaccinating in the Fall, that I’m saving for now. 2) I can use less. I’ve cut back a lot on the shavings I put in the stalls and how often I add them. Now that the horses have grass to eat, I can conserve on grain and hay. 3) I can stop myself before I automatically do what I've been doing all these years to question why and how I do it just to see if there’s a way to cut the cost without hurting their health and wellbeing.

“Hello, Money Pit!” my mother-in-law greets my horses when she comes to visit. My own mother often lectures me about all the other things I could afford to do if I didn’t have Silk and Siete. There are plenty of people who know me that think I’m crazy to spend my money on horses. I’ve been fortunate to own them for over a decade now, and I intend to keep them safe and happy for the rest of their lives. Enough said.

Let’s share some tips about how we’re able to be more economical about caring for our horses.


Pony Girl said...

Great ideas, Victoria. The only thing I have done is let my horse graze this spring, so I can feed him less hay. Luckily, he got put on a diet by my vet so that is helping with hay. I also price shop and will go to one co-op over another to save a few dollars on hay or supplies. The biggest thing I have done is cut back on my own spending, to allow more means for my horse. I shop at the dollar store and try not to eat out much. It's worth it!

I seem to be spending MORE money on my horse lately. The chiro work, for one. Probably not a necessity, but something I wanted to splurge on for him, to give me a baseline for where he was. I also have a horse camping trip coming up in August and there are things I need to get for it. I am bargain shopping, for sure. Luckily I have a few gift cards to spend on the last few items I need.

Since I am a new horse owner again for the first time in 16 years, I am still getting "stuff" that I needed for My Boy that I did not have. It's impossible to just go out and buy it all at once (or, at least it is for me!) By next year, I hope that I will actually be pretty set and will stop having to collect tack items, etc. I was lucky to be able to borrow many items, but, I really do need my own!

Rising Rainbow said...

For me, I've basically quit breeding. I do have one foal coming next year but if I hadn't paid for the stud fee the year before I would have skipped it. considering I have from 4 to 6 foals a year, this is a huge step.

The hardest part is trying to do this while trying to do what is the responsible thing for the breed as well. With 2/3 of the population of registered Arabian horses being 23 or older, not breeding has direct ramifications on a rapidly shrinking gene pool and the future of the oldest light breed of horse in the world. It's a tough call.

Victoria Cummings said...

Pony Girl - I think you're totally right that spending less on me helps because every penny I spend on my horses is really also something that I'm doing for me. I know how getting that necessary "stuff" for your horse can add up!

MiKael - What a hard decision. I had no idea that so many Arabians were older. I always think of that breed as being so popular because I have so many friends who own Arabians. It would be tragic to reduce the gene pool too much.

Grey Horse Matters said...

This is a good subject to start thinking about now.I think if it's possible it's good to leave the horses out to graze as much as possible too, it saves on bedding. Also making do with the older items in the tack room and keeping everything in good condition helps, repair blankets instead of buying new. And if possible try to use home made remedies for fly spray instead of buying, making your own horse treats etc...on the whole just trying to cut back the really non essential purchases.

Victoria Cummings said...

Arlene - I've always liked home remedies. I love talking to people who have grown up on a farm and can teach me things that have been handed down through generations. It's a gift to have that kind of knowledge.

White Horse Pilgrim said...

Having the two horses barefoot saves $200 every six weeks, although saving money wasn't the reason why they were transitioned away from shoes.

I'm also feeding just hay, as the two don't need hard feed. That makes them almost the only horses at the barn not to receive hard feed. We also feed a cheaper hay, compared to the higher protein hay sold for "performance horses", as both horses are easy keepers.

I do think that we should take care when increasing grazing since the risk of laminitis may also increase if the grass is high in sugar, which can depend on weather as well as type of grass. See

billie said...

We try our best to use good pasture management (rotation, resting fields) to get the most out of our acreage. The horses get free choice hay, so we use a lot of it. It's the most cost effective to buy local hay when possible, and we maintain a good relationship with our local hay man. When we need to buy hay from elsewhere, the best price per bale comes from splitting a big rig load with neighbors.

Only my older mare gets feed pellets, as we have easy keepers. I can't say that really saves me money b/c I spend a fair amount on supplements for the herd, but I try to research everything carefully, keep a detailed log on how each horse is doing, and I rotate them off each supplement at least once per year so their systems can clear and I can see what's no longer needed or needs more research. The pay-off, I think, comes from having healthy horses.

We went totally barefoot a year and a half ago, not for financial reasons, but to address some issues the shoes were contributing to. We save a fair amount and I'm in the process of learning to trim so that eventually (at least this is the HOPE) our trimmer can come a few times a year just to make sure I'm staying on track.

I am pretty frugal with creams and ointments - I only buy the things we need and use, and I keep them all clean and organized so we can use every bit before buying more.

Periodically I go through the tack room and whatever we're not using I sell on Ebay. Which gives me a little cash for replacing things that need replacing.

I do the same with my growing daughter's riding clothing - which we keep in good condition and the resale value is pretty high, especially if it's sold as a "lot."

I shop locally for stuff most of the time, but if there are high ticket items we need and I can get a deal online, I'll do that.

My vet writes prescriptions for anything we need to keep on hand (Bute, Banamine, Adequan) and I buy them myself online for a huge savings.

We do most maintenance and repair work ourselves.

I often borrow tack before buying so I can try things out before spending the money. We have a good network of horse friends who make this possible. It's been a tremendous help in buying things like bareback pads, etc. - to be able to try one first to make sure it will work.

And we try to cut back in other ways - combine trips in the car so we don't waste gas on errands, carpool when possible, turn lights off when not using, etc. And we tend not to buy a lot of household stuff - everyone in my family calls me when they decide to replace something in their home, and we got a "new" refrigerator recently this way, and are in the process of getting a sofa/loveseat/chair. I'd rather get massage and chiro for me and the horses than buy new furniture and appliances!

LJB said...

When I think of economy and horses, I think about what trips can I make on horseback instead in the gas engined vehicle. So far I've made it to the recycling center twice, and still plan on trips to the local farm stand as soon as I can figure out the safest way to bring home the vegetables without creating a blended soup on the way home!

For any of you going barefoot, I'll be the voice of You Can Do It Yourself! I'm on the older side of life, used to have a more vulnerable back, and learned it, got stronger and better ways of using my body, and now keep up with our six horses through out the year. I do have a good friend and a hoof care professional I can call on when I get injured such that trimming is painful.

I hope I am properly inspired to put unused tack on ebay! Other ideas I already do, this year especially seeing that our hay man, who does our hay field and others', brings hay from the closest of the neighboring fields to save him some diesel money.

I visited a farm this past weekend where they were fueling their diesel tractor with vegetable oil!

billie said...

I'm glad to hear the voice of trimming oneself here! It's encouraging that I can learn to do it.

I thought of one more thing - we buy shavings in bulk straight from the source and save a LOT of money (based on what the bagged shavings at our feed store cost!)

Victoria Cummings said...

White Pilgrim, LJB & Billie - Good ideas - Thanks! I do know that I save money keeping my horses barefoot and their feet are much better than when they had shoes. I wish I could buy bulk shavings, but all those places around here have stopped selling so we have no choice but the bagged shavings - and the price has really gone up on those. Often, the feed store can't even get them because the companies make more money from wood stove pellets and other non-horse related sales.

Twinville said...

"Hello Money Pit"? hehehe I love it. :)

I know what she means, but I suppose it's al about priorities and what brings you joy and happiness might not bring the next person the same joy.

I'd rather be covered in manure and itchy hay, and do without expensive vacations and fancy clothes and jewelery than do without my horse and other animals. They are my joy (oh, and my kids and hubby, too. ooops!).

As for me, as a new horse owner, I read reviews and blogs and learn alot from other horse owners which products, tack, feed etc, work the best so I don't go out and waste so much money on buying items that I end up not using much or at all.

We've also discovered how much of a difference in price the 5 feed stores in our area differ in the price they charge for the same hay.
So, we are trying to comparison shop now and only buy our hay from the lower priced feed stores with good quality hay.

I've also been taking my horse for walks and letting her "Eat Walk" as my daughter calls it. hehe

Of course, my horse thinks that grass doesn't count as 'real food' and still expects her full serving of hay each day.

Amy Jo said...

I admire you and respect you for your commitment to your horses. It always bothers me when horses are given up so easily to whatever horrible fate. You are living up to the best of responsibility, giving these horses a home for life and PLANNING for their future and yours. Parents of children are often not this responsible. I applaud you and thank you.