Even when you feel like you’ve got money to spare, it’s wise to pinch pennies. We put together some strategies at work in Horse Journal test barns across the nation.
One of the best ways to stretch your equine budget is to network and combine efforts with friends and barn mates to get the best deals around. Among our favorite methods are:
Buying Power: Work to get bedding by the tractor-trailer load, especially if you’re using bagged shavings or pellets. Depending on where it has to be shipped from, you could save quite bit. Consult your regional magazines for dealers who deliver in large loads. Be sure you know what size bag you’re getting, though. A cheaper price per bag isn’t necessarily a better deal if you’re only getting half as much. This method works for hay as well.
Try to work with neighbors to combine routine work on the same day. Vets, dentists, massage therapists and chiropractors might be willing to split the call fee for neighbors.
Used Tack: Rather than overlooking used tack sales done by local riding groups, join in the fun with both buying what you need and selling what you don’t. If you know what you’re looking at, you may pick up a deal. A Stubben saddle with a good tree and leather but in need of reflocking may well be worth the price.
Support local and intercollegiate riding clubs by taking advantage of their tack & tag sales. We’ve seen perfect condition leather/suede half-chaps at low cost, as well as tack. And don’t overlook the raffles and silent auctions held at shows to help benefit organizations.
Shopping at such events not only offers great bargains but gets your money directly into the hands of the clubs and organizations that need it the most.
Skip High-Priced Treats: We know, you just have to give those big-eyed horses something. Instead, try alfalfa cubes, which are affordable at $14 for a 50-lb. bag. And don’t forget apples and carrots.
Barter: Braid in exchange for someone feeding when you are gone, or get help fixing fence in exchange for a few longe lessons. Trade use of a bush hog to someone willing to wash windows and clean cobwebs. Trade your construction skills for someone else’s plumbing skills. Combine trips to shows and rides. If you and someone else in the barn each drive separately to events consider alternating drivers.
Get Baking Soda: Clean buckets and water tanks with baking soda. It’s inexpensive and works great. Use baking soda as an inexpensive stall deodorizer. Get a big bag at the warehouse club or feed store.
Install Stall Mats: At about $200 for everyday cow mats, which you can cut to fit in a stall, you will find your bedding costs will go down (see August 2008 issue).
Don’t Pay For Water: Buy your fly spray, coat conditioners and mane/tail
detanglers in concentrate form and add your own water. You can make
shampoos go twice as far by immediately diluting them half with water.
Substitute Beet Pulp For Part Of Your Hay: With the ever-increasing
price of hay, beet pulp, selling for $11-$13 per 40-lb. bag, suddenly becomes
a bargain. It is an excellent source of easily digestible fiber. One pound of dry beet pulp — prior to soaking — will replace two pounds of hay. If you normally feed 20 lbs. of hay, you can get the same amount of fiber with just 10 lbs. of hay and five lbs. of beet pulp. It can be the sole source of roughage for an older horse with poor teeth.
Transition Your Horse To Barefoot: Even if you only make the switch during the off season, you’ll save money. Make the change gradually, starting with removing just the hind shoes. Help toughen his soles with Keratex, applied as directed on the label. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover how well your horse’s hooves hold up.
If your horse has always been in shoes, consider booting him in front when those shoes are removed, especially if he’ll be working or turned out anywhere besides a groomed ring. Be patient. Once he’s moving comfortably in hoof boots, extend the periods when he’s totally barefoot, picking rainy days when the ground is squishy.Even if you decide you must go back to shoes in the spring, your farrier will have a much healthier foot with which to deal.
Consider A Partial Lease: If you’re as pressed for time as most horse owners, having a knowledgeable equestrian take on one or two days of riding for you each week might be a blessing. And if they’re willing to pay for the experience, you may come out ahead with both time and money.
Look for someone without a horse who’s riding you admire or a rider with a horse undergoing a lay-up. Your instructor might be a great resource for finding the perfect person to work with.
Avoid Trends And Crazes: Invest in the best-quality tack you can afford, buy conservative accessories and you’ll never be out of style. Why pay extra for a high-tech riding shirt with a logo when you can buy a better one for much less at the local sporting goods store' Waterproof jackets are waterproof jackets, no matter what the label reads. And save the ”bling” for your night on the town.
At Home Remedies: Consider using drug-store generic betadine with some sugar in it for mild thrush. Once mixed thoroughly, use a cheap plumber’s brush (the kind with a metal furrel handle and stiff, black bristles) to place the solution around the frog and heel.
Educate Yourself: Some chores like braiding and clipping aren’t that tough if you simply take the time to practice. But they’re costly to job out to someone else. Use the winter to hone your technique.
Basic trailer maintenance isn’t that difficult, if you use common sense. Checking lights, air in the tires and the floor boards for stability isn’t tough to do. Ask someone with experience to give you a lesson.
Group Savings: Pool your resources and get a front-load washer for the barn to save on laundromat costs. Be sure you set up a system for handling expenses like repairs and maintenance — or buy an extended warranty and/or service-contract program with the washer so that’s not an issue.
Tak e turns videotaping each other and critiquing the rides in a group. You’ll need to promise to be tactful and honest, but done right, everyone can benefit.
Dollar Store: There’s no end to the finds you can purchase at a good dollar store, including plastic gloves, grooming tools like brushes, small buckets, sponges, spray bottles, notebooks (to keep track of your horse’s health and/or training progress), and memo boards for your horse’s stall. We’ve also found aloe gel, baby powder, mineral oil and other products.
Leather Repair: Get a hole punch, Chicago screws and a riveter to do simple repairs, especially on items like halters, leads and martingales, which are simple to fix.
Horse Journal staff article.