Budgeting for a horse adventure can be a challenge, but you can enjoy trail-riding adventures near and far by using a little creativity.
Here are 21 tips to help you save money on your next riding adventure, plus eight equine-oriented ways to make extra cash for your trail-travel nest egg.
- Go in the off-season. Do you have your heart set on a vacation at that darling bed-and-barn in a resort area? Call up the owners, ask about their off-season rates, and plan your trip accordingly. You can save hundreds of dollars by vacationing when everyone else is staying home.
- Look for discounts. When planning a riding vacation, find out which destinations are offering discount packages. Call prospective destinations for discount packages, and visit their websites. Plus, do an online search for discounts.
- Form a trail-travel club. Find other trail riders who want to go on a riding adventure, and coordinate your schedules. By going with others, you can share both travel and accommodation expenses. Also, contact several prospective riding destinations to see whether they offer group discounts.
- Offer expertise. If you have expertise in an equine-related field, such as outfitting, horse/mule packing, horse camping, trail training, trailering, hoof care, horsemanship, or roping, offer to give a clinic at your chosen destination in return for a discount.
- Barter for services. Do you have special non-equine skills that you could barter for your accommodation or other fees? The guest ranch where you’ll be staying or the horse motel where you’ll be boarding may need someone to supply legal counsel, design a website, take photographs, or provide another service that may be your specialty.
- Apply for a job. If your schedule allows, get a seasonal job at a guest ranch or other equestrian destination. You’ll ride at your heart’s content and get paid for your trail knowledge.
- Leave your horse at home. There’s nothing like hitting a glorious trail on your own horse. However, riding vacations, where you use the facilities’ horses, can be a blast — and can be cheaper than hauling your own horse, especially if you’re going a long distance or wish to combine your riding adventure with another getaway, as below. This can be your chance to try out a smooth-gaited horse, or try a breed you’re thinking about buying. Be sure to research the horses the prospective facilities offer, and read the online guest reviews.
- Combine a riding adventure with a family getaway. Your family says Disney World. You have your heart set on a beach ride. Get the best of both worlds: You’ll do Disney, as long as you get spend a day or two riding at that great Florida beach-riding destination you’ve been reading about.
- Combine a riding adventure with a business trip. Outside of every major city are trails awaiting exploration. Your company is sending you to San Francisco? Take an extra day or two and ride in the wine country, through the redwoods, or on the beach.
- Skip the luxuries. Instead of booking a vacation at a guest resort in an area where you’d like to ride, consider keeping your horse at a horse hotel in the vicinity, then staying at a nearby motel. You can then ride in the same area as if you were staying at the resort, but at a fraction of the cost.
- Do advance planning. Plan overnight stops for you and your horse in advance to get the best rates. Go online, and search for inexpensive but well-reviewed restaurants for meals along the way. Avoid buying snacks at convenience stores; instead, buy a big bag of your favorite chip or other road-trip snack, and put them in smaller, airtight bags before you go.
- Buy or rent a lightweight trailer. If you plan to bring your own horse on your riding adventure, save money on fuel by trading in your heavy steel trailer for a safe, aluminum-based model. If you’ll be renting a trailer, look for a safe lightweight one to help cut down on fuel costs.
- Rent a living-quarters trailer. Even if you have your own trailer, consider renting a trailer with living quarters for your riding adventure. Going this route may be cheaper than paying for hotel accommodations. You can also save money on a horse motel by keeping your horse next to the trailer in a portable corral. Or, invest in a trailer-tying system that allows him to lie down, such as the HiTie Trailer Tie System, available from EasyCare Inc. (www.easycareinc.com).
- Trade in your tow vehicle. Consider trading in your tow vehicle for one that uses less fuel. A diesel truck or even one of the new hybrids can pay off in the long run when it comes to fuel economy. Caveat: Make sure your new vehicle has enough power to tow your fully loaded trailer, plus everything you plan to throw in the truck.
- Get a smaller horse trailer. Another way to save money on fuel is to trade in your large trailer for a smaller, more economical model. If you’re only towing two horses and you have a three-horse or larger trailer, pare down to a stock trailer or a model that holds just the amount of horses that you plan to transport.
- Camp out. One very low cost way to travel with your horse is by camping in a horse camp with facilities or even a primitive campground. Tent camping with horses can be very rewarding. The best part is waking up in the morning and seeing your horse grazing outside your tent, then enjoying a cup of coffee made over a campfire.
- Use public lands. National, state, county, city, and other public lands offer a variety of incredible riding adventures for little or no fee. Call ahead to find out the policy for equestrians. Some will let you ride on the land, but not camp overnight. Many now require certified weed-free hay or pellets to avoid introducing exotic plant species via the undigested seeds in your horse’s manure.
- Buy used tack. If you need additional tack before you head out on your adventure, consider buying gently used tack. Shop at a tack consignment store near you, or look on eBay (www.ebay.com), Craigslist (www.craigslist.com), and other online spots where used tack is sold. If you prefer new tack, keep an eye on clearance sales at your local tack store and online.
- Shop wisely for camping supplies. If you’ll be camping out with your horse, check out your local dollar store. You’ll find such items as buckets, spare towels, sponges, tack, zip-close bags, rubber bands, snacks, and a whole host of other camping-related stuff for a dollar each or less.
- Buy in bulk. Buy horse-care basics, such as fly spray, coat conditioner, and shampoo, in large bottles, then transfer them to smaller bottles for ease of use. Also, look for concentrated versions of these products, which are economical and easy to store, then add your own water.
- Use pelleted or fine shavings. If you’ll be bringing bedding along for your horse, buy pelleted or fine shavings. This bedding tends to last longer than other bedding types, giving you a bigger bang for your buck.
Earn Extra Cash
Here are eight ways to make extra money in your spare time for your trail-travel nest egg.
- Board horses. If you have extra room on your property, consider boarding a horse or two to bring in extra cash. If you don’t have empty stalls, buy some inexpensive pipe corrals, and set up accommodations for a boarder. Do some research on creating a boarding agreement. Place an ad in the local paper and in your local tack store advertising stalls for rent.
- Half-lease your trail horse. If you’re like most horsepeople, you don’t have time to ride your horse as often as you should. If you half-lease your trail horse, you’ll not only get more exercise for your mount, you’ll also pocket extra cash each month that you can put toward your trail adventures. Advertise your horse for lease by word-of-mouth, and put up a sign, with a photo of your horse, in your local tack store.
- Sell a horse you no longer need. It can be difficult to give up a horse, but if you have one or two that are just hanging out because no one has time to ride them, consider selling them. Not only will you come away with money for your trip, you’ll also save funds on their upkeep.
- Sell spare tack. Get rid of any tack you have laying around that you haven’t used for a long time. Saddles, bridles, halters, and cinches can all bring extra cash. Sell your tack at a local consignment store, or list them on eBay or Craigslist well in advance of your trip, so you have funds in hand when you’re ready to leave.
- www.cha-ahse.org). You can teach people on their own horses, or use your own horse, if he’s suitable for lessons. Be sure you have insurance to cover liability. Become a Certified Riding Instructor. If you like to teach and can see yourself helping others learn to ride, consider becoming a Certified Riding Instructor with the Certified Horsemanship Association (
- Become certified with a natural-horsemanship clinician. Although obtaining a certification as a natural horsemanship clinician requires a commitment of both time and money, it’s well worth it in the end. Certifications are given by Linda Tellington-Jones, John Lyons, Clinton Anderson, Pat Parelli, and others.
- Become an equine massage therapist. If you like working around horses, and think you’d be suitable for body work, study to become an equine massage therapist. This requires schooling, but is an excellent way to earn extra money while also helping horses. You can do therapy work in the evenings and on weekends.
- Become an equine appraiser. Equine appraisers get paid to determine the value of a horse for legal or other reasons. In this profession, you can earn extra money in your spare time. The American Society of Equine Appraisers provides education and certification (www.equineappraiser.com).
Audrey Pavia is an award-winning equine journalist and competitive trail rider based in Norco, California. She’s the author of Trail Riding: A Complete Guide (Howell Book House imprint of Wiley; www.howellbookhouse.com).