In these current times of austerity, keeping a horse has never been harder and several UK horse charities have recently reported an increase in the number of owners coming to them asking for help in rehoming their beloved horses because they simply can no longer afford to keep them. So, what can you do to cut costs without compromising your horse's health and wellbeing?
First of all you need a budget. Create a spread sheet or a simple chart if you're not computer savvy, which shows all your horsey expenditure for every month. Every time you buy something that's horse related make a note of it on your budget sheet. This will enable you to see exactly what you spend your money on and how much of it is not essential. It's also very important to have an emergency fund for unexpected items like vet's bills, tack and rug repairs and the like. A few pounds put aside each week into a separate account will soon add up to a nice cushion for emergencies.
If you really can't do without your weekly browse around the tack shop, by all means indulge yourself but leave your purse at home! Seriously, if you don't actually need anything, don't take any money with you then you won't be tempted to buy something you really don't need and can't afford.
When it comes to replacing tack and rugs, shop around. Your horse won't care if he's wearing the very latest designer turnout rug or a cheap one from the market as long as he's warm and dry. Charity shops are a very good source of cheap duvets and blankets which can be used under a stable rug for extra warmth at a fraction of the cost of several new rugs of different weights. Don't forget good old Ebay either. There are plenty of bargains to be had here for both you and your horse at a fraction of the cost of brand new gear. Many saddlers now offer second hand saddles although you should still pay to have one properly fitted as this is very important for your horse's comfort and is something you shouldn't scrimp on.
You can also save a small fortune on some grooming and first aid items. Horse-specific cotton wool for example is hideously expensive compared to a large roll of the budget stuff available in your local supermarket or chemist. Cheap shampoo and conditioner from the budget range in the supermarket will do the same job as the pricey equine equivalent.
Have a look at what you feed your horse. Too many horses in the UK are obese and really do not need the copious amounts of hard feed they are given every day. A horse in light to medium work with access to good quality haylage, hay or grazing does not need hard feed at all! Obviously different breeds vary in their nutritional requirements and aged animals, youngsters and in-foal mares will benefit from appropriate dietary supplementation. If you are in any doubt, ask your vet for advice or check out one of the bigger feed companies' websites as they very often give free advice either on-line or by phone.
What about your livery facilities? Do you really need an indoor school, outdoor school, cross country schooling facilities, horse walker, off-road hacking on the doorstep and part-livery? If you just enjoy hacking out and rarely, if ever, use the luxury facilities provided by your yard perhaps you'd be just as happy somewhere cheaper. Could your horse happily live out on suitable grazing with a field shelter? Most horses would be far happier in this more natural environment and you wouldn't be paying for a stable, bedding and extra hay. If you currently drive miles to your yard, have you considered somewhere else nearer to home? Not only could you save a fortune on fuel and wear and tear on your car, but you'd also have more time to spend with your horse.
Have a good look at your insurance policy and when the renewal comes around; "Go Compare"! There are some very good companies out there who will put together a "made to measure" policy for you so you won't be paying to be covered for things you don't actually want or need.
Does your horse really need a brand new set of shoes every four weeks? Probably not, unless you do a lot of road work and refits are cheaper than new shoes. If you have stud holes put in during the summer when you are competing on grass, don't forget to dispense with them in the winter when you don't need them as this will save you a little money too. Whilst you will need to have your horse's feet trimmed regularly, if he is retired or in very light work he may not need shoes at all if he has good feet. Your farrier will advise you on this.
There are plenty of money management tools available on-line these days. Visit www.manage-my-horse.com for free horse-specific budgeting help. Each horse gets its own profile. All expenses are logged in a journal and the daily, weekly, monthly and annual costs of keeping your horse are calculated for you. If you enter a different type of feed which is slightly cheaper than your current brand, the program will instantly calculate the savings this would make. There's also a horse budget app (costing 69 pence) which you can find at www.winnuk.com. This tool enables you to keep track of your spending and alerts you when you exceed your budget.
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