We've all seen it, the "Horse for Sale" post with the tag line "I'm away at college and I can't afford him anymore" or "don't have the time because I'm in college". As a college student and horse owner, I couldn't even imagine this.
As a long time horse owner, and full time college student, life is TOUGH! However, when I decided to further my education I also couldn't imagine my life without my horse, Chex. He is my stress reliever, my hobby, my love, ultimately he is my whole life. Half the reason I'm even going to college is so that I'll be able to afford horses in the future, and keep him as well. So here in lies the grind, how do you afford a horse in college AND find time for them as well?
Affording Your Horse in College
1. Get a Job (or 2 if you're like me)
It's challenging to have a job and go to school full time, but if you would like to keep your horse, it's a must! Many colleges/universities offer work study programs where students can work as well as do homework in their down time. Obtaining one of these jobs not only helps you have money to keep your horse, it also allows you to get homework accomplished.
2. Pasture Board
One option for saving a little money while keeping your horse at college is to have him/her pasture boarded. This has two-fold benefits. First, it is cheaper, and second, that there will be times where you WILL NOT have time to go ride or see your best friend and this allows you to have the peace of mind that they are not cooped up in a stall all day.
3. SAVE, Budget, Plan
Part of keeping your horse is a heavy financial responsibility. If your horse is anything like mine, they are a bit needy. Vet bills, supplements, horse shoer, etc. It all adds up quickly! It is important to save, budget, and plan all of your money. Saving is always a vital part of owning any horse, and it heavily plays into the other two facets. Budgeting and planning go hand in hand for me, in that you have to have both to be a successful horse owner/student/worker. Having a plan of expenses and placing them into a budget will make spending (and saving) so much easier. For example, I know that my horse will need his ulcer medication every 6 months like clock work, so I make sure that I have the dates written down and the money budgeted for that expense. Knowing little things like when you will run out of supplements or that the vet will come and do annual shots in the same month every year lets you set up a realistic plan for the year ahead. Learning the schedule of your farrier will also help as well. I recommend keeping a dated spreadsheet to keep it all planned, organized, and in quick, easy working order. The LAST thing you need as a student is to have more stress.
4. Stash a little bit of cash away
My rule on horses is if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. Keeping about $200 dollars stashed away for a mini emergency fund will help give you peace of mind when it comes to your horse.
Managing Your Time
It can be very tough to find the time to devote to your horse that you'd like while in school (and working that job you have to have to keep him) but it is also very rewarding. Being able to keep my horse (with a little help from my parents) has been hard. But totally worth it! I love my horse! I spent years and years trying to find the right one, and I've found it in him. So perhaps that's why the idea of giving him up was one I simply could not handle. I've adapted the mentality that it doesn't matter how hard I have to work I am not giving up my best friend. Chex was there for me when I lost my grandma, when I graduated high school, and hopefully for the day I someday get married. He is my life and ultimately drives me to work harder in school and work so that I can support him, now and in the future.
1. Set aside time for yourself
If you are anything like me, horses just make you feel better. Riding, grooming, or even just saying hi to my horse puts a big smile on my face like nothing else in the world. Setting aside an hour or two 3-4 times a week will not end you in college. Instead of turning on Netflix, go to the barn. You will not only get some much needed stress relief, but you will also get a little exercise if you get to ride.
2. Study at the barn
What many people don't think of is that if you board at a facility with a lounge and an indoor arena, many times there is a window that overlooks the indoors. Turn your horse out in the arena and sit in the lounge to study. Often times there will not be anyone using it (depending on the time) and you can not only have a quiet place to study, but you get to watch your horse a little while you do it. Plus the study breaks giving treats or a little bit of free lunging are the BEST. Remember, it's the little things in life.
3. Take advantage of technology
As students in the age of technology we have the opportunity to listen to books (or textbooks) and even lectures that we've recorded on our phones or listening devices. Use this to your advantage. Need to read a chapter? Listen to it instead! Pop in your ear phones and listen to your chapter of Chemistry or that lecture from the class yesterday while you ride, groom, or even drive to the barn. There are lots of options for this.
Keeping your horse in college may be a tough challenge, but if you are willing to work hard it is an attainable goal that is completely worth it!