There is no getting away from the fact that owning a horse costs money — and sometimes a lot of it. However, some moves can help you reduce the cost of owning a horse. If you have some land and can make your own hay or straw, for example, your expenses can go down massively, but not everyone is lucky enough to be a landowner. So, assuming, you currently face a hefty livery bill every month, how can you actually keep a horse and ride on a budget without compromising on safety?
The cost of livery yards varies hugely, depending on where you live and the kind of facilities that are provided. If you keep your horse in a palatial yard with indoor and outdoor schools, horse walkers, perfect post and rail paddocks and do none of the work yourself (full livery), you can expect to pay anything from £300 to £800, according to the BHS. Unless you are a top competition rider, though, you have to ask yourself whether such luxury is necessary.
Try moving to a smaller yard with fewer facilities which will bring the price down. The most basic might offer only grass turnout, and these generally start from £70 per month. Cheaper still may be to rent a paddock and erect a shelter, although this will be an expensive initial outlay.
To save pennies, consider changing from full livery to do it yourself (DIY). This will be more of a commitment on your time, but less on your pocket. Prices for this service tend to range from £110 to £250 per month.
Many livery yards include hay and straw in the monthly price. If you have gone it alone and are renting a field, you will be able to shop around for cheaper forage from local, friendly farmers.
And on the subject of feeding… does your horse really does need those expensive supplements and concentrates you keep feeding him? Except for those in heavy work, older horses and those lacking condition, most are better on grass and forage.
If money’s an issue, take a dung sample from your horse for analysis rather than worming on a regular basis, possibly unnecessarily.
Many people insure their horse, but for some this is not cost-effective, especially if your horse is aged or already has a condition that may not be covered by the policy. An alternative is to put away the monthly cost of premiums in a savings account so that you have a lump sum with which to pay the vet’s bills if a problem or illness occurs. However, never economise on public liability insurance. A BHS gold package brings with it this type of cover, along with personal accident cover—it’s money well spent.
While you shouldn’t stint on equine dentistry, ask yourself whether your horse needs to be shod. If you do little road work and his feet are in good condition, maybe he can manage with just fronts. Bear in mind, though, that he will need his hooves to be trimmed regularly, but this will be a fraction of the cost.
When it comes to equipment, never economise at the expense of safety. Properly fitting and safe tack for your horse is vital as is a well fitting helmet for you, as well as a body protector. However, riding clobber can usually be bought more cheaply second hand.
Planning to compete? Then consider unaffiliated rather than affiliated. Entry fees are generally much cheaper, plus you won’t need to be a member of your chosen sport’s governing body (although organisations such as British Eventing do offer day passes which obviate the need for membership for a set number of outings).
Transport can make up a huge chunk of the cost of owning a horse. Consider teaming up with someone local and sharing the cost if going to a competition or fun ride. It might prevent you needing to purchase an expensive horsebox in the long term.