Wednesday, September 17, 2014

All About the Benjamins

When I was born, my Aunt Karen asked my mom if she could buy me a horse. My mom said, to my everlasting horror and sadness, "No". Well, not exactly, "No". She said, "I'll buy the horse if you pay to maintain it." My mama ain't nobody's fool. I knew nothing of this discussion until I was older, since it happened while they were viewing me through the window at the hospital when I was a day or so old. I think that there was some sort of Fairy Godmother Effect with my horsy tendencies even though no horse was forthcoming, and that is why I am horse crazy to this day.

File:Cinderella's Carriage transformation.jpg
Left: Me
Right: Aunt Karen
Bottom: The herd that was never to be.

I know money stuff is pretty personal, but I figured that I might as well write it all down and stare it in the face a little more to help me sort out what my priorities are, what they should be, and if they need to change. I probably also need to do a budget for time, since that is one thing that I also have a limited supply of each week, and my husband and I have talked a lot about how much time I am spending on my horse instead with him and on our life together. These conversations have progressed from angry, tear-filled affairs, to mostly rational and unemotional, but they still aren't easy.

I have been scribbling dollar amounts on post-it notes for years, making spreadsheets galore, and I actually do know how to balance a checkbook. Have a lost track here and there? Yes. Have I remembered everything there is on the lists below? I am certain not. The reason this is all percolating in my mind has a lot to do with the amount of cash I (and my husband) have spent this summer on animal bills. I am going to avoid a total, but it is a lot.

There is also an incredibly sweet lady at the barn who has been coming out for the past six months or so with her boyfriend who has a horse there. She has fallen in love with horses, and has started taking lessons on one of the school horses. She is going to be 65 next year and recently announced her plans to own her first horse as a retirement present to herself.

Bibbidy, bobbidy, boo!
Bless her heart, I get it, but I definitely felt the need to impart some budget reality, so that got me thinking about all this. When you are in love with something, it's hard to live without it. I'm sure that dreams are just as pressing, maybe even more so, when you are 65. Mostly, I encouraged her to talk with our barn owner about what it is that she wants to do, and to absolutely have her help in selecting an appropriate horse. I don't like falling off now, so I can't think that it would be better 30 years from now, and a nice retired show horse would be the perfect partner for her. One that has been there, done that. That also means maintenance costs, most likely. I just would hate to see her go out and get one that was less expensive initially, but ends up costing her big time later, especially if it isn't trained for the job she needs it to do.

I love Abbey so very much, but I don't know that I would do things the same way if I ever take the leap of finding another horse some day. I would probably spend more up front on purchasing a finished horse rather than spending it in training. My trainer says either way, you pay. You pay less for a prospect, but there is uncertainty and money put in for training. Or, you pay more for the time and training that someone else has put in to get a horse with a more defined and mature personality. I would also vet check, just to be more aware of potential issues that I might have to deal with. I am pretty fortunate that my less-informed I-think-it's-meant-to-be-so-I'll-buy-her approach has turned out as well as it has, but it hasn't come cheap.

One fact remains true regardless of how much you spend on the initial purchase: maintenance always costs more.

Abbey's Purchase Price
$700 (what a steal!)

Monthly Budget
$400 - Board
$120 - Training rides 2 days per week
$120 - Lessons 3 per month
$75 - HP1 Supplement
$20 - Sand Clear
$10 - Wormer
$40 - Trim ($110 for front set of shoes for summer - usually three sets)
$785 - Total average expenses in a good month (no vet visits)

Other Annual Expenses
$300 - Vaccinations
$150 - Dental
$100 - Fecal Screening
$500 - Misc Vet visits
$1000 - Unexpected vet costs - injuries, illness, etc.
$2,050 - Estimated wellness care for average horse

Total Estimated Cost of Training
$6,000 since 2012 (ballpark, and probably on the low end)

Average Show Budget (Hopeful for three to four shows next year)
Camping - $50
Trainer Camping - $50 (less if split)
Stall - $55
Tack Stall - $55 (less if split)
Shipping - $95
Trainer expenses - $25
Entry fees - $100ish
Food - $75
$505 average per show

This doesn't include the thousands that I have spent on tack and clothes, especially the stuff for showing. If I stay in a hotel then the cost nearly doubles unless I share a room, and this budget above assumes that I will be riding in my trainer's truck and not spending my own gas.

Looking back to what seems like a lifetime ago, I see the total novice thinking I would be able to board and maintain a horse for under $350 or $400 a month. (To be fair, pasture board was only $180 there, but that situation changes as soon as I bought Abbey. Of course.) The older, wiser horseperson I have become looks at that retrospective me, and it makes me want to fall on the floor in fits of hysterical laughter at my naïve self and ridicule her till the magical mice-turned-carriage-horses come home. Since that really won't solve anything, I will keep crunching the numbers and fitting things in the best I can. I also am coming to terms with the fact that at some point maybe we will have to have smaller goals, like me just riding and lessoning every now and then, and that we can keep the cost more manageable. And that some things, like maybe having kids, will have a whole different level of impact. But, for now I want to keep living in my fairytale world where dreams of showing still dance in glass slippers.

My last opportunity to show this year is coming this weekend and we will only be showing walk/trot classes, which is disappointing in a way since we worked so hard all year to be more finished. I was feeling pretty down about it, but we practiced some trail last night during a lesson and I think it will be fun and a good introduction to my first show ever since Girl Scout Camp when I was eight. The reality is that ever since June we have been fighting my travel schedule, Abbey's leg injury, and now treating for gastric ulcers again. Conditions are not in our favor, but we are fighters and I need to be happy with what I can do instead of focusing on what I can't - the eternal struggle for me.

The reality is that when you put pen to paper, owning a horse doesn't make any logical sense, whatsoever. Thankfully, I am able to suspend reality for the time being just enough to keep dreaming the impossible dream.

Cinderella- Mice as Horses
Show ponies!
So, cross your fingers that we make it to the ball, and that we don't turn into pumpkins before then!


  1. As far as money goes, you can make a lot of things work as long as you budget and sacrifice where and when you need to and sacrifice on things worth sacrificing, like extras over necessities. You can't take the money with you when you die but it certainly helps make the day to day more comfortable.

  2. You are so right about that, and I do have to check myself sometimes on spending. Sometimes it's a hindsight realization - I should have bought a way less expensive show hat, for instance. But, I feel like now that I am two years in I have all the gear I need for the time being. Unless something breaks or gets worn out, I am trying to hold status quo, and also am foregoing my beloved mochas most of the time, since enough of those add up to a lesson, or training days. My plan for the next three months is to knock the training out of the picture for the most part and lesson every other week, so we can save money. I also know that Abbey and I are at the point that the thing that will help us get better is for me to be the one riding her. When January/February comes we may kick it up a notch, but it all depends. Each day I have in the saddle with a healthy, sound horse is a blessing, and that is where I try to bring myself back to whenever I get carried away with what-ifs and coulda, shoulda, wouldas. As with everything in this crazy world, it's all about balance - and some of us are harder learners than others ;)

    1. I definitely struggle with it, being able to ride is just a gift right? Let alone all the stuff (I still want the stuff!) I'm really lucky that I'm able to just do lessons vs training and that my trainer thinks thats okay for me.Status quo I hear that, that was me for a long time on almost everything. Just one day at a time right? I think you guys will do great in your show :)

  3. Thanks so much :) That means a lot coming from a veteran like you. I am nervous and excited, and I just hope I can sleep between now and then! I will keep everyone posted :)