How to do “the horse thing” without breaking the bank

How to do “the horse thing” without breaking the bank

My baby

I attended a training clinic recently where I learned a lot, but also saw people spending beaucoup bucks on training tools, tack, t-shirts and more (on top of the $50 entrance fee!). In fact, Wells Fargo was there to finance the purchase of roundpens, saddles, automatic waterers and more.

I got my tickets for free and brought my own snacks and proteins to eat in the car during breaks so I wouldn’t have to purchase expensive concession food. My only expenses were the gas to get there, dinner (split entrees with my mom), and a hotel room (30 minutes away because it was more affordable).

It got me to thinking about how it really is possible to do “the horse thing” frugally.

It’s true, I don’t have a $1,299 saddle. I’m sure they’re comfortable, durable and well built. And for someone who has thousands available in disposable income, it may not be a bad investment. But for the girl who brought her own food to the clinic? It’s a little ridiculous.

When I got my first horse at age 13, I bought a used Western saddle for $50. You know what? I still use it today — the only Western saddle I’ve ever bought (also, my English saddle, still in use today, was $30). Is it the best saddle ever made? No. Is it safe? Yes. Does it work? Yes. So no new saddle in my future.

When I was looking for a treat to spruce up my tack, I bought a pretty new saddle blanket for $10.

It is possible to keep a horse on a budget. I promise.

Arabian Horse

Board is the biggest part of just about every horse-owner’s expense. When my husband and I began looking for a house to buy, we knew that we wanted enough property to house my horse and cut out that expense. That said, we couldn’t afford a fancy farm or even 10 acres in the Virginia Beach area. But we did get a lovely 2.5 acres, zoned to house a single horse, with a tiny one-stall barn. Just enough to meet our needs. (We bought a goat to keep her company — low cost, low maintenance.)

But even boarding doesn’t have to be ridiculous. I worked out a deal with someone to work off part of my board cleaning stalls and feeding, even house-sitting when the owners went out of town in exchange for a cut in my rate. I even provided labor (call on your friends and family!) for major barn cleanings and hay deliveries to work off some of the cost. The family I boarded with were extremely kind to me and I hope my efforts and knowledge (I even did some training with them) was a benefit to them as well.

My horse, Chappy

Feed of course is going to be an expense. We source our hay locally from the grower himself (instead of purchasing through a middle-man tack/feed store), and we buy a cheaper mix grass instead of an expensive orchard or alfalfa. My horse gets plenty of nutrition from it and I’m able to give her more in the winter to help keep her warm and keep her gut active without worrying about her gaining weight. We even went to purchasing round bales because they’re cheaper than square bales. I also don’t worry about an expensive grain. My horse gets Original Safe Choice, which I would recommend for just about any horse, the exception perhaps being a senior horse who struggles to keep on weight. What my horse drops, the goat eats so we don’t even have to get goat feed unless we want to. Tractor Supply, Rural King and other supply stores often have sales (BOGO half off) or coupons ($2 off each bag) that I use to get a stock pile of grain at a cheaper price.

Chappy and Jane

Vet care is another biggie. I have cut the cost by taking measures to keep my horse as healthy as possible, like regular deworming (3x/year in Virginia) and keeping her outdoors as much as possible. I have also worked out a deal with a vet to purchase vaccines and administer them myself. Not all vets will do this, but I have a relationship and trust built between myself and my vet. Now my vet visits 1x/year to administer rabies and draw blood for her coggins. She also checks her teeth at this time.

The farrier, of course, is another regular expense. Every six weeks. But in the winter, horses’ hooves grow more slowly, so we stretch it to every eight weeks during that season. Every little bit helps.

Having my horse in our own backyard does involve some extra costs, but most are one-time costs that I will benefit from for years to come: fencing, gates, stall mats, buckets, stock tanks, etc. We were able to save some money by installing electricity to the barn ourselves (or rather, my dad — an engineer — installed it), and installing the wood and electric fences ourselves. There are some maintenance costs, but it is far lower than boarding.

Supplies is a big one that I spent lots of money on as a teenager (when I didn’t have to pay for feed myself!). Instead of expensive horse shampoo and conditioner, I get some from the dollar store. Aside from that, I have a small canister of Carona, a small bottle of BioShield, a bottle of fly spray (I do pay more for UltraShield, but use it less because it’s more effective — also, you can buy the concentrate and mix it yourself), a bit of hoof conditioner and maybe a bottle of thrush treatment. And I keep baby oil on hand for getting the tangles out of her mane.

Chappy girl

Tack is something that will require investment, but it doesn’t have to be a lot, and it doesn’t have to be often. I own two saddles, English and Western (purchased used for $30 and $50 respectively). I own 4 bridles: English, Western, training and bozal. Right now, I only ride in the bozal. I only have a few bits (when I needed something new for my horse, I would borrow friends’ bits to try them out before making a purchase). An English and a Western saddle pad (I do have a few inexpensive saddle blankets to change up the look or colors).

Being frugal requires a little more time, a little more effort, and definitely some forethought, but it is so worth it if it makes having a horse affordable.

Lunging Chappy
Chappy before she got all her adorable “flea bites” (freckles).
Frugal or Simple

Frugal or Simple

Frugal or simple? It’s a question I ask myself almost every day.

Much of the time, frugal and simple are not equivalent. I desire both, I need both. I am confined by the restrictions of a tight budget and am determined to live within my means, and yet I desperately need simplicity to maintain my sanity and keep my focus on what is truly important.

At times these needs are warring within me, each vying for top position until I nearly spin out of control. And so I find myself almost daily working to find the right balance. Because there is no one hard and fast rule that always works, few situations are ever the same, and honestly, what is “right” can change based on the day, time, circumstances and so much more.

It’s a balancing act.


My mother posed a question to me a few days ago, and I was glad it was a situation I had already addressed in my own life–a simple one, laughable really, but honest and practical. I always, ALWAYS use more conditioner than shampoo, especially because my hair is super long and curly. So when I get to then of my conditioner and there is still a little shampoo left in the bottle, what do I do with it? Or when a well meaning friend gifts me a toiletry set in a scent that I don’t prefer, or including products I simply don’t use, what do I do?

I spent several years lugging around boxes (and I do mean BOXES) of toiletries whenever I moved (which was pretty often). It got to be one of the most annoying parts of moving–packing up all those bottles of things again… So a few years ago, I vowed to use as many of them as possible before going out and purchasing anything new–a primarily frugal decision. Even if it wasn’t my favorite brand, if I could use it I would. And I did. It took nearly two years to pare down my collection, but I did it.

A few things were left over, things I just don’t use. So I donated them to a local thrift store that benefits a children’s hospital. Because I just don’t need the frustration of trying to force myself to use something I don’t like or the guilt of throwing it away. And guilt from donating it? Definitely false guilt. Someone else can enjoy it and the proceeds will help children in need.

Oh, and that pesky little bit of shampoo left in the bottom of the bottle? Simplicity wins out of frugality on that one. I just don’t need a zillion almost-empty bottles of shampoo hanging around. When I can, I send it over to Husband so he can use it up, and if he can’t use it, it goes in my travel bottles or straight into the trash. Because for my own sanity, I need to pick my battles, and a few ounces of shampoo is not a battle I need to fight right now.

Each day I am presented with another one of these decisions, frugal or simple, simple or frugal. Often times the frugal side wins out (eating in instead of eating out), but sometimes I find a solution that creates a good balance–simple enough to help me slow down yet also in keeping with our financial goals. It’s a bit of give and take.

“Affording” happiness?

“Affording” happiness?

A headline struck me today, it was an article from USA Today titled “Why do we spend money on happiness we can’t afford?”. Do you see something wrong with this question? Because I do.

Headline from USA Today

(Disclaimer: My comments about this have nothing to do with the content of the article, merely the headline…)

Can we ever “afford” happiness; is it really possible to buy happiness? I don’t think so. But this is the trap that Americans (and I admit, I myself) fall into over and over again. The black and white truth is that we cannot buy happiness! It’s not a commodity. And things, material items, can’t make us truly happy.

I believe that happiness is a feeling, the truth behind it is joy. And joy is something that we get from knowing that we are loved by God and redeemed through the blood of Christ.

So why do I and so many others think that buying just one more thing will bring us happiness?

Sure, we get an emotional high when we make a purchase, but why can’t we also get an emotional high from knowing that we are being responsible, frugal, self-disciplined when we choose NOT to make a purchase?

Husband and I have tried to mesh our desire for a comfortable, hospitable home and our slim budget by shopping clearance shelves for the little things and saving for the big purchases (like the leather loveseat and ottoman we recently bought at a liquidation sale for $300 or the antique trunk we found at an antique store in Ohio for $98 (which I just have to say, was actually under our budget)).

I find that the more I focus on the things in life that truly bring me happiness, joy and contentment, the less I feel the desire to spend, spend, spend.

So here are some of the things that are making me happy these days:
Ginger wagging her tail.

  • Wagging puppy dog tails
  • Cozy couch time with Husband
  • Crafting/Sewing/Baking
  • Cleaning my house (seriously!)
  • Hugging my pony
  • Reading
  • Sipping hot tea
  • Laughing with friends
  • Sleeping =)
  • The smell of Christmas trees
  • Warm fires, indoor or outdoor
  • Music that makes me dance
  • Clean laundry
  • Blankets, I love blankets
  • Taking long walks with Husband and Puppy
  • Looking at pretty, twinkly lights
  • Candles, candles and more candles (trying to make up for the lack of fireplace in our current home)
  • Funny thing is, most of these require minimal, if any, money.

    This is my happiness.

    Husband and I in Colonial Williamsburg.