It can be heartbreaking to look at a horse you envisioned as a family member, companion and partner for life as an expense you can no longer afford. ‘Buyer’s market’ is a mantra we’ve been hearing in the equine industry for too many years. When that translates to needing to find a new home for a trusted friend that’s been your spiritual rock, recreation, and health club combined, there’s more to consider than the money of the matter.
Fortunately, if you’re willing to be creative, there are options that may allow you to keep your trusted steed healthy, happy and home, or at least ensure his life without you in it will be a good one.
Horses aren’t just recreational vehicles to be sold off as commodities when times are tough. They’re pets and partners representing ‘me time,’ emotional bonds, spiritual enrichment, psychological stabilizers and confidants. Before you decide you can’t afford a horse anymore, consider the real costs – and try to get creative about how you may be able to hold on.
In your decision to sell have you considered:
- What you’ll do to replace the mind calming components of your horse relationship (or the toll of not having an equivalent outlet)?
- Do you have another source for the affection and connection that comes from your horse?
- How will you replace the physical fitness and connection to nature components of your horse time?
- Will saying goodbye to your horse rob you of the only personal time you have?
- Are you ready to deal with the stress of wondering where your horse lands during his life and how he’s doing? If you’re firm about selling, save yourself the misery of looking up the horse later unless you have a buy-back agreement.
Fortunately, there are a lot of ways you can reduce, share or cover the costs of owning a horse. The possibilities are as vast as the ideas you can entertain. It’s not necessary to sacrifice if you’re willing to work a little more or make concessions that allow you to continue to spend time with your horse for less.
11 Creative Solutions for keeping your horse
- Look at alternative, less expensive and often more effective feed programs that include quality pasture forage
- Explore barefoot as an alternative to shoeing
- Do bi-annual fecals instead of following a regimented worming approach
- If you board, see if there are jobs you can do (mucking stalls, turn-out, fence repair, cleaning tack, etc.) around the facility to help reduce your monthly fees
- Approach other horse facilities to inquire about board in exchange for work if it’s not something you can do where you are
- If your horse is home, adding more fencing and outdoor shelter can decrease feed and bedding costs
- Defray costs by offering a friend ride time in exchange for splitting care costs (with a contract vetted by an attorney that addresses liability)
- Seek out a co-leaser that shares board and other costs of care (insurance is a factor here)
- Sell the horse to someone close who you trust and is willing to let you continue a relationship with the horse (this may involve a discounted sale price or a monthly lease fee – or, just a kind soul who gets it)
- Craft a sale agreement that includes a for-life home and/or first option buy-back offer
- Create a bank account where you put all the money usually spent at retail outlets on coffee, fast food, bought lunches, lottery tickets, prepared meals, entertainment, restaurant meals and other items that are impulse buys or part of your routine and make your own or go without
Before you cast off your horse with the conviction he’s costing you too much, consider what you’ll lose when he’s gone. Money isn’t the only factor. If he’s not the right horse for you – or you’re not the right person for him – that’s a different story. But, if you have a horse that’s been your partner, your biggest enjoyment in life, your primary exercise and/or your rock, the price of losing this lifeblood is a lot higher than the savings you’ll see by eliminating what you’re shelling out to keep him. Perhaps instead of asking “Is keeping the horse you love a struggle?” the better question is, “are there creative ways to keep you both happy?” Sometimes selfish is good.