Karen over at Patently Bay brought up an interesting point the other day with her post about commitment and what that really means in regards to being a horse person. While I absolutely agree with her points I found myself thinking more about what you are willing to sacrifice financially in order to have horses as a major part of your life.
I live in a suburb of Seattle. That should tell you right off the bat that I live in an outrageously expensive area. Both for human and equine cost of living. It is average in this area to pay $800/mo for board, and for that you get a trainer on site (usually), our version of turnout (small, no grass, lots of mud), and a covered arena with lights. Add in farrier ($145 for a full set on average), any specialized supplements/grain/other maintenance, training or lessons and if you don’t have tons of disposable income you’re quickly priced out of horse ownership.
So how do I, with a relatively low income, afford not only a horse, but afford to keep her in full training with no set end date?
I live on my friend’s farm where I pay essentially the cost of utilities for myself, and the cost of hay for my horse. The deal with me living here is that I am overnight child care for when Sheri is on call (works in the medical field), I do the evening feed and turnout, as well as full animal care of the horses, chickens, dogs, and cat when Sheri is out of town. I also do my best to help when bigger projects need to get done such as replacing fencing, winterizing the barn, and we alternate taking half a day off work to be here for the farrier.
My living space is in a converted barn and it’s pretty much set up like a giant studio apartment. But the kitchen…it’s… little.
It’s a 3/4 size oven, no dishwasher, the tiny bit of counter I have is always filled with drying dishes. And my appliances. My appliance tower I should say. Mini fridge, then microwave, then coffeemaker. As someone who LOVES to cook and bake it can certainly be a challenge but I’ve never once felt frustrated by the…compact size.
Now being a converted barn, and not a well converted one, I also deal with unwanted house guests. Mainly mice and wolf spiders.
Don’t get me wrong, I am lucky to live here and I am beyond lucky to be able to keep a horse literally in my backyard. But still. It would be nice not to have to stand on my tiptoes to fill the coffeemaker in the mornings.
In regards to being able to afford full training for Phoebe, I simply got a second job. I spent every Sunday from 8am-3pm mucking stalls for $12 an hour. There were 10 paddocks and 30 stalls and I was the only stall cleaner on Sundays, and this particular barn wanted the stalls essentially stripped daily, sprayed down with an odor control spray, and re-bedded. Talk about manual labor. I worked there until I had enough saved up to pay cash for 90 days worth of training. I also chose to send Phoebe to a trainer that was over an hour drive from me not only because I feel she is an excellent trainer, but J is also on average $400 a month cheaper then the trainers I would have used locally.
And of course, I also make my own coffee, I bring my lunches to work, I don’t buy hardly any new clothes/shoes/etc, I don’t go out to eat, to bars, or really to the movies. I rarely buy new tack, I haven’t had a lesson in WAY too long, and of course there are no showing expenses in the near future.