Out of all the hobbies in the world, you had to pick one of the most expensive. There’s no denying the fact that horseback riding comes with a series of financial limitations.
Horses aren’t cheap, and when you add in the costs associated with riding, it’s easy to see your savings slip away. The dollar signs attached to things like lessons, gear, and boarding are more than enough to keep you out of the barn.
And yet, when you love horses, you’re willing to go the extra mile to make it work. Riding horses on a budget is completely possible—and more people do it than you might think. Despite what it looks like, you don’t need a trust fund to sustain your horseback riding hobby.
Here’s how you can continue riding horses while staying within a reasonable budget.
Riding and Lessons
Take Group Lessons
If you want to continually improve your riding, you’ll need to invest in lessons. But considering weekly lessons can put you back hundreds of dollars a month, it’s not always easy on your wallet. Instead of choosing a subpar trainer because their rates are lower, consider signing up for semi-private or group lessons with a talented trainer.
These types of lessons are usually more affordable than private sessions, but you still get the benefit of working with a skilled teacher. It’s also a great way to make friends with other thrifty horse people.
Work for Your Lessons
Some barns and trainers allow responsible students to pay for their lessons with barn work. Sometimes they offer a discount in exchange for weekly chores, and you might even find a place that will give you free lessons if you’re willing to muck stalls, pull weeds, and do other undesirable tasks.
As long as the work you’re putting in is worth whatever you’re getting in exchange, this can be a great strategy for riding horses on a budget.
Find an Owner in Need
Trainers and lesson barns aren’t the only ones that are willing to work with riders on a budget. Busy horse owners often make deals with other riders to help them exercise their horses. When they have multiple horses or can’t ride as often as they’d like, they ask people to ride their horses for them.
If you’re lucky, you might find someone in desperate need that will let you ride their horses simply because you’re doing them a favor. Others make deals where you can do a little work in exchange for ride time.
Gear and Tack
If you want to start riding horses on a budget, you will need a way to get affordable gear. Between a quality pair of boots for yourself and all the tack that you need for a horse, those costs add up quickly.
There are some things you’ll want to splurge on and buy new. But for everything else, you can save big bucks by buying used. Try joining a buy, sell, trade group on Facebook and paying attention to when fellow horse people have auctions or barn sales.
When you can’t find what you need used, there’s a good chance it’s on sale somewhere. It’ll take more time and effort to research, but the savings will be worth it. Check online and try to shop during annual sales times. A lot of brands have holiday sales, and most tack shops have a clearance section.
Trade and Borrow
Make friends with other thrifty horse people, and you can seriously cut back on your costs. There are a lot of things you can trade for and borrow. If your horse isn’t taking a certain kind of bit, try trading with a friend for a different kind. And if you need something on a temporary basis, ask someone if you can trade for it or borrow.
Owning a Horse
You don’t need to own your own horse to be an equestrian. You can still learn to ride and spend time at the barn without taking on that extra financial commitment and responsibility. But if you decide that you want a horse of your own, there are ways to do it on a budget.
Leasing isn’t the same as owning, but it’s a good option for people who are new to horses and anyone interested in riding on a budget. When you lease, you sign an agreement that says you’re essentially renting the horse from its owner.
Different lease agreements will come with different responsibilities and privileges, but it’s definitely a way to continue riding horses on a budget.
Try a Rough Board Situation
If you don’t have your own acreage, you’ll need to pay to keep your horse somewhere else. Different boarding facilities will charge different amounts, but you can save money by finding a place that offers rough board.
This means you pay to keep your horse on a pasture that has fresh water and some form of shelter, and that’s it. There’s no stall, and you’ll have to handle all the work that comes with owning a horse. As long as you don’t mind the work, and your horse is okay with being outside 24/7, it’s a great way to save money.
Don’t let the cost of horses stop you from following your passion. Finding ways to keep riding horses on a budget won’t be easy. It will most likely require sacrifice, and there will be days when you are discouraged and frustrated.
But as soon as you’re back in the saddle, you’ll remember what you’re working toward. Be smart, be thrifty, and enjoy every second of being around horses.
Amber King writes for iHeartHorses.com and lives on what she likes to call a “mini-farm” in rural Maryland. Most of her days are spent taking care of her furry and feathery friends and spending as much time outdoors as possible.