There are many ways to cut the cost of keeping your horse without compromising on quality — some more obvious than others. Implementing them will go some way to helping ensure your monthly livery bill does not exceed your mortgage.
1. Forgo the luxuries
So long as your horse is well looked after and happy, he really couldn’t care less whether his stable has silver doorknobs or polished walls. For him, a nice 3-star motel is just as comfy as The Ritz. Ask yourself whether you need all the facilities offered by your yard (horsewalker, arena, etc). Plus you could make major savings if your horse can live out full time, even if it’s just during the summer months.
2. Know exactly what you’re paying for
Some yards offer flexible livery packages and it is worth seeking these out if you feel a looser arrangement would suit you. Otherwise yards tend to offer standard packages from full to DIY livery, with various increments in between. But whatever you choose, keep an eye out for added extras. Many yards charge extra for using the horsewalker or lights in the arena for example. These charges can really add up, especially in the winter.
3. Share transport costs
Transport can be a major cost for competitive horse owners. Some yards will help to co-ordinate liveries so they can share transport to a venue for training or competitions. Or if you have a friend who is competing at a similar level, you might consider sharing the running costs of a lorry between you. Another alternative is to choose a livery yard which holds regular competitions. Although the livery rate is likely to be higher, you will save yourself time, running costs and fuel.
4. Buddy up for lessons
Whether you travel to your trainer’s yard for lessons or have your trainer come to you, by having a shared or group lesson you can keep the cost down, which may allow you to train more frequently. Having a riding ‘buddy’ for lesson also means you can be ‘eyes-on-the-ground’ for each other, helping you to progress in between training sessions.
5. Bring and buy
If you have kit you no longer need, there are a number of ways of finding it a new home and earning a bit of extra cash. You can sell online on sites like eBay or Preloved or Horse&Hound, via social media, through ads in your local tack shop, by attending a horsey car boot/table top sale or by listing things on a board at your livery yard. Whichever route you choose, we recommend you either do transactions face-to-face for cash or using a protected payment system like Paypal for extra protection.
6. Share equipment
There is little point in investing in items that you might use only occasionally, so whether it’s a set of lungeing equipment or a quad bike to help with tasks around the yard, have a chat with your friends to see if you can club together and have shared use of the equipment. Make sure you agree who is responsible for the cost of repairs and maintenance beforehand to avoid problems later on.
7. Buy in bulk
Shopping around for hay and bedding, and avoiding buying it from equestrian retailers, is a good penny saver. In particular buying hay off the field after it has been baled (you will have to be able to collect and store it) can result in major savings. Wormers and worm counts are also items where you can save by buying in bulk.
8. Organise communal visits and ask for discounts
Some veterinary practices offer free yard visits to a particular area on specific days for routine tasks such as vaccinations, teeth checks and assessments. Even if you can’t benefit from a free call-out, teaming up with other owners for routine appointments like the vet, farrier, physio and equine dental technician can typically save you a sizeable amount of cash.
9. Buy essentials off-peak
If you have room to store it, it’s sensible to stock up on hay and bedding in the off-peak season before the winter approaches and demand rockets. Not only will you be prepared, but you’re very likely to save money. Just make sure you check the quality of the forage, especially if you are buying hay from the previous year’s crop.
10. Team up to bring in, turn out or muck out
While many DIY yards offer assistance in the form of a person you can pay to help with regular tasks such as turning out, mucking out or poo-picking, if you can sort out a rota between your fellow liveries, you can avoid this additional expense.
A fuller version of this feature was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (29 May 2013)