As many have been facing a period of financial uncertainty owing to the coronavirus pandemic, you may be looking at ways to tighten your belt and make savings across the board, including in your equestrian life. H&H asked a team of financial experts for their money-saving tips for horse owners — from reviewing your insurance policies to researching bedding brands.
Ways to save money on your horse bills
Feed: The majority of horses manage well on a forage-based diet and, if necessary, one all-round vitamin and mineral supplement or feed balancer. Your vet or an equine nutritionist can advise whether your horse really needs additional feed or supplements. If your horse tends to waste its forage, then make sure you are only feeding as much as they are likely to eat, while not leaving them without any forage at all for long periods as this carries a risk of causing gastric ulcers. Also consider whether feeding the forage in a net, bar or cube would save you more money in the long run than it costs to buy the equipment.
Bedding: Research the different types of horse bedding on the market and shop around as it may be cheaper to buy in bulk direct from the supplier if you have room to store it, rather than as and when you need it via your local feed merchant. And while fitting rubber matting requires a significant initial financial investment, it can pay for itself in reduced bedding costs over time.
Livery: Do you really need everything you are paying for at your livery yard? If you are paying for someone else to provide all or part of your horse’s day-to-day care, you may be able to reduce costs if you were able to do more yourself, even on a temporary basis. However, if this means you visiting the stables more frequently than you do now, make sure you consider the cost and time involved with this extra journey. Many horses do very well on permanent turnout. If you think your horse is one, it could be worth looking around for a suitable grass livery or renting a field, but consider how you would ensure your horse’s needs were met if you were taken ill or needed to self isolate.
Horse care costs: Discuss worming routines with your vet to make sure you are using the most effective and economical options. You can protect your horse and your pocket by worming strategically based on test results. If you are on a livery yard, for routine care such as vaccinations, try to get a group of owners together ahead of time so you share the call out fee. Some vet practices now offer cheaper call outs in particular zones on a set day, so find out if your clinic offers this service and try to use it with non-urgent cases.
Farriery costs: Investigate shoeing options for your horse with your farrier; you may find your horse doesn’t need to have a full set of shoes all year round. And if there is not much wear on the horse’s shoes, your farrier may be able to refit them rather than replace them. But remember that money saved in the short term by switching to use a cheaper farrier may be short-sighted, so a little extra spent each time could save you a lot in the long run if you avoid vet bills resulting from poor hoof balance.
Training and lessons: If you currently see your trainer routinely but need to cut costs, ask if you could replace every other in-person training session with either a remote training session if you have the necessary kit or a virtual session. This usually involves supplying a video of you doing a pre-agreed exercise or movement and then the trainer gives feedback via a phone or video call that you can use to improve the performance before your next in-person session. During the pandemic many trainers diversified to offer these types of training and they may be a cheaper way to keep your riding on track. Another option is to find someone to share your in-person lesson with as these will be cheaper than private sessions.
Competing: If you’re a competitive rider, then entry fees and transport costs are going to eat into your monthly budget. Consider how often you are competing and how far you are travelling to shows as fuel can be a big expense. Is it possible to share transport costs with a friend if you are local and both compete at the same venues? If you want to continue to pursue your competition ambitions, but need to cut costs, discuss with your trainer which are the most important competitions to target and spend the time in between training to increase your chance of success when you do compete. And if you don’t compete frequently, but own your own lorry or trailer, sit down and work out whether hiring transport would save you money in the long-run. There has been an explosion in the number of horsebox hire companies in recent years, which has made hiring transport when you need it much easier.
Tack and equipment: While you may look longingly at the latest matchy-matchy set or pair of stylish breeches or long riding boots you’ve seen popping up on your social media feed, if you need to cut costs then ask yourself if you actually need new items of tack and clothing, or whether it’s just a “nice to have”. Buying good quality tack and equipment second hand can result in significant savings compared to buying new, whether that’s via online auction sites or through local equestrian car boot sales. You could also make some money by sorting out and selling any rugs, tack and clothing you no longer need if they are in good condition. And spending time caring for your existing tack and boots will help them to last longer, reducing the likelihood of anything needing to be replaced.
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6 expert tips for managing your money
- Know what you’re dealing with. Sit down and perform a monthly budgeting exercise each month. Be honest and realistic with yourself and include all expenditure that will occur. Visit www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk and www.moneysavingexpert.com for advice on how to pull together a monthly budget.
- Face your debts. List all your debts and create an action plan of how/when you are going to repay these. Find good advice on dealing with debt at www.direct.gov.uk, www.nationaldebtline.co.uk and www.citizensadvice.co.uk
- Consolidate accumulated debts where possible. Look for good rates of interest, especially on credit cards – there are always 0% balance transfer deals around. Visit www.moneysupermarket.com to compare.
- Struggle to limit your spending on credit cards? Lower your credit limit at the first possible chance.
- It sounds obvious, but strive to save as much as you can where possible. As a guide, try to have a minimum of at least one month’s salary in reserve. This will help plan for the future and ensure you have a cash reserve in an emergency – for example with an unexpected vet’s bill or lorry breakdown.
- Review your insurance policies. Are you really prepared/able to make that one-off payment should an accident occur? It may be wiser to have a reduced excess and pay slightly more each month.
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