Horse showing on a budget: Part 1

As horse show season approaches, here are some tips to ease the pain on the pocketbook.

Let’s face it; times are tough and budgets everywhere areScissors cutting budget dollars shrinking. Horse showing certainly isn’t immune to the budget crunch, so if you are looking for ways to save money in this expensive sport, Michigan State Univesrity Extension will offer some useful advice throughout this two-part series.

Utilize your talents

That’s right; you may have some talents in your arsenal that can ease the pain on your pocketbook. If you don’t already have some of these skills, ask someone who does. You might be surprised to how willing people are to share their knowledge with you. For example, a great way to cut costs at shows is to do more for yourself rather than paying for someone else’s skills. Braiding and banding are highly valuable skills to have. Not only can you save yourself money by braiding or banding your own horse (which can cost anywhere from $15 to $60 or more per horse), you can also make money by providing this service to others. I have several friends that cover part or all of their horse show costs by braiding or banding at each horse show. Here’s a video playlist from Horses – eXtension that can help you start learning.

One pricey part of showing horses can be show clothing. Stop by local thrift or department stores; you can often find great fitting blazers that will work great in the show ring. Also think about sewing your own clothes. Sewing can be an intimidating chore but it doesn’t need to be. There is likely a 4-H club in your county that focuses on sewing that you could take part in. Many local fabric stores also offer free educational classes.

I’m sure many parents encourage their teen to have an after school job. Why not have your after school job at a local tack shop? Besides loving where you work and learning about all sorts of new horse products, you’ll likely qualify for an employee discount; the best of both worlds!

Make wise investments

There are times to cutback and there are times to splurge. Never cut corners when safety is concerned. Do not cut costs if it may negatively affect the wellbeing of you or your horse. Buy the best helmet you can afford and be sure that it is ASTM/SEI certified. The key is to make wise choices when selecting investment pieces (those pieces that you’ll likely keep for a long time), such as saddles. When purchasing a saddle, fit (both for you and your horse) and quality should be paramount. Here’s a great article on Saddle Fit for Horse and Rider from Horses - eXtension. Additionally, keeping up on the maintenance of all tack can help extend its useful life and therefore increase its resale value. Keep tack well-oiled and stored in a cool, dry place. Finally, when selecting these investment pieces, try not to get caught up in trends and stick with classic colors. For example, that new rail jacket is fantastic on the hanger, but will the color look good with your horse or will you grow out of it by next year (as most teenagers will)? If your growing has slowed down, well-fitting chaps can last you for years. The same can be said for an excellent pair of field boots/hunt seat boots.

Choose your shows wisely. By reading the fine print on show bills you can select shows that don’t charge lots of extra fees and late entry penalties. Also, seek out the shows that have payback classes, which can be a great way to offset your costs. Lastly, look for those shows that are in your area. You can save money on fuel by staying close to home.

Lastly, invest in your education. Educating yourself can prevent you from making expensive mistakes. Stay away from impulse purchases. Although you may LOVE that yearling that isn't yet halter-broke, do you have the knowledge, time and facilities to manage that young horse? Think about selecting a horse that best matches your experience level; if you’re a novice it’s a good idea to work with a more seasoned horse (leave the tough training to the professionals until you feel ready). Save your pennies and spend them wisely on lessons with a more experienced rider; as I’ve mentioned already, you can learn so much from those around you! Get your 4-H club involved in one of the many ‘horseless’ horse activities such as horse bowl, hippology or horse judging. You’d be surprised how useful that new knowledge can be both outside and inside the arena. Visit our website to learn more about these “horseless” horse activities and read "Horse showing on a budget: Part 2."

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