Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Responsibility of Ownership

Hey guys, before I get going here, I have a question. I have "followers" on my blog page. I'm not sure what it is (I am an ignoramous, I know) but I see on the other blogs that people post them. Do you want me to do this? I will.

I guess this is part two from yesterday. I'm feeling a bit blue, I guess and I've been wondering about where and when we decide we can't afford a horse. What level of income justifies these beasts?

This isn't a new thought for me. I may have told you this story, but it weighs on me. You might here it again someday, what can I say?

Three years ago I was at a cowhorse event in Nebraska. I was on my yellow horse. She was three and this was her second competition. I had entered her in the $5,000 pro/am futurity and the open futurity. These events ran consecutively.

I was hesitant to enter the open because I was on my first (turned out to be last too) futurity horse and I wasn't feeling too confident. The Big K felt strongly that I needed to step up and ride with the big guns.

"You're not going to push hard enough if you don't ride scared," he told me.

"I'm scared enough, thank-you." I told him.

But, being the well behaved minion that I was, I went ahead and entered the open futurity.

Our first event was cutting. She wasn't great, but she wasn't terrible either. We ended up in the middle of the pack.

Our reined work was next. My little girl walked in all cute and alert. She rode off really quiet and we began to knock out a great reining pattern. I got more and more excited. She was really good.

I finished our pattern and was a little surprised at the silence from the crowd. I looked over and a friend of mine held up four fingers. I had over-spun and zeroed.

The judge had scored me anyway and my "wuddabeen" was a 73 or so.

I was sick. I really don't remember my fence run.

At the end of the futurity I had knocked myself out of a couple grand.

Then I wrote a check to the show office for almost $900.

It knocked me completely over.

What was I doing? How did I ever think I should be gambling like this?

I thought about the times I had gone to a show knowing my checks would bounce if I didn't come in the money.

I thought about the fact I was getting older. My daughter was growing up and I needed to get her through college.

I had lived on a shoestring, I guess that should be spur rowel, for too many years.

The show in Broken Bow was pivotal for me. It was the beginning of the end. I started writing this blog soon after. I truly believe I was getting myself organised so I could quit.

I keep going back to this train of thought. It's like poking the hole left after a tooth extraction with my tongue. It's icky, it hurts, but I can't quite make myself stop.

How much money should you earn before you take on a horse?

What level of care has to be guaranteed before you deserve to own a horse?

Do I have to insure them all before I can own one?

What if I can only provide pasture, shots, wormer and trims?

How much of my income should I be willing to sacrifice?

I have always felt horses were key to raising my daughter the right way. But could she have had as good of a life if I had been a teacher with benefits and insurance?

What happens if the economy sinks further? Am I morally bound to sell my horses in order to insure my family's security?

What if I turn them out on a ranch in Wyo. for a few years? Is that irresponsible?

I don't have any answers here. I know many of you are plagued with the same questions.

I am slowly crawling out of the financial hole I dug for myself. I think I might even get to show again someday. But I'm still worried most of the time.

The flip side of my dilemma is I would not be who I am today without my horses. Neither would my daughter. I like who we are. I like how we turned out. Horses have been my center for most of my life. During the brief click in time when I was without them I was almost lost.

What's the value of my horses?


SupposedSuburbanite said...

Whats the value of your horses?

Priceless. I know, I know that sounds like a Mastercard commercial, but read what you just wrote about you and your daughter. I grew up in the horse business and feel the exact same way. I like how I turned out and I attribute it almost wholly to being involved with horses.

That said, the economics of horse owning is getting more and more challenging. Perhaps this is not really addressing the question(s) you posed, but just the fact that you are thinking about the economics of it all puts you LIGHT years ahead of oh so very many people.

Re: Insurance. No, I don't think you need to insure them all, so long as you know the risks and have plan in place as to what treatment you can afford/will attempt. I had insurance (mortality and major medical) on my younger riding horse. I let it lapse this year for financial reasons and I know its risky. I would do colic surgery on her and I would like to re-bind insurance at some point, probably next year.

I have a slightly older horse who I don't ride right now (she is a whole storey in and of herself) and she has never been insured and never will be. She was born with us and will die with us. No colic surgery for her, not being cruel, but there are a myriad of reasons that make it a bad option for her. Love your blog!

Appybutt said...

I've seen plenty of people grow up with all the comforts a secure middle class life can offer who have no appreciation of life or responsibility.

These are the people who bring their old dog to the animal shelter b/c they're moving to the city or attempt to give away an old horse on CL.

These are the people who look at you in horror if you talk of putting an animal down, but won't bat an eye over leaving a cat in the neighbor's barn.

They fear death but have no idea of the value of life.

Teaching your kid how to care for an animal and truly respect the life in their care is far more valuable than taking them to Disneyland every year.

RachelLynne said...

I love this blog and read it every time you post something. The economy sucks right now. Job's suck right now. I think at this point, even though I have a "new" horse, I couldn't justify paying alot of money if something happened to her. She is 19, has lived a long fufilling life, but I cannot put my own personal economic state in havoc if something major happens to her.

I think that stems from my last dog that I had. He got cancer and I spent thousands (thats right, thousands) to try to keep him alive. In the end he died. It was a heartstring for me for more than a year trying to keep him going. I put myself into debt and it has taken 4 years to pay it off.

That was a hard lesson to swallow. I love my horse and my dogs, but I will not allow that to happen again. I have a budget for my horse and for my dogs, if it gets past that budget then I have to make the decision. It's hard, but it helps my family survive.

Lulu said...

I don't know the 'value' of your horses, but the 'value' of my horses is my sanity.

I chose a high stress career field because it came easily to me. What I didn't count on was the stress that came with the job. Without my stalls to clean and horses to work in the evening, I would be totally lost. They are how I unwind, they are how I cope, and they are how I enjoy my life.

For some of us they aren't a pet or a chosen luxury. For some of us they are our way of life.

(I tried to hang it up after a horrible accident only to find myself more depressed than ever before. So now I'm back at it, just on a smaller scale.)

Laura Crum said...

I totally think you're asking the right questions. I'm another one who has had horses her whole life. I bought my first horse at fifteen and have always owned a horse from then on--and I'm 52. I put myself in major debt to buy a good horse when I was twenty-five. I just spent a huge amount of money to save my son's horse through colic surgery. I have always paid my bills. But I have often been walking a thin line financially in order to have horses and care for them. For me, its been worth it. Much of the reason I saved my son's horse at a huge expense of money and time spent, is because of what that horse is giving my son. Like you said, they make us who we are. Horse people are people who can love...beyond the little human constructs. You learn to love the whole natural world and know your place in it through loving horses.

mugwump said...

Laura Crum said -You learn to love the whole natural world and know your place in it through loving horses.

I hadn't thought of that. You're right, I found myself and my place in the world through horses.

Danielle said...

I wish I had the answers. I have been without a horse for about 5 years now. Oh, I still get to ride and be around them (friends and family have horses, read the blogs, hit some shows just to watch), but it is not the same. Am I in a place in my life for a horse of my own again? Probably not... but that doesn't stop the itch, the need I feel inside.

Some day I keep telling myself (and my husband), someday.

badges blues N jazz said...

My life would mean nothing if I didnt have a horse in it. Period.

As long as I can afford to feed and take care of their feet and general needs, I will always have one.

Jasmine said...

One thing that hits me hard about this blog is the insurance. Not on the horses, on yourself.

Because life is dangerous. Add in horses and they are dangerous too. Not only to themselves but to us. How many times have 'accidents' happened to someone you know involving a horse?

As a child I broke bones regularly (every 5 years or so), fell off horses and caught every weird illness to come around (almost died from chickenpox of all things!). And despite what this might sound like I wasn't at all a 'sickly' child. My cousin was born with a hole in her heart the size of a quarter.

When I was 20 years old I was diagnosed with cancer. My treatment cost over half a million dollars. My parent's health insurance covered all of it. 6 months later my fiance was diagnosed with (a separate and completely unrelated!) cancer. Thank somebody we were both in college and under our parents health insurance coverage.

My horse was precious to me and I think is the main reason behind who I am today. After my cancer treatment one of the first things I did was start riding again.

I'm aware that I'm a... unique case. LOL. So I certainly don't look down on people who don't have insurance. But it scares me for them. And for their animals.

I think responsible animal ownership is taking care of yourself as well. They depend on you and you need to be there for them. Therefore take care of yourself!

mugwump said...

Jasmine said-One thing that hits me hard about this blog is the insurance. Not on the horses, on yourself

I have battled insurance companies my entire life. For many reasons and through many situations they have not helped me. Insurance costs have crippled me and my family in so many ways.

Should I have quit self employment and run to the safety of company insurance?

I don't know.

I do my best to not look down on people who leave their dreams behind for the safety of insurance companies. So often they end up let down by the company anyway.

Jasmine, you were lucky. Not everybody has the insurance options you did, no matter what their choices.

Redsmom said...

I don't have exact dollar figures, I try to black that out, But if I didn't know I could borrow a few hundred from my mom at a moment's notice, I wouldn't have gotten the horses at all. My considerations are my 2 older horses are OLD. If it came down to colic surgery or something similarly expensive for them, they would be PTS. Regular colic, I can swing that. IDK what I would do about the 7 year old. I could probably put it on a credit card to save her life. What gets me is I have taken these guys for life, albeit shorter for the older ones, but a 20 and 23 year old horse can't be sold on without too much danger of a bad, bad end. So, here I am. No choice, but I don't mind right now. My job is pretty secure, state government, but if I lost it, I'd work at McDonald's to keep my horses.

Tried to teach Queenie, the younger one to sidepass yesterday. I even had my daughter on the ground pushing her over. She, did not get it. It is so frustrating.

mugwump said...

Redsmom -Maybe we'll have a sisepass lesson by Monday....

Kate said...

The questions you ask are ones I ask myself every day. I'm retired and so is my husband - neither of us has a pension and we have no group health insurance - our health insurance is our largest expense. We have 5 horses, and horse ownership and working with horses has shaped my life and that of my two daughters - for the good. I no longer show much so that isn't so much of an issue. But there's the cost of keeping horses - board (or the cost of your own place), farrier, regular vet (or frequent vet if you're unlucky), dentist, chiro - essential for one of our horses. It adds up. I feel I have to be sure that my horses are getting adequate care - feed, turnout, protection from the weather, feet and teeth - to be sure they are adequately cared for. If I couldn't provide that much care I would sell one or several (except for my old retired ones) and figure out some way to ride or be around horses. Horses, and the process of learning to care for them and work with them, have added so much to my life, I don't think I could be without. Being outside in the natural world and seeing and observing what goes on there is important to me as well, and horses are part of that too.

i know nothing said...

Geez Mugs, you need to snap out of this funk! Have you not been riding enough lately? We are all Horsaii here, and it seems that you are dwelling on trying to fit your Horsaii round peg self (figuratively! don't assume any other connotations here) into a square hole. I think most of us would be pretty miserable without our horses. It makes me cranky just thinking about what I would do with my time if I didn't have a barn to clean twice a day and go for a ride in between. Or even not ride. I just like having them. If you're going to get all sensible, you wouldn't have horses at all and you would be very unhappy and lose a large part of your identity.

A friend bred her reining mare to a well known cowhorse and had a poorly conformed colt. He had to have surgery to correct his front legs. They are still very ugly, way toed out and looong pasterns. She sent him as a long yearling to her big shot trainer for 3 months and sold him for $950. Less than one month's training bill. But he's off the payroll, and the new gal loves him. Seems like she could have sold him for that without any training, but that was her decision.

I'm not saying that anyone should be financially irresponsible about owning our horses. I most certainly have been at times when vet bills arose that had commas in them. It's easy to get tangled up with the vets in the 'you can fix him' thing. It's interesting and $ for them, but for the owner...
And I would never encourage anyone else to live beyond their means. Speaking of means, it seems that the housing market here in No. Cal is breaking out of its own funk slowly. Hubby is in development and says that things are finally looking up.

It's also easy to be a third party looking at someone else's dilemmas and make a decision about what you would do. So, my third party suggestion to you is to decide which horses you really want to keep and immediately begin marketing the others and get them off your payroll. Selling them to a good new owner, even if it's for less than what they are worth, still saves money in the long run. You'll feel better just DOING something and then get back to Horsaii peace and zen and happiness and balance.

Thanks for all your insightful thoughts and training tips.

chamoiswillow said...

This is something that was emailed to me sometime ago and it touched me so deeply I saved it. It is going to be two comments at least, for which I apologize. And while I do not (yet) have a daughter, it very much applies to me growing up, and still even today. See below:

My daughter turned sixteen years old today; which is a milestone
for most people. Besides looking at baby photos and childhood
trinkets with her, I took time to reflect on the young woman my
daughter had become and the choices she would face in the future.
As I looked at her I could see the athlete she was, and determined
woman she would soon be.

I started thinking about some the girls we knew in our town who were
already pregnant, pierced in several places, hair every color under
the sun, drop outs, drug addicts and on the fast track to no where,
seeking surface identities because they had no inner self esteem.
The parents of these same girls have asked me why I "waste" the
money on horses so my daughter can ride. I'm told she will grow out
of it, lose interest, discover boys and all kinds of things that try
to pin the current generation's "slacker" label on my child. I don't
think it will happen, I think she will love and have horses all her
life. ..........

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has compassion. She
knows that we must take special care of the very young and the very
old. We must make sure those without voices to speak of their pain
are still cared for.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned responsibility
for others than herself. She learned that regardless of the weather
you must still care for those you have the stewardship of. There are
no "days off" just because you don't feel like being a horse owner
that day. She learned that for every hour of fun you have there are
days of hard slogging work you must do first.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned not to be afraid
of getting dirty and that appearances don't matter to most of the
breathing things in the world we live in. Horses do not care about
designer clothes, jewelry, pretty hairdos or anything else we put on
our bodies to try to impress others. What a horse cares about are
your abilities to work within his natural world, he doesn't care if
you're wearing $80.00 jeans while you do it.

chamoiswillow said...

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned about sex and
how it can both enrich and complicate lives. She learned that it
only takes one time to produce a baby, and the only way to ensure
babies aren't produced is not to breed. She learned how babies are
planned, made, born and, sadly, sometimes die before reaching their
potential. She learned how sleepless nights and trying to outsmart a
crafty old brood mare could result in getting to see, as non-horse
owning people rarely do, the birth of a true miracle.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she understands the value of
money. Every dollar can be translated into bales of hay, bags of
feed or farrier visits. Purchasing non-necessities during lean times
can mean the difference between feed and good care, or neglect and
starvation. She has learned to judge the level of her care against
the care she sees provided by others and to make sure her standards
never lower, and only increase as her knowledge grows.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned to learn on
her own. She has had teachers that cannot speak, nor write, nor
communicate beyond body language and reactions. She has had to learn
to "read" her surroundings for both safe and unsafe objects, to look
for hazards where others might only see a pretty meadow. She has
learned to judge people as she judges horses. She looks beyond
appearances and trappings to see what is within.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned
sportsmanship to a high degree. Everyone that competes fairly is a
winner. Trophies and ribbons may prove someone a winner, but they do
not prove someone is a horseman. She has also learned that some
people will do anything to win, regardless of who it hurts. She
knows that those who will cheat in the show ring will also cheat in
every other aspect of their life and are not to be trusted.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has self-esteem and an
engaging personality. She can talk to anyone she meets with
confidence, because she has to express herself to her horse with
more than words. She knows the satisfaction of controlling and
teaching a 1000 pound animal that will yield willingly to her gentle
touch and ignore the more forceful and inept handling of those
stronger than she is. She holds herself with poise and
professionalism in the company of those far older than herself.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned to plan
ahead. She knows that choices made today can effect what happens
five years down the road. She knows that you cannot care for and
protect you investments without savings to fall back on. She knows
the value of land and buildings. And that caring for you vehicle can
mean the difference between easy travel or being stranded on the
side of the road with a four horse trailer on a hot day.

When I look at what she has learned and what it will help her
become, I can honestly say that I haven't "wasted" a penny on
providing her with horses. I only wish that all children had the
same opportunities to learn these lessons from horses before
setting out on the road to adulthood.

joycemocha said...

My horse is priceless to me. Yeah, she's also the best quality horse I've ever owned, but for what she's given me in peace of mind in the nearly four years I've owned her, I couldn't have paid a counselor to give me.

I had a horse in my life from age 8 to around 21, then went too damned long without even lessons in my life, 19 years. It took another seven years to be in a position to buy a horse.

I'm always tempted to add to the herd, but then I think about the ten months out of the year when I struggle to carve out time for the one I have, and that's enough for me. I have one really good horse. The barn's not the fanciest, but the trainer's a good hand. I don't show--thought about it, but I don't have the time for anything other than very minimal, low-level competition. In a way it's a shame, as well bred as she is, but I'm just not set up for it when it comes to time or money, or sacrificing other things I'd much rather do.

Nonetheless, we have fun practicing skills and working. Always lighter. Always less. She makes me work to the edge of my skill level, and as a result I'm a better rider--and, in training her, I find that I'm a more patient and better teacher.

There are dressage people who eschew competition and keep working on developing higher and higher level riding skills in their discipline. I'm a Western/reining person who's doing the same sort of thing. For me it's not about competition but about the quest for higher and better performance, with lighter touches and smoother balance. And I have the perfect horse to do this with--one who responds to what I ask, who has that athletic ability and talent.

Mugs, what I sense from what you write is that what you want peace with is the ability to walk away from the competition. It's perfectly okay to strive after performance perfection, but never enter a show ring. If anything, then you don't have to make the compromises you need to make to be competitive. You can strive for lightness and perfection on your own schedule. And that, my friend, is priceless.

(yeah, I can say that. My trainer's also a fairly high-level judge type. If he says we look good, I know we look good. He doesn't push me to go into the show ring).

paintarab said...

I think you bring up some very good points and they are all things I think about often these days. My husband and I have always kept an empty credit card in order to handle animal emergencies. Our theory/plan was that if the animal would only have minimal discomfort during/after a procedure and had a good chance at a quality life afterwards then we would fork over the money. However, that was when we both had secure jobs. Currently my husband only has part time work. I work full time, but I am currently at the bottom of the totem pole salary wise trying to work my way up. For the first time we don't know if our bills will be met each month. We make sure our animals have all of their required care each month, then we pay our. I have tried to minimize costs by having my horse on pasture board (and she is loving it!) and working off as much of her board as possible on the weekends. For now we are getting by. If we had kids (and all the expenses that come with them), I think we would have to look hard at whether we could keep all of our pets. The thought of ever not affording my horse makes me shudder. She is my sanity, but it wouldn't be fair to her or me if I couldn't keep her healthy. We still have an empty credit card, but now I'm not sure if we would be as quick to use it if a major pet emergency came up. It probably wouldn't be fare to our other pets to go broke trying to save one. I know that our situation isn't permanent as long as we are careful things will turn around. I hope to one day have a horse for my husband as well as have children...but that won't be until we are financially secure again. I think that thinking about the questions you have raised are what keep people from complete financial distress, a good plan as well as acknowledging our limits can help us stay out of trouble.

LuvMyTBs said...

My horses are the reason I get up every single day. I can not imagine nor would I choose to ever not have them. They are priceless to me in that I can not put a $$ value on them. Would I have more $$ and less worries if I only had 1 or 2...absolutely. Do I make sure they are always taken care of?
You bet. I am happiest on the farm or in the barn feeding,cleaning stalls,putting hay away,and even happier when I ride.
My husband says I am part of the herd,the 2 legged alpha mare! My sisters refer to our farm as "a world unto itself" and they don't really get it but they know it's where I am happiest and where I belong. Everything good about me has been because of horses.They are responsible for making me who I am so I will always in turn and with great love and devotion be reponsible for them.

Jasmine said...

Oh ack. My previous comment came out wrong--I should learn to listen to my instincts when it comes to posting. I think maybe it was the "don't look down on" phrase that seemed to imply that I felt the exact opposite?

I think what I meant to say was that I know what might be the right choices for me isn't the right choice for everybody. I really did NOT want to come off as saying that everybody should run off and go get cube jobs with health insurance. Didn't mean to get on my soapbox there. I guess maybe I'm afraid some people don't think about it? I know I didn't.

I also completely agree with your statement that I got lucky Mugs.


As far as the original posting topic of horse ownership goes... The biggest regret in my life is that I sold my horse when I went off to college. I should have listened to myself and fought for him. I could have but I didn't.

EveryoneThinksThey'reGoodDrivers said...

I'm coming in late and did not read all the comments.

When it comes to "affording" a horse. I think it comes down to being able to feed and it at home or at a boarding facility.

I also think "emergencies" come into play. People should think of them (but people already don't think of them with dogs and cats so why should be expect better from horse owners - animals that don't live in their homes and show no real affection except feeding time).

So, to me, affording is feeding, trimming, wormer, vacs, dental, sheath cleaning where appropriate, supplements where nessesary, shoes where appropriate. To me, these are the basics.

I could also go so far as to say that I think people should plan for their animals old age. Everybody gets old and everybody dies. Fact of life. Plan for it. Most of us will outlive our pets and our horses. If we think we won't, than we need a plan for them.

My 14 year old cat quit eating over a toothache. It is going to cost me $500+ for her dental next week. This is my idea of a "plan" for old age. These things happen. This is my plan.

I will put my horse on senior and beet pulp before I will put him down. I will shoe him for his arthritis before I will put him down. I vaccinate him to stave off sickness.

My biggest personal fear is being alone when it's my time to pass. I am afraid of being old and alone and dying.

So, for me, I will plan and care for my animals, as long as it makes sense to them.

Here is a question, should horse owning expenses also include education? Knowledge of horse behavior is pretty important if you want to own one. Knowledge of how to ride is likewise important if you plan to ride.

I think of the horse's well can have all the money in the world and still do someting stupid that kills your horse.

Where should the hypothetical line be drawn?

Great post (again).

InTheBridle said...

I may have a slightly different perspective from some of the other posters. I grew up in a horse-y family. My family, both sides, has had horses, used horses and competed with horses for generations. Most of us aren't pros, but we are almost all involved somehow with them. My immediate family wasn't wealthy, or even really middle class, but we had property, so I grew up with horses and 4-H and auditing clinics and reading books and learning from my family. No boarding barns, trainers, horse insurance, circuit showing or any of that, but as much riding as I could ever want and a good basis in horsemanship. I never even knew the party scene happened in my small-town high school, I was so immersed in horses.

Today, I'm lucky to have a farm, with my husband, so my horse lives at home. He has a pasture and an area where he can come in/out of the barn at will. He gets a bit of grain and vitamins every day, regular deworming, shoes reset every 7 weeks, good hay from our own fields, regular riding, daily grooming, and a visit from the chiropractor when he needs it. He doesn't get commercial horse-treats, 20 different supplements or have a wardrobe of blankets. He's happy, healthy and useful. He's not insured and because of limited funds, I don't show.

He's a nice horse, and I'd like to do some cowhorse with him some day, but for now we trail ride almost exclusively and this fall we're going to do some extreme trail competitions, for fun. If the horse was with a pro trainer, he'd probably be a pretty good cow horse. He's bred for it, built for it and good minded, but I don't think he stays awake at night lamenting his lack of spotlight time and there's certainly enough horses out there showing, so I don't think the industry misses us, either. What I need is to be able to throw my leg over a horse on a regular basis. Just because my current financial situation limits my dreams doesn't mean I have to deprive myself of a need that I'm sure must be encoded in my dna (horse contact!). Also, not being able to show doesn't mean I have to limit myself to what some people would consider a "trail horse." I think everyone should ride the nicest horse they can afford, that is still appropriate to their activities.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't think horse ownership is only for the wealthy, but neither do I think one should go into tremendous amounts of debt to pursue horse activities. I don't think insurance is necessary, as long as you're willing to make the hard call in case of catastrophic injury. In terms of your own income, you should not sacrifice you or your family's health. Vacations, new vehicles, home remodeling, landscaping, high speed internet, cable television and cell phones are all luxuries, as are horses. I think living without any of those things, so you can have a horse, is reasonable. Living on mac and cheese and dropping your health insurance, is not reasonable, unless you can throw some broccoli on the side of that Kraft dinner and keep your health insurance.

The way I grew up, selling a horse wasn't a strange occurrence. If you could make a horse better and send it on to a good home, that was something to be proud of. I never consider myself to be the only possible good home for a horse. If I had multiple horses and was feeling financial pressure, I wouldn't hesitate to put some, or all of them, on the market, especially if they are good horses in the prime of their lives. I do think it's selfish to take a good horse and turn it out for a few years, just to hold onto it, when it could be happy and useful in a new home. If you have a bunch of retirees, that's probably different, but I would put good horses on the market rather than just stockpiling them out of fear.

PRS said...

My horses represent sanity to me. I can't immagine not being able to afford them. I keep them on my own 5.5 acre piece of paradise. I don't show, I trail ride for pleasure exclusively. I've seen people do what you have and "gambling" is the best word for it. I would think that if you can't enjoy your horses except in some form of competition then you might want to re-evaluate exactly what it is that your horses really mean to you. Me, I just enjoy being with my horses, riding them in the company of like minded friends on familiar or not so familiar trails. By not having to pay for competitions I only pay for their physical needs and the cost of fuel to haul them to whichever trails we choose to ride that day. I won't drive any longer an hour to get there though. Lots cheaper than $500 entry fees where you are gambling whether or not you will win enough to cover your expenses for the day. I feel renewed and refreshed after a leisurely trail ride not stressed and upset wondering how I'm going to pay my light bill now that I blew the entry fees.

As much as my horses mean to me I won't mortgage my family's security just so I can have them. I would, however, take on a second job or something if money becomes a real problem.

littledog said...


Francis said...

Talk about nails hitting on the head..

I too have been lucky enough to have horses all of my life.. at times it was easy and times it was tough to keep them "in a manner to which they had become accustomed". I went through a phase early in life where more was better as far as horse numbers then realized that I couldn't possilby ride 6 let alone take care of them by myself.. I weaned down to one, then two as that one aged.. I thought I was doing well.. then I married a man (when I was 47, so I think I waited long enough!) who would understand my horse addiction because he had more than me!! Problem is, I married a man with more horses than I... and he is of the mind set that you do whatever you can to save/treat/take care of them to the detriment of your own personal stability. He is the University vet clincis favorite customer, because he is the one who is going to walk in and say "do whatever it takes!"

Now, if we were wealthy this would not be a problem but we aren't and we are suffering from the same crappy economy as the next person. Our horses continue to age and we are faced with decisions daily about health care and routine maintenance. I have a fairly healthy attitude about animal care and have a dollar figure in my head on each animal including the cat (17 years old) and the dogs. How do I bring him around to my way of thinking, that you do have to put a limit on what you can spend and yes, it does have to be based on quality of life vs quantity of life and that a young sound horse is worth more than my 31 year old (whom I love dearly but as his legs get worse and worse I get closer and closer to making *that* decision)...

It's tough.

And maybe I am the one who is wrong.. maybe we are morally bound to provide the absolute best care regardless .. accross the board.. but you are going to have to go pretty far to convinceme of that one!

olivia said...

This post really hits home with me right now. I sold my horse when I went to college because I knew there was no way I could afford him. I sold him to someone I thought I could trust and would have him forever. She promised me that she would call me if she ever was going to sell him. She sold him in an auction a few years later with when she got divorced. I have no idea of where he is now. After that I told myself that if I got a horse again it would be with me until death.

While in college I became a military wife I was not comfortable with getting a horse because I was afraid I would have to move and would not be able to take them with. Now my husband and I have our own place in the country, which I could have a horse at, but our jobs are not a secure as I would like and with the economy the way it is I am afraid of what could happen.

I really want a horse again but am I financially secure enough for one? I have been asking my self this for the last year.

barrelracer20x said...

For me, my horses are my therapists. They're what grounds me to be a better wife and a better mother. They're tools to help me and my husband teach our kids responsibility, respect, how to work hard and how to be humble. They help us take care of our cattle, which is a form of income for us, allbeit a small one.
To actually put a price on any of them leaves me lost in thought for a moment or sell one of them, which isn't unthinkable-I would have to feel 100% comfortable with where they were going to begin with. Then I'd have to be able to snag a price for them that would allow me to replace them with another horse that was just as good as they had been. Therein lies my dilemma! LOL I have realized that I can't afford my filly that I wanted to take to futuritys. I can barely ride my broke horses as it is (3 month old baby girl doesn't like anyone but me it seems!) and right now, I don't have the $500+ a month it would take to send her to a trainer, that is IF (big IF here) I could even find someone who would take her. The guys around here that use a horse every day don't want to use a filly, "they're too much trouble". So, as a direct result of all that, she's on the market. Does it make me happy? NO. I'm heartbroken that this filly that I hand-picked will get to be someone else's baby before too long, and that I won't be the one to start her on the pattern or to even ride her for that matter. My husband and I have already battled over who the potential buyers have been-I won't sell her to someone who will do nothing but stick her in a weedy 1/2 acre trap, and turn her into a baby machine. She has the bloodlines that will make her an outstanding broodmare some day, but she's also got the athleticism and build to make an awesome performance horse. I think it's the responsible thing to do to put her with an owner that agrees with that, rather than selling her to the first idiot that shows up with $$$.

buymeaclue said...

My favorite answer to this sort of thing was something I read on a BB, one time, and promptly adopted for myself. Goes a little like this.

One time, I sat down and added up all the money I'd spent on horses over the last however many years. Entry fees, equipment, vet bills, all of it. Did the math and then sat there for a while looking at the number I got. Big number. Really big.

Then I asked myself, "Self, if you'd had all that money over these last however many years, what would you have done? Bought a new car? Invested it? Taken some trips?" All kinds of cool and worthwhile and amazing things that money would've bought.

First thing that came to mind, though, wasn't any of that stuff. First thing that came to mind was, "I would've bought a horse."

mugwump said...

I know nothing- you are so right. I do need to snap out of it. I think it's the juggling for riding time thing getting to me...
chamoiswillow- that was really pretty. It's what I've felt all along.
Jasmine-I get it, really, you didn't say the wrong thing. You pointed out a hard reality.
everyone thinks- My bigggest fear is I'll die and my horses will be auctioned off.
PRS- I haven't given up on showing. I'm afraid I like it too much. But I've weaned myelf away and get I can enjoy my horses without it. So the shows can wait until I sort things out.
buymeaclue- Perfect. I guess the horsaii truly don't walk the path of practicality.

autumnblaze said...

I almost posted yesterday and would have been first or second. I'm glad I waited because it's interesting reading what everyone else had to say on the subject.

My whole life - 18 years of it I wished to be around horses but wasn't allowed. The more I was able to be with them, the more I wanted to be. I'm still not sure what fueled it entirely since I was around them so little when I was young. Maybe because when it came to them I was always told no but I don't think so. I think I always felt like I belonged in their company.

As I've said, I took on my first horse at the beginning of this month. I struggled with the decision - financally, time constraints everything. I worried my husband would resent it. I decided such an opportunity may never present itself again and I jumped.

Driving home from the barn... it has hit me almost everytime I leave. I feel whole. I am truly happy. It has brought me to tears several times and I take a second to savor the moments. I'm sweaty and smell like horse and it's late and my dogs need walking and the laundry needs done...

but I'm home. With my horse, that is. I center. I head home okay again, no matter what my day was like. They just have that effect on me and no one or no other thing has ever had that effect.

I've said before I wonder who I'd have been had I had horses growing up... I think I'd have been very similar but I wouldn't have struggeled so to find 'my place'.

I think horses are part who you and your daughter are. What's wrong with that?

I think we all do our best by them, and I actually truly believe they know that on some level when we're fair. It's very evident in many horses who have done without and have not been treated fairly.

Financially, they are technically worth what someone else will pay for them. No more, no less.

Thing is though, I've found, anything that's ever been worth having for me is rarely measurable in terms of money. It's an unfortunate constraint and major reality but somehow you and many people have made it work. The richness that has entered my life just recently... there is little I would trade it for. That's all I know.

mocharocks said...

buymeaclue- that was hilarious...I think about what I would have done with all the money all the time and that sounds about right :)

Redsmom said...

Yes, show the followers of the blog. Its great fun.

fuglyhorseoftheday said...

At this point, I have decided my two rules are (a) always have multiple income streams so that if one dries up or goes away suddenly, you have something to fall back on and (b) don't loan money under any circumstances...I am not a bank and heck, that hasn't even turned out well for the actual banks!

I have a lot less horses than I used to and will not be making or buying any more unless/until the economy changes a lot. For now, I have 2 jobs and am also continuing to climb out of my own financial hole.

It's a scary time...I just know so many people who've lost excellent jobs, jobs they never expected to lose. I am so grateful to be working that it's not funny. I know a lot of people whose horse ownership is hanging by a thread at this point, and it's not like it's easy to sell if you have concluded that you must.

Kosicle said...

The other day I saw a trivia question, 'how much on average is spent on a dog in 11 years?'. I had no idea- it wasn't something I'd EVER think about because it's not the money that matters- it's the relationship. turned out it was $13,350. (although how do they know that?) I think about the fact that I'll never go without a dog. The thousands upon thousands of dollars I could save. Would it be worth it? Nope. Never had a horse, but I'd be willing to bet it's the same sort of thing. It's never about the money. Poster # one was right- our animals are priceless. They shape us and teach us, they help us become better people. They are all gifts from God.

Jennifer said...


I recently have found myself up to my eye balls in horses......
WHY? you ask.....
BECAUSE no one else wants them.

My husband and I took in a horse that my ex and I brought into this world. The ex sold him to a friend, who sold him to his neighbor, who STARVED HIM almost to death (when I say you could put an open newspaper on one side of him and stand on the other and read it i'm NOT kdding) and then sold him to a friend of ours. We got talking one day about this pretty little dun and white paint colt (he was 2 and not gelded yet) they bought from a friend. Long story short I realized who he was and went to see him. I didn't even get out of the truck for a close look. From hundreds of feet away what I saw brought tears to my eyes.
I felt responsible. How did I let this happen? Why had I allowed this gorgeous animal to be treated so terribly?
So, we picked him up that next weekend and have been taking car of him since. The 'friends' were supposed to be paying us for his food....which didn't happen. Now, he's ours because they owe us far more in feed than he is worth.
I was responsible for him being here, and I feel responsible to make sure that he NEVER lives a moment with out food, shelter, or love again.
So, that added to our already over crowded brood.
A friend 'traded' a horse for another horse more suited to her. I helped her find the horse she got rid of. Horse came up for sale again and I happened to have a 4-H girl in need. So, again feeling a bit of misplaced responsibility, this one came home too.
Add to that our recent purchase of a horse we have tried to buy for the past three years, the mini and pony my husband won't part with, my old mare, our young filly and my husband's cow horse....we have 8 equine. Yep, that's right, 8.
Nope....we don't have high paying jobs. Nope, no family money. We struggle. Every day, to provide for the animals that we have brought into our lives.
I'm sorry, but we decided to 'take these animals on' and they will eat before we do, if it comes down to it. They didn't ask to be here, but we made the conscious decision to provide them care. It won't stop just because we have fallen on hard times.
Too many people are doing that already.
We will make's just going to be tough for a while.
:) Sorry that's so long, I didn't mean for it to be that way.

Anonymous said...

What's the value of your horses?

Sometimes they are my sanity...and sometimes I think they are my insanity. I dream at night sometimes of horses with protruding ribs, horses with no hay, and no bags of feed in the barn. It seems like if you want to do much with your horse at all it takes money. Big money if you want to excel at any particular discipline. My hope, and my dream was always endurance. This past year I have applied my mind logically to what it would cost in real world dollars to truly chase that dream, a dream that has no payback other than the joy of having done it. Big $$$$ to be on the road every weekend, more $$$$ if I want a horse that would be truly competitive (like sell the farm to get that much money), living quarter horse trailer to withstand the heat and the cold, better equipment. As a hobby, I can muster a few rides a year with what I have if my horse gets with the program, but to really embrace the sport in the way I had always hoped once the kids are raised? Not on my budget and I've pretty much ran low on time being over 50.

But this morning...feeling particularly sad about a death in the family, I trudged out to the lean to shed to drop a few tears on my old, half blind arabian mare, the horse I love almost better than life. I scratched her itchy places, and just lived in the moment. It felt good.

I don't know how long I'll be able to afford horses, especially in the precariousness of this economy. I'm not sure what I will do if I find I can't afford them. Even to re-home you are never "sure" of the horse's longterm well being.

But tonight...everyone has their heads down deep in a feed bucket. Life is good. Hoping it stays that way. ~E.G.

paintarab said...

I had also worried over what would happen to my horse if something ever happened to me. I was particularly concerned because my horse has a lot of trust issues and thus has only ever allowed two people to ride her. When my husband and I bought a house we each bought a life insurance policy. Neither one of us could afford our mortgage without the other's salary. I have now left instructions for my horse to be returned to her previous owner (who still lovers her dearly) along with a portion of my insurance policy to help pay for her expenses for a decent portion of her life. This was my best solution to feel at easy about her future if something were to happen to me.

Jesse said...

My mare is 20 this year. I don't have insurance on her. I wouldn't have insurance on her.

At this point, I figure she's lived about two-thirds of her life, and I wouldn't do anything heroic to prolong her life. Regular vet care? Of course. Any sort of major surgery? Not so much.

At some point, I'd have to ask myself, is that for her or for me? I mean, she's twenty. Not ancient, by anyone's standards, but not a youngin' with her whole life ahead of her.

She got me through the rough parts of my teenage years. She pulled me out of a depression so deep, I couldn't see the end of it. I don't think I'd be here without her.

Which is why I owe it to her to let her slowly become a grand old lady, stuffing her face full of pasture grass all day, while I work my ass off trying to pay her board, my rent, and tuition.

She's worth the long nights, the early mornings and never having quite enough time. She's also worth the heartbreak I know it will cause me when her time comes.


That said, Am I economically stable enough to own a horse?

Hell no. I'm in college.

There's a formula where you take your income after taxes and everything and 50% of that should go towards your needs - housing, food, transportation etc. 30% should go towards your wants - horses, cable tv, eating out etc. The remaining 20% should be saved. If I could manage that and the 'wants' part ended up big enough to cover my horse expenses, I'd feel extremely comfortable financially. In fact, that formula seems conservative to me.

Unfortunately though, conservative or not that financial picture looks nothing like my current picture. -_-

Here's hoping I find a job when I graduate in December?

Deered said...

This is why I don't have a horse - and won't for a while. yeah, it seriously sucks. However I can afford grazing (pasture board), however I'd then have to do everything, to maintain that horse, rotate pasture (essential in the winter here)and currently, it's too cold and wet for grass to grow, a lot of paddocks are turninginto bogs, and I'd finish work and be doing the chores in teh dark, and I wouldn't have the indoor arenas that you have in the US to work my horse in.
Logistically I can't do it. Financially, I might be able to, time wise, no, I'd end up riding a couple of times a week, trying to do what I used to be able to do and getting myself hurt.
It's not worh it. and it sucks every time I see a horse on TradeMe that I know I could handle!
I guess that is my piece towards responsible horse ownership... I don't own one!
(However I do get to live vicariously through all of you!)

My horses though kept me sane through high school, and did the same for my sister - we would have been different people if it wasn't for horses.

LuvMyTBs said...

After reading through the posts it seems we all have been shaped and made better people thanks to the horses in our lives. They have taught us all so much and we all seem to look to them for sanity(or insanity),pleasure,companionship,friendship,a sense of need and belonging.I know the feelings I have for mine are worth more than any vacation or other stuff I could buy,and they have done more for me in the way of mental health and happiness then any therapist could.

nagonmom said...

Theres having 2 horses and riding in your local area. There's trailering out to trail ride. There's boarding and training and taking lessons. And there's competing, showing. Expenses vary with the level you chose to play the game. First you need to provide for yourself (Health care, dental, real food, ) and kidlette (education, plus above). Then what do you have left? Two horses in the closest self-care board? Would that satisfy the craving for muzzle whiskers and nickers? My point is that having horses is a different financial burden than "going to the big time". I am probably backing off from pursuing reining as a serious hobby, both due to the money and time involved. I cannot casually buy a horse and resell it if financial disaster hits. I have learned this. My first equine commitment is to the ones I already have. No more for me for now. But if I win the lottery.....

Anonymous said...

Please print where you took that from. As in the author's name, please.
She has gotten tired of chasing the plaigaristic thieves..
Here's the link to that particular article, which she had to take down.
It's a lovely sentiment, written by this person
I've read it before, on her blog.

Thanks for posting, but always give credit where due.

Amber said...

I don't think I'd insure a horse unless it was valuable (monetarily, not emotionally). And I'll probably never own a valuable horse. I like the free and cheap horses.

My current horse is 20, I've had him for a year and a half. And he's not a candidate for surgery at his age, and not insurable due to lack of "value" and his age. He is insured against theft for $500, I didn't seek it out, it was a part of the liablity insurance (which is DIRT CHEAP with my homeowner's).

What other expenses beyond housing, feed, worming, trims, and shots are really necessary? Once you've bought all your tack there's no other expenses beyond the regular stuff. And aside from possibly a saddle, the same stuff can even be used on all or most of your horses.

Showing isn't a necessary part of owning horses. It can be fun, but as you pointed out, it can be terribly expensive. If you can't afford it, don't do it. Who cares. Your horse probably doesn't.

drifter said...

On a somewhat related note, I need some suggestions.

I have a mare who cut the back of her front pastern pretty bad and it needs to be wrapped. Only she keeps ripping the wrap off, daily. (Twice yesterday) Any suggestions to get her to leave the wrap alone. She is in a small grassy pen with a buddy. I don't know if she is bored or if the wrap bothers her. Any homemade toy suggestions or thoughts on how to get her to leave the wrap alone would be appreaciated.


HorsesAndTurbos said...

On another subject...

I've been pondering Janet's "Less is More" approach, and yesterday, being tired, decided to try it riding than jumping. I've been riding Starlette for 3 years, owned her for two, so we are pretty bonded right now.

I relaxed in the saddle, and while at a walk, thought of changing directions, and just turning a little without any leg. She went in each direction I asked. Then I made sure I was relaxed, and thought "trot"...she picked right up into one without any conscious leg cues! Her halts are a little lacking (she has gone from a horse that had no move to a horse that likes to go), but we will work on that.

I then had an "Aha!" moment asking her to canter. Let's see if I can break this down into steps...when I ask her to go into a posting trot, I find the right diagonal leg and start to post - so she feels my legs squeeze/hip motion shifting forward, then starts to trot.

I have been having off-and-on success asking for a canter and her going right into it. Trying Janet's theory at a canter - i.e., I sat back, relaxed and thought "canter", I realized that the times I was getting the jack-hammer trot was when I was tensing up (and probably forward) just like I would when I'd ask her to she was giving me a trot. I'd then squeeze harder, but still in the pre-trot postion, and she'd go faster.

Yesterday I had the jack-hammer trot once, then the lights went on, and the second time I asked her to canter, I sat back and relaxed, and she went right into it. I am obviously going to have to practice more, but I think I've discovered one of my problems :)

Now we are going to work on the "Less is More" theory all the time!


Bo Delmont said...

I feel your pain; we have 4 horses and live in an area where my horse bills every month including board are more than my mortgage. But I agree with what someone else says; I get more in return, so that the money I feel is well spent. I also feel that if my horse are not well cared for in terms of medical or food I would give them up. It's very tough and many nights I wonder if I would be better off with out them. But also my 4 are all rescues with very bad histories so if it were not for us they wouldn't be here at all.. I just hope karma comes back, I could use a little good luck one of these days. :)

Laura Crum said...

Hey mugwump--my email is down so if you're trying to reach me, that's why no answer.

Justaplainsam said...

I'm not sure but I do know Im not there yet! I have not owned a horse in 10 years. Between the upkeep, the 'what if's', and the fact that I could not currently keep a horse in the level that I would want it to be kept.

Im lucky in that the filly I show is owned by people who are more than happy with me helping out with some show costs, and allowing me to show her. Although if a medical issue came up I would help out with the cost, I would also accept that if it was too much money or if the chances of recovery were slim I would rather see her put down

Rerider said...

I am so very blessed to have the family I do- my parents own a farm, & my grandparents own a hay farm, so I can board for pretty much free. Toby (my 15 year old, the former rearer) & Clue, my 3 year old are at my grandparents right now. There's so much grass that I'm having a hard time keeping them from being too fat. Lovely problem to have. Its enabling me to save up what I would have spent on feed so that I can be prepared to feed them in the winter. Farr, my 37 year old, is at my parent's farm, helping my 6 year old sister learn to ride. Right now, things are really tight. I can afford to feed them, have the farrier out, & pay for coggins & vaccinations, but if one of them has an emergency (other than colic or simple stitches), I don't have the resources to handle it. That's why Clue is for sale. I wouldn't feel comfortable selling Toby, knowing his previous issues, and Farr is not going anywhere. She's earned the right to stay in one place until she passes, and if it came to that, I'd have her PTS before I gave her to anyone.

Big question for Janet- my 16 year old sister's horse, Red, has a problem UNLOADING from the trailer. He'll load himself in, and stand patiently (I don't tolerate pawing or kicking, and he's never offered), but as soon as we touch the handle to unlatch the door, he blasts backwards like a bat out of hell. The trailer is a 2-horse straight load, & if the divider is out & he can turn around, he still blasts backwards. At first I thought he might be uncomfortable with the step while he was backing & the speed was to compensate, but having backed him over everything I can think of (poles, cavaletti, etc.), that really doesn't seem to be it. What can we do about it? Everything else is in place- great manners, wonderful disposition, behaves everywhere and as close to bomb proof as I've seen a horse. Help, please?

Union Square said...

Without reading the other comments (I will in a moment..)

For me, life without gambling is simply existence. I work for a huge company and my stock is very high there. I could devote all my time to this career and in ten years' time rise very high. Economy providing.

For... what? For this company, which I love and respect, to make more money? While I continue to make my yearly raise? Are you kidding me? I don't care how much I love this company, I cannot let them define me and my value.

With the horses, my gamble and my love, I can pour my energy into something that could potentially pay off. It could make my day more than another daily grind. It gives me the opportunity to be more than what someone else tells me I'm worth.

It's a gamble to invest in a horse - just like the stock market.

There is also the undeniable factor that if you love horses, if you are That Person, you cannot live without them.

I tried. I tried living a real life, with a great job and vacations and money to burn. It was great!

Except, what do you do in the evening when you're home from work and supper is over with and there's still daylight outside? Sit and watch television fo three hours?

What do you do on Saturday morning when you wake up early in the suburbs? Listen to lawnmowers and look out the window at the shrubbery?

What do you do when you realize you don't fit in your jeans anymore, because you're not riding and mucking out and throwing hay bales? Pay money to be surrounded by people in an air-conditioned space, watching CNN from the treadmill?

You take everything you saved from not having horses, you move out to the country, and you start again.

Don't waste your time trying to live the 'burb life, it's the reason why psychotherapists have big houses and Self-Improvement and Diets are the most popular sections at Barnes & Noble.

Anonymous said...

Rerider, Janet covered loading/unlodading problem horses a little while ago. Check the links on the side I think you will find some help.

Rerider said...

The 3 posts I read covered loading into the trailer, and unloading a reluctant backer (neither are the issue). Did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

Rerider, the same slow process of in and out will teach what you want the horse to do.

Do you not tie your horse in the trailer?

Rerider said...

I tie the horses in the trailer, but I untie them (entering through the tack room in front) before we open the door to unload them. The issue is HOW to make him back slowly- he's fine as long as the door hasn't been closed, and we can work on it one foot at a time, but as soon as we proceed to the next level (loading him & closing the door), he starts the whole flying backwards thing. We've been working on it almost every day for months now. I really don't want him to wind up hurting someone.

Anonymous said...

Stop untying him before you open the door. Use two ropes if you need to. You could hold one and leave him tied with the other or tie both and wait until he stops trying to fly out the back before you untie one, then wait and untie the second rope.

Jesse said...

Personally, I wouldn't have a horse tied in a trailer with the door open. Especially, if the horse had been known to fly out.

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