It was once said that if you owned horses you were a rich person.
That might be true, but my experience tells me that if you had money before owning horses, you don't have money anymore. Keeping horses takes a lot of time and money. This economy has been hard on everybody. Horse owners are always looking for ways to cut down costs to keep their animals in this tough economic climate. But you don't have to go without. Here are some tips that will help cut costs and maybe even have healthier and better animals because of it.
* Don't skimp on routine horse vet care. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Not only are emergency vet visits expensive but generally healthy horses cost less than sick or injured horses. Healthy horses maintain weight better, work better, and are more resistant to diseases and injuries. Treating a sick horse can easily run thousands of dollars and you also risk losing your horse. Also a routine visit may be able identify problems before treatment becomes very expensive.
* Don't skimp on hay. Your horse, at minimum, should eat 1 pound of hay for every 100 pounds of body weight and up to 3 pounds hay for every 100 pounds of bodyweight. Good quality hay or pasture should be the foundation of your feeding program. It is not uncommon to ask to see a hay analysis done on the hay you are purchasing. Using the hay analysis is one way for you to determine the rest of your horse's nutritional needs. Some hay such as alfalfa will have a lot of calories and protein which may be better for a horse in a vigorous workout routine. Grass hay may have more fiber and could be fine for a horse that gets ridden only once in awhile.
Many healthy horses can survive on good quality hay year round and need very little grain, if any. As always, make sure your hay is not moldy or dusty. If your horse isn't able to have hay, then it is very important to select a complete feed that can be fed without hay.
* Don't forget to deworm your horses. Again you don't have to use the most expensive wormer out on the market, but it is important that you stick to your worming program.
* Look into buying your feed in bulk. Having two or three horse friends go in to buy feed in a bulk order can help save a few dollars. Do not use any grain that is overly dusty, has mold or insects in it.
*Buy gently used items. There are a lot of horse accessories that can be found for less than retail if you buy them used. For example, the next size up in helmet that your 4H-er just grew out of or that new saddle pad that you need. Buying used is a great way to get some of those items that might not be necessities but are nice to have such as that great show shirt that fit you like a glove but retailed for too much.
*Organize or participate in a swap meet of horse tack and riding clothes. There are a few saddle clubs that will hold these types of events or you can organize your own. This is a great place to get rid of the "what was I thinking" riding pants and the "It never fit" bridle. Many times these things are just what someone else wanted or needed. You may get something you needed and have more space in the tack room to keep it in.
*Resole your boots. Don't get rid of your most comfortable pair of riding boots just because they are getting a little worn out. Send them to get resoled. It costs about half as much as a new pair of boots and they will still be comfortable.
*Give that old leather a shine. This is great for old leather boots that need a pick me up. Instead of using expensive leather polish, try a little extra virgin olive oil and a rag. It is fairly inexpensive and easy. I wouldn't recommend this method on your show saddle as it might tint the leather, but I think we all have some old leather that could benefit form a little cleaning and polish. Giving these leather items a cleaning will help make them last longer eliminating the need to buy new at least for a little while.
I am sure there are many other tips that you are using to help keep your horse affordable. I would love to hear them. You can email me at Adelchambre@purdue.edu or put them on my Facebook page Putnam County Agriculture or Twitter them to AgAgent. Or simply give me a call at 765-653-8411.
Ann DelChambre is an extension educator at the Putnam County Extension Office.