Most Americans are feeling the financial crunch of the current economic times. As the price of almost everything rises, some of us are having to get creative in the ways we budget and spend our money when it comes to horses and showing. Traditionally, owning and riding horses is a sport of privilege, as horses, and all things equine that come along with them, are notoriously expensive.
So, if you are one of the millions who are affected by the current economy and inflation, what can you do to make showing and competing still attainable this year?
Ashley Fant, owner and head trainer at Ashley Fant Show Stables, has numerous realistic budgeting ideas to help keep you in the show ring. Her first piece of advice is to “budget what’s realistic for you.” Competing and showing are vital learning experiences for both the equine and equestrian, so choosing not to show at all should be a last resort if at all possible. Instead of bowing out completely, there are other options to help you budget and fund horse shows this year.
Make a list of what you can do at home to prepare. Perhaps there are little sacrifices here and there you can make to create space in your budget to show. For example, can you learn to body clip at home? What about braiding or grooming? Could you learn to pull your horse’s mane yourself? If so, Ashley recommends learning and practicing these grooming skills and techniques well-ahead of time so that you’re prepared by show time. These grooming practices are also services you can offer to other competitors at the showgrounds to generate income. Do you have a barn and trainer you mesh well with? Maybe you can become a working student and save money on lessons by feeding and cleaning stalls at the barn where you train.
Other simple things you can do to save money while at a show include packing a picnic lunch and bringing your own water bottles. Ashley states that while it’s important to support vendors at a show, it may not be practical to buy every bottle of water plus three meals per day. If feasible, camp out of your trailer instead of booking a hotel if you travel to an out of town show. If you don’t have a trailer with living quarters, share a hotel room with a friend or fellow competitor. Can you carpool with anyone to split the cost of fuel?
The second piece of advice Ashley offers is to plan: plan the same way you would for a vacation. Ashley notes, “getting organized ahead of time will help you end up saving money.” If you can’t do a show every month, she suggests picking a couple- maybe one in the spring and one in the fall you can work towards and look forward to. Be “judicious in choosing extra classes,” Ashley states. Do you really need the warm-up classes? That depends on the horse, but if you don’t need them, that can be a potential area in which to save some money.
Consider the levels of shows. “If one large show will blow your budget, consider a few schooling shows and a local A-rated show instead,” Ashley says. Here in the Mid-South we are lucky to have a variety of shows in our region. Maybe a couple of one-day schooling shows and a two to three day A-rated show fits into your budget more easily.
Areas you should definitely not cut back on include lessons, vet care, and farrier services, Ashley says. Of course, these are vital to the health of your equine and the success of your progression as an equestrian, so you don’t ever want to decrease spending in these areas. Instead, get creative in budgeting, funding, and planning your shows. “Making decisions with a little more gravity,” as Ashley says, will help keep you in the show ring.