With the media full of talk of rising interest rates and financial cutbacks, our budgets are being stretched together with also fuel and food prices on the rise. This means the cost of horse ownership has taken a battering in these tough times. The average household income is becoming stretched to find the money just to heat our homes, feed our families and run our cars. Pet ownership may be considered to be a luxury item these days and horse ownership still has the stigma of being a hobby only the rich can afford. This couldn’t be further from the truth when people from all walks of life own horses.
Buying a horse used to be the most expensive part of the hobby, but the costs of looking after them now outweigh this initial outlay. Shoeing costs have gone up by over a third over the last ten years, with feed prices in some cases have doubled. Hay has seen erratic pricing over the last few years with the weather being the benchmark of some fair prices to the extortionate. Vets bills have always remained high but call out fees have increased due to fuel costs, which the vet has had no choice but to pass this cost on to the customer. This together with the annual dental check up, insurance premiums and your weekly livery bill are just more additional costs that are added to our dearly beloved hobby.
There are other costs that we all seem to conveniently forget about. How about maintenance of the stable and fields? Every year there is always something that needs replacing a new water trough or some more electric fencing or battery unit. Hedges need cutting, muck heaps need removing and fences need fixing. How many rugs have you replaced over the years when the hole or rip has been stitched a dozen times over can no longer be mended or another leg strap has been lost in the field forever? Lotions and potions for ailments are always needed together with the equipment you need to ride your horse from tack to riding hats, from jodhpurs to replacing leaking wellies. Hats, gloves, jackets are all needed to be able to keep dry and warm in our tough winters we now seem to be having.
Other hidden costs are travelling and taking part in shows and events, arranging and paying for the care of your horse when you cannot look after them, and also the added luxury of horse riding lessons are all part of the ballooning costs being stretched. These are some of the first things that horse owners look to cut back on, which has a huge knock on effect on horse trainers and equestrian centres struggling to fill their classes.
Bargain hunting and scouring auction sites seem to be the norm now as we look to make some of our own horse ownership spending cuts! The sensible budget watching horse owner should really keep a monthly track on what is being spent, with any spare being put away for emergencies. The “normal” horse owner however never adds up what their horse costs – the sheer shock would be too much to take! Many out there have simply found it impossible to finance their beloved horse and have had to make the heartbreaking decision to sell them or put them out on loan to ease the financial pressure. Horse charities are struggling to keep up with the number of welfare and rehoming cases they see, mainly caused by this very problem. Irresponsible breeding with horses saturating the market is also a major factor to the predicaments faced by these charities. Some have no option but to have some of these horses put to sleep and now all we are hearing is the scandal that some have made it into the food chain, consumed by the unsuspecting public.
What is the answer? We cannot give up on our much loved horses. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution. There are very few horse owners that simply give up but struggle on making every cost cutting corner that they can make. Buying from clearance sales or making second hand purchases together with a “make do and mend” attitude, can help get through this difficult time. Getting together with other horse owners on your yard and bulk buying in feed, bedding or hay can also save the pennies. Other options such as part loaning your horse out to help with costs is also a cheap way of somebody being able to ride too. Giving up is the last resort and there is always a solution to making sure your horses are still cared for. It just means that we have to be a little more frugal these days and being a bit cleverer with these rising costs. After all, don’t we owe it to these horses who give us so much pleasure to make sure their future is secure?
Written by Samantha Hobden: Owner of hay-net.co.uk
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