The Horse Owners Financial Plan

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I am not a financial expert. Please know that the plan below is what works for me, and something I have found to work for a few other horse people. Money is a personal thing, and the outline listed below may not work for you. I do think that the plan below could work for anyone, but that doesn’t mean it is the right thing for you. Typically, places in the country that are expensive to live in have higher salaries, but we know that is not always the case. I have found that the financial plans that work the best are the ones that are the easiest to follow. There is a little initial leg work involved in setting this up, but once you start doing it, it should be easy to maintain. It doesn’t matter if you only have one income coming in to the house or two, if you have kids or not, the plan is simple and is really just looking at what comes in versus what goes out.

The Horse Owners Financial Plan is based on percentages and I created it so I could live a balanced horse owning life. Most of your income should go to your living expenses, but you should also plan part of your income for horses, savings and of course fun. Yes, life is life and some months you will get a surprise bill, but this plan is about living life in a balanced way and saving for the rainy day so when those surprises come, you can handle it. You can tweak this plan if needed with a few extra percent on one thing or another, but the plan and how it is presented is how it has worked best for me. It really isn’t very complicated. Below is the Horse Owners Financial Plan in an easy pie chart, which basically sums up the plan in a neat little picture. All you need to do it take your bills from the last few months, see how they fit in with the chart, and adjust as necessary. Easy right?


Okay, so how do you find out what your bring home salary is? Take a look at your paycheck (and your significant others pay check if you have two incomes) and figure out if anything comes out of it (such as health insurance, school tuition, child support, retirement savings, etc). If things come out, add them back in, if nothing comes out then just take the number on your pay check and multiple it by how many pay checks you get a year. Write that number down, that is you income after taxes. We will use it to do the math for everything else.

Living expenses should be less than 50% of your bring home income:

  1. Mortgage/Rent/Property taxes
  2. Utilities such as water/sewer/electric/gas
  3. Health Insurance
  4. Basic food needs/cleaning supplies
  5. Cable/satellite/internet
  6. School tuition
  7. Student Loans/Credit Card Minimums/other debts you already have

The first category, and the largest, is living expenses. This category is a hard one because some things that we consider living expenses are actually things that are more to make our life comfortable and not actually essential. I used to believe in the idea that your mortgage should be 40% of your income, but as a horse owner that just doesn’t work. I had to make major cuts in my quality of life (heat set to 60 in the winter, no internet at home, etc) because at 40% going towards the mortgage the other living expenses were killing me. It wasn’t until I became a two income household that I really felt financial stable (get it) again. As someone with a horse, the best thing you can do to be financially sound is to keep all of your essential living expenses to 50% or less of your bring home income.

If you do the math and you find that it doesn’t work out, think about what can adjustments you can possibly make to get down to that 50%. For me, I got lucky, my husband came along giving me another income source without any extra work😉 Before him my living expenses ranged from 60-65% of my income and I can tell you first hand, just being able to get that number down below 50% has made a huge difference in my life. If anyone hit 50% or less on their first round of calculations I am very impressed with you! For the rest of us, can you find a way to get to the 50% mark?

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are spending over 50% of you bring home income on livings expenses. Do you really need to live the way that you live? Have you called the cable/internet provider to tell them you will cancel (which sounds scary, but they have always given me a discount for at least a few months whenever I do it)? Do you need both TV and Internet services? Can you make adjustments to your grocery bill? Does your child have to go to private school/Do you have to pay for their college tuition? Hopefully you don’t have any number 7 items, but if you do, ask yourself how long it will take to pay everything off if you only pay the minimums and how much more money will you have once you do?

Horse expenses should be less than 15% of your bring home income:

  1. Board or the cost of supplies to keep the horses at home such as hay/grain/shavings
  2. Any lessons/training/staffing costs
  3. Hoof Care costs
  4. General Medical Costs
  5. Small Tack/supplements/blankets/etc
  6. Showing/Clinics/Fun

Horses are expensive, but there is a huge difference between the cost of having a horse in full training and showing every weekend versus someone who does partial care and only takes a few lessons a year. If you can afford it, and you like doing it, it is no one’s business if you spend $3,000 a month on your horse. Personally, Gen is not 15% of my income at the moment, but the 15% number would still work for me if he was because I could afford 4 lessons a month and 8-12 schooling shows a year in that amount. Maybe instead of shows it would be more worth it to me to do 2 lessons a month and board at an indoor. If I follow this plan, it doesn’t matter how I spend the money, as long as I am within the 15%, I can spend horse money however I want. There are times that you may spend more because you need more lessons, you are showing more, or because your horse is hurt and needs more care. As long as you budget for NORMAL horse expenses being 15% of your budget, you should still be okay and can take a bit from fun money or short-term savings if needed.

Normal is the key phrase. Yes, Gen can go 6 weeks without getting his feet done at times, but I budget and plan for once a month. Gen will always get spring and fall shots, but I budget for 8 vet visits a year because…well…Gen is just Gen. Most years planning for 8 is fine, but even the years when there are 15 visits, at least I had half of them in the budget! I also know that equipment costs can vary, but considering Gen is retired I only budget for a few halters a year along with his hoof supplement. The year that Gen was hurt I spent just about every penny I made, and some I didn’t make yet, on him, but that wasn’t a typical year. If you plan for normal, extraordinary should be survivable.

Fun Money should be 10% of your bring home income:

  1. Entertainment such as movies/books/concerts, etc
  2. Food that is more than basic necessities, such as restaurants or take-out
  3. Appearance items such as hair cuts, make-up, clothes, etc
  4. Going fancy with the groceries or buy expensive cleaning supplies
  5. Anything else you want but you don’t really need

I don’t feel like I need to tell anyone how to spend fun money😉 I do find that if I take out my fun money in cash at the start of the week (which is typically how I do it), I am much better about staying within my budget. If I spend it all and then some in one week, I will try and just not spend any until I am back in balance again. I find that as a horse person, fun money is thought to be the money we spend on horses, leaving us feeling guilty when we go out to dinner with friends or want to buy that $5 coffee. Planning for fun outside the stable walls is something that we should all do because horses are fun, but sometimes even the most horse crazy among us need a break from the barn.

Short-Term Savings should be 10% of your bring home income:

  1. Paying off debt
  2. Vacations or trips
  3. Big horse shows/clinics/etc that you need to save up for
  4. Big ticket items such as saddles/new tires for your car/new boots
  5. Home repairs
  6. Gifts for holidays

I should really call Short-Term Savings “Planned Money” because that is really what it is. I do think it is important to contain horse money to the 15% under normal circumstances, but this is where a little extra can come from if needed. If you are in debt with credits cards, student loans or anything else, the best thing you should do is start to pay off some of the principle in addition to the minimum payments. Don’t throw all 10% of Short-Term savings towards debt though, the max you should do is 5%. One of the best ways to keep you financially healthy is to have savings available. I know I need new tires on my car, so instead of panicking in November wondering where I am going to get $500, I am saving up for them now, setting aside money each month so I have the money. I know a car purchase is likely coming in 2 years so I want to save for that now. Even if I do not end up spending the money on what I had planned, having extra cash on hand is never a bad thing.

Long-Term Savings should be 15% of your bring home income

  1. Retirement plan
  2. Down payment for a house or other item that will increase your personal wealth
  3. Stock market investments
  4. Any large savings that you cannot easily use

So this category is where I find a huge difference between single horse people and married horse people. I was a single horse person myself for all of my 20s, yet I was in the minority that I was saving for retirement. Most horse people in their 20s are just starting careers and it is hard to be able to afford yourself, let alone a horse at this time of life. I will be honest here, I did not put 15% towards Long-Term Savings during that time, but I did always commit to putting at least 5% towards retirement. It wasn’t much, but even by doing that little I am still in much better shape than people who did not do anything. Every bit counts, so while 15% should be what you aim for, anything is better than nothing!

So what do you think?

I know this was a long post, but if you are still hanging on you can see the chart below as to what this financial plan may look like for you. Please note these numbers are a rough guess. I assumed taxes at about 33% which is high for some and low for others. Does this look like something you could live with? If not, did it at least give you something to think about?




The Finances of Horse Ownership – Thinking about money and horses

So I am no financial expert, but I feel like I get a lot of questions about money and finances. Both in real life and here on this blog. I find that since I am more open than most about finances, I get more questions than most about finances. In fact, some of the searches that bring people to my blog are, “How much does a horse cost” as well as the ever popular, “Can I afford a horse”. Tomorrow, I am going to do my best to answer that question. Money is a personal thing and what people spend their money on is really no one else’s business as long as they can afford the life they lead.

One of my favorite lines is from the financial expert and guru Dave Ramsey and it is “act your wage”. I feel like I have been obsessed with money forever, I started working at age 14 officially (I would babysit before then) but I didn’t start listening to financial planning advice until I started graduate school, which was about the time that Suzy Orman started to get really popular. I actually think my love of financial planning came from my love of money because I was always told we couldn’t afford a horse growing up, so of course I had to get one the second I graduated college😉 My love of having a plan for my money may have started with my beloved Suzy, but as the years have gone on, I have investigated at least a dozen different financial philosophies and tried a ton of different plans to see what would work for me.

Where I always got stuck was that financial planners don’t take horses in to account. Some say not to spend money on hobbies EVER. Most say you need to wait until you are 100% debt free with your mortgage paid, six months to a years worth of savings, and of course maximum contribution to your retirement plan. If we all waited for that, well, I don’t think very many people would own a horse. Knowing that I tend to be “good with money” and I still got Gen when I did not have permanent, full-time employment is my best example of the fact that our hearts and our wallets do not always line up.

Even though I think I am good with money, everyone is different and everyone spends differently so you may look at my plan tomorrow and think I am crazy, or that it is impossible. I won’t deny my crazy, there have been times that I have worked multiple jobs, eaten nothing but pasta (even for breakfast) for two weeks straight when I only had $20 a week for groceries, and at times in my life I have been brought to tears trying to figure out how to pay my bills. Those days are hopefully behind me. I took out a loan for the first round of stem cells when Gen’s leg went bad in 2007, putting myself in to debt for my pony. The thing is, I always did find a way to pay my bills. My plan tomorrow is more than just paying your bills though. It is a long term plan to make sure you can afford a horse forever.

My Horse Owner’s Financial Plan is a way to live and live comfortably with owning a horse no matter what your income is. I know horses are supposed to be the hobby of the rich, and I am sure some people reading this never have to worry about money, but most people know that owning a horse with an average income can be a huge challenge. I know friends who make four times more than my husband and I who are up to their eyeballs in debt. I have a single friend who is living off a much smaller salary than I make and is able to save tons of money, she is on her way to buying a home cash.

One thing I have learned is that money is all about choices and if you read the plan tomorrow and it doesn’t work for you I understand. My Horse Owner’s Financial Plan is just what has worked best for me. I have taken what I learned over the years and tweaked it in to a plan that I think would work for anyone. So far, not only has this worked for me, but also a horse friend who is recently divorced who was told by a real financial planner that she had to sell her horse if she wanted to be financially sound, and a third person who is actually working in the horse world. That last one came to me about a year ago in tears after a board check bounced and she is now well on her way to being debt free and living that way for the rest of her life. If you have no financial plan (like I feel many horse people do) maybe it is time to come up with one, even if it isn’t the one I talk about tomorrow.n

Hopefully you will find my Horse Owener’s Financial Plan helpful, or if nothing else, interesting and something to think about.

Tune in tomorrow to learn all about it

A Gen Update

No joke, I didn’t think Gen would be alive at 24 (nearly 25!). I never considered what it would be like to own an older horse, because…well…I just didn’t think Gen would ever be an older horse. I feel very lucky he has defied the odds and is in mostly good health.
I do know that Gen is a very, very happy pony. He is spoiled rotten, not only by myself and my husband, but the Barn Owners’, the other Boarders, and pretty much anyone else who sets foot in the barn. He learned long ago that if he stands there staring at you, posing with his ear forward, humans cannot help but tell him how handsome he is and sometimes even give him a treat. He is super neat in his stall, only has one supplement and isn’t normally blanketed, making him the easiest horse in the barn to care for. With his least favorite time of the year (summer) coming to an end, he really doesn’t have anything to complain about anymore.
Gen spends his days in his field where he often has the company of a local herd of deer and his favorite barn cat Gretel. At night he comes in to his nice big stall where he can stick his head out the giant window and look around outside. He gets three meals a day and as much hay as he will eat along with plenty of water. He gets groomed and scratched when I come see him and he seems to be the most mellow I have ever known him. I do want to work more with him to get his manners back to where they should be and keep his mind engaged, but overall, Gen is doing amazing at 24.
Because it is me…I can’t just be content to tell you how amazing Gen is doing. I have to tell you about what is wrong with him as well. I feel like I am just being honest and realistic about how my pony is doing, but if you don’t want to hear bad things feel free to ignore the list below. Gen really is very healthy considering, he just isn’t in perfect health like I want him to be.
Gen’s list of current ailments:
1) Left Front Leg– This is first because this is the scariest to me. I know Gen got hurt back in 2007 and I should just get over it, but it still bothers him. He is medically cleared to be walked under tack, but I have not done that to him for fear he will be crazy and hurt himself more. When he runs or stomps or is just not nice to that leg it still swells up. I know that he is getting micro-tears in the bad tendon when he is rough on it, and I will always be afraid that those will somehow turn in to a big tear. Rationally, Gen’s leg is actually doing really well. In years past, the swelling after a bad day might take a few days to go down, it is now usually down within 48 hours.
2) Melanomas – So Gen has had 3 Melanoma tumors in his tail forever. They have gotten bigger over the years, and now there are a few more back there so he has 5 growths coming off the dock of his tail to date. I would hate to see him loose his tail, especially because he hates bugs so much, but thus far the hairs around the tumors are still growing. What is new as of this year is that he now has a visible Melanoma tumor under his throat. I know that is pretty common in older grays but Gen has such a pretty face that it broke my heart when I saw it coming in. Thus far it doesn’t seem to be bothering him so I will live with the cosmetics of it as long as medically he is okay!
3) Hypercementosis – This was a new thing I found out about this year. I think I will do a whole post about what it is at some point for those of you who do not know, but it is typically found in older horses. Gen has a great Dentist who was happy to show me what a bad case of this looks like, and how Gen really doesn’t have it that bad. My big fear is that he may end up losing his teeth. Considering he is the pickiest horse I know, my crazy self has panic moments where I see him wasting away and not eating with no teeth.
4) Random Hole In His Gums – So this was a fun one which will get its own post. It wasn’t an abscess. His gum turned a scary color and then bam…giant hole at the tooth root for two of his teeth. This was something that the vet actually didn’t think would get better, but it has! Still not 100% healed though.
5) Scar tissue around his epiglottis – This is an issue from his race track days when my little Gen literally ran his heart out to win. It doesn’t bother him all the time, but when he rushes to eat or doesn’t chew well his food can go down the wrong pipe. Unlike with choke or something more serious, Gen can cough and it all comes out. I am knocking on wood as I write this, but this problem seems to be the most manageable and is the one he has had for the longest.
6) His Weight – I know that is not exactly a real ailment, but it is a bit of a health concern. I get that it is harder to keep weight on an older horse, especially one with issues in his mouth, but he is just a touch too thin for my taste. I know he doesn’t look too bad in the pictures above and below which were taken yesterday (he was sweating in his fall coat with the summer like temps), but I just like to see him a little heavier this time of year.

Yet another reason to love Weather Tech

So even though I am not riding much, I still don’t watch a whole lot of TV. I think years of getting back from the barn late and then just eating dinner and going right to bed have helped me to not make time for television. I watch, maybe an hour night, if even that much. Even on the weekends, I just don’t turn it on much. I like quiet, so I am not one of those people who just has it on in the background. 

Even though I do not watch a lot of TV, I still have DVR (my brother is a big wig for a major TV provider) and so if you think I watch very little TV, I barely watch any commercials. 

Imagine my surprise this week when I was sitting on the couch, fast forwarding through commercials when out of no where I see a horse. Of course I had to stop because…there was a horse on TV and wouldn’t every horse person want to see what was up? I went back to the start of the commercial and had a HUGE grin on my face.

WeatherTech, a company I already love and whose products I use, has made a commercial featuring a horse person! See below!

How great is that?!?! I do not recognize the rider, but they are very attractive. I just love that they made a commercial that features horses! Even more is that they run it during normal TV shows. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Rolex and Jaguar horse commercials that run during their sponsored events, but this was different. I can’t remember what I was watching, but I know it had nothing to do with a riding, a horse show nor was it on a horse channel. It was so cool to just have a horse as a part of everyday life. I hope more companies run commercials like that! 

“So what are you riding these days?”

So I barely write here anymore. I keep saying I am going to get better about it, sometimes I post a little, but overall I have been TERRIBLE about keeping the blog current. I have a lot to say about Gen. Well, maybe not a lot, but I do have plenty to say about Gen! I have been thinking about my reluctance to post and I realized that while I have been blaming it on the fact I am not riding, that might not be the whole truth. The thing is, I have barely posted in 2 years…and for a part of that time I was riding. The more I thought about it the more I realized that the reason I don’t post much anymore is not because I am not riding at the moment, but rather, it is the fact that I am okay with not riding at the moment.
That was a hard thing to admit.

I always thought of myself as a hard-core equestrian. When many of my friends took time off from the barn after college, I got a horse. I rode through graduate school, I rode after buying a home…I just sort of assumed that I would ride forever. Even when Gen got hurt I didn’t let it stop me, instead half-leasing or catch riding for years and years.

And now…nothing. Not only do I not lease, I don’t take lessons and I haven’t even put a foot in a stirrup in over a year.

I still see Gen regularly. I love that horse so much and he brings me such joy. Even though he is retired he is still a huge part of my life (and my budget) and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. The days I don’t go to the barn are usually because I have to work late or because I am meeting a friend for dinner so I would say I go to the barn at least 6 days a week to see him.

Visiting a retired horse is very, very different than riding regularly though. I am in and out of the barn in under an hour most days. Hard-core equestrians live at the barn, they don’t just visit.

I fought so hard for so many years to stay in the saddle, and yet here I am fine with taking a little time off. It isn’t that I can’t ride. I could afford lessons, and maybe even a cheap half lease, but…I don’t know. I haven’t found a trainer I am crazy about. I don’t want to rehab a horse right now. Nor do I want to train one, only to have someone else get to enjoy all my hard work a few months down the line.

That last line makes me sound bitter. I am not bitter at all. I feel very lucky to have the opportunities I had in the past. I have gotten to ride some great horses and work with some amazing people.

It isn’t that I don’t want to ride. I am not saying I hate it or that I want nothing to do with it. I mean, I do miss it…I just don’t miss it that much. I mean, if an opportunity landed in my lap I am sure I would take it. The chances of an opportunity coming when I am not looking for it are next to zero though, and that is something I am okay with…which makes me feel guilty.

I feel a little like admitting to not ridding is admitting defeat. Maybe that is why I have been so reluctant to post. That somehow I am saying Gen’s injury won. That I am not a real horse person now and never was. That I never cared enough, tired hard enough or wanted it bad enough. Like I was a phony or a fraud. I almost feel like I started this blog to show that nothing can keep a horse person down…and now I am saying that it was all lies and it’s just too hard to ride when your own horse is retired.

And maybe that is what I am saying.

If that is truth, why do I feel so crappy about saying it?

I don’t feel bad about not riding right now, but I do feel bad telling people I’m not riding right now. Like I am letting them down. Does that mean I am not as okay with it as I think? Or does it just mean that I never cared about riding as much as I claimed? Does being okay with not riding now mean that I was a fraud saying I couldn’t live without it before? I am not sure. I am going to try to write more though, because honestly, riding isn’t everything when it comes to horses, at least it isn’t to me. I still have a very happy, mostly healthy 24 year old OTTB who needs all the attention he can get and who deserves more than 2 posts a year.

NBC Equestrian Olympic Commentators

So as I sit here after watching the Olympic coverage for the dressage individual medals I am having the same issues with the coverage that I had back in 2012…the terrible commentators.

Is anyone else finding this painful? I took to muting the sound yesterday during the individual show jumping qualifying, but with it being freestyles today for Dressage, I felt like the sound needed to be on. I found them a bit annoying during the eventing cross country, but by the time the jumping rounds were done the day after I was already hoping they might change up the commentators since they clearly don’t get along.

I am Olympic obsessed and have watched every televised moment of the equestrian events (I can’t live stream at work unlike some of you :P) and the chemistry between Melanie Smith-Tayor and Randy Moss has gone from strained to hostile. Over the likely 12+ hours that I have heard them together I am now convinced that Melanie Smith-Taylor is out of touch and is convinced that Randy Moss is stupid. Randy Moss could potentially not be that bright, but as a viewer I don’t think that I should know that. I appreciate them trying to change the line up from the 2012 Olympics, but this combo is clearly not a win so maybe NBC should try and switch out both commentators next time.

Does anyone know how the commentators are selected? I like the idea of a novice with a pro, but maybe a pro who is more active in the horse world would be a good place to start. I just feel like there are so many riders out there who are funny, charming and clearly show a passion for equestrian sport. I don’t mean to sound harsh about Smith-Taylor, she apparently still gives clinics and wrote a book, but she just doesn’t sound like someone who loves horses when you listen to her.

The Olympics is the top of equestrian sport, commentary shouldn’t be a “name that tune” during dressage with the same three facts about every rider being repeated over and over again for every day of competition. 

If you need help NBC just let me know, I’m confident I could find you a top rider who won’t talk over your other announcer and who can talk about more then just the age of the horse or rider. Even my non-horsey hubby started laughing listening to them today, his exact words were “are these the best commontators they could find?”

Sadly, I think the answer is yes for the 2016 Olympics. 

2016 Rio Olympics

So if you have been reading this blog for a while, you know I love the Olympics. For the next two weeks I will be glued to my tv watching everything from synchronized swimming to rhythmic gymnastics. Of course, the highlight of the games for me is the equestrian events!

Above is the official tv schedule in the U.S. For all of the 2016 Olympic events. I hope you find it helpful and take a little time to watch yourself!