I think it is time to reevaluate my horse stuff hoard…

I think that Tack Hoarding is a pretty common affliction, and I feel like it is usually those of us who have to skrimp and save to buy everything who refuse to throw away anything. 

Gen was retired in 2007. That is 10 years for those of you keeping count. I have not ridden regularly myself since the end of 2013. 

How does someone who has a retired horse who has barely ridden in over three years have so much horse stuff still, I mean, I have four dressage bridles alone! Four!


I kept thinking that I needed to save everything, that I would use it all on the next horse. The longer that time has gone on without me riding though, the more I have started to re-think how I feel about all that horse stuff. When I first stopped riding Lucky, I figured I would take a little break and get back in to riding within a year. I would take some lessons, find some catch rides and just ride when I could, assuming that my next half lease was right around the corner. At some point, I realized that I was fine with taking a break from riding. I didn’t have the drive to fight for every ride anymore. I could see my bank account growing, had more time to sleep and of course found the love of my life and got married.

Even knowing that I wasn’t looking to ride again right away, I still couldn’t bring myself to think about getting rid of anything. What if another horse fell in to my lap? What if Gen suddenly was medically cleared to be ridden again? What if I suddenly needed my horse trailer?

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes having 3 of everything comes in handy, like when Gen broke the butt strap on his blanket, I could just go and grab another one and change it out, but even if Gen suddenly becomes healthy or I get a new horse, would I ever really need 4 dressage bridles? My tack hoarder side says yes, which is why I have them (and my two jumping bridles in addition to a friends bridle that I need to return). Just because I have the space for 7 bridles in the storage area in my basement doesn’t mean that I should have 7 bridles there right?

I got Gen the summer I graduated college. He is my first horse. I went right from college into graduate school so when I got Gen I had no money. I had wanted his colors to be black and red only, but since my budget was next to nothing, everything I got for him was literally the cheapest I could find of what I needed. That means not only do I have 7 of some things, I bet that at least 1 of everything was dirt cheap and potentially not good quality.

The more I have been thinking about it, the more I am realizing that I am just hanging on to stuff because I don’t want to let it go, not because I think I will actually need it. 

That realization was a slow one to come, but was solidified when I went down to the storage area in my basement and realized that about half the stuff in there was horse stuff. My husband literally has one storage container down there and two pieces of luggage. I have 7 large plastic trunks of horse stuff, 3 saddles, 7 bridles, 5 halters (of which Gen will go through all 5 this year I am sure) and literally over 20 saddle pads. That isn’t even counting the standing closet rack with all of my show clothes and boots. I know some people are worse about tack hoarding than I am, but everyone I know who is a haorder like this is actually RIDING.  

So I have set myself a goal. By April, I want to thin down my horse stuff so that my hoard is only half of what it is now. I need to be more realistic about what is actually useful and what is not. Do I really need 18 pairs of Sports Medicine Boots in case Gen gets hurt again? Why am I hanging on to a horse trailer that needs about $1,000 of repairs? I know it is not the most exciting thing in the world, but I will document my thinning of my horse stuff hoard. Wish me luck as I try and and become more rational with what I think my horse future would hold. 

Happy 25th Birthday Gen!

I am amazed that my pony is 25! I was thrilled when he made it to 20! Now he is at a more normal age for being retired and it is finally age appropriate to act like a grumpy old man! I went to the barn to give him treats and wish him a happy birthday…he thinks carrot cake is stupid and that I have too much free time.


He can judge me all he wants, I love my polar bear! 

He was happy with the carrots once I removed the carrot cake from the plate. 

I hope all the other race horses had a good birthday as well!

Last Bath of the Year?

He’s so handsome!


Today was unseasonably warm, like record-breaking warm where I live. I know my car temperature gage is not always accurate, but it had it is 88° today! That is craziness for being less than two weeks away from Halloween. 

Starting to dry…


I decided that I was going to leave work on time and rush to the barn to give my handsome pony a bath. I normally can get one bath in during the fall, but this year it is even better than normal because it is still going to be relatively warm overnight! 

I love how fluffy he looks when he is dry…and how flea bitten he gets!


Typically, the last bath of the year involves a cooler and lots of hand walking to make sure that Gen doesn’t catch a chill, but with it still being so nice overnight I was able to let my pony just graze and relax while he dried.

Like my artistic capturing of the sunset 😛


When I go and see my horse every day, it is usually not for longer than an hour. Today I decided to just kick back and relax and hang out while Gen dried. It took about two hours for him to dry through with his winter coat, but it was two hours well spent. We played with the barn cats, we get scared by some deer, and we just got to enjoy each other’s company. Well, I enjoyed Gen’s company, he mostly just ate 😉

Gen listening to the gun shots of hunters off in the distance

He finally dried all the way through just as the sun was setting. As I put everything away at the now darken barn I couldn’t help but smile and think about how lucky I am to have a horse 🙂 and a clean one at that! I know it is supposed to rain tomorrow so this won’t last, but at least he was clean for today!

I don’t even know how my horse hurts himself…

*This post includes pictures. They are not super gross, but there is a little blood*

So I get to the barn yesterday after work, and all of the horses are on high alert. It was windy and the coldest it has been since May. I knew when I saw all of the horses running towards their gates in the field as I drove up, Gen would be a crazy man.

The great thing about Gen is that he really is lazy at heart, so while he was carrying on when I first walked in to the barn, I could hear him just standing there being annoyed when I was in the tack room. The moment I came back in to view I was treated with a Mexican Jumping Bean instead of my Mexican General. He was leaping, bucking, and jumping around in a circle right by the gate. I thought about going back to the car to get my phone to video his antics, but I decided against it, afraid he would hurt himself putting on the show. I grabbed his lead and he stopped by the gate long enough for me to get him and then proceeded to snort and crab walk all the way to the barn.

Turns out my fears were justified because as I went to pick his feet, I saw this…

Sigh. Clearly he must have clipped himself on something. I have no idea if it was a rock, his hoof or a tree branch, but whatever it was at least it wasn’t worse. The good news is that the cut wasn’t deep and wasn’t bleeding much so it didn’t need stitches. The bad news is that is wasn’t bleeding much making it much more susceptible to infection, especially given the location.


So naturally I cursed myself for not having a coat, thankful at least the barn has hot water and set about cleaning the cut. Gen was annoyed and not repentant at all for hurting himself pretending to be a yearling. I’m sure it stung as I was scrubbing so he kept trying to grab his foot back, which would make me yell at him, which made him more annoyed.

Eventually the cut was clean and I let it dry after putting some antiseptic on it. After staring at Gen for a while debating on if I should bring him in for the night early, I decided to put some sterile gauze on the cut, cover it with vet wrap and turn him out. I want the cut to close up, and I didn’t want Gen to be inside alone if it was going to stress him out. 

I think he looks smashing with his red foot. He seems to think he looks good too. We will see what it looks like tomorrow. 

I went for a walk around his field and found a few things that could have caused the cut, but nothing that made it clear what the real culprit was. Oh Gen, never a dull moment!

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?

piechart

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