Money can be awkward to talk about, but it’s a big part of participating in the sport. We all have to navigate our careers, finances, and how much we spend on horses, so why shouldn’t we talk about it?
Welcome to our new series about how careers and money impact our relationship with horses and riding. We polled amateur riders on their thoughts and feelings about money, their spending habits, and how horses fit into their lifestyle.
Name: Erin D.
Number of Horses: Owner of 1 mare, who is boarded
Family Setup: Married, 1 Child
Job: Tack Shop Employee, Buyer. And a mama to a 7-month-old baby!
Current Salary: $15,000
Monthly Horse Related Expenses: About 80% of what I earn.
Do you hide any equine related expenses from your spouse/partner/family? Sometimes.
Do you ever feel guilty about how much you spend on horses and riding? Yes. I’m financially stable, but not wealthy. I could be more comfortable without horse expenses.
How do horses exist in your life right now?
I own my 17-year-old mare, who does dressage. She was recently diagnosed with mild/moderate kissing spines. I was hoping to continue showing, but keep hitting roadblocks (thankfully not literally!). I try to see her 4-5 times a week, but riding her looks like 1-2 times a week. I often find that the roller coaster of dealing with the kissing spine is so emotionally tolling, I just want to enjoy grooming her and taking her out on the trails. I’m really wrestling with the idea of what is fair in terms of the work that I require of her with her condition. I’m actively trying to figure out the new plan for her.
I also ride (and want to own!) an 8-year-old Welsh cross pony mare. We showed in some USDF-rated shows two summers ago and last summer, I wasn’t riding because I was pregnant. I got back into riding Chickadee last fall and am hoping to show again this summer! Recently, I was offered the chance to co-own her, but I’m navigating how that will play out with paying off student loans, only working part-time now, and having Grace (my mare). Right now I am able to ride her 2-3 times a week by travelling 40 min to my trainer's.
How has riding fit into your career?
Although I dual-majored in Business/Communication, I have always been one to follow my heart when it came to jobs. I was never able to settle on a job I didn't feel passionately about. I sometimes catch myself wondering if maybe I should have, but then quickly accept that deep-down, that wouldn’t have been the right move for me.
I've worked for a nonprofit, I nannied for 7 years, I worked in a ski shop, I worked as a groom, and I managed a 34-stall show facility, acting as manager/program coordinator/show manager (2 shows a summer). After that, I took a job as the Buyer/Manager of the English dept. at a large tack shop. Working full time (and then some!), I was making the most I ever have - about $33K.
My mare, Grace, came into my life by chance. She was a bad fit with one of my then-trainer's clients. I was grooming a couple times a week and working for my trainer at the time. In exchange for work, she covered the expense of leasing Grace. The client was impressed with my hard work and dedication, and they gifted Grace to me that fall. That's when I accepted the job at the stable. I loved the sound of the position, and the owner of the farm and I created the other aspects of the role.
In hindsight, it wasn’t the most financially responsible time of my life. If I had done the responsible thing, all that time I was paying board, I should have been paying off my student loans. Then, by the time I got my last job at the tack shop, I would truly have been able to afford it (also largely in part to the fact that my husband is the breadwinner!).
How did your relationship with horses and riding change as your career progressed?
While my job responsibilities increased, along with my salary, I was thankfully able to continue to ride about 5 days a week. Because I created the schedule as the manager/buyer, I gave myself one day during the week when I went to groom for my trainer and take a lesson. This meant working one shift on the weekend, but it was worth it!
Does money limit your riding?
I feel it does especially, now that my time has become more limited. With a baby, I am no longer able to dedicate a day here and there in exchange for a lesson. In order to remain on track with our financial goals, it will probably only mean a couple of USDF shows each summer… for now!
What is your spending philosophy?
We never live above our means. Saving is extremely important, and thankfully my husband is able to provide that. We are working to be debt-free in 5 years - student loans paid off, house paid off, no car loans, the real deal. I am working on reminding myself that it will require commitment, but it will allow us total freedom!
Illustration by Estee Prada.