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: Julia R.
Number of Horses: I own and board 1 horse
Family Setup: Divorced, 0 children
Job: Emergency Room Nurse
Current Salary: $85,000
Monthly Horse Related Expenses: I spend $1725 on board and I use a separate checking account for that. Basically I pay for all of my horse stuff from my trust and all of my living expenses from my salary. I don’t have student loan debt or children, so I can spend all of my fun money on horses. In case that sounds irresponsible, I contribute 15% to my retirement and don’t live an extravagant lifestyle.
Do you hide any equine related expenses from your spouse/partner/family? No.
Do you ever feel guilty about how much you spend on horses and riding? Yes, I don’t like that I spend more than I make. I think I’m very responsible about not using too much of my trust and leaving the vast majority of it for retirement or other unexpected expenses.
I usually do a few (maybe 4) shows a year, mostly A rated. My horse is a little older and I don’t want to pound him into the ground, so I don’t do any more than that. At this point in my riding career, showing is just for fun. It also significantly increases what I have to spend. Since moving my horse a year ago I tracked everything I spent on riding—board, vet, shoes, any supplies for him or me—and it came out to $36,000. That’s more than I have left over from my salary after my living expenses, so I use some of the interest income from my trust. It feels like a lot, but riding is so good for my mental health, and having this horse has brought me so much joy. I’m grateful to my parents every day that I am able to pursue my hobby.
It’s important to me that my parents are okay with how I’m spending the money that they gave me. It was intended to be for my retirement, but they’re very supportive of what I’ve been doing. I never want to be disrespectful of the work it took to earn that money.
How do horses exist in your life right now?
I have a horse that I own and board about an hour away from where I live. I ride 4 days a week and compete in the low adult hunters a few times a year.
I bought my horse 3 years ago for $50,000. I paid for half and my parents paid for half. I don’t know if you can call my half my own money since it really was money my parents gave me. I was making about $80,000 at my job at the time.
How did your relationship with horses and riding change as your career progressed?
I’ve been a nurse for 12 years. Nursing has been great in terms of my schedule. I work 12 hour shifts 3 days a week, which gives me 4 days to ride and run errands. I work every third weekend, but it’s easy to switch with a co-worker if I need a certain weekend off for a horse show. Before nursing, I did a few random office jobs while I figured out what I wanted to do. I get cost of living raises, and other raises based on experience, but for the most part my responsibilities and hours have stayed the same. I work 3 days a week for 12 hours, so I’ve never been able to ride on days when I work.
Feeling financially stable enough had very little to do with my career/salary and more to do with money my parents gave me becoming available to me. When I turned 35, 1/3 of my trust was released to me.
How have other life events shaped your financial situation and how much you have left to spend on horses?
I got divorced about a year ago and it hasn’t affected my finances in any major way, luckily. It was quick and easy compared to what a lot of people go through. We didn’t own property or have children, so it was very straightforward. Hiring lawyers felt like a waste of money so we filed our own paperwork and spent about $300 on the whole process. By the time we decided to divorce he was making a lot more money than I was, but I have a lot more money invested than he does. Everything felt pretty even, so we agreed not to even look into asking the other for money. Because of my parents’ generosity I have always felt safe and secure. I think I would have been much more stressed out if I didn’t have that safety net.
For the last 2 years of my marriage my husband was making enough money that he was paying our rent from his salary. For those two years I was able to cover all of the horse and riding expenses from my salary. A few months after I moved out, I moved my horse to a new barn where the board is more than twice as much as where I had him before. He’s at a small family-run show barn. Between board and shoeing I spend about $2000/month. It’s full service and the care is impeccable. My horse is turned out and groomed every day, and he’s in a training program. He’s ridden for me if I’m working, and training/lessons for me are included in the board. I think it’s actually not too bad compared to other show barns.
I feel a strong sense of responsibility to provide a good home for my horse, and I never worry about him when I can’t be there. I’d love to spend less on board, but I’ve found that you get what you pay for.
Does money limit your riding?
I wish I could buy a horse that could jump bigger. I don’t really know what’s a reasonable amount to spend on a horse when you don’t have a super high salary. I don’t like dipping into savings—it makes me feel anxious, even if I’m only taking a small fraction. I really don’t want to be irresponsible with money that my parents very generously gave me. There really isn’t anyone to ask whether it’s okay to spend $100,000 on a horse with x amount in savings and an $85,000 salary.
What is your spending philosophy?
Don’t buy anything that I can’t pay for outright—it’s not okay to carry debt. I ask myself, ‘Do I really need this?’
Illustration by Estee Prada.