This 27-Year-Old Working Amateur Wonders 'What Could Have Been' in a Different Income Bracket

This 27-Year-Old Working Amateur Wonders 'What Could Have Been' in a Different Income Bracket

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 in to their lifestyle.

Name: Jessica R.

Age: 27
Location: Alberta
Number of Horses: 5
Family Setup: Common law married. No kids.
Job: Financial Advisor Associate
Current Salary: $62,000 CAD

Monthly Horse Related Expenses: 20-40%. I generally save about $400/month after all my bills and horse expenses are paid. There’s usually not much left.

Do you ever feel guilty about how much you spend on horses and riding? No.

How do horses exist in your life right now?

Horses are my every day. We have 4 quarter horses of varying discipline and ability, and one Morgan cross pony that I bought to make my childhood dreams come true. I take about three lessons a month on one or two horses (dressage and jumping) just depending on what else is going on. I haven't been to a show since 2015.

What’s your job history?

I started my work life as a hairdresser in 2010, and my first year I made $28k. Rode almost every day, boarded two horses, and was showing 4-6 times a year. I was lucky enough to just "ride" with the owner of the farm, so I didn't have to pay for lessons.

In Feb 2012, I sold both of my horses, and used the proceeds (plus a bank loan) to buy a really nice gelding. Still showing 4-6 times per year at this point.

In April of 2012, I started working in finance and got a pay raise to $34k annually. I was still doing hair part time, so I had a nice steady flow of cash income. My mom financed a trailer for me and I used the cash to pay her back. I was now going to three big shows every year, costing about $700 to attend for three classes.

I worked at the financial institution until December of 2013, when I took a job in agriculture. My salary went up to $55k CAD annually, with full benefits and a pension.I moved three hours from the small town I had lived in for 4 years. I did lose most of my hair income, but still managed to maintain a small clientele. I was also crowned with a rodeo queen title this year. I boarded my horse at a community riding arena, and went to one large show. The rest of my time and money that year were spent traveling across Canada with my horse representing my hometown as their rodeo queen. Mostly fuel and wardrobe expenses!

I stayed with the Ag company for 4 years, and hated it for 3 and a half years. But I needed the money and the benefits. For almost two years, I rented an apartment above an indoor arena and kept my two horses there (I bought a young horse in the fall of 2014, right after I passed on my title). I rode two more horses as part of my board and rent, so I was riding 4-5 times a week. I started taking dressage lessons once a month on 2-3 horses.

In 2016, my boyfriend and I decided to move in together. We lucked out and found an acreage to rent fairly quickly. It was a mouse-infested trailer with a detached garage, and 9 acres of pasture with a horse shelter. I sold my young horse, and we merged herds: my gelding with his four! There was no water to the pasture, so we used a tank and a garden hose...for almost two years! It wasn't bad in the summer, but Alberta winters made sure I had that hose in the bathtub more often than not. We kept all of our tack in our trailers and the garage. Spring and summer made riding easier, but we had little space to ride, as we were surrounded by crop land. In winter it was all but impossible; even if you trailered to the indoor, it was not fair to the horses to turn them out after a workout, even with blankets and time to dry off.

In May of 2017, I started a new job, one that I love. Working at a financial institution again, as an associate to a financial advisor. Because my advisor works all over Alberta, I get to work from home. This has made managing our horses and dog (Corgi) much easier. My salary is $62k annually.

At the start of 2018, I started trailering an hour to dressage and jumping lessons. I was able to leave my horse there for the three days that we lessoned, so he was stalled. I went once a month Feb-June, then started again Oct-May 2019.

In July of 2018, we finally bought a property. We spent three months and most of our money demolishing the shambles it contained, cleaning up scrap metal and garbage, and preparing a site for our new home. The property has an awesome horse barn and small indoor arena. While everything needs work, we have made it very convenient and safe to care for our horses here. We have space to ride, though most of my time is spent working on the property. I am back to a routine in caring for the horses (evening feeding in the barn, turnout schedule) and ride about once a week. I might even go to a schooling show this fall!

How did your relationship with horses and riding change as your career progressed?

I found the more money I made, the less time I had to ride. The job became more emotionally draining and I didn't have the energy to ride after work. My riding became a victim of circumstance when we moved to the mouse-infested acreage, as space and amenities were challenging. It's hard to get back into the routine of riding every night.

Does money limit your riding?

Absolutely. To "start over" and purchase the clothing, training and horse power required to be competitive, the debt would be huge. The time and miles required would not allow me to work even my flexible job. It’s a vicious cycle of "work to pay the bills for the horses, then have no time to ride the horses because you're working to pay the bills".

As a young person, I was told I had/exhibited a lot of talent. My parents weren't rich, and definitely supported my dreams, but there was no push to get to a higher level than open/community shows. Starting years and years ago, money has always been a contributing factor. I suppose I've always been a little jaded/have a chip on my shoulder because of that, wondering what could have been. But I solace myself in knowing that I have invested in knowledge, taking what I can from lessons with trainers I really trust. I know I can ride, and while it would be nice to go and compete and truly show that I can, "It's not about the ribbons. It's about having rides worth ribbons"

I was looking to buy another horse, more of a jumper since I have ping ponged between english and western disciplines for so long. Instead of putting out the money for even an entry level horse, my boyfriend offered his roping horse. It makes more sense for me to repurpose/dual purpose his horse, than to go to the expense of a new one. This horse is athletic enough (and then some) to do the entry level dressage and jumping. And none of our horses are getting ridden enough. It just makes sense.

What is your spending philosophy?

Routine care (teeth, feet, check ups) is non negotiable. Don't go looking for trouble when your horse is sound.

Read this next: This 35-Year-Old Nurse, Mom of Three Feels Guilty About Her Horse Expenses

Illustration by Estee Prada.