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

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oney 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: Whitney W. 
Age: 35 
Location: Anniston, Alabama
Number of Horses: 1
Family Setup: Married, 3 Kids

Job: Registered Nurse, ICU and ER RN + Teaching Assistant
Current Salary: $65,000 + overtime, $12,000 
Monthly Horse Related Expenses: $1,000 - $1,200

Do you hide any equine related expenses from your spouse/partner/family? Yes

Do you ever feel guilty about how much you spend on horses and riding? I always feel guilty and selfish. I really want to take my kids to Disney World, but we can’t because... horses. I used to be able to treat my wife to lots of things. Money is a lot tighter for me now. 

How do horses exist in your life right now?
I have one horse that I own. He was a bargain basement retired eventer, and I currently pay more than it cost to purchase him in three months of board. I pay $600 a month for full board. Since he’s an old man he’s on about $200 of supplements every two months, but he’s been sound and we jumped 2’11” last night. So I’m passionate about joint and nutritional support. He’s in wedge pads and regular shoes at $135 every five weeks. This year I have shown four times at the schooling show level. In the fall, we are moving up to recognized horse trials and will do at least two USEA events. Typical fees for a schooling show plus stall in my area is about $200. Entry fees plus stabling for a horse trial top $500, and I will likely haul our small camper as well to reduce costs. Money limits me, but time also is a huge constraint with three kids. 

What is your job history? 
I went to nursing school as a non-traditional student. I needed a job where I could support myself and my kids. Prior to that, I was a bank teller, pharmacy tech, bread baker, home maker ... if I worked outside of the home, it was minimum wage. I graduated from nursing school in 2010, and working as a nurse, I’ve had a few job changes. Each one has brought more money. Horses were always a part of my “lottery jackpot daydream.” Right now, I’m currently in school to be a nurse practitioner and receive my doctorate. Horses are a major motivation in that adventure. 

How did your relationship with horses and riding change as your career progressed?
I actually work the specific job I do to fit around my horse habit. I work night shift at a hospital about 15 minutes from home. Nurses at the bedside generally work three 12-hour shifts a week, so that gives me time to ride and compete. Because I am fortunate enough to have benefits through my wife, I also only work PRN, but I work full-time hours. That basically means I tell my managers what days I want to work. Since my hospital is chronically short staffed in all areas, I generally make my own hours and if I want to make a purchase or go to an event, there’s never a shortage of overtime shifts available.

Does money limit your riding?
Definitely. Yes. All of the time. I am limited in the number of events I can compete in. I can only ride with my dressage trainer about once a month, and I ride with my jump trainer more often because she’s cheaper. I took out a loan to purchase my saddles. I still recognize that there’s so many people that can’t do what I am able to. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. There are still so many times when I stand in the middle of the covered arena on horseback and wonder if this is really my life. I didn’t think this would ever be my reality, but there are nights when I lay awake worrying about money and thinking I should just give it all up. 

What is your spending philosophy?
The secret to a happy marriage for us is maintaining separate financials. My wife is very “Type A,” and I’m lucky to have such an organized, money saving force in my life because I’m a spender. We do have a joint account that we both contribute to for bills, and there’s some bills that I am solely responsible for. 

Read this next: 'I Never Decided to Give up My Career [...] I Was Going to Do Both': Molly Ashe Cawley on Balancing Parenthood and Big Dreams

Illustration by Holly Jolley. 

Written by Editorial Staff

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