Equestrianism: Unrealistic Financial Outlooks


As someone who's grown up on both sides of the equation, in terms of financially well off (keep in mind, this is in consideration for the HORSE world, so money is skewed in ridiculous excess) and scraping by, I feel as though I can have a bit of insight on both sides in relation to the horse world. When I was growing up, I got into horses at the age of 4. I got frequent lessons, shows and lots of horsey time. All of which, of course, was covered by my parents. At such a young age, I had no concept of money or just how fortunate I was. Looking back now, though, I see it. Several horse shows a year adds up, especially when coupled with full training fees each show weekend and in some cases, year round.

By the time I was 8, I got my own horse. Now, I've never owned a "made" horse, by that was more or less by choice at the time. I fell in love with a green 6 year old Arabian gelding, so that was the horse I wanted and that was the horse I got. Now, when I mention this, especially on social media, I get the whole spiel of how lucky I am and often times get told I'm spoiled or that people "wish they had my life". Sure, I was exceptionally fortunate but what people on the outside fail to realize (or more so, fail to ask) is how I acquired said horse. Farley, my first horse, was $7,500 which, sadly, is considered "cheap" nowadays despite being able to put a dent in a lot of major adult expenses if not pay many off in entirety. It is a lot of money for the average person. I was fortunate in that regard. My parents supported my equine habit for years and my dad bought me a horse. BUT- my dad also suffered from a massive stroke that nearly killed him, before buying said horse. Money for the horse came from the insurance money resulting from the stroke. So, yes, I had a horse but I also had a suddenly disabled, unable to work father who was now a far different person both physically and mentally than the man that I knew as my father in my younger years. That is incredibly hard for such a young person to cope with, maybe the horse was meant as a distraction.

Fast forward a few more years, I started to work at the barn at age 11 to help pay for my horses due to now having a single-parent income. Gone were the days where money came to me entirely worry free and I never had to worry about the cost of things. It was only to get harder from here on out. Fast forward a few more years, family savings embezzled, bye-bye university funds, horse on the brink of being sold, very devastating young teen now going into the real work force and working part time during high school. I was still VERY fortunate that my mom worked exceptionally hard and sacrificed so much to allow me to continue some semblance of what my "normal" was. I leased my horse out partially to help afford it and worked at a fast food restaurant three days a week. I moved from the fancy barn with an indoor arena and lots of amenities, to a more simpler barn with only an outdoor. I haven't looked back since. I've toughened up, learned not to rely on an indoor. To ride in the rain and heat, though I may still complain. 

Around 16 and 17 is the time where the value of money really became apparent to me. Unable to show frequently, even at schooling shows, due to the cost of it, my eyes were now open to how largely inaccessible the sport is to people who aren't in the higher bracket of wealth. Sure, you can tell people that " if they really want it they just need to work hard enough and it'll happen" but is that really the case? As a student in high school, trying to make the grades necessary for my desired universities, to save up tuition costs so I don't have to go completely on student loans AND budget for my horse, where did the extra time for harder work come from? I'd have to sacrifice my childhood, neglect to hang out with friends and potentially cancel my university dreams for a faraway "maybe" that riding would become a full time career for me. For some people, this risk may be worth it, but for those who try to remain more pragmatic, the fear of something as simple as an injury that no longer allows you to ride or forces you to take time off from it is enough to push you to guarantee a back up plan should your riding dreams not pan out. And what about the people who don't want a career in the horse world, but just want to be able to ride and show? They shouldn't be expected to put the bigger picture of the future on hold just to prove that they love horses and want them just as badly as those who were born into money and stayed in good financial standing through childhood, adolescence and adulthood.


My $400 rescue gelding

My $400 rescue gelding

In my experience, those who encourage others to "just work harder" and "pick up another job" and tell them "if you wanted it badly enough, it'd happen" are not generally the ones who are trying to budget their lives on their own. At the very least, much of these people have their university tuition covered which opens up tens of thousands of dollars that they no longer need to even consider. Much of them have cars purchased for them, gas paid or car insurance paid. Once again, routine expenses or large, one time expenses that open up savings for other things. A lot of them have their shows paid for, or at least  horse board, farrier etc. Even those who DO support themselves and still say this, they are likely living in a different reality than those they're trying to encourage, but unintentionally discouraging by implying that they're being lazy or don't want it badly enough if it hasn't happened. Not everyone gets paid the same wages. Cost of living differs, too. Gas prices differ. Horse board costs, monetary obligations... There are so many things to consider. Maybe some riders are having to help support their family on top of trying to tackle their dreams. Maybe they're too new to the game or too nervous to take on certain working student positions. Maybe they can't afford to just up and leave to follow their dream to a farm faraway to work at. No one is living in the same reality as you are, so let's not make it seem like there's a simple solution to everyone's financial problems in relation to the horse world.

In North America in particular, horse show costs are very high. I've spoken to people overseas and have been astounded at how much less they pay for show fees and stabling. Prices of things here are outrageous. There is a problem when people in the horse world think dropping five figures on a fancy farm animal is "cheap". That shows a very skewed perspective on money. I do think that the horse world should be made more acceptable. This isn't to say that everyone should be able to have automatic access to expensive, fancy horses but what about more financial incentives? Scholarships? More affordable show fees? A more accessible world. As it stands now, it is undeniable that a lot of people who may be talented enough, are disallowed to show off said talent solely because of finances. Horse shows are available to those who can afford them and unfortunately, many use them as a means to determine people's prestige and level of riding even when absolutely incredible riders could be flying under the radar due to simply not having enough money.

The skewed perspective of money also promotes elitism. People flaunt money, make those without as much money or who simply do not care to spend extra for the popular "it" brands feel small. Make people feel like they are not ever going to be successful because they aren't seated on a 6-figure, bred to the nines Warmblood. This isn't to say that everyone is like this, but it happens commonly enough that you hear about it frequently if you have an open ear. Materialism is alive everywhere, not just in the horse world, but the amount of people who view it as acceptable to openly demean others for the amount of money they have to spend is startling. 

Now, on the flip side, there are those who are the less privileged that go on the attacked for riders born into more financial privilege. They call them spoiled. Make them out to be lesser riders because they can afford the nicer horses, more lessons etc. Say that money bought them their position, that their lives are easy. This is the exact same shallow type of judgments that are imposed on the less privileged riders and it needs to stop. Money does not guarantee an easy life, as I stated before with regards to what happened with my father, no amount of money could fix that. No amount of money can fix broken homes or trauma resulting from terrible events. Wealthy people aren't immune to heartache. Don't be nasty to someone just because you're envious of them. We would all take extra financial help should there be a willing party to provide it. Judge people based off of their character, not how much money they may or may not have.

This has become a rambling jumble of words. I suppose what I'm saying is that I wish there weren't such stark financial barriers in the horse world. I wish it was more accessible to people coming from all walks of life. I wish there were more incentives to encourage people to try to make it big. I wish, like other sports, we had similar opportunities for scholarships, fundraisers and bursaries to help out those who need it. I wish people were more open about the cost of things instead of trying to play it off like there is always equal opportunity if you work hard enough. For some, no amount of hard work can make up for their financial position. Money, in many aspects of life even outside of the horse world, does give people a bit of a head start, or at least an easier means of making their way in an already hard, competitive world. 

Enjoying a $40 schooling show because shows are fun and don't need to be rated!

Enjoying a $40 schooling show because shows are fun and don't need to be rated!

I cannot wait for the day I will hopefully be financially secure enough to be able to help out the hardworking riders who need an extra hand to get their "leg up" in the horse world. I can't wait for the day where people wealthy and not-so-wealthy realize that we are all lunatics who spend an outrageous amount of money on a glorified farm animal and remember to be humbled by that.... and remember, paying thousands and thousands for an animal who spooks at its own farts is more than a little bit insane no matter how much of a deal you think you've gotten! Muggles must think horse people are nuts for thinking a horse that's the same price as a luxury vehicle is affordable.