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How YOU Can Save Money as Horse Owner
These tips were put together with the intention of helping horse owners who are really hurting financially to be able to cut their costs as drastically as possible in order to prevent the owner from having to sell, give away or worse, abandon the horse.
You might not agree with some of the tips, as they are not all ideal, but when considering the alternative of having the horse not cared for at all, I’m sure you will agree that it is better to give the best care you possibly can, even if it is not ideal.
General Care & Supplies
· Use a day sheet or cooling sheet under your horse’s blanket or rug in the winter to cut down on cleaning costs. It is much easier to throw the sheet into the washing machine than to have the entire blanket cleaned. This will save on cleaning costs.
· I buy new and used saddles, tack, supplies, show clothing, etc. on EBay for about half the price of the tack stores.
· Let your horse go barefoot whenever possible. This is not only healthier for your horse’s hooves, but it cuts the farrier costs way down.
· Catch problems early. Pay close attention to your horse. Every day that you can, do a daily checkup. Check for food and water consumption, manure production and general demeanor. Scan the body, pick out the hooves and watch him walk.
· Order supplies, tack, medications and vaccines online whenever possible. It is much cheaper than the tack or feed stores.
· Learn to give your own vaccinations and it will save you a ton of money. It is easy and the horse rarely notices if done right. Follow these simple steps.
· Draw the vaccination into the syringe. If there are two parts or bottles to the vaccination, draw the liquid out first and inject it into the bottle with the powder in it. Shake it to mix it thoroughly. Now draw all of the liquid into the syringe. Some people prefer to remove the needle from the syringe, and insert just the needle first into the injection area separate from the syringe. That way, if the horse jumps you won’t lose the vaccination and the syringe.
· The best and easiest site to inject the vaccine is in the muscle in the side of the neck. You’ve probably seen your veterinarian inject into this spot many times. I like to sort of lightly slap (like patting) my horse on the site a couple of times and then I “slap” the needle in. Rarely does the horse notice a difference.
· Check to see if there is any blood coming into the needle, which is rare. If it is, you need to reposition the needle. If there is no blood coming into the needle, you are safely in the muscle.
· Now attach the syringe if it wasn’t attached, pull back the plunger just a little to ensure there is still no blood and quickly inject the vaccine. Pull the needle out quickly and you are done.
· Learn to clean your male horse’s sheath yourself. I put on rubber surgical gloves for the cleaning. I always keep my free hand on the horse’s side or thigh so that I can feel if he starts to get uptight or starts to make a move. I think this also helps to keep them calm during the process.
· If the horse tries to kick at you, sometimes it helps to have someone else hold up one of his front legs while you get started. They can alternate front legs as needed. Often, once you get started, the horse will calm down and be O.K. with it.
· There are some horses that will only allow you to clean their sheath while they are sedated. If that is the case, you’ll have to get your vet to do the cleaning. If you have one of these horses, it can sometimes help to do little “mini cleanings” during bath time to get them used to having their genitals handled.
· You can start by just spraying the sheath with water from a distance where he can’t kick you. Do this as often as you wash or rinse the horse. Then start putting your hands closer and closer to the area and keep at it until he lets you touch the sheath. Keep working with him slowly.
· He might let you wash over the area with a sponge as you clean his belly. Just keep going further and further back and he might not notice. Baby steps are O.K. to reach the final goal of being able to clean it without having to sedate him. This will save you a lot of money if you can train the horse to accept the cleaning without having to call the vet.
· Wet the sheath and penis first with the hose. Next, I gently insert my fingers into the sheath. There will be dried, flakey, crusty gunk (called smegma) that will peel away in your hand. I slowly work my way through it and get out as much of the smegma as I can.
· After I’ve gotten a lot of the bigger chunks out, I’ll add some warm water and dish washing liquid (it cuts the grease) and use that to help me get the smaller particles out. I use a lot of water to keep flushing it out as I work my way around inside the sheath.
· As you work your way deeper, you will find the penis. You want to get everything clean around there too. Often a lump of smegma will form right inside the urethra or end of the urinary tube. You need to insert your little finger into the opening and feel for a small hard lump. Gently roll it out with your little finger.
· After you have thoroughly flushed with the dish soap and warm water, and can’t feel any more smegma, it helps to re-moisturize inside the sheath. The soap and water strips out the natural moisturizer, so I put it back in. I use a natural moisturizer for humans like the kind you would find in a health food store or herb store.
· If you have an all natural hand or body moisturizer in your home, you can use this. Just spread it around inside the sheath. I add a little on the outside too. Do be sure that you thoroughly flushed with water and got all the soap out before you moisturize so that the left over soap residue doesn’t cause irritation.
· Keep up a regular program of dental checkups, but do it yourself. A regular schedule of equine dental care helps your horse chew properly and efficiently and reduces dropped and wasted feed. Signs of needing dental attention can be obvious (pain, mouth irritation) or subtle (dropping food, undigested food particles in manure, tongue lolling, excess salivation, bucking, failing to stop or turn, bad breath or facial swelling).
· Cheek teeth tend to develop sharp points even under normal grazing conditions. The horse's lower jaw is narrower than the upper jaw and this, combined with the grinding motion of chewing, causes sharp points to form along the edges. Points form on the cheek side of the horse's upper jaw and the tongue side of the lower jaw.
· Floating is the "rasping," or filing of points on the teeth to prevent them from cutting the cheek or tongue. Floating might also involve leveling the molars to allow free chewing motion. You can easily learn how to float teeth and feel for sharp points that need to be filed off.
· An extra person may be helpful to keep the horse calm and hand you the file when you need it. If you have a mouth speculum, which holds the mouth open while you work, insert it and adjust the straps to hold it in place.
· Floating usually is only needed about once every two years or so, so depending on how many horses you have, it may or may not be beneficial to invest in a speculum. They are however, far less expensive than the cost of one teeth floating!
· Now feel for the sharp points with your fingers. Slide the rasp into the side of the horse’s cheek and gently file the sharp points off. Rinse the rasp or file occasionally in a bucket. Check it again with your fingers to make sure the points are gone.
· If your horse won’t let you do this, start training him in baby steps. Eventually, most horses will learn to allow this.
· Learn how to trim your horse’s hooves yourself. For the cost of one trimming, you can buy a video teaching you how to properly trim your horse’s hooves, a hoof knife and a file. You won’t even need hoof trimmers if you keep them properly filed all the time.
· It might seem like a tough, back-breaking job when you aren’t used to it, but you don’t have to do all the hooves at once and you don’t have to trim all of the hoof at once. If you file just a little here and there as it grows, you don’t ever have to do any major trimming.
· Just be sure to keep the hoof in the proper shape and keep the four hooves as even with each other as possible as you are doing this. You can build it right into your daily grooming routine. Think of how you file your own nails a little here and there as it is needed. Don’t wait until it becomes a major, overwhelming and intimidating job.
· If it makes you feel more confident, have your farrier trim your horse’s hooves one last time. Watch carefully and ask questions. Then start that very week and keep them filed in the same shape and angle. You will find that with very little effort, you can keep them in perfect condition this way.
· Muck out directly into bags (bedding or feed bags) and offer it for sale. Many people will pay for manure to add to their gardens.
· Compost the manure to get even more for it. This involves some maintenance, but the resulting compost will be in high demand. Contact nurseries to see if they want to buy it. The older the manure, the more demand there will be for it.
· Burn manure to keep from having to pay to have it hauled off. This is an effective and inexpensive way of getting rid of manure and there is no bad odor. Make sure it is not illegal in your area before you burn.
· For even more efficiency, you can burn manure as a fuel to heat your home or your barn.
· Pasture is less expensive than hay and grain. Most mature horses can meet their maintenance requirements on good quality forage alone, without additional grain. Grazing adds bulk to the diet and slows the rapid fermentation of grains in the gut which can help decrease the risk of colic and laminitis, and the resulting expensive vet bills.
· Feed The Horse, Not The Worms. Worm your horses every 8 weeks if possible. Parasitic infections can rob your horse of vital nutrients, requiring more food to combat the loss. Regular worming can save on feed and vet bills.
· Worm your horses yourself. With today’s safe paste wormers, it’s easy to worm your horse. Daily wormers that are added to feed are very convenient, but also very expensive. If you have difficulty paste worming your horse, ask a friend to show you how.
· Keep your equipment in good shape. Maintain your vehicles and tractors to save on gas as well as repairs. Clean your tack and store it properly. Good quality equipment can last for years if you take care of it properly.
· With a few simple tools and some skills, you can make your own jumps, tack boxes and horse clothes. And everyone can make horse toys-it's as simple as stringing up a turnip!
· Visit your local tack shop and ask if they ever sell used equipment. They may have gently used items available for purchase. Blankets, tack, even clothing may be waiting for your keen eye.
· Take a good look at your own gear and show clothing. If you haven't used it in a year, think about consigning it or selling it on EBay yourself.
· Do you have a special skill? Something you could barter in exchange for horse care services? If you can fix a car, design a website, setup a home theater, drive someone to the airport, babysit...you've got a skill you can offer in trade. Don't be afraid to ask!
· When buying hay, buy in bulk if possible. Compare the cost of hay per ton versus the cost per bale. Be sure you're able to store the hay correctly to preserve the quality and reduce waste. This is a great way to reduce feed costs if you have the right facilities to store it.
· Buy hay by weight and be sure it's the best quality horse hay available. Good quality hay usually is green, has a soft texture, and is free of dust, mold, and weeds. Better hay may cost a little more, but you'll reduce feed costs by feeding less.
· Save on grain or sweet feed by reading the guaranteed analysis on your feed label and know what you're getting. Sometimes a feed will exceed the nutritional requirements of your horse and you'll be wasting money on nutrients your horse doesn't need.
· The label should list the percentages of crude protein and crude fat and the maximum percent crude fiber. The more crude fiber a feed contains, the less carbohydrates it will provide.
· Feeds with a high crude fat content are usually more expensive. But fats provide more energy than carbohydrates, so you may reduce feed costs by feeding less and getting the same value.
· Compare “Balanced” feed to “Complete” feed. Feed that is labeled "Balanced" contains all the nutrients need for its stated purpose (lactation, growth, etc.). It assumes you will be adding hay/pasture and water. Feeds that are labeled "Complete" are formulated to be the only nutrient source except for water. Be aware that "complete" feeds contain fiber but your horse should still get 1 percent of his body weight in roughage each day to keep his digestive tract functioning.
· Save money on supplements. If your feed is balanced or complete and your horse is healthy, he probably doesn't need extra nutrients. Your horse will just excrete excess nutrients. Some vitamins and minerals can even be harmful in large amounts.
· Reduce waste of hay by feeding it in a large water trough or bathtub. You can also build a corner hay feeder into a stall that has a solid bottom to catch the dropped hay.
Cost savings stores and practices
· Prowl the dollar stores for great bargains on things like towels, storage containers, wipes, combs and measuring cups. Never pass up a garage or yard sale. These can be great sources of used tools, vacuums...you never know!
· Your farrier or equine dentist will usually be willing to reduce fees if s/he can see more than one horse at a visit. See if you have friends that may want to participate in a group visit.
· A group can help reduce hay costs, too. If you can gather a few horse owners together to purchase a larger quantity of hay, you should be able to negotiate a better price.
· Offer to exercise someone else's horse for a fee or trade for services. You can make money doing what you love!
Cleaning - Repairs - Maintenance
· Spring clean regularly, once or twice a year. Things will run more smoothly on a day-to-day basis if everything is clean and well organized. This will help cut down on re-purchasing "lost" or misplaced items.
· Find repairs that need to be done, and do them as quickly as possible. Small repairs usually turn into big repairs if you leave them. Fill in potholes that might tip over the wheelbarrow, re-hang gates and doors that are difficult to open and close.
· Ask about working boarding or livery trade offs. If the horse is suitable for the job, some riding schools will offer a reduced boarding or livery fee in return for the horse being used in lessons.
· Ask for any work you can do at the boarding stable for a reduced fee.
· Buy a calendar for the tack room to help keep on top of worming, trimming or shoeing and vaccinations. These are important to avoid expensive complications later.
· Learn equestrian first aid. This will reduce the amount that you have to call out the vet mistakenly, or for minor problems. Toothpaste is wonderful for cleaning white stirrup pads and will also shine silver bits, stirrups. and buckles.
· Glycerine soap can often be found inexpensively at supermarkets and is great for cleaning tack.
· Buy the best you can afford. Buying the cheapest products is sometimes a false economy. Canvas or ballistic nylon blankets or rugs can last 10 years or more, while cheaper blankets or rugs may not last a season.
· Buy at the end of the season i.e. winter blankets or rugs in spring.
· Buy synthetic tack. It's cheaper and easier to care for and store.
· Buy essentials from local non-horse related shops. This can include Vaseline, sun block, baby wipes, nappy-rash or diaper rash cream (this is interchangeable with udder cream) buckets, brooms, shovels and hair brushes. They will be cheaper than products aimed at the equestrian market.
· Use disposable diapers or nappies as a poultice. They can be used as a very effective and cheap poultice for the hoof.
· Buy expensive equipment co-operatively. Things like clippers are expensive but are used infrequently so are easily shared with a friend. Alternatively rent them out to others to re-gain some of the cost.
· Make your own jumps. Use tires and milk crates as makeshift wings.
· Mark your smaller equipment, like grooming kit, with your horse's or your own name, to help stop things from going missing, especially in a boarding stable or livery yard.
· Mark turnout blankets or rugs with your horse’s name in big letters. Although this isn’t attractive, turnout rugs are expensive and can be easily stolen.
· Turn out your horse as much as possible. This will reduce mucking out stalls, and your horse will be healthier.
· The cheapest beddings are those that are a by-product of another industry. Shredded paper and cardboard are cheap, but they are difficult to handle. Commercially packed wood shavings are easy to handle, but often compost badly. Straw is cheap and the best for composting, but is often dusty therefore unsuitable for some horses.
Bedding - Pasture
· Install rubber matting in stalls if you can. This is initially expensive, but will reduce the amount of bedding you need to use, saving time and money.
· Consider managing a deep litter bed. This involves removing only the droppings and putting fresh bedding on the top when necessary. This reduces the cost of bedding, the daily workload, and the whole bed will only have to be stripped monthly to yearly depending on how well you manage it.
· Care for your pasture to get the most out of it. Pasture is proper grazing, not just a paddock for turnout. If you are lucky enough to have some, treat it as a crop. Poo-pick, rotate, cross-graze, rest, roll, harrow, re-seed and manure. Keep your horses off it in wet weather.
· Weigh feeds. Feeding by eye or by the scoop usually isn’t very accurate. Over feeding wastes food.
· Keep the horse suitable blanketed or rugged in cold weather. This will reduce the amount of energy the horse uses to keep warm and help him keep in condition with less feed.
· Make your own hoof moisturizer by mixing together vegetable oil and olive oil 50/50. You can also use Peanut oil. Use a hoof oil brush or pastry brush to apply it to the hoof.
· Use non-stick cooking spray in a thin layer to keep snow from balling up in your horse’s hooves during the winter and causing hoof problems. You can also use a light coat of Vaseline or petroleum jelly.
· In cold weather, bank your horse's bedding up against any doors that lead out to the pasture so drafts don't chill him. This will help prevent costly colds and vet bills.
· Trim any fetlock hair in winter to prevent mud fever.
· Make your own hay net. You can use any suitable string, but bailing twine is recommended because it's free. Get 10 pieces of string that are about 7 feet long each.
· Tie the ends together in one tight knot. Hang the knot on something so you can work with the hay net. Divide the strings into pairs (paper clips are useful to keep them together). Measure 4 inches down and tie a knot there in each pair of strings.
· For the next row, measure about 5 inches down and tie a knot again, but with one string from the two pairs beside it. We are aiming for a diamond pattern. Continue this for each row.
· When you get to your last row make sure you have 2-4 inches of string left after your last knot. Instead of tying a standard knot, tie a quick-release knot (the same as when you tie up your horse).
· Trim the ends if you need to and burn the ends to stop them from fraying. Thread a drawstring through the loops. This is where you will insert the hay. Now you are done!
· Learn to groom and braid your own horse. It is easy. See www.FairyTale-Horses.com for help with manes and tails if you don’t know how.
· Share horse transport with other people whenever possible.
· Find a talented amateur rider who is willing to help you with minor training of your horse. They might do it in exchange for riding privileges.
Be Financially Savvy
· Lease half of your horse out to share the cost of care. You can set up a schedule and duties that each will do. This can cut your cost by more than half.
· If you're having temporary financial difficulty, consider leasing your horse out to someone else or a school if the horse is suitable, until you get in a better financial position.
· Use a small amount of fabric softener as conditioner in your horse’s mane and tail. This is much less expensive than traditional conditioners. You can also use this on your horses legs if they have feathers. The next time you groom your horse you will find it much easier to remove mud and dust.
· Use medicated dog shampoo to bathe your horse. This removes mites, lice and other horrid things like bot fly eggs and can help alleviate sweet itch without the expense of buying a medicated horse shampoo that does the same thing.
· Make your own inexpensive horse body glitter. Buy a tub of human hair gel. Spot test on your horse's coat to make sure that he isn’t allergic to it. Add as much loose glitter as you want and mix it up. You can add the little hearts or shapes too.
Bling at a savings
· Another idea is to mix glitter into coat polish or even water and spray it on with a spray bottle. This creates a fine glittery mist on your horse's mane, tail, coat and legs. You can also add some washable, non toxic poster paint to the water if you want to add color.
· Make your own glitter hoof polish. Take a bottle of black or clear hoof polish. Add glitter and shake it up. Polish over your horse's hooves using a pastry brush. Re-apply a coat of clear hoof polish over the top to seal it or you can spray it with hair spray to help hold it on.
· Spraying a horse's tail with Listerine mouth wash (regular flavor only as flavored kinds will attract flies) will often stop him from rubbing.
· Buy generic human shampoo at the Dollar store for bathing horses. It’s much cheaper than horse shampoo and just as effective.
· Make your own coat shine spray. Mix 1/4 cup baby oil, 2 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Shake well and spray on.
· Watered down efferdent (denture cleaner) will remove yellow stains from white legs in place of special whitener shampoos. Rinse WELL to prevent irritation.
· When it is too cold to bathe your horse use Go-Jo mechanics hand cleaner to remove manure stains instead of pricey specialty spot cleaning shampoos.
· A crushed aspirin added to an ordinary shampoo makes a good inexpensive anti-dandruff shampoo for your horse.
· If your horse suffers from cracked heels, here is a recipe for an ointment that is less than $2 per tub:
o 1 jar of petroleum jelly
o 3 tablespoons olive oil
o 5-6 drops tea tree oil
o 5-6 drops lavender oil
o splash of citronella (for nice smell)
o Heat to mix well and then cool for 10 minutes. Refrigerate to thicken for easier application. Rub in every 2-3 days.
Recycle where possible
· Cheap waterproof sleeping bags can be turned into a blanket. Remove the zipper and cut out a semi-circle for the neck. Stitch around the edge and add binding up the middle of the back. Use big strips of velcro for across the chest, under the belly, and the legs.
· A pair of cheap rubber gloves are great for removing dead hair during shedding season.
· Cheap human hair brushes make the best mane and tail brushes and are far less expensive.
· If you board at a busy barn, write your name on all of your grooming gear. It's much cheaper than replacing "borrowed" items.
· Used dryer sheets can be recycled to wipe the dust from a horse's coat before entering the show ring.
· Use Band-Aid or store brand wound wash for cuts and scrapes. It has the same ingredients as Wound Relief Spray (Benzalconium chloride) for half the price, and has a pain reliever in it.
· To speed up healing of a wound, disinfect the wound with hydrogen peroxide and then apply an antibacterial cream for the first two days. Cover with vet wrap or elastic wrap if possible to keep it clean. On the third day mix betadine with table sugar to create a paste and apply it to the wound 2-3 times a day.
· Betadine will act as a disinfectant while the sugar encourages re-growth of the "good" bacteria and tissue. It also stimulates hair re-growth while preventing proud flesh. Continue this routine until the wound begins to heal. Then apply antibacterial cream to the area twice a day until completely healed.
· Preparation H can be used to prevent scarring and proud flesh from kicks, bites, etc
This information is compliments of www.Fairytale-Horses.com
Last updated by Mike Murphy May 20, 2010.