Thursday, August 30, 2012

Showing On The Cheap

Being a poor starving collage student and a competitive horse person is hard. Many horse loving youths that have been showing since childhood find themselves with out a horse and an arena to show in once the hit collage. Others, like myself, were horse poor youth that upon tasting adulthood went crazy and decided to try to live out their childhood dreams. I blame my parents for never buying me that pony I ask for every year. And because I went crazy, I decided to pursue horses seriously and to try to get an education. The path I picked is difficult and not for everyone but I have learned how to show on a budget at the very least.

Trying to keep and show a horse on a collage budget is difficult. For starters your hourly rate at the crappy day job is probably right around $10 per hour or less, and you've got rent, utilities, cell phone, tuition, books, vehicle expenses, and the occasional night out with friends. Where are you supposed to fit the horse in? I'm not gonna lie there is a certain amount of hard work and sacrifice involved.

My first bit of advice is to apply for all the educational grants and scholarships you can. Get someone else to pay for as much of your school and living expenses as you possibly can. Get good grades! Don't make my mistake and spend extra years in collage just because you'd rather be at the barn than your general classes!

Secondly, make friends with horse people. Start hanging around competitive stables, work for them in your spare time, show them your skills. Opportunities to ride will almost always follow and often when you are lurking at high quality facilitates, quality competition horses. A free lease is or half lease is nice if you can get it. Befriend a barn mom and you might land an opportunity to qualify the child's horse in the adult amateur classes thus getting your self in the ring largely on someone else's dime. If you are a skilled rider/showmen often times there will be sale horses that owners are willing to let you ride and promote the horse for them. Look for opportunities, don't be picky about discipline or style of saddle as long as the horses are treated well. I'm of the belief that no time in the saddle is wasted time, stock seat, saddle seat, hunt seat, they all have something to teach, take every learning opportunity.

If you have your own horse, working at the stable and making friends with the horse people is a superb way to make a dent in that board bill and pick the minds of trainers and other experienced competitors.

Another problem is often the wardrobe. Show clothes are not cheap and after the freshmen 15 you may find that the show cloths you wore in High School no longer fit, or have gone out of style or you have change disciplines. Or you are new to the game entirely. This can be a road block but there are some cost saving strategies here as well. The easiest is to buy used or on consignment. If you buy used make sure you know the fabric type and quality of the item that you are buying. Buy something as close to your fit as possible and save on alterations. If you are industrious you could try making your own show clothes. There are a variety of sites that sell patterns. and looks like they have decent ones. I'll probably be trying out the suitability
Misses & Childrens Saddle Suit Coat Pattern in the near future(expect a blog on that).
If you are willing to put in the time and you have the skill you can make show clothes for a fraction of what it would cost you to buy a new custom suit.

Always be on the look out for opportunity to use your skills to make a little extra money. I'm a do it yourself-er if there is an item that I can fabricate my self I will do it. I've made my own tail bags and sold them people at the barn. I can make hay bags. I do blanket and sheet repair. Often times I end up with decent quality items that I can repair and resell, or even use if the owners no longer want them.

Be wise is your purchases. Collage is probably not the time to buy that shiny new dressage saddle you've been eye balling. Especially if old trusty is still serviceable or the horse you are riding comes with tack. If you do need more or new equipment buy used! Either that or wait for a screaming good deal. Be smart about it! There are a great many resources for used tack out there. A warning though, if you are going to be buying saddle used ask for pictures of the underside and the billet straps and common wear areas on the saddle. Ask about the return policy in the event that the saddle is not in the promised condition or doesn't fit you or the animal.

Now if you don't have anyone else paying your show bill there are things you can do to make the show experience less ouchie on the pocket. This is a situation where making friends at the show barn is handy. If you are any good a grooming and you are traveling with a larger group there is some good money making opportunities. Clipping, bathing, sanding, prepping the horse at the show, lunging, and warming up horses, walking and cooling out after classes are all really good ways to help come up with the monetary resources to get yourself to the show. If you aren't with a show barn at least try to find a show buddy, someone you can split travel cost with and who can help you with your horse's care and you with his/her's. Your horsie network can be your biggest asset.

I hope that this has at least given you some ideas of how to keep your horse expenses down. If you have any experience showing on the cheap and have anything to add please leave a comment.  

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