How to Save Time and Money As a Horseowner

13 Methods:Buying savvy and tradingFeeding on a budgetWateringThe yardThe liveryInsuranceVet, equine dentist and farrierThe equipmentMucking outThe muck heapTacking up/groomingRidingTransporting your horse

Horses are some of the most expensive and time-consuming animals you can own. Small ways to save time and money soon add up. Some of these tips will help you save both; some are unfortunately a trade off between time and money.

Method 1
Buying savvy and trading

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    Be realistic about what is needed ahead of time. If you can keep an eye on sales throughout the year and know what you're going to need ahead of time, you can find great bargains when the sales are on. Items such as feed, wormers, gear and supplements will be on specials at different times through the year and knowing what you need can allow you to stock up when the sales are on.
    • When winter coats are on special, for example, buy them even though winter is several more seasons away. The horse isn't fussed about fashion statements.
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    Don't be afraid of used items from people you trust. Friends and trusted fellow horse owners may be able to sell you their used items at a fraction of their original cost. Another way to get great secondhand gear is to look at online sellers who have excellent reputations.
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    Consider swap-meets or trades. Organize an event for fellow horse owners in your area to bring unwanted, surplus or secondhand gear along to trade. This can include horse equipment, riding gear, clothing and maintenance gear. You can either do direct exchanges or pay small amounts of cash to make it fair when there are no exact trades for one party.
    • Clean any gear you're putting into a swap-meet. You'll want the items to look appealing and in great condition.

Method 2
Feeding on a budget

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    Feed the best quality you can get. Feeding cheaper, but poorer quality feeds is a false economy, as you will have to feed more and it risks your horse’s health by lacking the necessary nutrition. To obtain feed of quality status on a budget, buy in bulk. The best way to do this is to get together with a group of friendly horse owners in your area who are willing to pitch in for the cost of feed by the pallet load. This isn't just about bagged foods––molasses can be purchased in large drums, although you'll need to have strong people and good logistics in place to move this container.
    • Shop around. Look online and phone around for the best available deals. Tell the feed retailer that you're happy to buy in bulk if you can.
    • Ask for advice from a nutritionist. Many feed manufactures have free helplines. Make sure you are spending your money on the best feeds and not over feeding expensive supplements.
    • Always use up perishable food by the use-by date. Only buy as much or share in as much bulk-buying as you know you'll use up in time.
    • If buying molasses in bulk, have the feed retailer load it on the truck with their forklift, then have all your cooperative participants come around with their smaller containers to fill straight from the truck. By the time they're done, the drum will be much easier to move!
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    Buy winter feed early. Winter feed prices increase as winter proceeds, so the more you've purchased early on, the more money you'll save. If you don't have the cash to buy all you need at the end of summer or in autumn, get a small loan from the bank. Even paying back the loan with interest will tend to prove cheaper than buying more expensive food during winter itself but be sure to do the sums with your bank adviser first. Again, using other horse owners to pitch in and buy in bulk and share storage space can be a great way to keep down the costs and improve the community spirit among horse owners!
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    Care for your pasture. 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. Ask a local farmer for advice if you don't know how to grow great pasture.
    • If you live in a climate where the horses continue to access the paddocks and grass over winter, be considerate of the grass that is there. If horses tread on that grass when it's wet, they'll destroy that valuable feed. Instead, try using makeshift electric fencing to move them away from choice areas of winter grass so that you can feed it to them. On the dry days, let them eat direct from the grass to supplement their diet.
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    Buy some feeding supplements from the local shops. Cider vinegar, oils, garlic and salt can all be bought more cheaply at local shops then at feed merchants. If you get together with other horse owners, you may be able to buy wholesale.
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    Find cheap sources of additional food. Ask shops, supermarkets and market stalls if they have any fruit or vegetables they can’t sell, or need to sell quickly. Ask farmers and allotment holders if they have a surplus of their harvest that they can’t eat, store or sell. These will probably be oddly-shaped, damaged or small. Don’t accept any items that are rotten or diseased though; if you find these, either compost or dispose them as appropriate. And be aware that horses shouldn’t eat all types of fruit and vegetables. Don’t give them citrus fruit, tomatoes, or potatoes (cooked or raw). Remove any stones from peaches or plums. Most other types are fine, including the more exotic like figs and bananas.
    • Feed carefully selected kitchen scraps, like melon rinds and pulp from the juicer. These should be stored in the fridge and fed to the horse quickly after producing them.
    • Grow your own vegetables or herbs. If you have room, you can grow a selection of vegetables for yourself and your horse. You can grow herbs easily in pots. Mint is loved by most horses and is easy to grow.
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    Measure the food allowances. You can waste a lot of feed if it's not measured beforehand. Not only is overfeeding a waste but it can lead to an overweight horse. Weigh feeds before giving; use scales to weigh each feed.
    • Avoid filling hay nets. Feeding from the floor is healthier and faster, but wasteful. Feeding from a large rubber bin or enclosing a corner of the stable with plywood, gives you the benefits of feeding from the floor, without so much waste.
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    Keep your horse healthy to ensure optimal use of feed. A healthier horse will get the most from his feed:
    • Keep your horse suitably rugged. This will reduce the amount of energy the horse uses to keep warm/cool and help him keep condition with less feed.
    • Worm your horse regularly (as well as every horse he is turned out with). Get an egg count regularly. Ask your vet about the best worming programme for your horse and area. Feed the horse, not the worms.
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    Fill hay nets and prepare feeds ahead of time. This will save time later and make it easier for other people to feed your horse for you.

Method 3

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    Give your horse an extra bucket, so you don’t have to refill them so often.
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    Fill the bucket in the stable. Attach a hose long enough to fill the buckets without removing them.
    • Extend the plumbing to allow filling of bucket from the stable.
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    Install automatic waterers. These must be checked and cleaned regularly but they can save a lot of time daily.
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    Save water by using an adjustable nozzle on your horses. This means that you'll reduce the amount of water coming out. Also check leaky taps and trough ballcocks to prevent unnecessary water loss.

Method 4
The yard

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    Consider the layout of the yard. Know how long it takes to walk from the tack, feed and rug rooms to the stables, and from the stables to the muck heap. Draw a plan of this to see if there are any ways that you can reconfigure things to speed up the access and time taken. Or, find more efficient ways of completing each task so that you're not doubling back all the time.
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    Spring clean regularly, once or twice a year. Things will run more smoothly on a day-to-day basis and makes it easier to keep the yard in good shape in between.
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    Find repairs that need doing, 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. Keep a list of repairs you've noticed and attend to it at least weekly. Carry a hammer and wire-cutters when walking the yard and bang in or remove loose wires and nails that are sticking out. This will reduce the chances for torn horse covers and horse legs, saving you a lot of money for little effort.
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    Sweep the yard when it’s dry rather then wet. This will leave less debris and mud heaped up and makes it a less messy job for you.

Method 5
The livery

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    Keep your horse at livery and you’ll have the flexibility of the ultimate trade-off of money and time. Different types of livery require different amounts of work. DIY requires more work then Assisted, Part or Full livery, but is cheaper. In this case, you'll need to juggle financial savings with time savings and go with whichever benefits you most.
    • Consider travelling time from home/work when choosing a livery yard. This should be factored in to avoid excessive time loss.
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    Ask about grass livery. This is a cheap form of livery, but is only available where there is enough turnout, and sometimes not over winter. Not all horses suit living out full time.
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    Ask about working livery. If the horse is suitable for the job, some riding schools will offer a reduced livery fee in return for the horse being used in lessons.
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    Ask for work at the yard for a reduced fee, but don’t be surprised if you are turned down, or if the reduction is small. Keep an eye out for seasonal jobs or repairs the you are skilled at, such as repairing fencing, jumps, gates and doors, spring cleaning and painting, rug cleaning or driving a tractor to help with field maintenance or hay making. The yard manager is more likely to need help at these times.
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    Organise a rota for mucking out, turnout and feeding, with the other liveries so you can get some mornings/afternoons off.
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    Buy in bulk with other horse owners, or the whole yard. Feed, hay/haylage and bedding usually has to be delivered so you can spilt delivery costs too. Sometimes the yard owner does this for the whole yard.

Method 6

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    Find cheap or free insurance.
    • Join an organization that gives free insurance. The availability will depend on where you live but typical organizations that might provide free insurance include horse societies and jumping or eventing associations.
    • Buy online. Some insurance companies give online discounts.
    • Pay increased excesses in return for reduced premiums.
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    Reduce the insurance costs.
    • Have your horse security marked, namely, freeze-marked, microchipped. Your insurance company may give you a discount for having had this done.
    • Insure the horse for less then his worth. You will get the same veterinary cover cheaper, but will get a reduced payment if your horse dies or is stolen.
    • Insure only the basics. These include personal liability, and possibly vet fees.
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    If you choose not to insure your horse, at least get third party liability. Put some money aside every month for unexpected veterinary fees and keep a good credit rating so, if necessary, you can go into debt.

Method 7
Vet, equine dentist and farrier

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    Don't skimp on health professionals for your horse. In most cases, trying to save money on the professionals will turn out to be false economy because healthy horses save money in the long run.
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    Buy a calendar for the tack room to help keep on top of worming, shoeing and vaccinations. These are important to avoid expensive complications later, and last minute appointments sometimes come with an additional fee.
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    Schedule with other horse owners. Vets, dentists and farriers charge for call out but this can be split between owners if you schedule the same date for visits. All horses can be brought to a central location to bring down the costs and it's a good excuse for everyone to get together to discuss all things horses. Be sure to ask the vet, farrier or dentist for a "bulk" price in advance so that everyone is aware of the cost savings.
    • Provide coffee and a piece of cake to make an event of it.
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    Get a vet check regularly. Scheduling these checks with annual dental treatments and vaccinations will save on the call out charge and your vet may give a discount package. Catching any health problems early will save time, money and heartache in the long run. You may be able to also get a discount on you insurance.
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    Learn basic equestrian first aid. This will reduce the amount that you have to call out the vet mistakenly, or for minor problems.
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    Talk to your farrier about going barefoot. This doesn’t suit all horses or management systems, but if successful, barefoot horses have less foot problems and only need trimming, rather then trimming and shoeing.

Method 8
The equipment

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    Buy the best you can afford. Buying the cheapest products is a false economy. Canvas or ballistic nylon rugs can last 10 years or more, while cheaper rugs may not last a season.
    • Buy from recommendations. The best is sometimes hard to find. Ask other owners about products they have used and liked.
    • Buy expensive equipment co-operatively. Things like clippers are expensive but are used infrequently so are easily shared. Alternatively hire them out to others to re-gain some of the cost.
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    Buy on sale. Be alert for the sales and buy when they're on. In particular, buy at the end of the season, such as getting winter rugs in spring.
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    Buy synthetic tack. It's cheaper and easier to care for and store.
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    Buy regular essentials from local shops. This can include Vaseline, sunblock, after-sun, baby wipes, nappy-rash cream (this is interchangeable with udder cream) buckets, brooms, shovels and hair brushes. They will be cheaper from local shops than products aimed exclusively at the equestrian market.
    • Use disposable nappies as a poultice. They can be used as a very effective and cheap poultice for the hoof.
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    Clean, care for and store your equipment properly. Bang excess dirt off tools, air and wash rugs, clean your tack and cover it in a breathable cover. Store equipment under cover, in a well ventilated area. Well maintained equipment will last longer.
    • Keep leather tack well-conditioned.
    • Use rainy afternoons as a time to clean equipment while you talk with your horse.
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    Stop loss of items. Loss of equipment can be costly and replacing costs money. To stop this from happening, here are some solutions:
    • Mark your smaller equipment, like the grooming kit, with your horse's or your own name, to help stop things going missing, especially in a livery yard.
    • Put your name on lead ropes and halters. They're easy to borrow and forget to return but with a name on them, this becomes a reminder to would-be borrowers that they need to return them.
    • Mark turnout rugs with your postal code in big letters. Although this isn’t attractive, turnout rugs are expensive, easily stolen and usually not covered by insurance.
    • Keep a check list for checking off after events, to make sure you've gathered up everything prior to leaving.
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    Be resourceful with DIY repairs and fixes. Being resourceful means that you can repair and make your own equipment to save costs. Some suggestions include:
    • You can make the old horse cover last a long longer with some simply DIY repairs. Many small tears in these coats can be repaired simply using a hot glue gun. Even taking the cover along to a saddler or canvas-repair worker can be much cheaper than getting a new coat.
    • Restore waterproofing yourself. Purchase waterproofing agents off the shelf; some are sprayed on, some brushed, so follow the instructions provided.
    • Use a rug underneath to increase warmth of an older cover. Old covers can become rugs when they've had it as a cover.
    • Remove buckles, leather straps and other items before tossing out old covers. These can be used to repair other covers.
    • Make your own equipment and horse care products. Everything from horse hoof oil, shampoos, coat enhancers to cleaning equipment can be made yourself. Rope halters and hay nets are examples of equipment you can make at home.
    • Make your own jumps. Use tires and milk crates as makeshift wings.

Method 9
Mucking out

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    Turn out your horse as much as possible. This will reduce mucking out, and your horse will be healthier.
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    Buy tools that will work best. Mucking out tools should do the job well, without causing you pain or difficulties:
    • Buy tools that suit your build. Try them in the shop first. If you have a small frame, tools designed for children or teenagers might suit you better.
    • Buy tools suitable for the job. Depending on the type of bedding, you may want a four-pronged fork or a shavings fork.
    • Buy a large wheelbarrow to reduce the amount of times you need to go the muck heap.
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    Choose the best type of bedding for you. This means it must be suitable for your horse, easy to handle, easily composted or cheap, depending on your priorities. The cheapest beddings are those that are a by-product of another industry. Shredded paper and cardboard are the most common, 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, so is unsuitable for some horses.
    • Install rubber matting. This is initially very expensive, but will reduce the amount of bedding you need to use, saving time, money and reducing the size of your muck heap.
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    Put a tarpaulin outside the stable door. Skipping all the muck out on to that is often easier and faster then aiming for a small muck skip.
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    Muck out all the stables at the same time (either yourself or with others). The yard will only have to be swept once, and if you have a trailer, the muck can be taken away together.
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    Position the muck heap within easy reach of the stables, but downwind, out of sight of the neighbours, and with access to a road. Consider the footing as well as the distance. If you have a trailer, the muck heap can be further from the stables.
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    Consider managing a deep litter bed. This involves removing only the dropping and putting fresh bedding on the top when necessary. This reduces the daily workload, but the whole bed will have to be stripped weekly (semi-deep litter) to yearly.

Method 10
The muck heap

Removing the muck heap can be an added cost that is best reduced or even removed as a cost to you. Here are some suggestions.

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    Muck out directly in to bags (bedding, haylage or feed bags). People are more likely to take it away if it's bagged, but you probably won't be paid for it.
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    Compost the muck heap. This involves some maintenance, but the resulting compost will be in high demand, and you could even sell the resulting compost.
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    Contact farmers and nurseries to see if they want it. They will probably have the equipment to collect it directly from the heap. The older the manure, the more demand there will be.
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    Advertise at allotments. With less room manure will have to be bagged and at least partly composted (3 months - 6 months is best) to sell or give it to allotments. If you have a car, you can offer to deliver it to them for a fee.
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    Spread it on your own land. If the land is used to graze horses it must first be composted to kill any parasites, but this is the best way to manage your muck heap as it will also save on fertiliser costs.
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    Pay someone to take it away. This is expensive and wasteful, but removes the need to handle and dispose of it, and is necessary in some areas.
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    Burn it. This is an effective and cheap way of getting rid of manure, but it is wasteful, polluting and illegal in some areas.

Method 11
Tacking up/grooming

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    Train the horse to lift both feet from the same side when you pick them out, to save having to go around the horse. Young and unbalanced, or old and stiff horses might find this hard.
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    Carry everything at once from the tack room to the stable. If your horse has minimal tack, you may be able to carry everything in you arms, if not there are tack trolleys to help you, or you can use a clean wheelbarrow. You must have somewhere safe to put your saddle when you get to the stable. You could install a folding saddle rack outside the stable.
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    Use both hands to groom. Have the dandy brush in one hand and the body brush in another. Tuck the handle of the metal curry into your belt or waistband so you can use it without having to hold it. Wear full-chaps or over-trousers to avoid getting your jodhpurs/breeches dirty.
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    Groom only where tack goes to remove anything thing that might rub the horse, rather then do a full groom. This is very good if you need to get to a lesson quickly, but you should do a full groom every day so that you can bond with your horse (even if it's a lesson horse) and find health and body problems sooner rather then later.
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    Use a hairbrush to brush out the tail and mane. It’s faster than using a mane comb. There are expensive tail brushes on the market, but a cheap or old hairbrush works just as well.
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    Brush mane/tail conditioner into the tail and mane regularly. This will make it easier to brush out and keep clean.
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    Use baby wipes to clean the face and dock areas. There are also useful at shows to give a last minute clean to the horse’s coat, tack or your boots.
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    Clip your horse in winter. A clipped horse is easier to groom and cool down then one with a full winter coat. The horse must be rugged to be kept warm. Partial clips are a compromise, where only some of the coat is clipped off. Do not do this, however, if you are not riding your horse consistently, and make sure you know very well how to clip a horse.
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    Hog or pull the mane. A pulled mane is easier to care for. Hogged manes (clipped off) need no care at all, but only suit some types of horses like cobs. Only pull a horse's mane after a work-out so that his pores are open, and the hairs come out more easily. You should also learn how to do this from some one with experience.

Method 12

The following suggestions are aimed at reducing time.

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    Turn out as much as possible. This gives gentle exercise and reduces the amount you have to ride.
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    Lunge the horse. This gives more intense exercise that riding. Twenty minutes of lunge work is the equivalent to an hour ridden work.
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    Use an exercise sheet. This will keep muscles warm and reduce warm-up time. It can also be used during grooming and tacking up.
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    Cover the horse with a cooler or anti-sweat rug to reduce cool down time.

Method 13
Transporting your horse

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    Start a transportation sharing arrangement with other horse owners in your area. When a float is going to an event and there's a spare spot for another horse, ring around to see who needs the space. In turn, that person then owes you a trip to another event, and so on. You can share fuel costs and any other associated costs, as well as having someone to keep you company on the way to the event and you'll also be doing your part for reducing emissions into the atmosphere.
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    Hire your horse float. Instead of owning it, consider hiring it. Or start a shared float-owning cooperative with fellow horse owners so that everyone shares the cost of purchase and maintenance of the floats at all times.


  • Do a deal with a friend to share horse-sitting when either of you goes away. You'll save a lot of money on getting someone else to come in and care for them and this will free up both of you to take time off when needed.
  • In Britain, free insurance comes with belonging to any one of these organisations: the British Horse Society (BHS)[1], British Show Jumping Association (BSJA), British Dressage (BD)[2] and British Eventing (BE).[3]
  • Don't brush the horse's tail too often, as the hair would shed. Every 3 weeks is an adequate amount.


  • Never try to cut corners at the expense of your horse's welfare.
  • The mane gives protection against the elements and flies. Hogging or pulling the mane removes some of this protection.
  • The deep litter system is not suitable for horses stabled 24-hours, or those with breathing problems.
  • First aid is not a substitute for proper veterinary care. If it doubt, always call the vet.
  • Wood shavings that are a by-product of another industry are not always suitable as bedding; there may be sharp splinters.
  • If you pay to have your muck heap removed, ask what will be done with it. Try to find a company that composts it, as some companies will dump it in a land fill or burn it, which is wasteful and polluting.
  • Going barefoot with a horse for financial reasons might end up costing you more in the long run. The difference in having a horse shoed and having a horse trimmed is marginal or non-existent. Going barefoot is an important decision. Ask for your farrier’s advice.

Sources and Citations

  1., Gold membership offers Personal Liability and Personal Accident insurance, and use of Legal, Tax, VAT and Ratings Helplines.
  2., Membership offers personal liability, personal accident and legal expense insurance, and the use of a free legal helpline.
  3., Membership offers Personal Liability and Personal Accident Insurance.

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