Taking the Leap into Ownership - When are you "ready"? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 138 Old 05-25-2020, 10:26 AM Thread Starter
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Taking the Leap into Ownership - When are you "ready"?

Hello, HF!

For some basic background: I'm an adult who was new to horses a little over 4 years ago. I've had lessons and part-leases - I currently half-lease. I'd still probably only consider myself an advanced beginner but now have been exposed to a lot of different horse/pony personalities, challenges, basic training/groundwork/lunging. I've had dreams of ownership for some time now.

Last week my lease horse came up lame. It's hopefully minor and temporary (vet will be checking her out tomorrow), but my husband floated the idea for the first time of if it's time to get my own. While he's very supportive, it was the first time he brought it up without prompting. So, of course, I began aggressively crunching numbers and ownership *does* seem to be in our budget. I'd have to be careful and not overspend, but the numbers imply I can manage the basic expenses and some lessons. But, that will change my life hugely from having money I could be rather cavalier with (with most of it ending up in savings), to mostly going to the horse.

Reasons it could be time:
-We are at a barn we love - I feel like I'd be supported as a new horse owner by this friendly community.
-I like the trainer who has just moved in and she's expressed excitement to help me find a good match.
-Found an adorable pony locally I want to try out...
-I'm just really acutely feeling how uncertain life is in general, and if I continue to wait, who knows what will happen.
-My husband switched career paths and is making a bit more and has a ton of extra time now (no work outside of normal business hours like he used to have).

Reasons it might not be time:
-Okay this is a very big one: I just started grad school...which I want to do without loans. My job will be paying about 1/3 of it, but the rest will probably have to eat quite a lot into our savings if I have horse expenses, too.
-I will still only be able to afford boarding at a very minimum of places near me if anything changed at the barn I'm at now - is it weird this makes me nervous? I'm in a very expensive part of the country where boarding most places starts at 750. The barn I'm at is 550/mth and that's not common. The next closest barn in my budget would probably be at least 35 mins from home.

I kept saying horses were in my 5-10 year plan - finish grad school, then get the horse. But I guess I'm just sick of waiting and like the idea of not feeling like I have to rush through school to get to the next thing. I feel like a lot of people just take the leap and make it work, right? Is it crazy to be overthinking it this much?

TL;DR: When is it the "right" time to get your first horse? And, if you have any experience of this substantially changing your budget (being able to essentially save all of that money to suddenly it going to board/other expenses), what was that like?
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post #2 of 138 Old 05-25-2020, 11:37 AM
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The one thing that just jumped out to me is this:
Quote:
I just started grad school
Even if all works out money-wise, how does your time-budget look?
I know depending on your field grad school is more or less time consuming, but in most cases it is a big time commitment... And it starts out normally pretty begnin

So my only advice is to look at finances AND time...
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post #3 of 138 Old 05-25-2020, 11:38 AM
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A bunch of jumbled thoughts follow ...things I had to think about, consider to make the next step become a reality or not...
Some things I've learned over a life time of loving the animals, owning many from show ring champions to my bestest "just" trail horses...

I don't think there is ever a "right time" if you have fear of not being able to balance the monthly budget.
Horses are expensive and can have unseen emergent expenses at times.
However, in my years of starting out...emergent did not happen.
There were the monthly known and anticipated costs of board, farrier and vet work.
Not that nothing ever occurred, but I dealt with injuries myself that were minor, asked for help from experienced friends when tougher, but never did my horse need serious medical care.
Even when I went to a much more fragile horse, a show barn atmosphere...nothing.

So...today my horses are in my backyard.
If they get sick, if it is beyond my capabilities, I call the vet.
I have a budget, I live with a budget and no, I do not hock my life to afford care for my horses either.
I do what I can and my vet is in full agreement that if it takes extraordinary care such as major surgery then it is something to truly speak about cause recovery & recuperation are things not always worth what the animal must be put through and endure and there are no guarantees.

You mention board is $550 a month, but more common is $750.
Can you do the $750 and a bit more and sleep at night?
Board increases every year is common.
Can you also do the farrier every 5 - 6 weeks?
Vet for routine care...
Do you have some of your own tack and grooming supplies already?
All expenses will be solely yours to pay...no guarantees of lease or a partial boarder found.

If the answer to all of that is yes...then start the search.
Pay the $550 but bank the difference faithfully...
Whether you use it or have a nest egg beginning for the time of sickness, or the ability to open a credit card used by human and animal providers {Care Credit} if bills are immense that allows pay-off with no interest on certain occasions...
There is never a right time...not if you live at all paycheck to paycheck, with bills and living expenses...but there is a time to make your heart sing and follow those dreams.

The biggest to me is will you be able to give enough of your time to the horse and to you finishing your career in the time you want/need to and promised yourself you would do...
So, realize that any animal found by your trainer/instructor is price enhanced or you pay them a upfront fee for finding or if you are confident enough start looking yourself, go see and if truly interested take the trainer/instructor for their opinion but ultimately it is your decision.
I would strongly suggest a PPE of at least a general wellness check to make sure the animal is healthy with no upcoming issues happening.
Starting out at the level you describe yourself you need a older been there done it horse, one who knows their job and that is to take care of you, be able to challenge you as you expand your abilities and has more knowledge than you...but a horse who does not need "monthly training"...
Lessons for you is a given if you still want to widen your horizons.

If you can't sleep at night without fretting over a balanced budget...
If you have worries about having enough every month...amazing, you find it one way or another if you take the leap..
If you have made yourself goals for your career and getting a horse now jeopardizes fulfilling those goals..
You mention husband...to me that can also mean a family could happen, then what happens and is it a possibility in the next short while {no, don't answer that is personal just a statement made}
Taking on a horse in many ways is similar to having a child being dependent on you for all their needs met..
That has always been how I made my decisions of own, lease, take lessons, pet noses and wish for...
No one but you knows what is truly possible, how much you and your husband want to potentially give up for said horse to become yours but are all things you need to know before you go one more step.
Much to think about...it is more than just $$ involved here, actually.
I wish you the best in reaching this decision...a life changing one.
...

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #4 of 138 Old 05-25-2020, 12:50 PM Thread Starter
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@SwissMiss - Thanks for your reply! It's an online MPH and not too intensive of a program (ok the class I'm in right now is, but only because it's a 15 week class truncated into 6 weeks, haha). I was planning on taking no more than 2 classes per semester and would finish in about 3 years, but honestly if I had the horse already I don't think I'd mind knocking it down to one per semester and just taking it slow. I already find the time to make it out to the barn 4x a week, and don't think I'd have trouble increasing that to visit a horse almost daily for an hour or two.

This degree won't substantially change my career, it'll just be enhancing it. I am moving up the ladder and continue to earn more respect as is, and it's kind of seen as the next step in my field. One of the reasons I wanted to try to do it faster is I see "horse" at the finish line. But thinking it through, I might be even more sane not rushing it and balancing that with something I enjoy.

@horselovinguy - Wow, this was amazing - thank you! Some thoughts:
-At this point, really don't think I could do over 550 more than temporarily. (If there was ever some sort of emergency, we could adjust our budget I think. Especially as the horse is going to be my financial responsibility out of my "extra" funds after we pay the bills but I know my husband would lend a hand - or a dollar - if there were.)
-I have added farrier, routine (and extra) vet, and dentist into my budget, along with 3 lessons a month and a modest tack fund into my budget.
-I have a saddle that I could probably trade/sell and buy another used saddle if it didn't fit, pads, grooming supplies. Would need bridle and (eventually) blankets.
-So the only thing I said no to from that first list was the 750, save temporarily. So that might be enough?

I loved the part about making your heart sing - beautiful.

I would definitely do it right - PPE, getting my trainer's thoughts on how I look on horses. Ideally buying locally-ish where the horse community is small and people don't try to swindle each other/hide anything major (it'd ruin their reputations).

This probably could be a whole additional thread, but question. You noted an older horse would be ideal. I guess I'm concerned if I went too old, I could end up with fewer riding years and then a horse that I love but can't ride. I was thinking of looking 10-13 years. Does that seem right, or too young?

I don't have to worry about kids - we won't be having any. (I definitely couldn't afford both.) The biggest change for us as a couple I think would be giving up annual-ish international travel. My husband seems okay with that. And honestly, if he moves up in his new career it could open that back up for us some day.

So many things to think about, and it does seem I'm going about this in a right way, and possibly close/ready!
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post #5 of 138 Old 05-25-2020, 01:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IRideaHippogriff View Post
-So the only thing I said no to from that first list was the 750, save temporarily. So that might be enough?

I loved the part about making your heart sing - beautiful.

I would definitely do it right - PPE, getting my trainer's thoughts on how I look on horses. Ideally buying locally-ish where the horse community is small and people don't try to swindle each other/hide anything major (it'd ruin their reputations).

This probably could be a whole additional thread, but question. You noted an older horse would be ideal. I guess I'm concerned if I went too old, I could end up with fewer riding years and then a horse that I love but can't ride. I was thinking of looking 10-13 years. Does that seem right, or too young?

I loved the part about making your heart sing - beautiful.
Your welcome...and it is truth...your heart sings when happy.

Finding a horse "local" and from a place with good reputation the sellers not want to tarnish works well.
Look in the local horse classified ads, local feed stores and such and let it known by word of mouth you are looking for a horse..
Speak with the vet your lease horse uses too as often they know of animals available as do farriers and horse dentists if you have frequent contact to get the word out.
Good animals needing nice homes for not much money, nothing wrong often or they know the deal and where it is headed to advise.

A "older horse" is about right where you pegged the age...even older.
I would have no problem going to about 18 - 20 actually. So, 10 -20ish...
Horses today with better care and foods fed live productive active riding lives well into their 20's often. Many ride to late 20's easily.
One of mine is currently 22 and acts 5 year old when playing with the neighbors 6 year old in the pastures..He rides out fantastic with anyone often shaming them when he still has get & go to their pooped and done.
What I have found is older horses are settled in their ways because they have already been there and done it often.
All horses "test" some with new handling, but a horse who is a steady-eddy fellow is usually not going to change a whole lot.
Though this is why a PPE from a good equine vet is important as they see, sense, and can often uncover if someone is trying to pull a fast one and sell a horse with onset problems or problems drugs cover...there is often a telltale trail vets know to look for we as not professionals miss...

I might be a tad nervous not having anything in reserve myself...
I also enjoy not having to cook every night cause if you eat out a lot, that is going to be curbed if bills get wonky.
I would need to go into this knowing this is my limit to spend, and know that tomorrow if the barn atmosphere suddenly changed I could have other places to go...
Yes, that may mean traveling further = hidden expenses of travel and maybe less amenities or more cost for farrier/vet care if your guy not go to that barn and pricing is more...
You need a bit of a cushion, not held to the penny... but workable usually.

Otherwise, I love to help spend others money for animals and all the do-dads we accumulate...
Sigh...
Think you are pointed in the direction of making your heart sing LOUDLY soon.
And don't buy the first animal you see....
That my parents were told by a dear friend who is a horse dealer & years older than I when we went looking for my first horse!!
We went to her first, she had a horse I tried and wanted and she said no...she sent me to another trusted friend of hers.
She was right...
I rode 5 more horses but bought the 3rd horse tried at the other barn cause it was the perfect fit, he was what indeed I needed.
....
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post #6 of 138 Old 05-25-2020, 01:38 PM
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The nice thing about leasing is that you can walk away. Your current horse, for instance, if it is really seriously lame, I doubt you will continue the lease. You will walk away and let the owner deal with it. Which is fine. But when it's your own horse, you can't do that.

A lot of times people post questions like this because they feel like they have a special opportunity to buy a special horse, and in that case I think the consideration is a little different. You don't have a horse in mind that you want. Why not wait until you've started grad school, like maybe after your first semester, and see how much time / money you have, and whether you still want to buy? In the meantime, you can start an emergency vet account and save for the purchase price.

When I went from two horses to three, it really hurt my finances. I have a PT job with flexible hours, but I now have to max out my hours every single month to pay board. I have no more money for anything else except my horses. And this third horse, although I love him to death, has had so many unforeseen expenses that I drained my emergency account in a few months for him. He's a sweetheart but due to his emotional issues he probably would have been on that truck to Mexico by now if I hadn't bought him, so it's hard to say I regret it, but it's really changed my lifestyle for the worse. Just something to think about. Again, once you're the owner, you can't just walk away.
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post #7 of 138 Old 05-25-2020, 02:37 PM
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It's a tough call. I think getting a horse is much like when people have kids - there may never be the perfect time. You can try to be as prepared as possible though; so thinking through all these things is a smart thing to do.

My first horse I got when I was in High School still and it was a huge mistake! I was too young to know any better and was not prepared financially and emotionally for what was thrown at me. It ended badly and if nothing else i suppose I learned a big lesson.

I ended up getting my next horse 5 years later. I was working at a race horse barn - and one of my favorite horses that i groomed ended up being offered for sale at a VERY good price. I couldn't pass him up and ended up buying him. I was working full time and was able to afford board, but I won't lie - it wasn't easy. I did have money to put away into savings, but everything else went to the horse. I also got a good deal on board since the people knew me so well and I'd been taking lessons there for years.

Now that i have my horses at home, almost all my money goes to them. But I don't mind - I love doing things with my horses and in the summer the horses are basically my life. It is a lifestyle I have adopted and will do anything to make it work.
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post #8 of 138 Old 05-25-2020, 04:17 PM Thread Starter
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@ACinATX - Very great point about leasing vs. owning and is why I don't take this lightly. I do worry about all of the potential things that could go wrong and being essentially "stuck" if I ended up with a horse that can't be ridden, since I can only afford one. (And while I accept that is likely to happen someday with a forever horse, I'd prefer it be far down the road.) Also, another good point about not having a horse I'd absolutely love to buy. There is a pony I want to check out, maybe, but I could see lots of reasons he might not be the one.

I am actually in my second semester of taking classes now, so I think I have a pretty good grasp of the program.

@horselovinguy - I don't think I've explained the financial situation perfectly. With board being 550 and all the other expenses, I should have a cushion myself of a couple to a few hundred still going into savings. It's when you raise it to 750 that I don't think I'd be able to put much in savings myself. But, my husband will also still have all of his "fun" money for eating out (which he mostly pays for), and another couple hundred each check for savings. I'm very much a saver so want to make sure even after I get a horse that my savings account is growing.

Oh man - don't tell me I should consider up to 18 years old, haha. I posted on Facebook yesterday about considering buying a horse soon and one of my former trainers whom I really respect messaged me this morning about a gorgeous Friesian she has that she thinks is *perfect* for me and he is gorgeous/trail safe. (I would NEVER have looked for a Friesian, but what a stunner and only 15.1 hands.) The one caveat is he is 17 and I just don't want a horse for like 4 years who then ends up with lots of expensive problems.

The "don't buy the first horse I see" is interesting. Should I purposely go see a horse I don't feel absolutely into, just to get it over with?

I do seem to find myself justifying the hard stuff, don't I? This has been extremely helpful so far to talk through, please feel free to keep the thoughts coming!
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post #9 of 138 Old 05-25-2020, 05:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IRideaHippogriff View Post
Oh man - don't tell me I should consider up to 18 years old, haha. I posted on Facebook yesterday about considering buying a horse soon and one of my former trainers whom I really respect messaged me this morning about a gorgeous Friesian she has that she thinks is *perfect* for me and he is gorgeous/trail safe. (I would NEVER have looked for a Friesian, but what a stunner and only 15.1 hands.) The one caveat is he is 17 and I just don't want a horse for like 4 years who then ends up with lots of expensive problems.

The "don't buy the first horse I see" is interesting. Should I purposely go see a horse I don't feel absolutely into, just to get it over with?

I do seem to find myself justifying the hard stuff, don't I? This has been extremely helpful so far to talk through, please feel free to keep the thoughts coming!
No, don't waste your time or that of someone selling if not truly interested.
Do not be a tire kicker..
If you are not in love with the idea of buying, committed to finding, then you probably won't fall in love with and have to have the first animal you sit astride was my meaning...
When you get serious, start looking...
You may find a horse without trying by word of mouth, or you could search for months and not find what you want.
Kind of like the respected trainer thing...use your contacts to discover animals suitable..

Once you decide now is the time...
Watch the sale ads and search for what you want, desire and can afford.
Make contact with several sellers and appointments to go see and try their horses if they meet your needs, wants and pocketbook.
Sometimes you go no further than seeing, not even riding..other times you need to bring someone back to see, watch, critique and ride for a further look at what the animal knows and can do...
You will find these things out as you progress towards ownership and trying animals.

To me, the Friesian waves a flag of caution at me...
17 years old, 15 hands...is a gorgeous horse and trail safe...
This is a saleable horse for quick cash turnover.
Again private information you don't need to share but "How Much???"
Great the trainer thinks of you, but...that horse should sell for premium $$ fast!!
The Friesian tag alone makes them worth $$$$...and a true veteran of trails makes them worth that same large sum.

In actuality, most horses that reach the mid to later teen years sound and healthy stay that way with good care.
Mismanaged care can create issue, some breeds and bloodlines are prone to certain things...but for the most part...the steady-eddy part comes true of the older guys.

Are you only looking for a trail horse? Is that what you want the horses job to be....
Or something more?
Cause if you don't care about "breed" will you ever have a ton of animals to consider.
When wanting a trail horse, you want to ride on trails, alone and with another to find out how the horse reacts by itself and with horses it doesn't know too.
Ring work is not a trail horses best workplace to shine, but should go where they are asked within reason.

One huge Do Not Ever Forget...
If the seller will not get astride or have someone ride the horse first...don't you either.
Something is known about that horse you do not want to be on its back to discover!!
You want that horse caught, groomed and saddled in front of you, while you're watching like a hawk for how the animal reacts to contact on its body and saddling.
Make sure any seller understands you want their horse ridden in front of you so you can watch, see it work with someone it knows. If you arrive and find no one will ride...get in your car and leave!!
Not kidding!!
...
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post #10 of 138 Old 05-25-2020, 06:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IRideaHippogriff View Post

The "don't buy the first horse I see" is interesting. Should I purposely go see a horse I don't feel absolutely into, just to get it over with?
No, please don't waste the seller's and your time doing that. Just don't try out one horse and take it home immediately...

I actually ended up buying the first horse I went to see... But there were some after as well, as I just thought the horse too green for me and declined. After trying out other suitable horses and realizing that I really liked the first one and could not forget it, I contacted the seller again and lo and behold, the horse was still available... And is my partner in crime ever since
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