Monday, November 10, 2008

Horse Economics

Good Day!

It was wonderful to spend a weekend at home with my husband, my dog and my horses. It was a rare event for me to lay on the couch and read and nap and then do some cooking (one of my favorite past-times) on Sunday—not even stepping into my office for a moment. I was long overdue to catch up on some rest and it was the ideal time, before my hectic travel schedule of the next three weeks begins.

As I head to the largest horse expo this weekend—Equine Affaire in Massachusetts—I’ve been wondering how the economic news will affect how many people attend and the amount of goodies equine owners will shop for. Of course with the recent election, everyone has been thinking about the economy. How, though, is it really affecting the horse world? At a dinner the other night--with a bunch of ski-area executive my husband knows--someone asked me how the recession was influencing the horse business. So far, I feel like all is promising for the coming year. The horse industry is notoriously recession-resistant since you cannot just stop feeding your horse when times are bad. But are horse owners doing more than the feed-and-water basics right now?

How has this economy affected your horse life? Have you cut back on activities? Are you downsizing the herd? Putting off major purchases? Or are you cutting back on other things in your life so that your horse pursuits do not suffer? And how do you feel the economy will change within the next few months? Especially around Christmas? Will you be buying your horse his usual Christmas presents—new blankets and tack?

Have faith in the good times that will follow!



  1. I can't wait to see you at the Equine Affair! I am going this year, but have been able to keep my travel costs down by going to stay with a friend. I am even saving money on gas by talking her into coming with me so she will drive from her house the last 2 hours with me doing direction duty. When I first bought the tickets for Pfizer Fantasia and the Equine Affair last summer I planned on paying $4 a gallon of gas for the trip. With being able to stay with a friend and gas being half that now I think I am going to have extra to go shopping with so clearly I am confident the economy will bounce back. Also there tend to be cool things from the vendors there that you cannot find at a normal tach shop. As for everyone elses Dressage at Devon this year I saw less deals then usual which made me scale back my shopping, but plenty of other people were spending very freely so I am thinking horse people that go to events like this tend to be spenders. Also I tend to the the kind of horse owner who will give up everything for myself before I give up anything for my horse. I would rather eat pasta 7 days a week and give up on fun activities then miss his fall shots ($184 with teeth floating! ouch!). Have a safe trip out and I am looking forward to watching your clinic on Sat.

  2. Honestly, if I'd known how cheap horses could be, I would have never had kids! I know it seems like we spend a lot on our horses (and I know it depends on what we use our horses for), but I can't tell you the last time I fed any of my kids for $3.00/day. I've figured between hay and the very small amount of grain she gets a day, that's about what I spend on her. I do my own deworming and shots (well, I don't have the vet do the shots - the lady she winters with does them) so I only pay what it costs to pick them up from the vet supply store. Estes' last "physical" - vet check - was a whopping $25.00 and the vet came to the house! When was the last time anyone paid for a $25.00 house call for a human? Since all of our horses are barefoot, we save a bundle on shoes and pay for the farrier to trim their shoes once after we get them back from winter pasture. Again, I can't remember the last time I only had to take care of my kids' feet once a year!

    I know that our horses are easy keepers and we are very blessed to have property to keep them on during the summer and we only pay $2.00/day/horse when they are at winter pasture. If we weren't so lucky, there wouldn't be any way we'd be able to afford to keep them. I really feel for people who have to pay to board their horses, I don't know how they manage.


  3. Hi! I am a regular reader of many blogs and one of the things that i read many times over is how good horses are being abandoned or sold for slaughter. Look on the pages of these bloggers and you will find Strawberry Lane who just rescued a sweet horse named Shadow, who was starving. Another blogger, A Cowboys Wife, writes about people canceling the scheduled training with her husband, because of the concerns of the economy. There are a lot of concerned horse people out there who have the stories to tell.

  4. How nice of Saddle Mountain Rider to mention, Shadow, the sweet horse I rescued from starvation.

    It wasn't a good time for me to be adding another horse, but it wasn't a good time for this poor horse, either. He had been so dreadfully neglected for such a long time.

    To afford him, I found many ways to cut back on things I didn't need. And in the process I found I needed this horse. He has been a blessing, so inspiring with his courage.

    I'm surrounded by stables that are raising rents, cutting services, offering poorer quality hay.

    Some owners are giving up their horses and others are making big sacrifices to care for the things that really matter to them ... their horses.

    I do hope good times are around the corner for us and especially all the horses that have fallen on hard times.

    If anyone can help just one extra horse, it would make a huge difference.

  5. I came over from Saddle Mountain Rider, who asked that we visit your site and leave our opinion of how the economy is affecting horse owners.

    I'm sorry-The the horse industry is not recession proof. A bad economy is devastating to the horse industry and to horses in general. Yes-there are a lot of people who have horses that will make every concession possible to keep and maintain their horses, but there are just tons and tons of people who recently picked up horses(while the economy was booming) and they are prone to dump their horses as soon as they have to make household budget cuts. For most people horses are a luxury, an item that is never, ever going to be paid off. I think their decision of what to do about that is very obvious in the massive number of horses that have been dumped on the market. These people aren't just cutting back on the dollar amount they are planning on spending on their horses-they are getting out of the horse market altogether and that has affected and will continue to affect the overall sales of horse related items.
    The people who do chose to keep their horses for the most part have had to cut back on the number of purchases, vet bills, farrier services, anything they can cut back on. Feed is really the only thing that cannot be cut back on too much, but sales will be affected by the reduced number of people owning horses. Herds are being whittled, mares are not being bred and shows/events have a greatly reduced number of people participating. I have even heard of series events being canceled due to lack of participants.

    Talk to the sales people at the the people walking around. Are they carrying bags filled with items they are purchasing? Or are they just looking? I think a lot of people that have held onto their horses are purchasing the bare minimum or looking for a great bargain. It will certainly be a while before people have the purchasing power that they did just a couple of short years ago.

    As for how the economy has affected my family's horse habit personally? We are lucky-we have pasture, put up our own hay and I trim feet, give necessary shots and doctor anything that needs it. We have a couple of mares for sale that we cannot sell, but other than that, we are pretty lucky not to be in a position to have to get rid of anything to be able to afford to take care of the rest.

  6. Fortunately the bad economy hasn't negatively affected my horse-keeping ability. I keep my three at home and had plenty of grass in the pastures to be able to spend the summer hoarding hay instead of feeding it. Hay is high, so we have made a few budget adjustments to be able to keep it stocked. We eat out less and go to far fewer movies/plays. We purchase fewer impulse items and buy only the necessities.

    I have made the decision not to purchase new horse-related items for awhile. I'll get by with what I currently have and keep all the old stuff in as good repair as I can. My new guy needs a new bridle, but I've managed to cobble together a workable bridle out the pieces/parts I had laying around. I did have to buy him two new blankets, but only because none of my other blankets fit him. I give my own vaccinations, saving the cost of a vet visit, and I've switched from having the farrier out every 6 weeks to having him out every 8 to 10 weeks. Two of the horses are barefoot and the third horse will have her shoes pulled for the winter next week.

    I don't run to the tack shop to pick up more $12-a-jar horse treats when I can pick up a huge bag of peppermints for $1 and a bag of carrots for $2.

    Last summer my horse friends and I went on a group trail ride at least once a week. We trailered to different spots and spent the day riding and stopped for lunch afterwards. With gas prices, we did ONE trail ride this past summer. And I didn't buy the new horse trailer I'd hoped for this summer...the economy put the kibosh on that.

    I've had to turn down the offers for three free horses that needed homes because the owner could no longer afford them. I HATED to say no and it broke my heart because I knew where they would likely end up, but I also know I have to keep mine fed, shod and healthy before I start taking on someone else's hard luck cases.

    The economy will bounce back and we're not hurting, we're just watching more carefully where the money goes. Especially when I KNOW hay will reach astronomical prices again this winter and the cost of feed will continue to escalate as well.

  7. Yes, the economy as well as the horse slaughter ban have definitely affected the equine market here in Texas. Owning riding horses is considered a hobby and thus, a luxury. When people must economize, they begin by eliminating luxury items. Many large equine operations, both breeding and training, have significantly downsized and are selling their horses at a loss. This has flooded the market with unwanted horses and auction prices are at an all-time low. The incidence of horse abandonment, usually of older, starved, & sick horses, is now commonplace. My husband & I have a small cow/calf operation, and the impact has been similar on the cattle industry. We used to wean our calves on creep feed for a month or two before selling them, but feed is too costly for that now. They now go right to auction at 5 or 6 mos without being weaned. We also economize by making our own hay, cutting down on farrier costs by keeping our horses barefoot, and doing our own vaccinations & teeth floating. Fortunately, most of our horses are easy keepers. The one expense we can't avoid is senior feed for our two old rescue horses. Both were near death from starvation when we got them and they need a diet formulated for seniors. Seventeen dollars a bag is ridiculously high for horse feed, but they have trouble digesting the regular stuff. After all they've been through, I think they deserve it!


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