Monday, December 19, 2011

All I Want for Christmas is a Horse!

I recently posted this photo (which was used on a long ago Christmas card to benefit Brooke, a charity for retired horses) on my Whirlwind Facebook page with the question: Who wants a horse under their Christmas tree? I received more comments to this photo than any I've posted all year. There were 100 likes, 32 comments, and 20 shares. Most commenters simply wrote "Meeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!" or "I doooooooo!!" And I totally understood. I have been loving horses since I was four-years-old and can't imagine a life without them.

However . . . a life with horses is not without challenges (as every horse owner knows and which makes for wonderful blogs!) especially financial ones. So what would the reality be if you DID find your dream horse under the tree? Hopefully, you would also find all the necessary tack and equipment wrapped and ready; otherwise, you'll be spending some big bucks. I am still using tack from a decade ago, so I hadn't priced saddles and bridles in ages. Saddles from the Stateline online catalog ranged from $400 to $2,000. These weren't custom made or custom fit, so if Santa brought you a horse with an odd back, you'll be spending even more. Bridles ranged from $30 to $180.00 (most without the bits) Helmets went from $40 to $130. Then there're halter and lead rope, brushes, hoof picks, and buckets. Those are the absolutely necessary items if you are going to ride a horse. That doesn't include board.

I've pared down my horses' needs to a minimum. We have seven acres of grass, reasonably priced and easy to get hay, and two easy-keepers. Both get a small amount of grain, but Relish gets an expensive supplement for his hooves since I keep him barefoot (which keeps farrier costs down to $65.00 every six weeks for two.) BUT we had to invest in a barn--$25,000 ten years ago--granted it's large enough to house our tractor, which is important for mowing those seven acres, and my husband's car parts and equipment--as well as good fencing--$5,000.

Are you adding this up all you "wishing for a horse" folks? That's the price tag if you keep a horse in your backyard. I live in a rural area, and the nearby barn with indoor arena charges $250 a month IF your horse can be used for occasional lessons. I know it is much higher in urban areas. Ouch. If you go for riding in a big way there's also trailering, lessons, show gear, entry fees . . . And don't worry, your horse WILL need a vet, even if it's just for yearly immunizations, which run about $175 per horse in my area.

On top of financial realities, there are also huge time and energy commitments. Horses need at least twice a day care. If you are doing it by yourself, it is a responsibilty that can not be forgotten EVER. If you are paying someone to care for your horse, see the above price tag. And lastly, when you ride horses, note that "helmet hair" was not a description coined by soldiers, and that you will always have manure on your boot soles and hay clinging to your clothes.

Now: Who wants a horse under their Christmas tree? If you are still screaming "I do!!!!" you are one of us--the truly horse-obsessed!

Merry Christmas and may you find the gift of love and laughter under your tree this year!


AareneX said...

I was just talking with the mother of a horse-obsessed 10-year-old this morning, and we both agreed that having a horse is, to those of us who spend most waking moments thinking horsey thoughts, absolutely worth every early morning cleaning stalls, every late night at work to earn money for hay (or a barn, or new tires for the trailer), and every potential embarrassment from "rural decor" adhering to shoes and jacket.

If I wondered if all this bother wasn't worthwhile, it would not be worth it.

How lucky I am to have a horse!!!

Linda Benson said...

I am horseless at the moment, Alison, by well-thought out decision, and yet all I can think and dream about are which horses I'd want under the tree. I'm sure I'll feel this way until my dying day. It doesn't ever go away.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention the joy of picking hooves which is not only a smelly job but also a dirty one especially during the muddy season. What about brushing, combing and pulling cockle burrs out of manes, ears and tails?

I waited forty-three years for my horsey dream to come true and there is nothing in this world that can bring a smile to my face faster than when someone asks "How is your horse?"

Dreaming said...

If we all figured out the expenses in advance, some of us might not have entered into horse ownership. I'm glad I never did the math in advance... but my guys are worth every penny!

Meidhbhe said...

My mother told me that for my fourth birthday, I asked for, "a horse, or a pony, or a donkey, or anything that has four legs and will GO"! I didn't get it then, and haven't since. Meanwhile, I've spent a good deal of my life earning a living with horses, and now that I no longer do that I'm lucky enough to ride a friend's horses. Sometimes, though, I still dream. That part is free!

Alison said...

Aarenex, how lucky you are to have a horse is right!

Linda--it's never too late. I know, I know . . .

1sthorse, thanks for reminding me about hooves and hoof trimmings, which my dogs find delectable!

Dreaming, I am math challenged, too, when it comes to horses. When I was writing the piece I had totally forgotten the big price tag on the barn.

Meidhbhe,I'd love to hear about how you actually earned money with horses! :)

Lauren G. said...

And I wish that your wish will come true! :)

RiderWriter said...

I'm with Linda... except I know she's had one in the past, at least. I never have. But she's right, I will NEVER give up the dream, either! :-)

Alison said...

Thanks for chiming in Lauren and RiderWriter. (Hmm, a rider and a writer--that's us!) I hope you both get your wish whether it's for a horse or not.