How do you afford it?

This is a spin off of the 40 is the new 20 thread, but I was thinking this before seeing that. I’m an AA, who aspires to bop around and have fun at the LLs of eventing. I’m content to stay local, support schooling shows, no upper level ambitions or expectations to go to regionals or nationals. My husband and I are not poor- far from it! But we live in a very high COL area (greater Boston) where board at an eventing barn with an indoor runs $1200+, lessons are $75-100/each, front shoes go for $150 and a full set is over $200, nevermind vet costs, competition and clinic costs, and the cost to actually buy a trained, sound, safe horse! How do you do it??

I had to retire my horse last year after an asthma diagnosis. I keep him at home so no board costs, just his regular hay/feed/etc. I bought him as a 10yo with experience through training level. Not a packer, per se, he requires a tactful ride, and paid $5500 for him (yes, a great bargain even in 2011, but I can only imagine what a comparable horse today would go for- easily 4x that!). With horse prices being what I’m seeing, I can’t imagine being able to buy another event horse anytime in the next few years, nevermind paying an estimated quarter + of my gross annual salary for upkeep and sport costs if I board at an event barn when I have other adult expenses (taxes, mortgage, child, retirement, etc.).

How do you keep doing it? Am I the only one feeling priced out of the sport I love recently??

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Really interested to see others’ responses, as I too have been priced out of the sport and am struggling to figure out how to stay involved.

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Horses are EASY to afford. It’s the rest of life like food, gas, rent, that is impossible.

The only way I have been able to afford this is by making my own horses from the ground up (which I love doing anyway), trading my abilities to do about any job around a barn, and running almost completely independently. That can’t work in this case because my life makes little room for family etc. unless they also are intimately involved with horses.

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I live in your area (greater Boston) and have similar circumstances. I had to retire my 16 year old in 2020. I had to find a new horse in 2020, which was not fun. I ended up purchasing a 3 year old, sight unseen off video, something that I never would have considered doing in the past.

I don’t have any good answers. On bad days, I think about what my husband’s and my life would look like if I didn’t have horses. I try not to think about the insane expense we are incurring. I do what I can, when I can. I try not to have FOMO when I see those with much larger budgets doing all_the_things.

My now 5 year old will be dipping his toes into horse shows this year. We will be going for positive learning experiences and not results. We’ll be focusing on affordable outings, as we are going for experience, not to be competitive.

I guess I just remind myself that I am (relatively) young-ish and healthy. That is far from a guarantee in this life. So to me, I try to enjoy the ride and appreciate what I have. Because tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us.

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This is a really good thread, I’ll be interested to see where the discussion goes.

I also live in a high COL area. I “save” on costs by keeping my horses at home - save in quotes because I am not sure I’d be spending as much on my mortgage if I didn’t have to have land for the horses.

I don’t know if this is a way to afford or just a mindset, but I really enjoy the journey of training a young/green horse more than I enjoy competing up the levels. I think taking/training/reselling (I have yet to successfully put a horse up for sale though) green horses is a good way to make it a bit more affordable (though really not going to get much of a return on investment if you have to pay board costs.) Also, this works for me because I truly enjoy the journey. It’s not wrong to want to compete at the upper levels, and I don’t want to sound like I’m disparaging anyone who does, I just enjoy the training journey and I think it saves me money.

Like many who own horses in a high COL area, I have a good job and I’ve been working remotely since the pandemic started and will continue working remotely going forward, which helps from both a money and a DIY perspective.

On top of that, I will absolutely splurge on things like vettings, good farrier etc but I wont for things that I can easily do myself or that don’t seem to add a lot of value. I’m not a big spender on my tack, and I try to limit my extraneous purchases to those things that will actually serve a purpose and make my life better/easier.

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Yes, the TIME aspect of it is almost equally a barrier for me. I don’t want to be an absentee mother to my son -6yrs old, such a fun and precious time in life that only lasts so long! I would love to find a horse that he and I could share and have a common bond over, but that’s not im the cards right now.

I have a farm at home, which means there are chores that need to be done daily, on top of my full time job and any fun stuff like riding. And trying to drive anywhere in the greater Boston area after work- forget it! Traffic is a nightmare. I’m trying to get out of this whoa-is-me no-solutions mentality, but it’s hard!

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This is not true in Greater Boston, where OP is. Greater Boston barns have capitalized on the H/J model and it has truly priced people out of the sport. :nauseated_face:

A very real concern for people in/around Boston is the affordability of board and rent costs, which are so outrageously expensive now that even middle class people are being pushed out to suburban towns and cities, which in turn is driving up demand for housing in these previously low-cost towns, which in turn is driving up rent/living costs. I’ve talked about this at length on this forum before, as a landowner that rents out property in a Greater Boston town that has seen its rent average double in the last 2 years.

Sidebar: A competitive barn here in Greater Boston runs $1200-1600 for board w/ indoor and good trainer. All of them have a lesson requirement of 2-4 lessons a month, which means the board is much closer to being north of $1700+/mo. Lessons with a good instructor are $80-100 here. This is not easy or cheap.

Greater Boston is in a rather unique quandary with regards to horse-keeping and the future of horse-keeping here is teetering on unsustainable. Land prices and living costs have increased so astronomically while wages have stagnated and struggled to keep up. Even people who are middle/upper class by the rest of US’s standards are getting priced out of horse sports in this area.

OP, you are not alone. There is actually an on-going discussion in the Area 1 FB group that covers this topic, and this topic itself has come up several times in our eventing forum in the last year on COTH as well.

I made my peace with it, albeit bitterly, a few years ago. I keep my horses at home, which puts me (IMHO) at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to things like access to an indoor. The trade-off is I’m not spending $1500+ a month on board. I put aside $25 a week, every week, and treat this separate account as my ‘education’ fund for clinics and a show or two every summer. Even then, you burn through it in 2-3 clinics when the average clinic is $300+ for one or two days…

Yes, I feel FOMO when I see exciting things like UNH announcing their opening dates, or seeing friends go off to GMHA… I get my fix other ways - I still volunteer at two of the local events, and I’ve transitioned to doing almost exclusively hunter paces while our season is good. It’s not as fun as the feeling I get crossing the finish line after XC, but it’s very close and you can drink hard seltzer and cider during the ride. :wink:

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I 100% second Beowulf’s post. It’s dead on regarding the Greater Boston market.

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Living in an urban area has always made horses more expensive than if you lived out of town a ways–even in more moderate COL areas this is true. It’s not the horses you can’t afford it’s living in Boston that’s the problem.

The reality is if you love surfing you have to live near the ocean. If you love skiing you need to live near the mountains. If you moved to Ocala Florida for the cost of your home you could buy a farm there and the expense would not be so much of a problem–although the income might be!

To add on to Beowulf’s post, try finding a boarding situation – in ANY discipline – for less than $900 per month in this area. Lower than that, you are definitely taking a risk in care, as below that threshold is often barns that are trying to cut corners to capture the low-end market.

An indoor is practically a non-negotiable requirement in this area. Even if you have flexible work hours that permit you to ride during daylight hours, the ground is frozen for large parts of the year (and mud when it’s not). You are restricted to Walk/Trot, in which you are often taking your life in your hands, trying to ride a tight, winter-chilly horse that usually isn’t moving around much in turnout, due to precarious footing.

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Beowulf 100% spot on. I wish I could convince my other half to move a bit further west, but alas, not gonna happen. He grew up in Townsend and hated it, and he loves the proximity to Boston that we have. We also know that if we did sell, we would never ever be able to afford to buy in this area again. Nevermind rent- our home value has doubled in the 10 years we’ve owned it (and it’s not because we made a ton of fancy upgrades! We haven’t)! So I’ll need to make the most with what we have, limitations and otherwise.

I think a happy medium I may try to do in a few years is to find a half lease at an eventing barn near me. I’d be able to get my rides in and lessons etc without paying my entire salary towards it and still have family time. Of course, that is pending a half lease on a suitable horse being available at an eventing barn in reasonable proximity to me- of which there are very few!

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Pretty much what everyone else said, plus Boston has some extra challenges.

I am only able to have a horse because we own our house free and clear. I do not show; my horse is retired, I aspired to eventing but only competed once. She’s been my low level dressage horse and trail horse since 2008, until her retirement a couple of months ago.

I had to drop most lessons to afford where we are now. It’s an expensive barn, but I can’t move her because see below** (and she has a lot of special needs, and I do not want her far away.) She is my first and likely my last horse.

I’ll miss my “horse life.” A lot. I do have a couple of friends I can ride with on their horses, occasionally.

** BTW do NOT try to find board on the North Shore; we’ve had 10-ish barns close in the last 6 months, many times older people who have honestly earned a good retirement, and selling their barn will allow that. But land is too expensive for new barn owners to take over. Other areas seem to be doing a bit better.

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Quietann, sorry to hear about your situation and horse. And yes, it is a very sad situation on the N shore with barns closing and land being developed. I’m just west of you, literally bordering I93, a bit north of the 95 junction. It’s a tough area, for sure! Sigh. No easy answers for those of us in high (and only getting higher) COL areas. Win the lottery?? That’s about all I’ve got!

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Well I do not live anywhere near Boston. Near Huntsville Alabama, although I am originally from near Toronto Ontario.
However I do think that most things are relative. For this area we probably make quite a good living, my board is about $700 a month but with everything included probably close to about $1000 a month and that’s lessons as well. It seems crazy but I literally have Three pairs of pants and maybe a half a dozen shirts/tops depending on the season, to choose from. Thankfully I work at home three days a week and wear scrubs the other two days when I’m in medical office so I don’t have to have a lot of clothes. I feel like it’s just a lot of sacrifice. Most times it is 100% worth it, sometimes I feel like packing it in. But I love my horse! My husband, thankfully, is very supportive, he makes good money, I do not, but I can totally support my horse habit. I always help others if they need help and are offering to pay. I also help them when they’re not offering to pay but I’m happy to take your money! I am in my mid-50s, I know I don’t have a whole lot of time left to do this, so I need to enjoy it while I can.

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I’m a little north of you, OP, but I’ve been watching prices rise and rise over the years. Board, lessons, feed, show fees, everything has gotten so expensive. A decent barn with an indoor is getting out of reach for a lot of horse owners who can’t keep their horses at home.
When my horse passed away last Fall, I decided not to get another horse, as it’s just getting too expensive for my household.
Hopefully I can find a lease or half lease at my local eventing barn. I don’t want to compete anymore, but I might take lessons etc.

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I hear you on the being frugal, and believe me we are. My work pants are the same pairs I bought when I got my first office job – 11 years ago. I own a whopping 2 pairs of jeans and wear them until they wear out with holes. Rarely buy new clothes and always on sale at Kohls or something when I do. Vacations? What are those? My husband and I have been together for 16 years and never gone to a resort together. Our honeymoon was my horse (we did do a long weekend at a B&B in Vermont, driving distance). I don’t go to spas, I don’t wear makeup or even really jewelry. I don’t drink (or buy) coffee. I brown bag my lunches for work and we eat out max once per week for dinner (usually at budget/family friendly places). There aren’t many more places to cut expenses.

Costs in general are just going up, up, up, and despite raises and promotions, we can’t keep up. I guess in some ways it’s comforting to know I’m not alone (especially in this region), but it doesn’t bode well for the future of horse sports in central New England. I’m sorry for those in a similar position.

I’m thankful to have my horse at home, and he’ll live out his days here with me (and 2 mini donks for company) but lord knows when I’ll get another.

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I moved. It is nearly impossible if you are not independently (very) wealthy to afford a horse in a HCOL area where land values are so high.

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I am farther south than you but still along the east coast in a big city area. Currently half leasing at a nice little eventing barn, even that plus lessons takes up a decent chunk of $$ each month.

I have a good job and pretty good income for being a year out of school, and I live with my partner which helps to cut living costs. No kids, no pets, he has an inexpensive hobby. I am fortunate to not have any debt and be driving my trusty 19 year old, solid as a rock car. Even now, anything more than a half lease I just not feasible without feeling like I am really tightening the purse strings and I fear it’s only going to get worse with ever increasing prices.

Really I am just planning on holding out til I am in a better place financially before looking into anything more. I don’t want to skimp on care or training by moving to another place; I love my current barn. I wish I could also go the route of working off some of my board/lessons/etc like I did in school. But I have already had two shoulder surgeries and I think my barn work was what accelerated the second one so I’m hesitant to even touch that again.

I mentioned in another thread of mine, I don’t want the financial aspect to stress me out so much that it takes the joy out of horses for me. It’s hard, when everything else is going up - groceries, gas, rent. You aren’t alone in this, OP, and I hope there will be something on the other side of this that we can see it through to.

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This are the posts where I always chime in that it is nearly impossible to afford horses on time based income. Unless you are exceptionally well compensated, there aren’t enough hours in a week to earn the amount you need to pay for the horse plus everything else you need to pay for (rent/mortgage/insurance/ retirement/etc).

For myself, I have gradually built up a small rental property portfolio which means on the first of the month, if all tenants have paid, my mortgages, insurance, property taxes, utilities, car, horse board and phone are paid for, with about $2000 left over to throw at my credit card. This is my asset based income and I try to always make sure that my fixed monthly expenses are always covered with a decent cushion.

Then, I do my time based work, which is working as a solo real estate attorney and owning a bookkeeping and payroll company. As my time based income increases, I try to keep buying additional properties so that my asset based income remains at least 50% of my gross.

In this way I am not dependent on a boss, clients, or having a particular job to pay for my life. I am also not capped by the number of hours in a week limiting how much I can earn - you can always buy another house. My lawyer and bookkeeping money is “gravy money” - I use that for buying additional properties, doing capital improvements on existing properties, or splurging on horse or travel expenses. If I were trying to pay for my whole life on just the time based income, it would be very tight, I would have to actively work a lot more hours (much less time to actually ride the horse) and I would be up the creek as far as retirement.

IMO, having income that is not dependent on the number of hours there are in the week is absolutely essential if you want to start throwing hundys on something as bonkers expensive as a horse.

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My husband and I live further west (even though I used to work in Needham, we lived WAY west, like the Berkshires) and while at the time it was affordable, it’s now not affordable out here either. I pay $975 per horse for board at the moment, not including extra fees for blankets etc. It can be found more affordably, but there is an absolute dearth of quality training here, so the savings there is immediately offset by having to haul for training or take virtual lessons.

A horse property out here that doesn’t need $150k of work and is in an area with reliable internet access will run you an easy $1m. I just board, even when I have sales horses, because it’s just easier to have the flexibility to be done with it when it all gets too much. We’ve talked about 10 times this past year about buying a property and building it up and it just doesn’t make sense.

I’d definitely try the half lease - that way, you’re also not tied to the commitment if you find it just really financially isn’t for you.