Start Budgeting Your Horse Habit for the Winter

If you’re like me, you’ve got to save money on your horses, in order to afford to keep them.

Every fall, we are really hit with the expenses in a hurry. Pasture fades, and soon feeding hay is a necessity. The horse needs blankets, shoes for the winter perhaps; more grain, more bedding for the barn as the horses are in more, due to bad weather.

Energy bills go up to heat your tack room, water heater, heat tapes on pipes, etc. And then, you are bombarded with marketing extravaganzas, tent sales, email blasts announcing grand sales, big equestrian expos with promised bargains, and more.

How do you economize? How do you fit it all in a squeezed budget?

1. First, check the Money Matters category on HJU! 🙂

2. Then, start looking for coupons and discounts wherever you can.

  • Check out coupons at Farnamhorse.com – some good bargains there. Southern States offers a feed coupon for .50 off a bag of Legends horse feed in most major east coast horse magazines, such as The Equiery (Maryland), check out the ad and clip the coupon if you feed Legends brand feed. Link to coupon page here>>
  • Online, there’s a handy website that lists online coupons and discounts that may be available at your favorite online horse supply stores. Check it out at RetailMeNot >>

3. Sign up for email alerts:

Check for deals online

Consider setting up a separate email address at the free address sites like Google, or AOL, and provide this for the online signups for some good shopping email alerts. That way you won’t clutter your main personal email box.

Sometimes, these emails contain special codes or discounts on timely sales you can’t get any other way. Here are some companies that offer these types of email alerts:

  • Smartpak offers two $50 gift certificates, drawn at random, to email subscribers each month.
  • Southern States

4. Be alert to bargains at your local store.

My local feed store just sent out a Facebook alert yesterday about a sale rack and mentioned some items they placed on the rack — one of which is a product I do use, and would love to buy on sale. Great marketing tactic! Don’t forget to “LIKE” your local feed and tack stores on Facebook for just such occasions. Recently, a friend won a small contest at a feed local store, and received $100 worth of free feed for her horses!

5. Don’t forget your local Clipper Magazine, and mail coupon collections for non-horse related retail outlets.

My local farm supply store regularly offers rubber horse stall mats for a bargain price — in the general coupon mailer, buried with the pizza coupons and jewelry buying offers!

And by all means, patronize those tent sales and “percentage off” weeks. I buy my most expensive supplements and tack items during such occasions, and get them at substantial savings. Read your local horse magazines cover to cover, and make note of the ads mentioning sales, discounts, specials, and bargains as well as the dates they’re available and jot them down on your calendar. But be sure to read the fine print; what you want may NOT be on sale.

6. Network with friends.

Make sure you check your bulletin boards, chat rooms, etc. for bargains and promo codes links that others are finding — and if you’re looking for something on sale, mention it and see if someone else has already found it cheaper.

7. Keep an eye on Free Shipping Offers

When ordering online, save money on shipping by shopping when the shipping is offered for free or reduced price. I’ve got a friend who religiously keeps track of free shipping offers and only orders when they are in place.

9. Follow and check in regularly online (and in person) with your favorite tack shops and see what they are up to.

Some shops I frequent, have sales on a yearly basis. So I wait for those time periods, because I know I can get a certain percentage off a big ticket item I might need.

Be aware, though, that some things you simply are not going to get for a bargain price — saddles are almost always exempted from sales. It’s possible the markup on saddles is not very high, and when you consider that a $2,500 saddle might cost the store $2,000, and they will need to buy a range of sizes in that model that may require display space and handling for up to a year or two, you can quickly see they can’t bargain too much before they’re losing money on this type of item.

However, the very expensive Rambo horse blankets are worth a $50 discount if you bring in an older turnout blanket of any brand (washed and clean) at some retail outlets. So there’s a bargain somewhere, you just have to wait — and look.

9. Repair your current blankets

Instead of buying a new blanket, consider buying a less expensive liner for a blanket you already have, or add a neck cover which adds the insulating capacity of one layer, by preventing heat escape from the front of the horse. Perhaps you can repair a blanket that has seen a little wear. You don’t have to send blankets out to repair services; iron-on repair nylon patches are available at places like Walmart for under $5.00, and consider picking up a needle and thread yourself! If that thought scares you, Gorilla glue (under $6 a tube at most outlets) works, too.

10. Sounds crazy, but you should always check non-horsey places for bargains.

We found a nearly new set of Oster clippers at a yard sale. And at a tent sale, four brand new water buckets for pennies a piece, because they had some sticky stuff smeared on them — went home, washed with detergent, it came right off, and we use for non-food purposes without any problems.

Don’t forget the dollar store (previous post) for some things, too.

11. How to save (and not) on feed

Feeding Time!

When it comes to feed for your horse, that’s one area you cannot buy leftovers, “past date” or a lesser quality to save money. Poor quality feed can not only offer less efficiency and poor health, but it can put your horse in danger from life-threatening colic and other complications.

So bargain shopping in this department, gets a little more complicated. Economizing sometimes, is limited to basically saving what you have bought.

It’s sort of a no brainer, but we always feed grain in a feeder, bucket, or tub and never put it on the ground to avoid wasting the kernels and pellets into the dirt (as well as avoiding the horse picking up sand grains while eating.)

We use feed-saver rings, which help horses who sling feed. We put rubber mats on the ground under the feed tubs if we have a particularly sloppy eater, and always have teeth checked and floated on any horse who wastes grain. And hey, why not try the old fashioned feed bag trick for a horse that just can’t sit in front of a bucket and eat, but must wander about spilling grain?

Consider feeding hay up off the ground to limit waste, using racks, feeders, and hay nets. More time and trouble, but a big saving.

I’ve heard estimates that round bales waste up to 15 percent of the edible hay due to trampling and weathering. Some of the new composite round bale feeders provide a solid floor and cover, while allowing feeding from horse-safe openings. It might be worth the price tag over a winters’ feeding season in savings.

You can build your own round bale feeder, too if you have tools and a little help:

We start to feed our horses in the barn, in stalls, as the weather turns colder, and because the horses are confined individually, they waste less. I know many old cowboys who build standing stalls in their outdoor sheds, so that horses can be fed individually without the difficulty of box stall upkeep. Standing stalls are effective at controlling aggressive eaters, too, and help the herd to be able to eat individually.

I keep foot traffic out of my hay room, and sweep up my hay room daily to avoid allowing the bits and pieces that fall to collect, pack up and rot. There’s nothing wrong with that hay, and I supplement  it after shaking it out on a hayfork to sift out dust. Being neat can help your bottom line — who knew?

So you can’t buy cheap on hay and grain, but what you can do is compare feed labels carefully, and consider switching to a feed that is similar but less expensive. You can always go back if you don’t think the feed works or hasn’t provided what your horse needs. And ask!

Get a free bag to try — find out who your local sales rep is in your region, call, email or facebook – request a free bag to try. You’d be surprised what you can get for asking, and you might just find a great new feed that does what you want for your horses at a discount.

Don’t forget the importance of fresh feeds to his diet – carrots, apples. Sometimes local orchards sell seconds of their apple crops at a big discount, while they have some spots they are still good for horses, a great diet supplement, and a wonderful treat.

And you know, a good quality hay such as alfalfa, might even eliminate the need for feeding grain. Check out your nutrition guidelines, speak with your vet or trainer, do a little research. Especially if you don’t ride too much in the winter, dropping down the grain and upping quality hay might save you a good bit in the long run, but do your research before making changes and make sure the changes you do make are gradual to avoid digestive upset.

12. Energy savings

  • Post “Lights Out” signs by light switches — with hours for your indoor arena and put lights on timers.
  • Utilize inexpensive LED night lights that plug into outlets, allowing you to see in the dark barn without turning on all the lights (available at home supply stores for about $5.00 ea., pack of two usually).
  • Solar power can save you hundreds. Check out solar panels and even small individual solar panel power packs (available at Farmtek) for about $100 that can power lights, fence chargers, and more.
  • Hot water heater blankets on your barn’s hot water heater is another good way to save a few pennies on the bill. We’ve put a roof and door on the room, that contains our hot water barn heater, to save even more energy.

Hopefully, these tips have been useful. Occasionally do a search online for “horse coupons”, “free horse stuff”, etc. You never know what might catch your eye and be your next bargain!

Happy Saving!

Holly