Buying a horse is on my list of things to do before I die. I want a Dressage prospect who will work with me, train with me, and help me move up through the levels. This dream didn’t used to be so specific, but the deeper into “world world” I get, the more specific my wants and goals become. Between a mortgage, car payment, and student loan payments, though, owning a horse is not currently in the budget. Even if I found a horse in my budget, just paying for the horse is the beginning of a long financial endeavor.

What I do have budgeted in the “horse” category does get invested in things that will help me when I can eventually own a horse. First and foremost, I make sure I’m taking two lessons with trainers a week. Thankfully in my area, lesson prices (depending on the barn, of course) are reasonable and there are no additional fees to use schoolmasters. I’ve also made sure to invest in decent schooling breeches, paddock boots and half chaps, and long-sleeve sun-shirts that I know will come in handy not just in the summer, but in the fall too.

One thing I don’t spend money on is competing.

I know that I might be able to have a decent experience at a training level competition. However, I’d rather put my money towards lessons to not only build up my skillset, but to also form that bond with the horse I’d likely be competing with. That skillset is built up not only through lessons, but also through clinics and studying theory, at least for the learning that works best for me. That’s why I decided to join the United States Dressage Federation as an Education Member. It doesn’t let me enter into their official competitions, but it does give me access to eTrak, the USDF’s education database as well as makes me eligible for discounts at different learning websites like DressageTrainingOnline, an amazing resource for anyone who lives far away from barns that hold dressage clinics. The thing is, if I want to learn more about this sport, it needs to be on me to take the initiative. I can’t depend solely on an hour a week with my trainer to completely understand the how’s and why’s of concepts as my lessons become more advanced.

Just because I don’t have a horse doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take myself seriously as a rider. I’m investing in myself now so that later on when I can invest in a horse, I won’t be starting over from scratch. Riding gear, time in the saddle, a solid educational foundation on riding and training — these are what will benefit me the most when it is time to own a horse. It will also benefit me now as I get deeper into my training and when, eventually, I do enter the competition scene.