Heather Williams and Summer

Heather McWilliams, a reader from Colorado, sent us this article about the “Horse Math Theory”, used by all horse junkies. Thank you for contributing to HJU, Heather!

From Heather:

I write a column for a local magazine in Evergreen, Colorado with the horse and non-horse person in mind. I try to make it interesting for a general audience and give some explanation for things that may be known only to horsey types. As far as I know, my friends and family may be my only readers and they are not all horse folks.

When I started a blog last year, my late step-dad said, “Why would you start a blog? Who is going to read it except for maybe your mom and I?” Point taken. But I do have one blog reader that is not a family member and I know she reads it, because she casually comments on it now and then – so there. I will take a little validation when I can.

Sometime in the seventies, the Evergreen public school system decided teach us a new method for math called “Touch Math”. Each number has invisible dots on it that corresponds to the value of that number. So if one was adding two and four, one would count the invisible dots on the two and then the four to come up with six. I have decided it has ruined me for math for life. Fortunately, horse people know a much more interesting form of math called “HORSE MATH”.


Horse Math is where everything in the world that does not have anything to do with horses, corresponds with a value in the horse world.

For example, as much as I may need a nice pair of pants for work, I cannot bring myself to buy them because they hold the same value as the new bridle that I would like to buy. Not that I will buy the bridle either, but closing the door on that possibility is too hard to do. Now, my husband and mother would strongly agree that I really need that new pair of pants and I do have plenty of bridles that I can use in the meantime, but this bridle is the latest in pressure points and all of the reviews say their horse was like a different animal… I know the horse types are tracking right along with me and the non-horse types are starting to get an explanation for strange responses in their relationships with their horsey friends.

Another example of a Horse Math unit of value is hay and grain. A bag of grain is a unit of about $18 and a bale of hay equivalent to around $8. When you figure out how items affect your feed supplies, you may decide against them:

Dinner out = three bags of grain.

Movie = two bales of hay.

Set of new socks = bag of grain.

New tires = two tons of hay – and that could last you a while!


Horse Math corresponds to different categories of horse items. First, Essential Horse Supplies are a no brainer. These items around fifty dollars or less and cancel out or disappear in the budget. Essential item costs, if kept to a manageable level (I am not sure who determines this…), are easily made up by cutting your own hair or watering plants, letting dogs out or feeding horses for someone.

Essential items might be a saddle pad, SmartPak supplements, barefoot boots, the latest curry, fly spray, or mane and tail detangler. If you forgo any luxuries that your non-horse friends indulge in like manicures, pedicures, expensive hairdos, vacations, or any other sport like skiing or biking (also requires equipment), this savings can count toward Essential items as well.

Saddles= Foundation Items, Saddle pads=Essential


These are the big ticket items that last a lifetime, but you really need one to get serious. Assuming you have the horse, saddles are the core of Foundation items. These may require saving money through odd jobs, asking for money for birthdays and Christmas, putting aside a little windfall here and there, until the day comes that you have enough. This is a significant day to have a piece of equipment that holds its value, gets better with age and something to pass down to the kids. See, what better investment!?

As much as I hate to admit it (nothing gives me more purpose than hauling a horse around), horse trailers are not Foundation items. Depending on your horse activities, you can do without one most of the time and horse-pool, borrow or rent one when you have to. Trainers, hard core competitors and rodeo folk and anyone else who hauls constantly are exempt to this rule and really do need a trailer because the money you would pay renting one, would not be economically sound.


Now, I have a birthday coming up. What do I want? Jewelry, clothes, day spa trip? Are you crazy? Birthdays and Christmas are the time to get what horse supplies you really want, but it did not fit into the Essential or Foundation category. This is the Necessary category. These may be a new headstall, bridle, show coat, chaps, boots or show shirt. Something you figured out it would be nice to have at your last show, trail ride, competition, etc.

Keep a list ready, so if anyone asks you what you want, you are prepared. One tip is to use the wish lists on your favorite horse gear websites. Here is a sample from my list – breeches, a new fly sheet , leather halter, cross country boots, dressage bridle, de-wormer, green saddle pad (to match my green breast girth of course) – see, both practical and fun!

If you haven’t noticed yet, just the words “Essential “, “Necessary” and “Foundation” items are all things that we really cannot do without for long. I know, it may seem like a sickness to the non-horse types, but now you know what us horse junkies really want for our birthday.