Buying your first house might be as exciting as buying your first horse. The judges are still out on this one. I know I was excited when I finally moved into my house, that my husband and I were happy to finally have a space of our own, away from the sounds of neighbors that we’d share walls with. We bought a house that was “move-in” ready but still needed updates and repairs. It’s definitely not the best time to start investing in, or getting serious about, riding but suddenly I had the time and desperate need to get back to riding. I just needed to figure out how to afford it.
Making room in the budget for one riding lesson a week was a lot simpler than buying breeches, paddock boots, half chaps, and everything else you need to survive riding in the summer and winter in extremes.
The first thing I had to do was really cut back on my Starbucks. I used to work at a coffee shop so making my own coffee at home — grinding my beans, using a French press — ended up being an amazing alternative. It also helps that there are no coffee shops on the way to the barn.
Cutting down on the coffee budget was easy. Finding the best way to afford decent riding gear wasn’t.
Like with anything else, major sales and shopping the clearance section once a “season” is over are great ways to start building up your riding wardrobe. Website brands are also going to be your best friend: they offer a great affordable, stylish alternative to big-name, big-price tag brands. Also, make sure to sign up for their e-mails and to get physical catalogs sent to your house! Most of the time you need to hit a certain price threshold, before tax, in order to get free shipping. It’s easy to do if you just keep adding things to your cart, but not cost-effective. Depending on the website, catalogs will have free shipping codes for you to use that don’t require you to spend a certain amount. Plus, it’s fun to get something in the mail other than bills.
If you’re just shopping for schooling clothes, remember that you don’t need the big-name, flashy brands. Your horse doesn’t care what you’re wearing and your trainer won’t, either, as long as it’s safe, appropriate, and, depending on the barn, your shirt has a collar. As an aspiring Dressage Queen, understanding that I don’t need flashy isn’t a concept that’s easy to swallow. So I still do buy those brand-names, but I scroll through Facebook consignment groups and apps like Tack Hunter to find things I love at a price that’s in the budget.
If you own a horse, the same rules for clothes apply. Watch for major sales on your favorite websites. Take advantage of discounts on website-brand saddle pads, especially when the sale includes free embroidery. We all know nothing is classier than a monogrammed saddle pad. Also make sure to remember to have one nice, white saddle pad to use if you’re competing but have fun with different colors for your schooling and lesson days. This’ll help keep your white pads show-ready, especially in the summer when it’s hot, you’re working hard. Both your saddle and your horse will stain that pretty white pad. So unless your trainer specifies you need to use a white pad, gravitate towards your favorite colors.
A great place to check for things like browbands and stock ties is Etsy. The price ranges vary, but you can easily keep your searching to within your budget by making use of those filters. Some shops will even do custom orders at a reasonable price, giving you the added bonus of having a one-of-a-kind piece. Just make sure you’re ordering the right size for your horse!
If you have local tack boutiques, they, too, may have a consignment section for tack, especially when it comes to saddles. When you’re buying a saddle, new or used, make sure you budget enough to have a saddle fitter who works with that brand come help you fit your new saddle to your horse. If you’re looking at brands without adjustable tree widths, have a fitter come before you go shopping. They’ll tell you what sizes will work best for your horse that way you don’t spend money on a saddle only to have to try and sell it yourself because it’s not a good fit.