Monday 11 February 2019

The Story that Horse Costs Show

I love reading other people's posts about horse costs or budgeting strategies because I track all my spending to a detailed degree and like seeing how other people's methods and costs compare to mine. CobJockey had a great post recently (I started to comment on it but my comment got too long).

Instead of doing a whole post about my detailed costs for 2018 or my budgeting strategy, instead I am going to a numberless post showing how the relative amounts of my spending through the years tells the story of changes in my horse ownership and riding.

I have been a horse owner since the year 2000, and have kept financial records since 2002 (when I joined 4-H and started doing record books). However my current method of tracking via excel started in 2011 when I finished university. 2011 was a partial year of tracking which screws up annual averages so the below will go from 2012 to 2018.

As can be seen in the following graph, I split my horse-related spending into the following categories:
- Stable Board (exactly what it sounds like)
- Farrier/Vet (also exactly what it sounds like, also includes other horse health stuff)
- Riding Lessons/Shows (includes clinics, regular lessons, entry fees and stabling for shows, anything educational)
- Horse Event Organizing (I organized my first clinic in November 2016 so started this category in 2017, this is where I put in all the expenses and revenue for setting up clinics and shows where I am the organizer, this cost can vary hugely from month to month as money comes in and goes out but the annual net amount absorbs the swings and is overall small)
-  Horse Misc. (everything else, including treats, supplements, tack, riding clothes, horse equipment etc.)

Two types of costs that are horse-related but aren't included here are:
- gas and vehicle maintenance tied to hauling horse (grouped in with my general gas and vehicle costs)
- hotel costs for horse shows and clinics (grouped in my vacation category)

As you can see, the relative amount of each category changes quite a bit over the years, those changes can all be tied easily to things that happened in my horse world:

- board high because I was living in Edmonton and boarding at a super awesome barn that was a bit on the pricier side (but still super good value for what it was)
- horse misc. and riding lessons/shows low because I worked all the time, often out of town, and couldn't do any lessons/shows. Also I hadn't discovered blogging yet and so didn't know all the tack ho stuff I was missing out on lol

- large horse misc. costs largely due to purchase of my horse trailer
- farrier/vet costs increased because my mare Ellie foundered in March and we spent the year getting her back from that
- small lesson costs because I signed up for weekly lessons one month before Ellie foundered
- board costs decreased because halfway through the year I moved to a different part of Alberta with less fancy barns/cheaper board

Horse trailer = worth it

- This was the year that Ellie died from colic which influenced every cost category: board dropped from being horse-less for a few months, vet costs high due to both colic treatment/euthanasia and pre-purchase exam on Kachina, horse misc. costs high because that includes the purchase price of Kachina plus getting new halters/blankets/etc.

Still miss her, she is far more than a blip on my spreadsheet

- Board and vet/farrier costs stabilized to new normal for new location
- Green bar growing because took weekly lessons with KD for most of the year before she stopped teaching, I also attended a few clinics and went to a couple small unrated shows
- Horse misc. included no single huge purchases but a lot of small-medium stuff as blog reading made me start living the tack ho life (purchases included stuff like new breeches, sparkly browband, ogilvy halfpad, etc.)

I've never actually been able to use this sparkly browband
(it doesn't fit my Micklem bridle) but I still love it!

- Board costs increased due to high hay prices
- Spent some extra money in farrier/vet category for a horse dentist and chiro, both of which were disappointments
- Green category saw weekly lessons replaced with a few pricier shows and clinics
- Horse misc. cost high largely due to purchase of my Stubben saddle, girths for new saddle, and portable panels for Writing on Stone trip

New saddle = also worth it

- Board and vet/farrier costs stabilised again
- Continued to do a few shows and attended more clinics (with both Sandra and Elaine) to contribute to the green category, I also did two months of jumping lessons on lesson horses
- The small piece of purple reflects a huge amount of effort and cost to organise 4 clinics and my first ever show, luckily I was able to recoup most of the costs and was only out a few hundred dollars from my own pocket.
- I was finally able to get the horse misc. category under control, though I don't think I'll ever be able to go fully back to my budget days of 2012 and earlier

Even small events involve a lot of costs

- Board increased when I moved to my new barn in March 2018. I am finding the extra cost worth it for the heating, plumbing and camaraderie.
- The growth of the lesson/show category mirrors the increased options available to me now. It includes almost monthly clinics with Elaine, the judging clinic, and a few months of weekly jump lessons in addition to my normal show budget
- The purple category shows up below the x-axis in this bar because I actually made a little money on my show in 2018 (which I am saving to feed back into the show for 2019)

The extra lessons did have some pay off!

Part of the reason I shared this post is to show that cost tracking is not just good for budgeting purposes, you can graph and trend many parts of your life to help understand how your life changes over time. An increase in a cost category is not necessarily a bad thing if you understand why it increased and if it added value into your life. The horse part of my life has become more fulfilling in the last few years and while that comes with a higher price tag I am willing to pay it (and I've decreased vacation spending etc. to compensate). I'm still hoping to avoid any major horse-related purchases for the next few years though.

Some other of my financial management thoughts (ymmv)
- Excel is a great financial tracking tool: most people have it, it gives a lot of flexibility for how you want to track things and endless options for graphing. Also while it means your trends aren't available on your phone, also less likely to be hacked or data mined.
- try to keep cost categories as consistent as possible from year to year so you can see trends
- net worth is an important indicator of how well you are doing financially overall, I monitor this monthly but year-to-year comparisons are most important
- make use of comments to indicate why certain costs are abnormally high or low (e.g. I can look back and see my cat related costs jumped in March because that's when one of my cats had dental surgery)
- if you are Canadian, make use of TFSAs, they are much more flexible than RRSPs but still have tax benefits. Especially if you are in a career where you expect your income to grow over time, it's smart to maximize TSFAs early in your career and then pay more into RRSPs later on when you are in a higher tax bracket
- Emergency fund, emergency fund, emergency fund. I built mine up before saving for anything else and try to keep four months of expenses in it to guard against both job loss and things like colic surgery
- Instead of using separate savings accounts for every goal, I keep one general "medium-term savings account". Medium-term to me means 2-15 years, so basically all savings goals minus retirement. I paid for Kachina and my horse trailer out of this fund because I knew both purchases would happen sooner or later and started saving in advance. I look at my future goals and plans for each 5 year period and use that to determine how much I need to auto-deposit into this account. I like grouping everything together because a) you don't always know when things will happen i.e. will you need a new horse or a new car first, and one account gives more flexibility for life to happen, b) I get higher interest on higher balances, and c) it is easier for me to make sure I am not exceeding TFSA limits if there are fewer accounts to look at

How do your costs from year to year match up with changes to your riding and horse-keeping lifestyle? Have any thoughts on my financial management ideology?


  1. Google sheets is a great free alternative to Excel.

  2. Very interesting. I don’t track any of my expenses and choose a bury head in the sand technique instead

  3. I'm with Sara on burying my head in the ground, but I'm also with you on the whole horse blogging being a terrible influence on my spending. I spend so much more now that I used to when I wasn't reading and writing horse blogs and waning all the cool new things.