WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #176
Worried - keeping horse in Down Economy?
HORSE AND RIDER - DECEMBER 2011
WORRIED ABOUT KEEPING YOUR HORSE IN A DOWN ECONOMY?
From HORSE AND RIDER - DECEMBER 2011
Worried about keeping your horse in a down economy? Before you
take steps to give up your dream, look into these eight
BY JULI S. THORSON PHOTOS BY ALANA HARRISON
The country's economic woes are no secret, and neither are the
intensifying strains on the horsekeeping side of any horse
owner's budget. Even if a recession hasn't been officially
declared by the time this H&R issue reaches you, we'd be a little
surprised if you hadn't already been feeling some kind of
personal-economy pressure-whether mild or crushingwhen it comes
to supporting your horse interests.
Simply put: It's harder to afford a horse, or horses, than it
used to be. And that can leave you feeling ever-more anxious,
each time the media put out another piece of negative economic
But don't push that "sell horse!" panic button 16-11 et We've
come up with eight ride-it-out alternatives to letting your horse
become apart of your past. We'll explain each option, with
up-front talk about its positives and negatives. We'll outline
three personalfinance circumstances-"econo-zones" named Red,
Yellow, and Green-designed to help you match options to your
And, in case you decide you do need to sell at least one member
of your herd in order to ride things out, we'll offer advice
(see, "Horse-Selling Tips for a Down Market," page 63) for
cinching a sale in a buyer's-market horse economy.
ZONE RED: Your circumstances are catastrophic. You've lost your
job, the bank's foreclosing on your place, you have no savings,
or you're in some other form of immediate financial crisis.
Something's got to give, and it can't be the electric bill, or
shoes and food for the kids. Bottom line: You need relief, ASAP,
from the expense of your horse's care.
ZONE YELLOW: You're still keeping food on the table. But you're
also among the many Americans forced to tighten up financially
due to hikedup fuel bills, newly risen mortgage payments, a pay
cut, loss of business, threatened layoff, or some other thief of
your disposable income.
To keep your horse without jeopardizing your financial
well-being, you need to find a creative compromise that cuts what
you're spending on him. ZONE GREEN: You're comfortable enough
with your financial picture for now, but you're also keen to be
proactive as a hedge against an uncertain economic future.
Bottom line: You want to look at some cash-conserving
alternatives to the way you've been running your horse life.
ALTERNATIVES FOR KEEPING YOUR HORSE
Farm Him Out
Ride-it-out option: Ask a famil, member or close friend-one wit
extra pasture space, perhaps-to care for your horse until you can
get back on your financial feet.
Worth considering if: You're in Zone Red. Positives: You'll get
immediate financial relief while retaining ownership, if not
immediate custody of your horse. He'll be in the hands of someone
you trust, Negatives: Asking this of someone is a big favor
that'll put you in that person's debt. Not everyone has the nerve
to ask, nor does everyone have the means to say "yes, I'll do
this for you." Even if granted, it's the kind of favor that can
strain a relationship over time. Not workable if you lack the
means or funds to transport your horse to his temporary new home.
Advice: Declare upfront that you won't let the arrangement drag
on indefinitely. Set regular intervals for checking in and
revisiting both your situation and that of your ride-it-out
savior. Decide what support you can give in the meantime, and
commit to it, even if all you can manage is help with the labor
instead of the expense. If you have skills or talents to trade in
exchange for your horse's care, offer them.
2 Sell With Strings
Ride-it-out option: Sell your horse, with a buy-back clause, to a
Worth considering if: You're in Zone Red.
Positives: Besides getting out from under the burden of
horsekeeping expense, you'll get funds you can apply to your
other financial problems-while knowing you have a chance to get
your horse back at some point.
Negatives: Not a likely option in today's soft horse market if
your horse isn't highly marketable to start with. It may take
time to find the appropriate buyer. And this arrangement can be
risky, for a number of reasons. You'll give up legal control of
your horse, with no iron-clad guarantee that the new owner will
ever give him up, nor that he'll still be the same horse he was
when you let him go. Depending on the size of the sale price, and
what you do with the money, you may find it impossible to be able
to buy him back when the opportunity comes along. And, a contract
specifying buy-back rights may be construed as a lease, which
some associations forbid for competition purposes.
Advice: Weigh the positives and negatives carefully before you
proceed. Insist on a notarized written contract, and have it
reviewed by an attorney before you sign it and hand over your
horse. And swallow hard, because this sale could be forever.
3 Send Him to Camp
Ride-it-out option: Care-lease your horse to an individual or
program (a kids' horse camp, for instance) that'll have use of
him in exchange for covering all his care.
Worth considering if: You're in Zones Red or Yellow. Positives:
Along with being cared for, your horse will have a job, whether
it's to produce a foal by the lessee's stallion, or to serve as a
show or lesson mount.
Negatives: It can take time to find a lessee. Generally not a
viable option for a horse that's not usable in some fashion.
You'll give up your own chance to use your horse, and won't have
direct control over who rides or otherwise handles him.
Advice: Get references, and inspect the facility where your horse
would be. Put each party's expectations, including the lease
period, in writing. Visit your horse periodically, to make sure
his care is adequate.
4 Share His Tab
Ride-it-out option: Half-lease your horse, wherein a second party
gets halftime use of your horse in exchange for paying half the
cost of his care and/or training.
Worth considering if: You're in Zones Yellow or Green. Positives:
Your expenses will be cut in half. Your horse can remain where he
is, you can continue to ride him, and he may get worked more
Negatives: It takes the right pair of people to make this work.
Not only do both have to get along well with the horse, they also
have to get along well with one another. Good communication
skills are a must, because it's easy for unspoken resentments to
build up and turn into problems.
Advice: This arrangement tends to work best when a coach or
trainer's involved to supervise the other party's handling and
riding of your horse.
5 Go to Downsize Mode
Ride-it-out option: Tame the dollar drain by reducing some aspect
of your horse life. Examples: Cut your herd numbers, forgo
breeding to outside stallions, sell the big trailer and get a
smaller one, turn stabled horses out on pasture to save on
bedding, switch from a full-care to a partial- or selfcare barn,
cut back on shows or clinics you attend.
Worth considering if: You're in Zones Yellow or Green. Positives:
Downsizing is a realistic step to take in a rocky economic period
- especially if you've been into horses on a fairly involved
scale. You may not have to prune your level of horse lifestyle
back very hard to see results, as even $50 or $100 saved per
month adds up in the course of a year. Negatives: Downsizing
requires deliberate effort on your part-to find buyers for your
stuff, let's say, or a new barn for your horse-before you'll
start to see ease-up results on your horse expenses. You may find
it difficult to downsize goals and expectations in addition to
the size or scale of your operation.
Advice: Take thorough written inventory of all your horserelated
assets (horses, tack, vehicles, etc.), and all related
exenditures. (Forewarning: This can be an eye-opening exerience).
Then, start highlighting what you can trim, what ou can change,
and what you can manage to live without. Total the potential
savings-and proceed from there.
6 Take a Timeout
Ride-it-out option: Put discretionary aspects of your horse life
on hold. Another way to put it: Delay gratificaion. This can
include anything from travel and entry fees to "hat gorgeous new
show halter you've been eyeing.
Worth considering if: You're in Zone Green. (If you're in Zone
Yellow, you should be doing this already.)
Positives: You'll get to keep and continue enjoying your [horse,
while protecting your financial security.
Negatives: Your curtailed spending will have a negative effect on
some other aspect of the equine economy. Depending on what you
decide to postpone, and the degree to which you desired it, you
also may get less pleasure from your horse involvement.
Advice: Ask yourself, "What's the worst that could happen if I
gave up X?" Then, measure that potential consequence against your
fiscal future. Could you live with the worstcase consequence? If
it turns out to cost you nothing more than passage of time, then
yes, you probably can live with giving up X for a while.
7 Sell Stuff, Not Horse
Ride-it-out option: Liquidate nonessentials, whether from
household, horsehold, or both. Use the cash to pay down debt or
to continue your horse's support.
Worth considering if: You're in any of the econo-zones.
Positives: You'll raise some cash while lightening up the
stuff-load in your life.
Negatives: It takes time and effort to sell privately owned
items, whether online or in person. You may find it difficult to
give up treasured items, or have a hard time accepting that
they'll probably sell for less than you paid. You'll also find
the resale market to be crowded and getting more so all the time,
as others try to raise cash.
Advice: Keep your focus on what you'll gain, not what you're
8 Start Moonlighting
Ride-it-out option: Find a regular way to supplement your income,
whether it's doing odd jobs on the weekends, engaging in sales,
or getting a second job.
Worth considering if: You're in Zones Yellow or Green. Positives:
You'll have a second source of revenue to put toward immediate
horse needs or to savings. You'll expand your network of people
who appreciate, and will pay for, your skills.
Negatives: This option cuts into the time you get to spend with
Advice: Think of the arrangement as something temporary, not
something you'll be stuck doing for life. Chances are, your
moonlighting gig won't last forever-and a downturned economy
won't last forever, either.
"My work on this article reminded me of an old saying;" notes H&R
Editor/Associate Publisher Juli S. Thorson. "'Use it up, make it
last, make it yourself, or do without.' That was savvy survival
advice in my grandmother's day, and it remains good advice
DECEMBER 2011 HORSE&RIDER
HORSE-SELLING TIPS FOR A DOWN MARKET
* Remember: "Pretty" sells. Before you take photos of your horse,
put him on video, or present him in person to a prospective
buyer, get him as splendidly presentable as you possibly can.
Having him freshly clipped, bathed, and dressed in your very best
tack will help him compete favorably against other horses on the
market. Instead of thinking "I need to sell him," think "I'll do
everything in my power to show him off."
* Line up sales tools. Have your photos, video, pedigree, and so
forth, already at hand before you put your horse on the market.
You know you'll be asked for these things by anyone who responds,
so why not have them instantly ready to send out? The longer you
make an interested party wait after his initial inquiry, the
easier it is for him to move on to another seller's
horse-especially if he's found your horse online.
* Get tech-savvy. If you intend to use an online service as your
primary advertising means, get up to speed with the technology of
today. With the explosive use of online video sharing, for
instance, buyers increasingly expect such video to be available
the instant they click on an ad. Give yourself this selling edge.
* Think like a buyer. What is it about your horse that makes him
worth any buyer's dollars? What are his weak points, and what
does it take to deal with them? How does his asking price stack
up against that of comparable horses? Your answers to questions
like these will help you fine-tune a selling plan.
* Price competitively. Today, with the incredible array of horses
advertised on such sites as H&R's sister company, Equine.com,
it's easier than ever to knowwhat other sellers are asking for
horses similar to yours, and to use that knowledge to your
advantage. "Priced to sell" means just that. You'll get more
inquiries if you price your horse at the lower end of a range
than at the higher end, and if you add OBO ("or best offer").
* Reduce buyer obstacles. Find ways to help nudge lookers over
into the buyer column for your horse. Example: Just before you
put him on the market, consider having your vet do a written
pre-purchase exam at your expense, so prospective buyers don't
have to take this step. Or, offer delivery within a specified
* Prepare to negotiate. Today's horse buyers are in the driver's
seat, and they know it. Expect to be asked for concessions, such
as lower price, free delivery, help with shipping costs, etc. The
more you can think ahead on this, to know where you can bend and
where not, the better your chances of negotiating your way to a