Riding on a Budget

by Darley Newman

Horseback riding can be expensive hobby, especially if you are a horse owner. However there are ways to enjoy your equine friends and ride on a budget.

Volunteer: Help out at your local stables. Even if you are new to the equestrian world, a therapeutic riding program at your neighborhood riding establishment is a great and rewarding way to learn about and be around horses. Sidewalkers, grooms and other helping hands can volunteer, usually for a minimum of 1-2 hours per week through the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (N.A.R.H.A.). N.A.R.H.A. serves more than 30,000 individuals with disabilities each year. There are programs seeking volunteers, such as American Competition Opportunities for Riders with Disabilities (ACORD) Check with your local stables to see if they participate in any volunteer programs or can refer you to a barn that does.

You may also volunteer to help out at your local stable as a groom, office assistant or working student. This is helpful for people who are new to the horse world, simply love to be around horses, or those looking to trade their time each week for a lesson or two.

Being a groom or exercising horses isn't just a local stable job. You may also find people in your area who own horses and need a helping hand. Whether it is someone with a farm or who keeps their equine friends on their property, they may need someone willing to groom, exercise or feed their four-legged friend. Ask around, check in at your local tack store and check your community papers and classifieds.

Make Friends Who Own Horses: This is not as easy as it sounds, but having a friend who owns horses and riding with her is a great way to save money and get in some trail time. It is safer for riders to take off on the trails with a partner, so you could be much needed for a friend who likes trail riding. Also, you may be able to work out some sort of swap or deal. Perhaps she'll let you act as an occasional groom or help out with the horse's weekly exercise regimine. Or, perhaps you can barter and trade with her, say, I'll let you borrow my sweater if you let me take a spin on your pony.

Save Your Money: Do the math and ask yourself, where can I cut back to save up? By making small sacrifices and putting your pennies away for riding lessons, you'll be surprised how much you can save. This dedication will make the time you get to ride that much more valuable and appreciated.

Lease or Share Agreements: Lareasing a horse can be a great way to enjoy some of benefits of owning a horse without all of the expenses. It is also great for riders who are continually improving, want to try-out some of the responsibilities of ownership before taking the plunge, are unsure what breed they want or don't have the time to fully devote to owning. When leasing a horse, you are sharing the horse with someone else, which means sharing the expense too. This helps significantly cut down on the cost of ownership.

If you are interested in leasing, ask your instructor to find out if this is an option or stop by your local stables to inquire. Take the time to consider what you want out of the arrangement. Will you be competing or riding for fun? How often will you ride? What can you afford? There are many considerations and lease arrangements range. Similarly to buying a horse, you will need to have a veterinarian examine the horse before signing a contract, consider insurance, draw up a leasing agreement and discuss your plans fully with the other leasers and take the horse out for some test rides. You won't fully own the horse, but you can get pretty close minus all of the expense.

Darley Newman is the host of the Emmy Award-winning Public Television series Equitrekking®, which takes viewers on horseback riding vacations around the world. Equitrekking is broadcast on PBS stations, Create TV and on international networks in over 65 countries.

Learn about equestrian vacations and book a trip at EquitrekkingTravel.com and the Equitrekking.com Vacation Guide.