Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Turn Out

I received a comment on my last post that makes a very good point. I wish the reader hadn't commented as "Anonymous" because the person is making a very valid argument about my non-turn-out decision being based on money. I read it all the time on Craigslist and on Fugly Horse of the Day: people who cannot afford to keep horses but do anyway at the expense of the horse. I don't want to be one of those people, but the reality is that I am a first time horse owner and these decisions are a process for me. I will need some time to learn what's best for my horse. Different horses have different needs. There are horses in my barn that never get turn out and they are sweet and happy as clams. Then there's a mare across the aisle from my horse who canters around her stall (14x16) because she never gets out. There are people who take her out and lunge her out of pity. I sneak her treats and scratches and wish someone would pay attention to her... but I digress.

Being a first time horse owner (or any horseowner, I'm sure, but this is my story) in this economy is scary. I'm spending SO much money on start-up costs (stimulating the economy!) while hearing about job losses and mortgage failures. I try to economize as much as possible, buying used tack, trying to get a few more seasons out of my old show clothing. Making my own things whenever possible IF it's cost-effective. Many times the materials to make things cost as much or more as a finished product. The markup on fabric and notions in retail stores is obscene. So in these first 6 months I have been feeling out how horse ownership is affecting me financially. I did lots of research, but there are "hidden" costs such as the fact that it costs $2.60 in gas EVERY time I go to the barn. I average 4 trips per week. That's $10.40 per week or over $40 a month. Just in gas. My mom asked me a few months ago how much money I had spent on the horse so far. I actually did the calculation for board and the animal, not even the vet/farrier/dentist or the material stuff I've bought and it would make a fine down payment on a condo. I haven't bought ANY new clothes since I bought the horse, except a winter jacket TO RIDE IN. The extra money for turn-out is just another thing that now I have to rearrange my budget for. I just have to be careful and spend my money wisely.

Just so you know, I already emailed the barn asking to be put on the turn-out list. He was doing really well for a while so I thought he was acclimating to the stall life (he was stalled for a year before I bought him with moderate turnout but I don't know about before that) but he's obviously regressing and I can only assume it's because he is the kind of horse that NEEDS playtime and since he doesn't get it with other horses he tries to do it with me. I am learning.

He needs to treat me like the boss, not a herd mate, and I need to treat him like a horse, not a caged gerbil. It's clear that he needs more stimulation than I give him.

One way I was hoping to save on board was to have him used as a lesson horse. This would accomplish three things: cheaper board (by over $40/month depending on the number of lessons he does), more saddle mileage, and more (free) turnout. As a lesson horse he would get turned out with the other lesson geldings, but that turnout isn't as dependable as the turnout that is provided by someone who works at the barn and costs extra. The lesson horses don't always get out, especially if the seasonal pastures are closed (preference is given to the paid turnout horses) or if KAT is overly busy or at a show. The paid turn out is 5 days a week weather permitting. Though during the real winter months I think there was at least a month they weren't turned out at all and of course the money is not refundable or prorated.

He'd also get more exercise as a lesson horse, probably ridden at least once a weekday, sometimes twice a day.... walk trot and a teensy bit of canter during the latter weeks of each quarter (most of the lessons are college students taking it for credit).

The one "con" to these three "pro"s is that I worry about his training being "ruined" by beginners, though. It's hard enough for me to keep up what KAT teaches him. I know he's beginner SAFE, but how do I make sure he knows when it's time to be a show horse and when it's time to be a lesson horse? There are other lesson horses that show so I know it's not impossible. I'm not SERIOUSLY showing anyway. I'm doing open shows that are full of lesson horses and 4-H horses, as well as people like me, so it's not like I'm trying to take a school horse to Congress or APHA worlds. I also worry about him as a lesson horse with this mouthiness, but maybe with more stimulation that won't be a problem.

I have a lesson tonight and have a just-for-fun blog entry planned.

Thanks for you comments. I am a big fan of learning. And you can be brave with your comments. I will not flame you or cyber stalk you. I may delete your comment if it's inappropriate or offensive..... or SPAM FOR ONLINE DATING... but I won't be mean to you. I know I have a lot to learn. I didn't get a masters in horses, I got it in something else so I could afford to HAVE a horse.


  1. I hear ya,it's a tough call having them use your horse for lessons,but if the person you take from or who trains your horse is teaching the lessons he's used in,then you probably don't have anything to wory about.She knows him and she'll keep him safe.Horses are smart,they learn to adjust for what the riders know!You might even make a connection with a rider who might like to share riding with you & fees. In exchange they could maybe take him to a show you don't ride in or something,not sure if you thought about that possability.

  2. by the way he's gorgeous,I love roanie horses! he reminds me of a friends old pony club horse,he was friends with my old pony club horse,they played rough-even tore down a paddock fence once by sitting on it.

  3. There were lessons going on at the barn I use to keep my horse at. As a matter of fact I learned to ride there on their lesson horses. If you have a very conscientious trainer she will only pair your guy up with riders who are ready for him...if not...there could be trouble. When I bought Boo, I chose not to make him a lesson horse. Instead I watched the people at the barn who were horseless themselves. I watched their riding skills and how they treated the lesson horses. When I found someone I thought would be a good match I offered them the opportunity to sponsor my horse. That meant they could ride him whenever they wanted too. We usually worked out a schedule between us, but if I wasn't going to be there on my days they could go ahead and ride. They could show him too. I never had a problem. I retained ownership and trailriding rights. If I wanted to show too, we split up the shows. In exchange for this privilege they paid part of his board. I paid his vet care unless he was somehow injured while they had him off the property at a show and then it was their bill. I did shoes unless he needed special ones for what they were that case I paid the trim and they paid the shoes. This was not a lease because I retained the right for primary use, and could cancel the contract with 30 days notice. It has worked well for me through 2 different sponsors on Boo and 3 on Bay. I like this option best because it left me in control of who was on my horse.

  4. Thank you both. I really trust KAT. She teaches all the lessons at the barn including mine, and does training rides on Junior, too. I think I'll see how having turn out affects him and then re-visit the lesson conversation with KAT.

    On a selfish level, I've waiting so long to have MY OWN HORSE that I'm not sure if I'm ready to share him just yet.

    I am much more interested in the type of situation wilsonc mentioned. Maybe I'll talk to KAT and if she has a student who she thinks would pair well with Jr we could look at that type of situation.

  5. Hi - I'm new to your blog - I read occaisonally and not sure if I've commented yet or not...

    It is a bit of a tough call deciding to use your horse for lessons, but it isn't a bad idea, as long as you trust the instructors to make sure the students are riding properly...

    Interesting that you have to pay extra for turnout! Here, at 99% of barns, we have to pay extra to get a stall!

    Hope everything works out ok for you and your horse!