Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Take my advice (I'm not using it) on horse frugality

As a matter of fact, I do know some little money-saving techniques for horse owners. Unfortunately I don't use them, usually. When I try to save money, I'm troubled by what ifs, and spending the extra bit gives me peace of mind. I'm much better on saying what you should never skimp on:

  • Shoeing (adding weeks between shoeings is a false economy
  • Eye/eyelid injuries (call the vet NOW)
  • Saddle, boots, helmet (buy the best you can afford)
  • Horse purchase. Buy a bit more horse than you can really afford -- the monthly cost of a mediocre horse is the same as a great one. Don't sweat the one time costs.
When the financial tips are down, though, here are some cost saving tips...

Today's theme is abstinence...
It wasn't a realistic message during sex ed in high school and it may not be realistic now. But maybe there are behaviors you can abstain from, such as:

1. Impulsive vet calls. When your horse is lame, and there is no obvious injury or severe pain, wait 7 days before calling the vet. Ditto if an **abscess is suspected, even though there may be real discomfort.
MY LEARNING EXPERIENCE: As a yearling, Riley's hock swelled up for no apparent reason. Oh, no, OCD! I called the vet after 3 days. Six x-rays and $300 later, surgery was advised. A week later, I have an appointment at New Bolton. Hired a hauler ($150) and met with Dr. Dean Richardson at NB (Barbaro's doctor). He scoffed at the field x-rays and took his own, to the tune of $1000. Riley is pronounced AOK. Did I mention that by day 9 the swelling is gone, and he's sound? Total expenditure because I didn't wait: $1450. Oh, and his perfectly fine hock is now excluded by my insurance.

2. Supplements. Of the supplements you feed or want to feed, which of them ACTUALLY RESULTS IN MEASURABLE IMPROVEMENT IN ANYTHING -- soundness, hoof quality, etc.? Can you see/feel/tell a difference--really? Fine. Keep those.

As to the rest, use'em up, throw away the container, DO NOT REORDER. No matter how nice the Smartpak service rep is, you can skip the bee pollen, the vitamin C, the herb stuff that smells so nice and looks like potpourri. Really. Your horse does NOT CARE.

3. The latest new training aid. You know, like the Parelli Confidence bit that "teaches horses to have more confidence"? Or the slew of new stirrups on the market (see right)? Ask yourself, "What did they do 20 years ago?" The answer is, they did without and kept things simple. And they got results. Align yourself with the likes of Bill Steinkraus, George Morris, Reiner Klimke, etc. Go without.

Okay, now the disclaimer: Earlier this morning I bought a Nathe bit online. It's a flexible mullen mouth bit, a cable covered with gooey polymer--at least it's legal in competition. It is supposed to be good for sensitive horses. $60 plus shipping. Epic failure of frugality.

**When a horse is showing signs of an abscess, it probably is an abscess. And if it isn't an abscess, the next most likely thing is a fracture of the coffin bone or some other bone in the hoof. According to The Horse magazine, it sometimes takes 10 days to 2 weeks for the edges of a fracture to demineralize/become defined enough to show up on an x-ray. The hoof itself serves as a cast, and so long as the horse isn't running around, waiting will not result in further damage to the fractured area.


  1. I totally agree!!! It takes a while for a new horse owner not to call the vet for every lil swollen bump or puffy area. Its a lil scarey to wait it out, but it will all work out.

    I do have to stick up for the vitamin c though, in my mares case anyway, she is SUPER allergic to SOMETHING that blooms in the spring in VA, without the vitamin C she constantly has hives... Vitamin C seems silly, but it does work for my Sydney!!

  2. JW/BW, that would be a measurable difference -- I'll have to tell a friend of mine about this, her horse gets hives a lot...

  3. I used the Happy Mouth version of that bit on William. He took right to it without a complaint. The only reason I switched over to a metal bit is because he outgrew the Happy Mouth (and I started using what I had around the tack room)

  4. I agree completely, and I also don't use the money-saving techniques as often as I probably should! (probably will make $ensible choices more than in days past, though, with the economy and all...)

    Fortunately, all that color-coordinated biothane tack I spent major buck$ to buy a few years ago is never going to wear out or rust....

    Here's another one:
    shoeing - the cheapest farrier is not necessarily the best. Likewise the most expensive farrier is not the best. ASK AROUND! Specifically, ask people whose horses always have well-trimmed/shod feet. A good trim or shoeing is still good, even when it's time to be done again. A bad trim is bad at first and stays bad! (my neighbor's horses, ugh, I shake my head and try not to look below the knees...)

  5. Good tips for saving some money at least.

    I find if I don't visit the tack store, it helps too. The feed store is kind of separate, so that's fairly easy.

  6. I get some brownie points for not calling out the vet at the drop of the hat, but I was just looking at putting together a SmarkPak with join and weight gain supplements right before I read this!

    Ace is off this week, and I'm 95% sure it's his right stifle. I called the vet to get some recommendations, and he didn't want to give me any without bringing Ace in for a full work up with nerve blockers and xrays. I don't think so! I gave him some time to get better or worse before I dropped big bucks, and it's a good thing because he is getting better. My wallet is glad of that! And beyond that, I'm sure Ace is better off not having the stress of the full vet evaluation either.

  7. I loved your suggestions and I know what you mean about SmartPak. I have to disagree about the hoof abscess though, especially if you have horses at home and you're a novice. I didn't call the vet at the advice of someone more experienced and the issue didn't resolve as I was told it would. I decided to call the vet and I wish I had done it earlier. Next time, I think I'll just go ahead and call. I'd rather be safe than sorry.

  8. I have this addiction called Ebay. I have bought tons of horse stuff there and sold tons of horse stuff there. There are fewer bargains there than there used to be but I still enjoy looking for tack that's out of the ordinary.

    And that Parelli bit is just one of the things I don't like about the Parelli marketing machine. I have this bit but it's not the Parelli endorsed one, it's this one:


    For all purposes it's the exact same bit. Wouldn't surprise me if they are made by Korsteel for Parelli. But look at the difference in the price between the two!

  9. Great musts!
    Love it.

  10. I used Ester-C for years, it is a little pricey, but it was a MUST in the spring in VA, I havent used it since I moved Syd to Ohio this year. I cant remember the exact dosage, I think she got a scoop twice a day. The scoop is actually really tiny so I container does last a while. Syd had to have the steroids and everything before I started the Ester-C, it really made a big difference for her.

    Best of luck to your friend with the poor bumpy pony!!

  11. And Thanks so much for the compliment!!! I think my horsey and hubbie arent too hard on the eyes, glad you agree!!

    Have a great day!! I really love your blog, your posts are always interesting and different!

    Take Care

  12. Hmm...Echo chewed through her nathe bit in approximately 3 minutes. That was an expensive few minutes!

  13. Riley doesn't seem to chew his happy mouth in that fashion, it's still pretty smooth. HOpefully the nathe will not get consumed.


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