Expecting The Unexpected
In recent months, I have spent a lot of time discussing how I plan to afford my horse after I graduate. This is probably a discussion many families have at some point. For many graduates starting your first career can be intimidating, top that off with paying the equivalent of a second apartment so you can board your horse is even more daunting.
Even after you crunch the numbers and discover that you can afford board for your horse, boarding isn't the most expensive thing about horses; it's the unexpected medical expenses that really get you. Let's face it, these beautiful animals are accident prone and it is rarely something minor. You can take every single precaution imaginable and they will still find a way to hurt themselves. So, how can someone operating within a strict budget afford a horse?
Many of us gradate college with some type of loan, typically it is a college or car loan, that you budget and plan to pay on a set day of every month. So, why not do the same with your horse bills? For those who already have a horse you probably budget for your monthly board and farrier visits, but what about setting aside something as small as $50 each paycheck and putting that towards horse savings. While that may not sound like a lot of money at first, it quickly accumulates and gives you a nice cushion to fall onto when unexpected bills hit. You can also use that fund to cover routine vet bills such as your yearly shots, dewormer's, and dentist appointments. This type of budgeting is something I use myself, I put 10% of every paycheck into my horse savings account for preparation of being on my own once I graduate. For those who are in the process of saving for a horse one day, take the same approach. You can save a set amount of money from every paycheck and put it in savings for the day that you are ready to purchase your first horse, that way if any unplanned vet bills arise you will already have money put aside to help offset the costs.
Another great thing that I recommend from personal experience is Horse Insurance. I personally do not have my mare insured for everything under the sun, but she is insured for mortality and major medical. This means that if there is anything serious, like a life-threatening colic case that requires immediate surgery, you will not have to be prepared to pay $10,000 out of your pocket right then and there. The other great thing about having insurance is that you can always change your horses coverage. For example, before my mares freak accident she was successfully competing in the 2'6" jumpers and schooling 3' at home and I was prepared to up her medical coverage substantially. I wanted to be sure that her insurance could cover the possibility of leg injury or other injury associated with more serious and strenuous work. However, since the injury caused us to take a month and a half off I decided to wait to increase her medical coverage until she begins serious work again.
The last thing I recommend is to talk to your vet about the option of a payment plan for unforeseen emergencies. Many vets are understanding people who want to do right by the animal, and if you are a reliable client who is consistently able to pay your bills and schedule routine vet appointments they will try their absolute best to work something out with you in case of a big emergency. Now don't expect to walk away without a vet bill, but I do know of extenuating circumstances where an owner was only able to cover 75% of an emergency vet bill and the vet worked with the client to make sure a payment plan was in place so they could pay the remaining 25% off in a reasonable amount of time.
These are my tidbits for how to afford a horse on a budget, the lessons that I have learned throughout my experiences of budgeting for my horse will carry over into all aspects of my life. I am now far more organized with my money and know that it takes planning and dedication to have the life I want.