Tips from Western Rider Danielle

Danielle is an equestrian in grad school with three horses. She trains in natural horsemanship and competes with her horses in trail/obstacle classes and western dressage. She too knows the struggles of affording the equestrian lifestyle and has some tips to offer for our western riders out there. We can all learn something new from someone who rides in a different discipline than ourselves. I’d love to see more equestrians banding together to support each other across all of the different sports we do with our horses. Despite our differences, we can all be brought together by our love of the horse.

“I want people to know they can still look good at shows and not have to buy exclusively from big brands like Dover and Smartpak. Support local businesses like consignment stores! ”

Danielle got her helmet and rag from Amazon. She advises to shop Amazon for sales and discounts, instead of going to your big name retailer. She paid $20 less than retail price for her helmet on Amazon. For rags, Danielle says to search “silk scarves”. Hers was $9 compared to Wild Rag’s price of $40.

Her boots are both scores from thrift stores, with the riding boots costing $11 and the paddock/muck boots for $10.  Her western shirt? – Boyfriend’s closet.

Some other tips she has include putting baby oil in manes and tails before brushing as a cheaper alternative to detangler. She also says climbing rope is the strongest rope around and is great to use for reins and lead ropes.

Thanks for all the great tips Danielle!

You can follow her on Instagram @artofrescuecounseling

Happy Budgeting!

-Hannah + Z

Riding in College

I know many of today’s equestrians are in high school. If you are, chances are you’ve thought “What am I going to do about riding in college??” There are many different paths you can take, so first decide what you want to do, what your funds look like, and how much time you think you have. Better yet, how well do you manage your time?


Many colleges have IHSA equestrian teams. I personally did not ride on my college’s team due to the time commitment. If you think you will have the time or think you can balance riding with school and work, then IHSA is a great way to continue riding throughout college without all the responsibilities that come with owning or leasing your own horse. You will get the opportunity to ride a wide range of different horses and hone in on your equitation skills! I’m not sure about all colleges, but at mine the riders were only required to pay for their own show clothing… everything else was covered!

Half Lease

Committing to team practices, workouts, traveling, shows, and meetings may sound like too much for you to keep up with at college. A half lease is a great option if you are still wanting to ride a few times a week. Look around for local barns near your campus and see if you can find a horse available for a half lease. This option is more time manageable. However, keep in mind that half leases typically run around the price for half of board.

Weekly Lessons

Another thing you can do at a local barn is take weekly lessons. This only requires one day of the week of your time, but your riding skills will stay up to par! Plus you’ll be getting that horsey time we all crave. Sticking to weekly lessons is also much more affordable than a half lease.

Your own thing on your own time

Now for the option that I chose… a modge-podge of things on my own time. I rode at my home barn whenever I came home from college. Whether it was for the weekend or on a break, you could always catch me back at my old barn. I had many riding opportunities here such as helping hack greenies and earning lessons/rides for helping around the farm. Sometimes I went for long periods of time without returning home so I had to find some way to ride in between. I did a couple things to get in some riding, while at college. I found a local barn and took lessons when I could afford it and had the time. I also put out an ad on Facebook detailing my experience and asking if anyone was looking for an exercise rider for their horse(s). I stated I would exercise their horses for free, just in the exchange of getting the riding time! I got SO many responses from individual owners and ended up riding a lady’s OTTB gelding a couple times a week for her one year.

Let me know if you have specific questions about how I managed time and money for riding or how I got different opportunities set up. I’d be happy to help out!

Happy Budgeting!

-Hannah + Z

Showing on a Budget

It’s no doubt that shows cost the big bucks. From trailering, to paying your trainer, to class and grounds fees, you can expect to easily drop hundreds on a show weekend. I’ve always struggled paying for shows, and it’s hard for me to consistently compete at the level I would like to. I have some tips on how to make the most of your money when it comes to showing. I’ll go ahead and say this is not a how to afford showing on the circuit article. This is more for those who are interested in working their way up the show ladder.

Choosing a show series

There are always several different local level series going on throughout the year. This is the best place to start. Local shows are going to be more laid back and way more affordable. You can even get picky about which local shows you participate in. They can vary in prices, even if they use the same venues. Since my horse is green and I am relatively new back in the show ring, I make competing in the more affordable local series a priority. I can have more opportunities at a lower cost. For the more serious shows, I will save to compete in just a few times a year. You can also choose to show just one day out of a multi-day show. You are not required to show all two or three days! That is a good way to get some experience at the bigger shows without dishing out cash for a four day weekend.

Compete when you’re ready

Only enter a show when you feel like you and your horse are prepared to compete. I won’t take Z to a show if I feel unprepared. If I know going in that we aren’t going to be able to successfully complete the classes, then I feel like its a waste of my time and money. Not to say that you won’t gain experience from any show you participate in, but when you’re on a budget, you don’t have the extra money to throw around on blown classes. I took him to a more serious show series towards the end of last year and we were not prepared at all. We made many mistakes and as a result we didn’t place in anything. In hindsight, I would have much rather skipped the show and saved my money so that I could practice to be a stronger competitor at a future show. Same goes with classes and divisions. Don’t move up unless you and your trainer feel you are ready! Compete where you’re comfortable and you will get your money’s worth out of the experience.

Team up on fees

Shows hit hard with fees. You’ve got trailering fees, trainer fees, stabling fees, and more. You can team up with friends and other riders to help combat the costs of some of these. Whether you are paying a shipper or it is your trainer hauling, I’ve always found the more you can fill up the trailer, the less the fee is. Shippers especially will charge a lot more if they are only picking up one or two horses rather than a whole trailer full. Same thing with trainer fees. Your trainer may charge a flat rate for shows, but he or she may be more willing to compromise if there are more people going.  We always get a tack stall for shows. If you have a big group going together, it ends up only being $5 or so to have a secure place to store your tack and other items. Another way to save a lot of money is to share a horse at the show. If it’s a multiple day show, you can take turns showing on different days. If it is just for one day, you can still share among different divisions. This cuts all the stabling/care fees in half. I know several people who do this already that have had great success with it. I am hoping to find someone who wants to show Z with me sometimes this year!

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I hope these tips help some of you trying to figure out your show budget for the upcoming season. I plan on having another article coming out soon on affordable show clothings.

Happy Budgeting!

-Hannah + Z

An interview with Westphalian Dreamer

Jordan Even, also known as Westphalian Dreamer on Instagram, totally gets that the equestrian life demands a lot of expenses, and it can be hard to keep up with it all! I asked her about how she manages her finances, tips on saving, and the best products to use for an affordable price. Here is what she had to say. 🙂

How do you juggle the finances of owning and caring for three horses?

 Its all about priorities and budgeting. I budget each month out in advance to see what I need to pay for as far as bills go personally and horse related bills. I find knowing what you need to pay is really important when it comes to being able to juggle the expenses of three horses. 

What is your best dollar/convenient store hack for equestrians?

The dollar store is great for places like Epson salt or spray bottles! Since its only $1 I tend to stock up on small items like that for the barn.

Where do you purchase the majority of your equine supplies?

 I get the majority of my stuff from Smartpak and Stateline Tack. I try to shop the sales if I can from any store or online store!

In your opinion, which clothing line has the best deals for the quality of their products?

I love the Smartpak Piper breeches. They’re great quality for the price. Greenhawk Elation breeches are also amazing and a fraction of the cost of competitors.

Do you ever buy used tack, clothing, etc.?

Yes! I will gladly buy used tack or clothing if I see something in good condition and its what I need! There is no shame in buying used! Remember you will use it some more!

Have you ever been a working student?

I have never been a working student as I am not interested in training. I think it’d be a great opportunity for someone looking to get into the industry.

Did you lease before you bought your first horse?

I did! I free leased a horse for two years and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It got me ready to buy my own!

How would you respond to negative comments about having lower end equestrian gear?

I would not necessarily call it lower end, not everyone can buy $400 breeches, I know I sure as heck can’t! I find that you must be grateful and enjoy what you have and can afford, many other people would kill to be in your shoes. I feel we focus too much on labels and not enough on just being grateful.


What budgeting advice would you give to new equestrians?
Stick to the budget…that’s the most important thing. It is better to underspend than overspend…so don’t live outside your means.

Thank you Jordan for taking the time to share with us!
Happy Budgeting!
-Hannah + Z

Leasing vs Buying

Ahhh the decision that every equestrian comes to at some point in their riding career. Choices can be easy to make if you are fortunate to be able to afford either option, but if you are on a budget like myself, there’s a lot more to it than that. When facing this decision, you need to decide what your goals are in riding.

When I went to start searching for a horse to buy, I realized with my budget I had two options. I could buy a greener horse which I would have to train up myself or I could buy a more experienced older horse that was going towards the end of its career. My personal aspiration was to purchase a horse that I would keep with me for a very long time. I had leased horses for a couple of years and I was ready for my own, but with my budget, I knew I would have to make some sacrifices to buy my own horse. I decided to go with the green horse route because I had a good bit of experience working with the green horses that my trainer had and I was looking for a long-term situation. With this decision, I knew I would have to put advancing my skills on hold to take my new horse back to the basics.

So if you have experience with green horses, can be patient, and dedicated you may want to go with a gentle green horse. I would not suggest this to anyone who only has had experience with school horses or someone not planning to be in a training program with a professional. Training up Z was and still is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I was frustrated on a regular basis and I have wanted to give up on him several times. However, it has been so rewarding to see his progress and how my hard work has paid off.

Another option you have is to buy an older horse with more experience. Older horses are honestly the best horses and you most likely will get a few good seasons before retirement. You just need to be able to have a plan of what to do when your horse does reach that point where its time to retire. Or can you afford any maintenance the horse might need? Many things to think about.

With leasing, you have the opportunity to work with finished, more advanced horses that can push you to higher levels. You can easily lease a horse that you wouldn’t be able to afford to buy. If you are wanting to continue growing your riding skills and compete at your skill level and beyond this show season, this is the best option for you. Another great thing about leasing is if there is ever a situation where it is not working out between horse and rider, you are not stuck with this horse forever; only until your leasing contract runs out.


Hope this helps some of you who are considering leasing or buying!

Happy Budgeting!

-Hannah + Z

My Guide to Affording Lessons and Leasing

Growing up, my parents could only spend a certain amount of money on my horseback riding. They paid for my weekly lesson and that was it. Anything more than one lesson a week, I had to pay for myself. Obviously, we all crave more time in the saddle than once a week! So I had to come up with some other ways to pay for riding time.

Being a working student at my barn was the easiest and best way to earn credits for lessons or towards a lease. Now, you have to be willing to work hard. I’m talking stall mucking, water trough scrubbing, feeding, and cleaning of all kinds. I’m not going to lie, you put in a lot of hard work to earn small increments of credits. However, you get so much more than that. You learn new things about horses and taking care of a farm. You gain so much experience dealing with all sorts of equine situations. You also get to further build your relationship with your trainer and other barn mates. Pick a few days a week you can dedicate to working, not riding. Then take advantage of any school breaks or vacation time from your jobs to rack up on work days. Talk to your trainer about a working student program. I’m sure there is something they can work out with you!

Another thing you can do is to save up your outside money. Save your birthday money, Christmas money, babysitting money, whatever to put together towards a lesson or part of your lease. I always used my birthday money for more time in the saddle. Get a part-time job to earn some money! Whether it’s babysitting, working at a restaurant, or at the movie theater, if you can put in some hours each week, you’ll be earning some extra cash quick. As adults, you can still get some extra money on the side from doing small jobs like dog walking and pet care or from selling items on social media. If people are going out of town, see if you can take care of their pets! I just made $60 from taking care of some friends horses over the weekend.

So let’s talk more about leasing. That can get expensive. You have the option of a full lease or a half lease. Usually, with full leases, you are assuming all expenses of the horse without actually having to purchase a horse. If you’re on a budget, I would definitely recommend starting with a half lease. It turns into only half of the horse’s expenses and depending on who your leasee is, they may cover things like vet and farrier on their own. The half lease is a lot more manageable money wise and is a really good place to start if you think you would like to full lease or own a horse in the future.

This is a horse I leased for a little over a year before I bought Z. It taught me so much about horse ownership and I’m so thankful for the time I spent with the little red pony.



Happy Budgeting!

-Hannah + Z