If you have horses and show them, in whatever discipline, you know how much money you spend following your dreams. If you’re smart, you don’t add up exactly how much you spend each year. The truth is just too painful. If you don’t own a horse and show it, try guessing how much showing a horse costs.
You guessed way too low. Trust me.
I have trained horses professionally and have instructed students for over 30 years. I have trained horses and riders for the Arabian round ring (western, hunter, show hack, saddle seat), and I have trained horses and shown through the FEI levels in Dressage. Here is what I have witnessed; some of them are past clients, some are just people I knew.
I have seen friendships fall apart because daughters competed. I have seen marriages strained to the brink over the purchase of a horse. I have seen families filled with resentment over the amount a parent spends on a horse habit. One woman told me, “My husband keeps track of how much I spend, so when I bought my horse, I went crazy, spending as much as I could. I did it because I knew he would tell me to reduce my spending by 10% the second year.”
That said, most people I have been involved with responsibly budget their horse expenses. But most of them still feel just a little guilty about it. Parents feel guilty if only one child rides, and adult clients, while they oversee their own finances, still maintain a small sense of hush hush about what they spend.
As one old joke states, “If I die, please don’t let my husband sell my tack for what I told him it cost.”
This is an interesting phenomenon. My clients are all employed or retired women who have earned the freedom to follow a passion, usually, from childhood. Some have waited their whole lives to own a horse. What is up with the guilt?
And now I’m in a similar conundrum. Our Arabian Sport Horse National show is in the Midwest this year. For the past 8 years it has been in Idaho or North Carolina. Hauling distance is a financial killer for clients, so we’ve skipped it. This year it is being held close to us. I have worked very hard to prepare my personal horses for this show. The problem is, for a variety of reasons, my clients cannot go.
For two years I have been investing my own money into training and qualifying my two horses for Nationals. The horses are good. They will be competitive. They are a good advertisement for me and how well I can train and show. The problem is now I don’t have any clients going to this show, I will have to cover the whole cost to compete myself. We can afford it, but it’s going to hurt. I feel nervous and insecure.
The rational part of me says, “Sorry you can’t do this. Sometimes life sucks.”
But I have invested every ounce of my soul into the pursuit of my sport and my passion, and I know this opportunity might never arise again.
Should I take this risk and spend this much money to compete and possibly completely fail?
“Hell YES! I deserve this!”