While many of us may dream of one day owning our own horse there can be a lot of hurdles in the way of making that dream reality, whether it’s a lack of time, money, or simply a lack of experience. Fear not though there are plenty of alternatives that can satisfy your horsey craving without having to commit to owning a horse.
Is there an alternative to owning your own horse? Owning a horse is a massive commitment that can change your life but there are plenty of great alternatives to ownership that won’t cost the earth or take up all of your time such as riding vacations, leasing a horse, or even fostering one.
You don’t need to be an experienced rider to enjoy a riding vacation, many will even teach you to ride if you’ve never sat on a horse before. Whether you’re looking for relaxed sightseeing rides, for fun beach trails, or want to experience life on a working ranch there’s a vacation that’s perfect for you. Some may even give you the chance to improve your skills in a specific discipline.
Whatever you’re after, a quick Google search (other search engines are available) will bring up a plethora of companies that offer vacations for children, adults, or even the whole family. Depending on the type of vacation you’re after you can book a few days away or even a whole month, although a week or two are the most popular.
If you’re new to the world of horses and aren’t sure if ownership is right for you at the moment then riding lessons are going to be perfect. They’re a great way to get started with horses with some yards even giving you the chance to learn the basics of horse maintenance too.
Riding lessons can also be a great way to try your hand at a variety of different riding styles before you decide which one is right for you.
The only drawback to riding lessons though is that, at around $50 an hour, the cost can soon add up, especially if you’re riding a few times a week. The good news though is that some yards will allow you to help around the place in return for rides. This will also help you to learn more about caring for horses too.
Many riding yards, rescue centers, and even therapy barns rely on the help of volunteers. They probably won’t be able to pay you financially but you’ll be rewarded with great experiences, knowledge, and, depending on where you’re volunteering, possibly even free rides.
If you’re new to horses and want to learn more about them before taking the plunge and buying your own horse then volunteering is ideal for you. You’ll learn how to feed, groom, and generally care for horses as well as how to clean their stalls and their tack.
Volunteering can also be great for building your confidence and keeping you fit, it can also help to teach children about responsibility.
4-H Club / Pony Club
While most 4-H or Pony Club members do have their own horses it’s not a prerequisite with many chapters allowing you to borrow a horse for some events. There are also some events that don’t require a horse at all.
Despite having age limits (5 – 18 for 4-H, and under 25 for the Pony Club) both organizations are a fantastic way for youngsters to make friends while learning about horses at the same time and all without breaking the bank. Most events are free to members but those that aren’t normally free have a minimal cost.
Different chapters run different events but you’ll get to understand about everything from basic horse care to preparing a horse for a show. Some chapters will also give you the chance to take part in shows and gymkhanas.
I know you could argue that horse camp comes under the vacation category but I decided to include it separately because I think that a proper horse camp is anything but a vacation, although it’s a wonderful experience and great fun.
Most camps cater solely for children but there are some designed for adults only. Regardless of the type of camp, the experience is largely the same and that is one where you get to immerse yourself in every single aspect of horse ownership, from feeding to grooming, riding, and even cleaning out the stalls.
Typically lasting for one to two weeks, you’re paired with your ‘own’ horse at the start and will be responsible for its care for the whole time. It’s the most fun you can have with a horse without actually owning one yourself and an experience you’ll never forget, even if you do end up owning your own horse at a later date.
If you’re new to horses or are inexperienced then this definitely isn’t for you but if you’re confident and experienced around horses, and have some spare time (and possibly your own vehicle), then this may be ideal for you.
A lot of horse owners, especially those that keep them on their own land often look for experienced horse sitters to take care of the horses while they’re away. You’ll be expected to carry out all of the daily chores associated with horse ownership but if that’s not incentive enough you’ll get paid as well!
Unlike a lot of the other things on this list, horse sitting isn’t as easy to do. You’ll need to have a good reputation, be responsible, experienced, and dependable, and will have to wait for people to come to you. That said though you can let people know you’re a horse sitter by placing adverts in local farms, yards, and even in tack shops. You can also ask people you horse sit for to recommend you to their friends and before you know it you could have an extensive list of owners wanting you to look after their horses while they’re on vacation.
You might not have heard about horse fostering before but it’s a sad fact that many rescue centers have more horses than they have space for which is where fostering comes in. If you have enough land to keep a horse safely and securely then you may be able to foster one. The idea behind fostering is that a rescue center will pay for the horse’s upkeep (feed, bedding, vet bills, etc) in return for you keeping the horse on your land.
Fostering can be extremely rewarding because you know your giving a vulnerable horse a fresh start but it doesn’t come without its own set of challenges and problems. Many of the horses have had a bad start in life and possibly haven’t been trained and will probably require a lot of personal attention, it’s also worth noting that not all of the horses can be ridden.
One thing to consider when fostering a horse is that you don’t actually own the horse and are effectively only giving it a place to stay. This means that it can be adopted (or sold) at any time without notice so it’s important to be prepared for this.
Leasing a horse
Okay so I admit this may be classed as owning a horse but if you don’t have the budget to buy a horse outright (but can afford to pay for its upkeep), but are still looking to own one, this is going to be perfect for you.
Leasing is where somebody else owns the horse but you (either with or without other people) look after the horse as if it was your own. Some owners require you to keep the horse at a specific yard while others will allow you to keep the horse wherever you want. There are different types of leasing but the two main ones are full lease, where you (and nobody else) are fully responsible for the horse and can ride whenever you want to, and partial lease which is where you and a least one other person (typically up to three people in total) share the horse. The problem with partial lease though is that you’ll probably only be able to visit the horse on set days.
An alternative to leasing a horse is shared ownership which is just as it sounds, you and at least one other person, buy a horse together and are then equally responsible for the day-to-day care of it. I know that this is technically not an alternative to horse ownership but it is a cheaper way of owning one though!
If you want to know more about leasing a horse (or shared ownership) then this recent article will be helpful.
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I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.
Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.
- Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
- Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
- TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
- Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
- Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
- Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.
I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉