Horse riding for the budget challenged

I have two sons. The older son has been at a boarding school and has grown to love horses while he was there. The younger loves anything that his big brother does. My older son wants to continue caring for and riding horses once he comes home, and I think that it would be a great thing for him. On the other hand his schooling has placed a big dent in the family budget.

Horse lessons are the cheapest option that I can think of that would allow the kids to continue riding. Around here that works out to about $160 per person per month for one hour lessons. That’s pushing the limit of what we can afford, ande I’d personally like to have the family be more involved in the care and maintenance of the horses and stables.

So does anyone have any suggestions for how we can do this, or should I take a hint?

Horses are expensive. There is no way around that and lessons should be the cheapest option. The only thing I can thjink of is to get your son to trade some labor at the horse farm for riding time or money to go back into riding time.

Some people are willing to “share board” horses, where a person pays a certain % of board for the horse and gets riding time in return. Example: Ask around at your local stables.

My daughter’s riding instructor employs a couple of teenagers to help with chores around her ranch, groom and exercise horses, and help out when she does her yearly summer children’s camp. Maybe he could exchange some time for rides/lessons?

Where is “Bubbaville”? You might stop at some equestrian facilities and see if your boys can muck stalls to alleviate part of their lesson cost. It never hurts for kids to do a little manual labor. You also might find small group lessons for much less than private ones. Then they have the opportunity to get to know other kids interested in the same things. Although in some show barns, it can be sort of clique-y, that may be just more a girl thing. Speaking of girls - lots of girls hang around barns. There are worse places for a kids to hang out, IMHO.


I worked in exchange for riding lessons. I didn’t consider it work because I loved being around horses so much - it was pure fun, and sure beat babysitting!

Former (than Og)_ horse owner here. I agree that labor for lessons is cheapest, but as should be obvious from this thread, your son won’t be the first person asking. You might check out a half-lease, but that doesn’t always come with lessons - but it does give more non-lesson riding time.

There are various levels of barns. Our first went to lower level shows, and it involved getting people with trailers to trail the horse there. We didn’t have one, so we paid. The kids did a lot of work on the stalls, even when they owned horses. Our second went to A level shows, and all that was included, but it was more expensive. So, you should look for a lower level barn.

Beware though. We got started with a free trail ride coupon. It might go from lessons to shows on a leased horse to buying one. It’s very insidious. The good news is that college riding teams don’t involve your own horse, so there is an end.

And I second StGermain’s comment on the paucity of boys. If I were 15 again I darn well would take up riding. It’s probably 20 - 1 or better - i.e. paradise.

Just don’t get on Craigslist and ask for five free horses!

Also, if your sons are too young to be doing work themselves (its not clear from your post whether they are 5 or 15, or both) consider whether there is anything YOU can trade with the farm, perhaps of more value than manual labor at $7/hr.

At various horse farms I’ve worked at (3, one in NY, one in MI, and one in VA where I was barn manager) we have traded lessons for the following
-graphic design and/or photography for a brochure
-handyman services – minor plumbing, fence repair, etc.
-a wedding cake. :slight_smile:
-bushhogging fields (must know how to drive tractor)
-jump building & painting (they cost an absolute fortune to buy premade; if you have basic carpentry skills, you can buy books on design & construction and go to town)

There isn’t much way around it though, riding is expensive. I don’t think you can do much better than $20/hr/kid/week, which is how I am reading your OP. There were plenty of times in my life I had to stop riding for financial reasons – my parents and my own.

You might get some ideas from a book called “Other People’s Horses” – the problem with shareboarding and half-leasing is that most people don’t want to share their horse with an inexperienced child rider.

Also, what you SHOULD NOT DO is buy an inexpensive, untrained horse – at an auction perhaps – thinking the kids and horse will “learn together.” They won’t. And the money you’ll put into making your “green” horse kid-safe will far exceed the lesson cost you’re hesitant to sink in now.

Green + green = black & blue, as the saying goes.

Hello Again - This weekend at the feed store I struck up a conversation with a mom and daughter. The kid looked about 12. They had two casual-use arabs at home and the daughter had a Hanoverian at a training barn. At that age she was riding second-level dressage. I wouldn’t be surprised if they paid $10-15K for the horse. Probably at least $600/ board and training, more depending how often she takes lessons.


Thanks, folks!

StGermain, Bubbaville is an old nickname for South Austin, Tx. There’s no shortage of horses around here, though I only know of one stable on this end of town. Most seem to be to the north or southwest of town.

My oldest is thirteen. For a variety of reasons, he has been at a boarding school that features an equine assisted therapeutic program. The training is basic, but I think that he has become a fairly good rider. Beyond that, I think that he gets a lot out of just hanging out with horses. He has said that he’s willing to help work the horses, but I suspect that he’s thinking of currying and picking hooves more than he’s thinking of mucking stalls.

A friend has mentioned a rescue stable out of town. I haven’t talked to the yet, but they may be a good fit. In any case, their posted rates are better than those for other stables. Like most nonprofits, they could use whatever help they can get, in money or work.

Make the smaller kid ride on the back of the bigger one to tune up for a real horse.

Invest in a Great Dane.

Find someone that owns some - seriously. I have had two people that when they found out I rode begged me to come and work them a little.

I second this. My sister has started riding again this past year (after not being able to for health and financial… mostly financial… reasons for several years) because a professor at her university heard somehow that she could ride and wanted to, and he needed someone to exercise the horses a few times a week. Unpaid, and he goes with her once in a while for short lessons, and she just has a great time about it.

Back when I was about 13-14, and my sister would have been 10-12 or so, the mother of a kid in my mom’s grade 1 class told her about her horses and small farm (she had a big enough barn to board horses in for extra income), but said with three kids under the age of 5, she just didn’t have time to ride her two horses. When she found out that my sister, my cousin and I all rode and loved horses, she asked us to come by and ride them whenever we wanted (one of us rode one of the boarders… their owners just left messages to indicate which ones wouldn’t be ridden, and could we please do it). We did that for the better part of a year, but then the woman went through a messy divorce, and it just became too awkward/difficult for us to continue. I kind of wish we had, though!

I don’t meet a lot of people with horses in Montreal, but if I ever got the opportunity to ride inexpensively, I think I would do it! It really is a lot of fun!

As many others have said, definitely explore riding someone else’s horse!

I would kill to find someone around me who would be willing (and experienced enough) to regularly work my horse. At this point, it wouldn’t even be like a lease; I’d just be thrilled to have someone working him on a consistent basis. Of course, if you’re interested in this route you might want to start with the lessons, as most people in my situation won’t turn their horses over to a beginner for safety reasons. Once your kids move up to intermediate/advanced, then you can start looking. During the time your kids are taking lessons (if that’s the route you go), let them hang out at the barn, take them to horse shows, and let them meet a variety of people. The equine world (at least my corner of it) is very “who knows who” and the really excellent opportunities are generally snapped up before there is any need to advertise them broadly.

It’s not a cheap hobby (good boots are not cheap–though you can always buy quality goods used), and it’s hard not to get sucked in, but my achievements in riding and the love of my horse pretty much got me through childhood, so…:slight_smile:

I’d second this. I have a teenage girl exercising and babying and loving on my horse, to their mutual delight. I’d been looking for a regular exercise rider for some time, and Rebecca was recommended by her instructor, who teaches at the barn where I board. Knowing her instructor, I was reassured that the kid would be a good prospect, and so she’s proven. She rides him several times a week and has shown him at easygoing local shows, in fact we’re going to one this weekend.

Of course, being a teenage girl, she does feel impelled to do teenage girly stuff to Ben, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Even when it involves pink.


Ben is quite a handsome gent (I see that he is also trained in dressage like my guy is). I think your point about instructor recommendations is really important. I know that one of the problems I’ve had with finding someone to keep my guy in shape is that I never really became “in” with the equine in-crowd around here and so I don’t know who I can reasonably ask to look for a suitable rider (and given my guy’s size, he’s not for beginners).

By the way, I think I drove every horse I rode to that look of bemused resignation in the last photo when I was a young girl. It’s a rite of passage. :smiley:

Speaking of bemused resignation… :smiley:

Ben’s a TB, never-race-trained former field hunter who’s quite happy in his middle teens to do trail rides and Training Level dressage, even playing kid’s pony at times despite his 16.1H size. Of course, disposition and hotness matter way more than size in what you’d put a beginner (or even intermediate) or small child on. Despite his height, Ben’s such a laidback puppydog that I can trust him (within certain limits, natch) with small children.

I tell you, cornflakes, assuming you do get an offer of a horse for your sons to ride, make sure – damned sure!-- that the horse has a sane, sensible, sweet disposition. Sometimes there’s a reason other than time that an owner isn’t riding their horse. I love my big guy, and I adored the wonderful big guy I had for 13 years; but I never forget that a horse can unleash a terrifying amount of power in a heartbeat. Still, it’s worth the vigilance, and the expense, and the hard work of taking care of them – worth it all, a hundred times over. Ain’t nothing in this world like a slobbery nuzzling kiss to say “I love you. Feed me?” :wink:
[sub]Why yes – yes, I do like showing off my boys. Why do you ask?[/sub]

Oh yeah, I know. One of my brother in laws worked horses for several years, at a stables that raised Arabian jumpers (my son got a leader ride on an Olympic veteran) and later at a more mainstream stables. He isn’t reckless, but he did get a lower leg bent when he forgot to keep a hand on a rump when he walked behind a jumper. The horses at my son’s school are gentle quarterhorses (if a little neglected and stubborn), but I have been in the corral next to the top horse when he decided to put a horse on my other side in his place–he just threatened a bite and the other horse bolted, but I didn’t have any warning and I don’t think that anyone else saw it coming.

Personally, I was dragged by a horse when I was eight, and I only rode once or twice in the interim. I’m really loving that I get to ride again after all these years.