By: Alyssa Murphree, March 22, 2017
I was thrown into the world of horse ownership at age sixteen when the horse I was free leasing from my 4-H leader at the time was in danger of being listed for sale. Catch and I went way back however. I was twelve when my leader purchased him and gave me the opportunity to work with him for my 4-H project after years as a horseless member of her club. We trained and competed in a variety of disciplines through 4-H and Pony Club throughout those years and I spent more hours in that barn than anywhere else. When my leader needed to downsize the number of horses on their farm, Catch could still be with me, but I would need to find a way to house and care for him.
The transition from lessee to owner was almost non-existent in terms of pride. Being his primary rider and “person” for the past four years, he was basically mine anyway and everybody else saw him as such. With that being said, it was still my leader who was doing all of the daily care. Horse ownership however, unless you’re a millionaire, goes far beyond having your name on a piece of paper.
There’s a common misconception among non-horse people regarding the romanticism of owning horses. We all wish it could be as simple as driving up a long, tree-lined driveway to find somebody holding your already tacked up horse on the stone driveway of a 30-stall barn. But that’s not the case for the majority. Not even close.
There are many ways to incorporate horses into your lifestyle even if you aren’t rich and famous. You can work off lesson costs by helping care for the horses at your barn, become a working student under industry professionals, or opt for self-care rather than full care boarding, in which you pay to keep your horse on a farm, but you are responsible for all their care rather than the barn management. The latter is how I have managed to keep Catch for so long.
I was a junior in high school at the time of the “big move”. I found a self-care boarding barn ten minutes from my house and twice a day, every single day of the year, I was at the barn caring for Catch. Until I was able to buy my own car (thanks to my job at a breeding farm, yay for more horses), my mom would have to drive me to the barn. I would have to go before school to feed and turn him outside and after school to bring him in, feed him, clean his stall, and ride. Christmas morning? Still have to go to the barn. Tornado sirens and hail? Crap, better run out and bring him in fast! Dinner plans with friends? They have to wait until after feeding time.
We must not forget the bills and other expenses either. Aside from the boarding bill, there’s hay, grain, and stall bedding to purchase, equipment such as blankets and fly masks, show entry fees, farrier bills, and vet bills. Think about the vet bill you get for your dog, triple it, and that’s what you’re looking at for a low-maintenance, generally healthy horse.
In retrospect, I can’t believe I made all of this happen as a high schooler. Since starting school at DelVal though, my mom has been helping take care of Catch at home, but since it is a lot of work and I do miss him, plans to relocate him and my mom’s 11 month old miniature horse to the area are in the works. Horse ownership is a massive personal and financial sacrifice, but it all comes down to the love of the lifestyle and the 900-pound beast with a puppy-like demeanor I love to call mine.