The LiveryList Guide to… Reducing Your Horse Keep Costs
Posted on 13th October 2017
Irrelevant whether you keep your horses on a livery yard, run your own yard, or keep your horses at home there are always ways to save time and money. Some take a bit of effort, and some are easy to do but they can all add up! Below are just a few of our tips for making that yard time easier (on your watch and on your pocket!)
If you are on a livery yard why not look into bulk buying feed, bedding and hay with other liveries. Generally, you will get free delivery and sometimes a bulk order discount. It is simple to set up a monthly or fortnightly ordering system on a board or in a diary for owners to write what they want to order. Most can then just ring up the merchant to pay for their order over the phone before delivery, and some will even run an account for the yard. Then as well as the potential to save on the cost, you won’t have to fill your boot with hay and feed, saving time and fuel!
The same can be done with a whole host of services that may come to your yard (sometimes even clubbing up with other yards in the local area). Reductions are often given on clipping, vets bills, treatments, saddle fitting and so much more if there are several horses available at the same time. If you are booking the vet, chiropractor, farrier or suchlike why not put a note up at your yard asking if anyone else needs the same person around the same date. So many times I’ve seen a vet come out one day to a yard for a routine appointment, and then the same vet visit the next day for someone else’s horse! Why not hold a saddle fitting afternoon, or a clipping afternoon. Ask to see how much discount suppliers are willing to offer and why not got all the liveries involved- you can even invite other local horse owners to bring their horses to join in too! Another good idea is to know which vets, farriers or other services other clients use so that those using the same suppliers can share appointments if possible. Even better – if you’ve no particular reason to use your current vet or farrier and – you could consider changing to an alternative one used by others… especially if you are the only one to use your current choice on the yard!
Don’t over feed forage. So many horse owners overfill haynets and over hay pastures in the winter as they believe it keeps the horses occupied. In some circumstances yet it will but more often than not you’re clearing up damp inedible hay from the floor to put straight on the muck heap, or watching it blow across the field! Also, consider getting a nutritionist to your yard. Feed companies like Spillers offer free visits to yards for a minimum number of people and you can make it into a really fun yard event. They will weigh horses on a mobile weighbridge, take some details and give advice on what you should be feeding, including the correct quantities. Many owners are surprised to find they are overfeeding or just giving their horses supplements they don’t need to, or they would have anyway if they switched to different feeds. There is, of course, no commitment to changing your horse’s diet but, for free, it’s worth looking into as well as being a fun and ifnromative afternoon for the yard.
How far away are your vets? Have you considered that for routine visits such as teeth or vaccinations it may be cheaper to ride or drive your horse to the vets yourself!? Many owners do not know this is a possibility but with visit costs in excess of £40 per time to come for a visit- if you have your own lorry it would cost much less in comparison to travel there yourself and often the horse does not even need to leave the lorry or trailer! Give your vet a call and see if this is something they offer. If you’ve moved yard have you considered changing vet, you may have another equally suitable vet nearer who would have a cheaper call out and be closer in the event of an emergency. Similarly, with any vet, unless an emergency try to avoid evening or weekend vets visits as these are often more – sometimes double the cost- but owners will unwittingly book them as it is more convenient. See if another livery or the yard owner will be available for appointments in the day. You may need to pay them a couple of pounds to cover their time but well worth it if you don’t have to pay double the vet visit costs or take time off of work to be there yourself!
This may seem like an obvious one but… look after your things! You’d be surprised at how many items need to be replaced just because – as busy horse owners- we don’t have time to worry about the little things. For example, if you hack out in the rain its ideal to give your tack a quick wipe over with a conditioner or saddle soap after to prevent the leather becoming damaged and cracked. Forgetting to pick up whips in the school only to find it broken later on where its become victim to a heavy hoof or things going ‘walkabouts’ if they are not put away in the right place. If your wheelbarrow has a flat tyre pump it up (or buy a new one!), or if the handles are wobbly on tools tighten the screws- this will save you damaging things beyond repair and having to shell out for a new one. Don’t leave head collars and lead-ropes out in the rain so the buckles won’t get rusty (a great idea if its easier to have them by the field is to have a bin or covered box to leave them in). Repair hay nets, don’t buy new ones- a bit of bailing twine can go a long way! Repair rugs instead of replacing- okay it may not look the prettiest but a whole lot cheaper to pay £15 for a repair than £80 for a new one they are bound to do the same to! There are SO many little ways to just take a few moments to put things back, clean things off and take a little more care. I am as guilty of it as everyone else. ‘Later’ is one of my favourite words!
Why not see if you can swap turning out or bringing in with other owners at the yard rather than paying for services? This would save you the time and fuel of visiting the yard twice a day. This could be a regular arrangement for a few days a week, or just as and when needed. Some yard owners will even swap a mornings yard duties with you for helping look after your own horse- always worth asking! Just make sure you ask the yard owner first as some yards will not allow this and any services have to be done by the yard themselves.
Look at what you spend and see if you can cut costs- are there cheaper feeds available with the same benefit: could you change to a cheaper bedding or a different bedding routine that may save time or money (i.e turning out for longer thus reducing time in the stable): if you don’t ride as much as you wished you could why not look into finding a sharer or part loaner (LiveryList has a great guide to sharing and loaning HERE). Haggle with your insurance renewal quote to see if you can get a cheaper deal with them or elsewhere, see if your trailer or horsebox is being serviced or MOT’d at the cheapest place, or if you can insure your transport through a cheaper company. Just remember though.. cheaper is not always as good as pricier options so make sure you research properly, or seek recommendations, before committing to an alternative supplier.
Do you use your owned transport enough compared to its running costs (MOT/ Plating, Fuel, Vehicle tax, Insurance, Maintenance Costs, Tyres and so on) or are you better off to downsize or even switch to hiring transport? It is worth compiling a list of the costs you’ve incurred for your transport over the course of a year and then dividing by the number of events you’ve attended. It is interesting to work out a cost per event- you may find it would have been cheaper to hire transport, or even use a transporter- especially if sharing with others. If you like having your own transport, why not share with others. You may find another livery who could use it when you are not, or who want to share lifts to events. You cannot offer services as a ‘Transporter’ without the correct legalities of course but worth looking into the implications if they will make a ‘contribution’ to your fuel or time for the use rather than paying for it as a service.
Sometimes you can invest to save money. Clipping is a great example… To have horses clipped with a full clip twice a year will cost you around £50 a time so £100 in total per horse. Even more if you have more horses, get them clipped more often and so on. Have you thought of buying your own clippers? You can get a pair of good quality, branded clippers for around £300-£400. An expensive outlay but they will pay for themselves and you can clip as much as you like and at your leisure. Really with 3 or more horses, the Clippers have paid for themselves over one winter and you still have their resale value (around 50% of the original outlay) as an investment! If you’re good at clipping you could offer clipping services to other owners on the yard too. Same with mane pulling, a Solo-Comb is £15 and so easy to use yet owners still get me to go out and pay me £20 a time to pull their horse’s mane even though I could show them how to do it in 5 minutes!
Shop around and don’t leave things until the last minute! Don’t find yourself panic buying items before an event- plan ahead! If you have time to find bargains online then use it to save money, search for voucher codes, shop out of season and sign up to saddleries so you can be notified when they have sales and clearances. Always worth looking even if you don’t need something right at that time (i.e rugs are often on sale price in the summer so stock up for winter before the price shoots up when you need them most!). Voucher codes are excellent as well and often you will find them for free delivery meaning even if you pay the expected price or RRP for items they are delivered to your door meaning you’ve not had to spend time or fuel going to get them (and inevitably buying other things in the shop you didn’t really need!)
Visit local equestrian car boots- both as a seller and buyer… and don’t hoard items- what is junk to you and has been kicking around in your tack room for yonks may be treasure to someone else. It’s always worth holding off buying new items if there is an equestrian car boot coming up. There are some great ones around and not only are there second-hand items but often discounted new ones as well. Alternatively, there are huge numbers of Facebook groups now buying and selling all manner of equestrian items locally so you can buy and sell without even leaving your lounge! Put the money towards the next thing you want or need to buy and effectively it is free! Also ask around at your yard if there is something, in particular, you only need short-term or want to try (like a different bit) someone may have one they are not using they can either lend or sell to you.