Money: If Wishes were Horses…

WM Infinity Farm“How much does a horse cost? Do you have to be rich to own one?”

I can tell you how much hay they eat, warn you about vet bills and farrier visits. There are many articles and books written about equine economics, but the first truth anyone with horses learns is that owning a horse is nowhere near simple math.

I know talking about money is rude, or at least uncomfortable. Still, I’m endlessly curious. Money is a vehicle that carries dreams and wishes into the real world; simple math done on a spiritual obstacle course.

Lottery winners and philosophers tell us that money doesn’t buy happiness. Words that are foolish and flat when compared to the vast return we get from a puppy’s adoption fee. Or your first horse. Money has a concrete value but we always have to reconcile that literal value with our personal feeling of abundance or lack.

Let’s begin here: if we were somehow required to have a bank account to cover any issues that might come up in the future in the lives of our animal companions, most of us could barely afford one cat. So this is where the magic comes in. It isn’t obvious divine intervention; hay bales don’t multiply in a loaves-and-fishes miracle. Sometimes it’s barely noticeable, like the truck doesn’t break down or a few months go by without emergency vet calls.

Just when you get comfortable, money goes worthless. It can purchase a horse, but it has never been able to buy relationship and skill in the saddle. Horses are the great equalizer; you can’t buy the ride. Or the other priceless things: freedom, friendship, and self-esteem.

If money is a vehicle, it’s still up to us to steer it. One horsewoman complains bitterly about the cost of her farrier and always asks for a discount. She also drives a brand new red sports car; I notice the tires are good. I met a man who admitted that he’d spent $40,000. on surgery for his dog’s brain injury. He was so sad about losing the dog, not the money. Some of us have brand new trucks and skinny horses. Some of us need a larger geriatric pen, while others switch horses in and out every year. It’s investment and return. Are you horse rich or horse poor?

In my case, I knew the costs early. I’d paid for my horse with babysitting money as a kid. After I left home, I was responsible. I waited, counting every dollar and every miserable day, until I was… well, stable. I knew the costs of keeping a horse as well as the costs of living without one. I had a plan and a budget. And six months after bringing my new horse home, my husband filed for divorce. Surprise! Game on.

It can all feel like chaos. Do your very best, yet all the plans, prayers, and affirmations won’t hold if the universe has a different lesson in mind. The only thing you can count on is money will be an ingredient that kind of disaster every time. Then, against the odds, the truest blessings in life come right after the very worst days. It’s like money in the bank.

When I look around my circle of friends not everyone is where they thought they would be financially. Life happens: health issues develop, work changes, relationships crash, and we’ve already re-invented ourselves more than once. Life throws us a few curve-balls but even then, past the whining and bragging and wishing, it’s easy to know a person’s true priority. It’s as clear as a check register. We put our money where our heart is.

How do I budget? Sometimes I have to make hard decisions. I always know that I can’t afford catastrophic surgery. Spending several thousand dollars on one animal isn’t possible if it endangers the well-being of the whole herd. I’ve been lucky with that side, the Universe knows my budget and doesn’t push me too hard. I’ve learned to trust that.

I think the first thing I ever charged was a vet bill and I’m usually paying off one animal bill or another. At this point, it’s nostalgic.

We all agree it’s about quality of life and that’s what we celebrate here. There are always a few seniors who are frail. It isn’t a crime to get old and when it’s time, I’m happy to ease their way. Financial debt has become part of the mourning process. Everything heals in time, money and hearts.

Keeping horses gets more expensive each year and the days of a rural culture with horses grazing in the pasture are fading. I’d hate it if horses became a hobby only for the wealthy and I fear that people like me with lives in the middle, will become even more challenged. If the day comes that horses aren’t around to save horse-crazy little girls and give them wings, it would be a very sad time. So I’ll hold to this little farm and pay my blessings forward.

Am I on the road to becoming that crazy cat lady, only different? A crazy horsewoman with a full barn and gnarled hands perpetually gripping a muck fork? I hope so. I can’t put a dollar value on the particular smell of a horse’s mane, or the warmth of a donkey pressing his head to my back, or the sound of dog paws following along. In the end, it’s easy to live the dream. You just give up everything else.

But money remains a mystery to me. It’s somehow attached to the Circle of Life because I’ve heard the two of them whispering together. If money is a vehicle, then as far as I can tell, I’ve always had outside help turning the wheel.

“How much does a horse cost?” I’d say they cost everything you have.

“Do you have to be rich to own one?” No, that comes later.

Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Equine Pro

Anna Blake

0 thoughts on “Money: If Wishes were Horses…”

  1. Indeed, Anna. To quote from the movie “Hello, Dolly!: Money, if you’ll pardon, the expression, is like manure; it ain’t worth a thing unless it’s spread around, encouraging young things to grow.” This I have done gladly ever since horses came into my life: regular farrier visits, dental checks, anything to foster their health. As for the stray cat that came to us, in short order she clawed our expensive sofa to shreds. When I looked at the sofa, then at her, I immediately thought that sofa never gave me the joy that she had bestowed on our household. So there!

  2. Wonderful post, Anna. It hearkens back to that discussion with Peter about how only the rich can own horses and those who aren’t rich must be abusing their animals by keeping them in squalid conditions. Please. Yours is the best essay I’ve read on the subject. We are rich in horses, yes.

  3. Anna, your words so speak to me. We have always lived in a city or in town so we don’t have horses, but we have always had cats and dogs. They have come into our lives I think through divine intervention. This is our philosophy with our animals, you just said it so well. We currently have 10 dogs & 6 cats, some are very elderly. We love them dearly, they are priceless, but there have been times when the vet bills seemed incermountable. And yet, we find the money to pay them.
    Thank you so much for this article.

    • Mary, when I saw your name the first time, I wondered if we were related. Apparently, we are. Scratch that pack of dogs for me, and Yes, the money always comes. Thank you.

  4. “Money has a concrete value but we always have to reconcile that literal value with our personal feeling of abundance or lack.” I may not have financial security, but I have an abundance and richness of equine relationships that I would not trade for anything – and with that has come those “other priceless things: freedom, friendship and self-esteem”

  5. Oh Anna! How do you capture what is in my heart so easily? This post hits so very close to home right now. Thank you!

  6. Love this post. It really hit home when you said you feared that horses might be a hobby only for the rich. I’m starting to fear that too. I’m a middle class woman who lives in an apartment, but can’t afford to lease or buy and board a horse. For the first time in my life, I’m without a horse, though going on 4 years now. It makes me sad, but I’m not in a position yet to change that.

    • You’ll get back. Life has a way of circling back and we’ll hold your spot. In the meantime, if you need to take the cure, consider volunteering at rescue or therapeutic riding. thanks for commenting.

  7. animals are like a savings account: the more you put into them, the more the investment is returned. Couldn’t imagine life without them. They make me rich. Thanks for putting into words my feelings

  8. Wonderful & so true! Anyone who believes that buying a horse is the big expense obviously has never been privileged enough to actually be owned by one! I was lucky enough also to have a very patient and caring vet who didn’t demand cash “up front” but let me pay it off as I could. That happened a couple times – colic! And I suppose there are people that would say that proved I shouldn’t have had Chico. Its true – pretty much every dime I worked for went for him – board – farrier – vet etc etc. But I wouldn’t trade those 16 years for anything! I have always felt the same about my dogs, cats, rabbits, ducks (yes, ducks) & chickens! You know, the Other Nations!!
    And yes you do make Friday sweeter!

  9. Nailed it…………..again. Tears……………again……………… Your gift with words is amazing. Thank you!

    • I swear; it isn’t my goal to make readers cry. I get sentimental about old horses sometimes, I even cry during those… Sorry about this one. I’ll try to write worser. 🙂

  10. “It;s easy to live the dream; you just give up everything else.”
    I’d have saved myself a lot of struggles & heartache had I only learned this lesson a little earlier on in life.

  11. First time I’ve had the privilege to read one of your articles and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
    Although I may not be “rich” in money… I am OH SO WEALTHY with my horses. They bring a plethora of wealth and joy that green-backs just cannot compete with. Sometimes it’s tough, sometimes there are choices, and hard choices at that, that must be made. However, there seems to always come a way to handle whatever comes along.
    My horses have saved my sanity, helped to mend my broken heart, and been my “therapist” MORE times than one.
    I don’t know what I would do without them. (Except grieve!)
    You have a way with words that come to the point but in a way that also touches the heart/soul.
    Keep on writing! And I’ll be looking forward to future articles. Now that I’ve been introduced, I do believe i may be “hooked!”

  12. I was seventy one when my eight year old granddaughter convinced me we should buy the one week old filly that had been born at the ranch where she was taking horse back lessons. Even crazier was buying her mother, an untrained, bucking and frightened mare. I had been around horses off and on over the years but they were always trained trail horses. I knew nothing about what it took to raise or train a horse. Had I known what it took and how much it costs, I would never have said yes to my granddaughter. She has moved, and we were left with two untrained horses that we really cannot afford. But they are beautiful and loved. I muck, feed and ride almost every day, weather permitting. And now I give thanks to that now twelve year old granddaughter every day. Every one who knows me cannot believe what a change it has made in me. To me it feels as natural as breathing. I also give thanks for my beautiful partner and wife for her support and love. And I give thanks to you for making some sense out of my new found “wealth.” Thank you dear friend.

    • Oh Fred, just when I thought I couldn’t have a bigger crush on you, I find out you were led astray by a horse-crazy girl. There is just flat-out no one richer than you! Hello to you, and to all your girls, human and equine! Thanks for sharing this, Fred.

  13. People ask me this question often. From now on I’ll forward a link to this wonderful essay. It sums it up beautifully. Thank you. Your writing inspires me.

  14. Hey Anna… thanks so much for this wonderful essay on horses, money, spirituality. … all my friends know that “horse keeping” is my spiritual practice. In the 6 years I have been back into horses ( after a short 40 year break) I have much less money in my bank account, my credit cards are close to maxed out, and yet I have never been richer in joy and love. I so appreciate essay-blogs such as this so I know i’m not alone in my craziness !

    I have to also add that I am treasuring your book, Relaxed and Forward. I allow myself one essay a day or less to make it last longer… I was inspired last week by one to the extent that when my friend came to help me with my new ( rescue) horse and asked what we should work on ..I exclaimed happily ” let’s just focus on smiling and breathing tonight!” And that is what we did while we did some groundwork exercises with Zen Bear, enouraging him to let go of some of the braces he has in his body plus his tendency to be fussy with his head ( or is it me who is fussy in her head ?!?) nonetheless, this Smiling and Breathing was the topic of OUR lesson while interacting with this lovely horse, and guess what? You will not be surprised to hear he did not once get impatient with us, nor us with him, and he tried and succeeded in everything we asked and I swear he was smiling at the end of the hour…..

    • Thanks, Sarah.. for commenting, it’s a great one, and for reading Relaxed & Forward. Crazy how much of a difference breathing makes. Thanks, I love the image of the three of you!

  15. I love this…I cannot tell you how many times I have had no idea how I would make ends meet, just to realize that it always works, so I just get to work and forget how unlikely it all seems. No matter how dismal, something always works out. I think it is about the intention and the love and the Universal balancing act. God always has my back when I’m taking care of animals. Thanks for the well written thoughts on finances. It’s important.

    • Thanks Susie. The part of me that works with rescue knows so many cases where hoarding happens through irresponsibility… and I hate that. But the truth is not many of us can ‘afford’ a horse on paper. Thanks Susie. Universal balancing act is a great phrase!

  16. I only needed money to buy my first horse, not much mind you; he was a grade gelding, but absolutely priceless……kindest horse I’ve ever known. After he died unexpectedly, I didn’t have any more savings to buy another horse, but after a while they started to come to me. Other people’s throw always that needed a home and loving care started to reveal themselves. I’ve kept them with me until death did us part at ages 8, 28, 21, and 37. I wouldn’t have traded one moment or solvency for the opportunity. Rich beyond my wildest dreams!

  17. I so agree, I consider myself horse rich even if my wallet doesn’t agree. My riding partner Beaux is an OTSTB and he is well worth not driving a new car, eating at fancy restaurants, or wearng designer clothes. Happiness is priceless.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.