I have yet to come across a hobby more expensive than that of riding horses. You speak to people who do different things and they all like to tell you exactly how expensive their gear is, but it never quite compares to that of keeping a horse. In fact, some people’s efforts to out-cost a horse a quite laughable and amusing to say the least!
Sure, your mountain bike cost a fortune and it has to be serviced. But does it eat? Sure, your race car drinks fuel, and needs to be fixed quite often, but when it is in the shop to get fixed, do you need to check on it twice a day to make sure it’s not trying to die?
The problem with horse riding is that it is not “just” a hobby, it is a lifestyle. I can’t say it better than Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole and once it has done so, he/she will have to accept that his life will be radically changed.”
And the thing is, it doesn’t only change and affect the horsey person’s life, but very much also those of their nearest and dearest. I jokingly said to someone that there should probably be a support group for the husbands of horsey women. But it really doesn’t stop there, because it affects our parents (when they are unhorsey) our friends and friendships and very much our children!
You see, riding a horse is so much more than just rocking up at the stables, having a quick ride and then leaving. It takes commitment – more than you ever imagined. And it costs money. Sooo much money! Because here’s the thing: it doesn’t really matter whether you are winning medals at the Olypmics or someone who just likes to go on gentle hacks, the level of commitment and the costs are just about the same. We owe it to our horses.
We are sitting on their backs and expecting of them to be well-balanced, fit athletes and it is up to us to train them to get there. This takes time and effort. But they need to be treated as the athletes we expect them to be. They need to have saddles that fit their backs (which change every few months as their muscles build!) irrespective of which riding discipline you choose to follow. Riding a horse is inherently unnatural for them and therefore, they need to have body work (as in physiotherapy and chiropractic care and body stress release).
Even if you are doing the bare minimum for your horse, it still needs good quality food and it has special needs that have to be taken care of. We have taken horses out of the wild where they were perfectly happy and able to take care of themselves and housed them in stables and paddocks. So now they need to have their hooves trimmed, they need to have their teeth floated (yep, they need to see a special horse-dentist every six months!), and they will get sick or hurt themselves. They are experts at that, so prepare yourself, because when they do, they do it will probably cost you more money than the horse itself cost in the first place!
So yes, our horses cost us. They cost money, but they also cost time. Time that could have been spent with other people or doing other things. They cost us time with family and friends and we are aware that you are “paying”, dear loved ones.
But, we love our horses. We really do. If you are not one of the horse-mad, you can’t even begin to understand the depth of relationship one can have with an animal. They are big, they are unpredictable and we trust them with our lives at every interaction. We need to spend time with our horses. A lot of it. Even if we just sit in the paddock and stare at them (don’t worry if you don’t understand). And because our unhorsey families rarely understand our passion (read “addiction”), we spend extra hours at the yard comparing notes with the ones who do. It is a passion. It is not a phase and we are not going to outgrow it. Ever.