“Wow, you ride horses? You must be rich?”
Why yes, I am ‘rich’ in warm fuzzy feelings, hay appearing in the most random and uncomfortable places, and horse slobber all over the front of my shirt. I’m filthy stinking rich! Let us not forget how rich I also am in flies, clumps of mud in my car, horse hair after spring arrives, vet
records bills, and of course my stock pile of memories and Facebook photos of horses I’ve ridden over the years.
Oh wait, I’m sorry, did you mean MONEY rich?! Yeah not so much my friend. Sure some equestrians are rich (or at least have really supportive parents), but for many equestrians that is just not the case. Sorry, not sorry to bust that stereotype.
One of the most common jokes I have been introduced to since I bought my personal horse back in 2011 is “how do you make a small fortune with horses? You start with a large one.” Know why? Because horses will suck you dry. Still, if you don’t start out with any fortune at all, you’re not exactly alone. There are some equestrians who just have money to throw at this sport, super fancy expensive horse, over the top trailer, and so on, but for many equestrians we’re saving up pennies for new riding breeches, horse show fees, or just that next emergency that’s going to require a vet to come out and look at our horse and suggest some stall rest (if we’re lucky, that is all it will be).
I don’t know about the rest of you struggling 20-something year old riders out there (or even those out of their twenties), but my favorite part about people finding out I have a horse is the “wow aren’t horses expensive” exclamation and the other one “wow you must have money”. Yes horses ARE expensive and NO I do not have bucket loads of money just hanging around. I’m not a part of the equestrian community because I can easily afford to ride, train, and compete. I’m here because I love horses, and I always have. I bought my own horse as an eighteen year old, still in my senior year of high school. After purchasing her I worked my tail off to keep her, including working at the farm where she lived for discounted board for over four years, and working two jobs for half that time, and once even working a third. Working all those hours and I still was barely cutting it. But I kept on grinding away and kept on looking for the next step up, looking for my next opportunity.
The most talented riders I know are the type to sit on anything that comes their way, spend their free time working off extra lessons and observing other riders. I have known some incredible riders that were working students, working endless hours just for that extra ride time, that extra lesson, that chance to sit on the type of horse they can only dream of one day owning. Most of these people aren’t dirt poor but they aren’t rich either. Some of them cannot even afford to own their own horse and struggle to fit barn time into their daily lives. But I have watched people just like that ride, and their dedication and passion shines. They improve every ride because they are working their butt off just to be in that saddle and they don’t take one moment for granted.
Being rich in the equestrian world is certainly a bonus (for tack, equipment, bills, specific types of horses, lessons, shows, etc) but it is not a requirement. You see passionate riders from all walks of life. But no matter what the status of their wallet, every equestrian can tell you just how expensive it is. From the trainers with the nice barns just trying to move that show prospect, to the young twenty-something who just had to pick up the vet bill for their horse’s routine shots for the first time and is stuck figuring out how they’re going to afford groceries until they get paid again. This world isn’t cheap, but no equestrian rides just because they’re rich. Equestrians, not just someone with a horse, care. It’s a passion, and they will do anything to make it work.