10 ways to save money in the winter

By Your Horse

Seasonal guides

20 December 2010 16:41

There’s no escaping the fact that horses cost a small fortune to keep, but before you drown in an overdraft the size of an indoor school, follow our tips to help you trim your outgoings this winter and save your hardearned cash.

1. As the bulk of the UK experienced a dry start to the summer, many farmers failed to get a second crop of hay off their land as the grass didn’t grow fast enough. So, with prices at a premium this winter, make friends with your local supplier and ask about any possible bulk discounts. If you have the space to store 100-plus bales, chances are you’ll be able to negotiate a cheaper price, especially if you get in early before demand starts to outstrip supply. Or get together with others on the yard to form a hay and haylage buying co-operative to get the best deals.

2. If you’re planning to compete, drag hunt or simply take your horse to pastures new for a ride out this winter, plan ahead to save on fuel costs. Share travelling expenses by giving another horse on the yard a lift, and offer to rent your trailer out for the day when you’re not using it to rake in extra cash (make sure all parties are properly insured). While there’s no escaping the huge cost of a tank of fuel, look out for supermarket petrol promotions and loyalty offers, and pay by credit card if your card offers a cashback reward scheme. Finally, avoid having to panic buy fuel at pensive service stations because you’re running on a thimble-full of diesel. Keep our tank at least a third full all the time, giving you the chance to fill up at the  heapest pumps.

3. Chances are your yard operates a cash-for-stablechores policy, but are you paying for your horse to be turned out, brought in and rugged up when someone else would do this for free in return for you doing the same with their horse on a rota basis?

4. Bagged horse feed may be a necessary expense over the winter months but look out for any discounts and offers. Check out www.efeed.co.uk, an online feed merchants, which offers free delivery anywhere in the UK on orders more than £40 and savings on large orders (great if you can team up with others on the yard for a bulk delivery). If you’re shopping locally, look for feed near its sell-by date, which is often cut-price, and ask staff for details of any launch promotions (such as £5 off Spillers’ new range of feed balancers, available while stocks last). Most importantly, save money by making sure you’re not over feeding your horse or feeding the wrong products. All the major feed companies have helplines and websites where you can access expert feeding advice – and all free.

5. While ‘upcycling’ may be the latest fashion buzz word, with people breathing new life into old outfits, the same can be applied to your horse’s wardrobe. Last winter’s stinky, spider-covered rugs may look like they need replacing but chances are they’ll scrub up well with a bit of effort, and a can of rug reproofer costs a lot less than a new turnout rug. Companies who specialise in cleaning, reproofing and repairing rugs advertise in local tack shops and feed merchants, and some will even pick up and drop off your rugs, especially if several owners on the yard want their rugs sorting, too.

6. Think of your winter grazing as a valuable feedstuff and treat it as such – well-managed paddocks that aren’t allowed to get chewed up will provide a good source of ‘free’ forage over winter – and do any fence repairs immediately before stray nails and shards of wood can damage your horse and his rugs.

7. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – clubbing together with others on the yard to buy in bulk is a great moneysaver, and the same goes for vet and equine dental technician visits. Routine vaccinations, teeth and health checks can be arranged with other owners on the same day to split call out fees, and some vets offer free call outs on prearranged visits on certain days of the week, so it’s worth ringing to find out.

8. Make sure your grooming kit, brushing boots, schooling whip and other equipment doesn’t go walkabout this winter by making sure everything’s fully labelled and marked. It’s not unusual for stuff to be borrowed, never to be seen again, at livery yards and it’s galling if you have to spend your hard-earned cash on replacement gear.

9. Stuff you’ve outgrown and have no use for may well be just what someone else wants, so why not suggest a horsey car boot sale or swapshop- style party at your yard one afternoon? It’s a great way to get ‘new’ gear at a fraction of the cost – and make money, too. If your yard’s too small to hold such an event, look out for equestrian car boot sales advertised locally.

10. Why is it that buckets, grooming kit holders and sponges, etc, seem to double in price as soon as they become an equestrian accessory? Discount stores such as Wilkinsons and QD stock buckets, plastic carriers and storage containers at a fraction of the price of tack shops, saving you money to invest in the more exciting purchases. Sparkly browband, anyone?