Riding is an expensive sport.
Unfortunately, that is a fact. However, I have a few tips for buying on a buget.
Tips for lessons on a budget-
Many barns offer a discounted lessons for people who work. Even if you're a beginner, mucking out stalls and sweeping barn aisles is always important and can often be rewarded with a discount. Group lessons are often cheaper than Private lessons. For English riders, even the once-a-week lesson types, these items are essential and required by most barns-
An ASTM/SEI Certified Helmet
-Some barns will let you borrow one, but many require you to purchase your own after the first few lessons
-You don't need to invest in an expensive show helmet if you only take lessons, schooling helmets can be as cheap as $28, as long as it fits and it's certified, you can buy it
-Not all barns require these, but it is easier and more comfortable to ride in Breeches. It is also better for the saddle not to ride in jeans
-it is more common for western riders to wear jeans or any other pants they feel comfortable in
-Although many barns will allow you to ride in technically "Non-riding" boots, for your comfort and safety it is a good idea to invest in some paddock boots
-You May also want to buy half chaps to protect your calves. Suede half chaps are cheap and durable
Tips for Show Clothes on a Budget (Most likely for Small Local Shows or Schooling Shows)
Please keep in mind that borrowing from friends is always and option, as is buying used. Most local tack shops sell used coats, shirts, etc. at low prices as well. When it comes to rider clothing, consider how much you will be using it. If you have a low budget but a whole season ahead, you should look into getting QUALITY items- not necessarily expensive, but quality. (It would be more expensive to repeatedly buy cheap clothes than to buy quality clothes once.) For the one-time show, it it acceptable to try to cut corners.
-It is possible to borrow a WELL-FITTING helmet from a friend for a show (never borrow an ill-fitting one, it defeats the purpose). Be sure to ask if they've had any head falls in it- if they had the helmet could be damaged and may not protect you in the event of a fall.
-Helmet covers can make your brightly colored schooling helmet more conservative (black schooling helmets will blend in at a local/schooling shows)
-Brands like Troxel, IRH and Ovation offer show helmets for cheaper prices
-Any appropriately colored (generally tan for hunt seat and white for dressage) and clean breeches will be acceptable in the ring, however schooling tights may not look the best. Brands like Riding Sport and Equine Couture offer some schooling breeches that look like expensive brand breeches but cost a lot less
-Tall boots can be cheaper if purchased used (make sure they fit appropriately)
-Be cautioius when buying cheap tall boots, in general, you will get what you pay for
-At many small shows, black paddock boots/half chaps will also be acceptable. If you can afford it, leather half chaps are a good option but you will generally be able to get away with suede ones if needed
-Younger kids/children on ponies can wear paddock boots and knee/garter straps
Tips for Buying Tack on a Low Budget
It is extremely important when buying tack that you get QUALITY. Unlike if you were to invest in some bad breeches, poor quality tack can be dangerous for the horse and rider. I HIGHLY ADVISE STAYING AWAY FROM CHEAP "SADDLE PACKAGES". MANY ITEMS ARE POORLY MADE AND DANGEROUS. Please, I know they're cheap but your medical bills won't be. With some items, it is simply unsafe to try to cut corners.
If you plan to order multiple items, you can usually save money by ordering all items in the same order from the same vendor. Many vendors, like SmartPak and Schnieders, offer free shipping for orders that total over a certain price.
-Synthetics are cheaper and can usually be adjusted to fit many types of horses. Remember- you are investing in this saddle so make sure that you like synthetics (not everyone does) Also be sure to check the reputation of the brand. As far as synthetics go, wintecs and teknas are usually reputatble brands
-Buying used is a great option. If you can go to a local consignment shop, that is ideal because a good shop will ensure that the saddle is in good, safe condition and they can help you find a saddle that fits you well. You can look for used listing online, but you can run the risk of buying a saddle with major flaws such as a broken tree that was specifically not mentioned in the ad.
-Saddles without knee rolls sell for DIRT CHEAP. Often times good quality saddles will be sold at very low prices if it does not have knee rolls. You will want knee rolls if you plan to do a lot of jumping/showing etc. But saddles without knee rolls are just fine for english pleasure or a first saddle. Some trainers actually like these saddles because they force the rider to develop more muscle to hold themselves in proper position. In some cases, saddle fitters can add knee rolls for a relatively low price
-Some tack shops (like Schneiders) allow you to "lease" a saddle
-ALWAYS PUT FIT FIRST. Sometimes a saddle that is a tad big in the whithers can fit if you pad it the right way, but you should never buy a saddle that fits your budget if it does not fit your horse. When fitting a saddle, make sure you get an expert opinion from a trainer or saddle fitter. For some tips on basic saddle fit, click here
-Much like saddles, used leather tack is always cheaper. However, many tack vendors offer low prices leather tack. I reccomend reading reviews before purchases to get a sense of the leather quality. (If one of the reviews says the reins broke, it's probably a good indicator you shouldn't look into getting the product.)
-Keep in mind what you want. If you're looking for a basic bridle, don't worry about padding or monocrowns or fancy stitching unless that is something you feel you or yoru horse needs. The more basic the bridle, the lower the price
-Basic fillis style stirrups aren't too expensive new, and can also easily be purchased used for a discount.
-If you buy used Flexible stirrups, always check their soundness as they can wear and become loose and dangerous
-Square pads aren't too expensive; you only have to invest in special types of pads if your horse needs them, which can also be purchased used for a discount
-For contoured show pads, synthetic fleece is generally the cheapest. Evaluate why you want the pad- if it's only for double padding purposes, a thin fleece pad should do the trick. If you plan to show frequently, make sure whatever pad you buy attractively fits your saddle (usually a 1-2" outline of your saddle is preferred).
Tips When Trying to Get Deals
There are many times when you can take a gamble with low prices. I have a list of when it is "safe" and "Not safe" to try out cheap items
If these items are cheaply made it will be an inconvience, but not always a safety hazard (keep in mind, ANY TIME a product seems to be causing problems, get rid of it)
- basic grooming tools
- leadropes (make sure the snap is still okay)
- Saddle Pads
- Riding aparel (not including boots and helmets)
- Fly Bonnets
- grooming sprays (they will either work or not work)
If you cannot guarentee good quality on these items, I wouldn't invest in them
- Saddles- A cheaply made saddle is dangerous for horse and rider
- Bridles- the leather may break while you ride and cause you to lose control of your horse
- Bits- A broken bit/cheaply made bit is very dangerous
- Damaged Helmets- they often will actually do more damage instead of help in the event of a fall. I DO NOT recommend buying used because there is not guarantee there isn't damage that is not visible.
- Any training items (martingales, tie-downs etc.)
- Horse Boots- cheap and ill-fitting boots can damage the horse's legs
- Spurs- Cheap spurs can give a horse bad rubs