Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games & Financing Horses in College: Part 1

So clearly I didn't get around to writing my cover letter when I said I would, but c'est la vie. Spring Break has been pretty busy, mostly with fun stuff like making pie, riding and seeing The Hunger Games with my boyfriend. I love to read, but had never heard of the books before all the hype about the movie. Normally hearing about the movie adaptation of a young adult fiction novel would actually make me less likely to see it (OK, I'm a snob), but The Atlantic and public radio were all abuzz with how great and politically significant it was going to be. I'd give it a 6.5 or 7 out of 10. Entertaining throughout, but I saw a lot of scenes that could have been cut (mushy gazes) and some things that were rather mystifying for the uninitiated (what is up with the Girl Scout sign?!)
via Impassioned Cinema. Somehow I doubt that she's affirming her pledge to serve God and her country, to help people at all times and to live by the Girl Scout Law.

Also, The Atlantic misled me a bit--they made it sound like there were all of these connections to issues of today. And yes, class and economic inequality are problems today...but these issues are only very vaguely addressed as background for the movie's premise of having kids kill each other for entertainment of the bourgeoisie/oppression of the masses. Also the end basically left me thinking, "DUN DUN DUN....The Powers that Be are mightily displeased! The End."

Ok, so on to the main attraction: I asked how other people financed their horse addiction in college on COTH and MuckBucket a few weeks ago and I'm just now getting around to compiling all the responses. Midterms, car breaking down, Spring Break, blah blah's been busy.

One college grad learned how hard she was willing to work to keep riding after her parents unexpectedly sold her horse. She catch rode and then a great free-lease situation fell into her lap. Here's her story:

Well, my parents sold my horse without me knowing which was not part of the plan because I had gotten a ton of scholarship money, both from the school and other sources, so I wouldn't have to take out loans or even tap into my college fund which has now become my grad school fund.

I tried to go without horses for six months and was absolutely the most unhappy child as I was over the college party scene in six weeks, and although involved in practically everything from multiple choirs to my sorority, I hated being so tied down on a small campus. I was very close to transferring on more than one occasion because I seriously felt lost and without purpose.

After advertising "have saddle, will travel" and catch-riding some decent horses, but more often than not, terrible examples of equines including a pony club pony who gave pony club ponies a bad rap and a saddlebred who liked to "jump" ie crow hop everywhere at every possible moment, my mom legit got worried about my safety and consented to helping me get lessons at an actual h/j barn, albeit further than I had intended to travel at first.

Sophomore year new-favorite-trainer-ever had a horse fall in her lap who then landed in my lap as a perfect free-lease scenario, and provided I worked a number of part-time jobs and kept up my grades, my mom paid the other part for the next few years of school. Honestly I was a miserable wretch when I had to take six weeks off from riding once, and my moody-self was more apparent than I thought, since my adviser one day personally sought me out because another one of my professors thought I looked like I wanted my life to end during my riding hiatus and was concerned for my well-being (should add, considering this is a prof that I did not get along with well, I am amazed he paid me that attention). My close friends' first reaction whenever I was in a foul mood was, "um, have you been riding at all recently?" And the answer was almost always "no, why do you ask?" LOL. I showed a little when I had time, but honestly doing lessons and clinics was plenty fun.

The big two reasons why I was able to finance horses in college was a) my mom hands-down rocks and cares about my well-being b) a lot of luck. It was the right barn/trainer, the right (saintly, ammie-proof, low maintenance) horse, the right feasible business situation for both leaser/leasee. I am well-aware these kinds of situations don't always happen, so I view what happened to me as a blessing.

Christina keeps her horse at her parents' house, so she decided to stay there. I'm reminded of a recent, rather controversial Jim Wofford article (that I can't find the link for at the moment, will update later) in which he basically says that in order to reach the highest levels of competition, you have to choose to keep horses in your life, whether that means not having kids right away or choosing a career with horses, even if that doesn't conform to the traditional idea of how life should go. In this case, Christina decided that keeping her horse handy was more important than the traditional freshman dorm experience.

I am on full scholarship, so all I have to worry about with school is keeping up grades to keep the scholarship and pay for gas to and from school (hour drive each way). I live at home to save on living expenses, even though I would love to move out and have space to myself.

I keep my semi-retired horse at home and pay the majority of his farrier and veterinary expenses. My Grandpa and Mom are amazing and help me pay to keep my show horse at a H/J barn in my home town. I pay for all of his vet and farrier bills.

I work at as many odd-jobs as I can; babysitting, house cleaning, house sitting, and pet sitting. I also work as a substitute whenever positions are available at a local private school (do not have as many requirements for teachers as public schools have to) and am looking to get on a more regular schedule there.

I am hoping that I will be able to save enough money to show a few times this summer, but am constantly running the numbers to see how much I can truly afford to show. I have struggled with wanting to work more and keeping up with my school work as much as I would like to, but have decided to put schoolwork as my first priority at all times because truly, my education is more important than earning money so I can go to a horse show.

I am amazed how many people sell their horses when they are preparing to go to school. I think having my horses to ride and care for is what keeps me sane during finals week!

Like many other college riders, kateh from COTH relied on a combination of part-time jobs and her parents' support:

I paid for all of my own IHSA lesson and show fees. My parents paid tuition and living expenses during college. During the school year I worked in labs, which would only pay if you qualified for work-study, and I didn't. But my boss would pay me for the summer field season, which was in the middle of nowhere. So I'd earn money and usually not spend anything all summer. Senior year I managed to get a fellowship for my research, so I got a little extra money.

I also usually didn't lesson during the summer because there weren't any good trainers around and my schedule was ridiculous. I did manage to find a free lease for one of the summers though, so I at least got some horse time. Of course, all summer toodling around someone's backyard with no lessons did nothing for my equitation, and I paid for it in September. 

Kellie Stein of COTH gives the show mom perspective:
My DD, a college freshman rides on her IHSA team and occasionally adds a private lesson with her coach and then she rides whatever her home trainer has available on breaks from school. At this point, I still pay and she will supplement where she can but this will probably be her second to last year riding outside of IHSA, so I'm happy to help out where I can. After next summer, she'll have a full time internship (hopefully) and then onto work after that....

It's great that so many parents are supportive of their children's horse habits, but I know that mine never would have paid for board or moved to a house with land to keep a horse, even when I was in high school. They just aren't horse people. I was glad to see that it is possible to do it all on your own if you are really vigilant about your finances. ngarth from MuckBucket lives with her boyfriend to keep expenses down. Not everyone is in a situation to do that, but I imagine a similar situation could work out if you're ok with several roommates:

Another student here, with two horses. My boyfriend and I have owned them for 2.5 years. The first year we kept them at his family's place, and while it saved us money, it cost us in time and mentally. We would drive down every day, 30-45 minute drive depending on traffic to turn out and muck stalls.His family has never had horses before so they were new to the experience, and tried to skip out on things like, instead of feeding them grain twice a day, just give it to them all at once. So we moved them in the summer/right before school started the following year, to a place that did only outdoor board. The barn owner was actually looking for someone to do the chores, so we signed up for it, and made a little bit of money on top of working off board. It was a lot of work, we both had 5-6 classes on top of that, but we made it by. Moved them the following spring to a great place. Currently the mare (BF's horse) is on outdoor and my gelding is on indoor. We don't take lessons, and we only buy tack/supplies when truly needed.

Outside of that we watch what we spend. We have a monthly budget that includes rent (we live in an apartment together), board, groceries, car payments and insurance, etc. We cut out cable and just have internet now. I try to bake a lot which covers our snacks, dessert, horse treats and some meals. When we go grocery shopping we add up our costs as we go to see if we can buy a treat (extra fruit, veggies, cookies, ice cream, etc) but we manage to keep out grocery bill to under $35 a week for the both of us combined. My boyfriend and I are huge gardeners/farmers, so this year we plan on having a balcony garden to help out with our veggies. We plan on growing lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, and other stuff.

On thing that we found was key was paying for a lot of our shopping with our visa cards. Some debit cards have a transaction limit, and once your over that limit you start getting charged per transaction. Well we solved this by putting everything on our visas and then paying them off 2-3 times a month. 

Hope you enjoyed all the different points of view--maybe it gave you some ideas. As always, feel free to share how you were able to ride in college in the comments...and stay tuned for a discussion of people's experiences of IHSA and NCAA, and what was/wasn't paid for.

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