How to Set up a Horse Farm on a Budget

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Disclaimer: I’m still figuring out the answer to that question. In my last post, I shared the news of my new 16-acre farmette that we moved into in April. In three months, we’ve accomplished quite a lot, but still have a long way to go before it’ll be ready to move the horses in. The biggest obstacle? My budget, of course. Here’s what I’ve picked up along the way about getting this farm up and running on a tight budget.

1. One Step at a Time

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done–and money that needs to be spent. When we moved here, there was the small house, indoor arena (huge bonus!), an old chicken coop, a caving-in hay shed, two mismatched run-ins, and rudimentary fencing (a mix of T-posts and tree branches for posts, with rusting high-tensile wire).

Needless to say, there’s a lot of work to be done here. But with a more than full-time job and a tight budget, everything can’t get done at once. Although I’m anxious to move the horses in, I have to frequently remind myself to stop, breathe, and tackle one project at a time. First, we tore down the chicken coop and most of the hay shed, since they were virtually unusable and that’s the best spot for the barn to eventually go. Next, it was tearing out fence posts and cutting wire. Hopefully within the next week, it’ll be putting new posts in.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty

As horse people, I’m sure none of us are afraid of dirt. But what I’m talking about is more along the lines of hard, sometimes gut-wrenching manual labor–the kind you have to grit your teeth to get done, that gives you a great tan and rough hands. If you don’t have money for the equipment to make your job easier, put your head down, get yourself a good pair of gloves, and get to work.

Case and point: the fence posts. I don’t have the budget for an $800+ PTO-driven auger attachment for the tractor. Hell, I barely have the budget for a $200 gas-powered hand auger. But if it comes down to shelling out the extra $600 for the equipment or buying 50 more posts, I’ll take the posts. So, my choices are either the more affordable gas auger, which I’m told can be difficult to use depending on the soil type, or get reacquainted with the good old-fashioned (wo)man-powered post hole digger. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

3. Know Where to Skimp and Where to Splurge

At almost every turn, there is a cheap way to get things done. In my experience, it’s best to pick one or two things that you absolutely refuse to skimp on when it comes to cost, and then be economical on the rest.

If you’re having a hard time figuring out where to invest your money and where to save it, think about your end goal. For me, it’s to have healthy, happy, SAFE horses here. So things I will not cheap out on include the fencing and the barn’s structure. I tore down the old fencing because it was downright unsafe, although it probably could have worked for a while. The run-in sheds are fine for the summer, but what happens in the winter when we get 3, 4, 5+ feet of snow and ice? We do have some plans for cutting costs on the barn (that’s for another post), but the physical structure of the barn will likely be overbuilt, not like the flimsy hay shed.

For me, it’s worth waiting a little more time to bring horses in if that means I can save up to do those two things right.

4. Stay Positive

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in bills and budgeting that you lose sight of why you’re doing this in the first place. For me, remembering to be grateful that I even have this little slice of land in the first place has been a tremendous help any time I start to get too bogged down in finances of it all. In my experience, things do usually happen when they’re good and ready to, and there’s little we can do to speed that up, no matter how hard we try. So keep up the grind, but also remember to stop and smell the hay fields once in a while.

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