Barrel Racing

Rodeo on a Budget

The age-old dilemma, seemingly regardless of the state of our economy is being able to compete and own horses within our means. Whether you hit local shows, weekend jackpots, slot races, or you set your sights on futurities and pro rodeos, unless you’re rolling in sugar daddies (nothing we haven’t all considered, amirite?), then you face finding a way to go that works for your budget. Today I decided to sit down and compile a list of ways to get that can chasing fix in a cost effective manner!

Plan Ahead

This seems pretty obvious, but avoiding late fees ends up saving you a lot of money at the end of the year, especially if you run more than one horse. Pencil out your season ahead of time. Which memberships are the most realistic for you and your horse? Can you afford to take the time off of work to attend multiple association finals? Know which events you need to hit to get qualified and which ones you can afford to pass up.

Stay Local

I know that shiny slot race two provinces (or states) away looks tempting, but unless you’re truly confident in your animal and the season you’ve been having, you can have as much fun if you stick to within a few hours of your location. Not to mention the wear and tear you save your rig from.

Quality Gear

Invest in a quality saddle before you go and buy yourself that fancy new breast collar and headstall set. And if you don’t have to buy new, DON’T. Keep an eye on Facebook groups. While I have a love-hate for social media, it’s a good way to find used gear for a fraction of the cost. There’s great Youtube tutorials available as well. Quick stop at your local hardware store – boom – you have everything you need to build multiple sets of reins and rope halters with what you pay for one of each at the tack store. Investing in polo wraps if you want to mix and match colours and buying neutral coloured splint boots (personally I prefer black) is a wise choice.

Saddle pads are another thing that seem to collect in my trailer, I think there are two that I use regularly with the two geldings that I have. Go through all of your “stuff” at least once a year. If there’s anything you are no longer using, or don’t see yourself resorting to anytime soon, cull it. Either sell it on social media or donate it to a therapeutic riding club.

Avoid Fads

We as barrel racers are notorious for jumping on the fad-train. Know what you are feeding and why, and keep quality hay in front of your horse as much as you possibly can (nobody likes paying to treat ulcers). As a close friend of mine says to me often, keep it simple, stupid. Apple cider vinegar has many health benefits, aloe vera juice is great for digestion and ulcer prevention, and soy bean meal adds substantial protein. All three can be bought in bulk and are cost effective.

Lessons vs Clinics

Personally I’ve always gotten a lot more out of one on one time with a trainer than I’ve managed to pull out of expensive clinics. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve attended some very good clinics and still learned a lot but it’s been harder for me to retain. When I graduated high school, I decided that I wanted to take jumping lessons. I could not afford to take jumping lessons. So I managed to work out a deal with a family friend who coached frequently where I did chores and painted fences in exchange for the odd lesson. You do what you have to. Most people are more than accommodating if you are willing to go the extra mile.

Even now, I consider myself very privileged to be riding with the trainer that I am. Can I afford what he is teaching me? Absolutely not. Make a point of helping saddle and unsaddle, turnout horses, load horses, cool down horses, water, feed.. etc. If you can see a need, fill the void! A person who feels appreciated will do more than expected most of the time and it’s an easy way to build a positive relationship. And for heaven’s sake, DO NOT ARGUE OR MAKE EXCUSES. Be humble and be a sponge, I promise it will get you closer to your competitive goals in the long run.

Read Books

I’ve always been a big reader and there are several books in my arsenal now that I wouldn’t trade. Everything from horsemanship to anatomy, understanding your animals ensures that you are less likely to buy into b.s. products and gives you an edge over yourself.

Elbow Grease

Put in the work to keep your horse in shape. Spend more time with him than you do in front of your tv during the week. A solid conditioning program sets him up to get through the season injury free. While accidents happen, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Nothing asks for an injury quite like pulling “Honest Ed” out of the pasture two weeks before a run, long trotting him and showing him the pattern once or twice and then asking him to haul balls at said run. That’s not fair to him and you don’t want the vet bill that can come out of it.


This one is super easy to spend money on without feeling like you are. No one likes to look outdated. Hats and belts can collect like flies to honey and suddenly you’re wondering where your pay cheque went. I’ve had the same felt that I’ve had since I was 16. Am I telling you to do that? Nope. I glitzed it out last year because I wanted a new hat but my truck decided to break down in Brooks. I managed to find a straw that magically fit my head off of Facebook group which is my go-to nowadays.

If there’s shirts you’re not wearing, get rid of them. If you want new shirts but can’t afford them, find ways to deck out the ones in your closet. If you don’t sew, I guarantee someone that you know does. I’ve always had a hard time finding shirts that fit properly. Chalk it up to my long arms and not-so-curvy frame, but I’ve learned to keep an eye out for sales and be okay with wearing the sames ones frequently.

Re-soling boots is also an option, I keep one nice pair that I never ride in (Corral West fanatic), and then my riding boots and muck boots that get abused like the rented mule. A neat, well-kept appearance doesn’t have to break the bank.

BYO Food

Packing a cooler of drinks and snacks will save big bucks throughout the course of a race day or weekend; $3 bottles of water add up fast. Plus, you’ll probably eat healthier than if you’re faced with the options of chips and burgers.

Vehicle Maintenance

Keep the tires on your car, truck, trailer, and tractor properly inflated to manufacturer specifications. Deflated tires can decrease your gas mileage by as much as three percent. Invest in a battery booster. As a battery ages, it gradually becomes sulphated, which leads to less efficiency and eventually battery death. A good booster can reverse battery sulphation.

Check your oil, coolant, tires and chains every weekend before you leave. If something is leaking, you’ll catch it before it does real damage. Drive slowly to your destination if you can! My friends often laugh at how I plug down the highway in my truck and trailer while I drive my Buick like it’s open season on the back 40. This just increases your fuel efficiency and is easier on your engine in the long run.

Store Feed Correctly

Make sure to store your hay and grain correctly to avoid waste. Keep both away from damp, which can cause mold. Hay should be stored so that air is able to circulate; wooden pallets, which can be had for free from local businesses, should be placed on the ground beneath the hay, and leave gaps between rows of stacks of hay. Grains should be kept in metal containers to stop rodents from accessing and contaminating the feed.

Trailer Pool

If you’re fortunate enough to live in the same area as girls that go to the same events that you do, make nice and haul together. It also helps if you go to events where you have the option of penning off-grounds at a friend’s place to save money on stalls and shavings. This goes back to planning your season and keeping your goals in mind throughout the year.

Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk generally reduces the cost per item or mass. Hay, bedding, and grain are a few things that can commonly be bought for less by ordering in bulk. Just be sure to inspect bulk items prior to purchase for mold.

Control Impulses

While it’s tempting to buy that thing you need right now, ask yourself first if the item is really a necessity. If yes, then take time and do some research to find out where your money is best spent. Be sure to take into consideration not only base cost, but also quality, longevity, warrantees, service, and further discounts that may be available.

Curb your expenses in other (non-horse) areas. Examine your monthly/annual budget and decide what you could really sacrifice in order to go–that morning Starbucks’ latte, weekly manis/pedis, restaurant meals, cable T.V….and so on.


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