Episode 87: How much MONEY am I spending on my horse habit? A conversation with Nicole Ross

How much does it cost to own a horse? It is not an easy question to answer because there are so many variables but today’s guest, Nicole Ross of HorseRookie.com has a unique solution. She began sharing ‘What I spend on my horse: Monthly Expense Report’ each month on her website. She explains what she spent, why…and even what was ‘well-spent’ and what she might regret. Nicole also shares tips on how to keep expenses down with bartering and trading.

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Announcer: [00:00:03] Podcasting from a little cabin on a hill. This is the Stacy Westfall podcast. Stacy’s goal is simple to teach you to understand why horses do what they do, as well as the action steps for creating clear, confident communication with your horses.

Stacy Westfall: [00:00:22] Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. This is season eight, which I’m calling conversations with Stacy. And today I’m talking with Nicole Ross about budgeting and understanding how much we spend on our horses. I first met Nicole when she sent me an email asking me to write a letter for her website. She runs a website called Horse Rookie, and she asked if I would write a letter to my rookie self. Basically things that I would tell a younger version of myself. So I clicked over to her website, which is really beautiful, and I started looking around and noticed that she had a lot of really great articles. But the one thing that really intrigued me were her monthly horse expense reports. So she started publishing everything she spent on her horse habit beginning in January of 2019. And I have to admit that it’s been really fun reading about what someone else is spending and the way that she structured it is brilliant. So let’s listen to the conversation I have with Nicole about her expense reports.

Stacy Westfall: [00:01:38] Hello, Nicole, thanks for joining me today.

Nicole Ross: [00:01:41] Hi, Stacy.

Stacy Westfall: [00:01:42] So what I would love to discuss with you is your website, because when you reached out to me about writing a letter to my rookie self, the first thing I did was jump over to horserookie.com. And I was super impressed with the website because it is really well organized and also because I thought this would be super helpful. But the thing that really hooked me absolutely hands down, totally hooked me on the website, were your expense reports. So I would love to hear how you got started in the website and how you came up with this idea that you’re going to share your horse expenses. This is–you know, it could be terrifying for people if we all do that.

Nicole Ross: [00:02:29] Sometimes it’s terrifying for me. Yeah, it is. It is an eye opening experience, to be sure. Yeah. So I would say just, you know, initially I started the website because I felt like kind of an anomaly being mid-thirties, single income girl, living in Montana, who was getting her first horse. And as someone who had ridden for her entire life, basically, I thought I would be slightly more prepared, wrongly.

Stacy Westfall: [00:03:01] Wrongly.

Nicole Ross: [00:03:03] Well, sure. Yeah. Surely, I know–I know a lot about this, right? I’ve ridden for 30 years. And then I got my own horse than it was like, oh, OK. You know, there’s a whole lot of stuff that I was not prepared for. And one of those things is really tracking the expense side of it. So I had always known that, you know, “horse’s are expensive”. It’s probably my father’s favorite quote to me for thirty years. Horses are expensive. I know. I know. I know. I know. So when I finally got one, you know, I was so excited that I was kind of just buying everything left and right. Right? You know, you spend 20 years wanting to pick out your own halter and do your own grooming totem of all your things for your horse. And then I spent probably two years just having no idea what I was spending. And that seems maybe unwise for the long term. So once I started Horse Rookie, I was like, you know, this is the site where I share all the things that I’m learning, where I put out there, that it’s fine if you don’t know everything, you don’t need to pretend like you do. And that seemed like a really good home for monthly expense reports saying literally down to the penny. Here’s what I’m buying, here’s what I’m spending, and here’s how I’m paying for it.

Stacy Westfall: [00:04:28] Yeah. And I think one of my favorite things that I read in there. One of the expense reports said something to the effect of I thought about buying this and then I thought, I have to publish this on the website. Do I want to see? And I thought, oh, my gosh. Really, it’s one thing to have that conversation in your own head about, like, do I really go? But that was–I thought that is, it’s like the ultimate accountability if you’re going to publish it online. How is that? How often do–How often do you feel that having an effect on your buying time?

Nicole Ross: [00:05:07] Yesterday. When I was browsing through Dover clearance–yesterday. Yes, all the time. It’s definitely helpful for me just because I know that especially if I’m in a month where I can see that it’s trending over budget, which is a good thing to be able to even notice that if I go and buy something I don’t really need, I’m going to have to justify that as, hey, yep, I went over budget and I did it. Buying this thing I don’t need. That’s usually enough to keep me from actually putting it in my car.

Stacy Westfall: [00:05:45] Yeah. Okay. So let’s back up just a little bit. I do want to go through actually one of these, like we could talk about maybe the May expense report? But maybe we should back up just a little bit more and talk just a bit about, you know, you were saying that your–you know, this website is your side job. You–you’ve got a…how do you refer to your other job? Your full time job? We used to call it a real job. I think it could just because the–.

Nicole Ross: [00:06:23] A real day job, yeah.

Stacy Westfall: [00:06:25] I always laugh when I’m like our–our jobs weren’t real until–what? Our jobs aren’t real?

Nicole Ross: [00:06:30] Exactly.

Stacy Westfall: [00:06:31] Yeah.

Nicole Ross: [00:06:32] Like, I still spent the day doing it. Isn’t that a day job?

Stacy Westfall: [00:06:35] Yeah.

Nicole Ross: [00:06:37] Yeah, so I run a virtual marketing agency as my full time job, so I have my own small business. I see that as my main source of income. And then Horse Rookie, you know, started as a passion project. And it makes me a little bit of money as well, which is great. And we can probably all guess where that money goes.

Stacy Westfall: [00:06:58] Yeah. So you–you took lessons growing up. You stopped riding for a chunk of time and then you got your new horse at age 34. You started Horse Rookie relatively quickly after that. Is that true?

Nicole Ross: [00:07:16] Yeah. It was probably within about a year of actually getting my horse, yeah.

Stacy Westfall: [00:07:21] Because you were–wanted to document, like all of your learning and and then the accountability for your expense reports. So I love this–I love this story for so many reasons. I know I’m going to want to circle back to some more. But let’s go through one of these. Let’s go through one of these expense reports first and then–and then circle back around. So I’ve got your May expense report open and…lots of charts. You know, I’m looking here and it’s like education is 25%, health 47%, travel 7%, insurance 11%, fun 8%. And so right at the top, it’s this, you know, breakdown like that. And then we jump in and you actually go line by line. So in education, I see $370 ranch riding class and cow working clinic. I love how you write this stuff out because, you know, you write, “Typically I take three lessons per week, Western flat work, jumping, and cow work.” We have to talk about that combination and this…

Nicole Ross: [00:08:38] Very unusual.

Stacy Westfall: [00:08:39] Yeah. “This month, though, my horse was out for an injury. He’ll be fine. While, I’m not doing my normal lessons. I was able to borrow a friend’s horse so I could ride in a working cow clinic and a ranch riding class this month.” I think that paragraph in itself is is–is a lesson for listeners and people. So let’s kind of break it down. First of all, what’s up with the Western flat work, jumping, and cow work?

Nicole Ross: [00:09:07] Yes, that’s a good question. Yeah, no, my–my riding interests are teasingly diverse for sure. I–the horse that I bought was actually a finished reined cow horse, which at the time was a sport I’d never even heard of. So that’s one thing. So I bought him and I thought, well, I can learn about that. He had the brain that I wanted and I just thought, you know what, I want to learn. That’s why I’m getting a horse. I want to come back to the sport and have fun and learn things and take lessons. That’s my jam. And over time, we just kept kind of adding to our discipline toolset. And I loved doing it, right? I loved doing it with one horse. I know a lot of people have different horses to specialize in. That definitely can get you farther in one discipline. But for me to have a lot of different experiences with my one horse just really made that relationship a lot stronger. And I think was interesting for him too, right? So he spent seven years doing reined cow horse, period. And now with me, he gets to do a lot of different things. And, you know, he seems to be a lot more interested. He seems to have a lot better muscle. Right? Like physical muscle. He’s working a lot of different things than he used to be.And then mentally, he’s just he’s more engaged. Right? Because he never knows quite what we’re going to be doing every day. You can kind of tell we walk in and he’s like, so today is…what are we doing?

Stacy Westfall: [00:10:52] Yes.

Nicole Ross: [00:10:53] You know, are there jumps in here? Are we going down the road? Are we…is there a cow in here? Like, what are we doing? And so for me, that was just really appealing to get a horse where, you know, when I first got them, they said, well, the only thing he doesn’t do is jump. And I said, that’s cool. I have no plans to be a jumper. Well, sure enough, one of the coaches there teaches jumping lessons. So then I am in it, and it is a train wreck. But we persevered and a few years later, he’s actually fairly capable and around, you know, 2’3″, 2’6″. So for me, it’s just like I…and someone who is going to have one horse, at least for the foreseeable future. And I don’t want that to limit me and what I can do because I’m not looking to go compete and go to the Olympics. And you know, I’m in this for fun and I’m a person who rides for fun. And so for me, it doesn’t matter if my horse is not the best one in the jump class. I don’t care. Right? I want to be proficient. I want to enjoy learning it with them. So, yeah, I take those three lessons a week, plus clinics and…I’d take a lesson every day if I could. Sure.

Stacy Westfall: [00:12:14] I love that you shared all that, because, first of all, I totally believe in that, too. And I’m clear like you are, that the horses are probably you know, they’re either gonna be kind of I’ve had horses that I would consider kind of a jack-of-all-trades because I go out there and do a lot of different things with them, but they don’t really shine in one area. But even my horses that do kind of shine in one area, you know, most people think of like Roxy and the bareback brideless ride. What they don’t picture is me putting my mom on her and heading off on down a trail ride. And that was true, too. And I think it was all the different things that we would do, especially in our, you know, kind of down season when we weren’t really specifically ramping up to something big. There was a lot of variety, and I totally agree with your observation about what it does for their brain and their body. And, you know, and I think inside of all this, I want to say again, for listeners, you are–I almost want to do an entire interview with you based around the idea that you come across on the website and speaking to you as a person that has a passion for horses. But you don’t consider yourself like a professional horse trainer. Your…

Nicole Ross: [00:13:25] No.

Stacy Westfall: [00:13:27] Yeah. But you are involved in the horse industry, at least to the level of– ok obviously the first level of like being a horse owner. And you’re in it on that kind of level. But also like you are running, however, kind of a professional website. It’s a very well done website, horserookie.com. So you kind of you are a professional of sharing your experience and–and these things. And I love that combination because I think it can be so inspiring for people listening to hear and to see everything you’re putting out there. Because I think sometimes people–even if I go out there and I take one horse and I do three different, don’t-look-anything-like-each-other things, they’re like, well, yeah, but it’s easy, you know. So Stacy…

Nicole Ross: [00:14:12] She’s a professional.

Stacy Westfall: [00:14:14] Right. So I love–Or that you’re saying, you know, you came into it and your first thought was, wow, there’s a lot more to this. And then your second thought was I need to share this and that. You went really all in in your life. Now we’re sharing all in like not only are you sharing your ups and downs, but you’re sharing like $29.99 on Vetericyn for horse health care.

Nicole Ross: [00:14:38] Right? I did not know what Vetericyn was and I’m OK. Yeah. That was not a word that was in my vocabulary until I got a horse and that’s OK.

Stacy Westfall: [00:14:48] Yeah. And so I’m scrolling down your report in the next category is health and it has the Vetericyn and then it has $68.99 professional choice magnetic tendon boots because your gelding popped a splint. So it’s almost–like reading your expense report is like, a little, it’s like a delve into what happened into your month. If you didn’t read that you could just have these and you could kind of figure out backwards what happened. Oh, she borrowed a horse for those lessons. Oh look, down here she’s got magnetic tendon boots.

Nicole Ross: [00:15:24] Yes. You can say you could definitely tell how great of a month I’ve been having by the health spending categories like, oh, so that didn’t go great.

Stacy Westfall: [00:15:36] Yeah, because right now we haven’t even got to the $535 popped a splint vet appointment.

Nicole Ross: [00:15:42] Gosh, I know. Yeah, it’s wonderful.

Stacy Westfall: [00:15:46] Yeah.

Nicole Ross: [00:15:46] But I do hope–you know, one of the things that I hope is, you know, yes, I have a budget and it’s unique to me. Obviously some people have much higher budgets for their horses than I do. Some people have much lower budgets than I do. And that’s okay. But kind of I want to share these with…I couldn’t find really any budget for horses. Right. There were some some generalized articles and that’s great. And it gave me some huge ranges that I could maybe expect depending on where I live. But there was nothing that said, hey, you know, here’s what I plan to be spending and you have to be prepared for health, stuff like this.

Stacy Westfall: [00:16:27] Yeah.

Nicole Ross: [00:16:28] So for me, that was kind of eye opening.

Stacy Westfall: [00:16:31] Yes. I think that’s what I really enjoy about the website and again, especially the expense reports, because they–they tell their own story as you’re reading down through just the expense report. But also I remember being in college and I went to an equine college, so they had to do that budgeting, kind of like you did in high school when they’re like, here’s your pretend checkbook. And, you know, right now you’re gonna pretend that you own a house. And every once in a while, we’re gonna randomly throw something at you. That’s like an unexpected expense. And I’m not saying that they weren’t educational. They were. But in a way, the broadness of them almost left–the vagueness didn’t make the feeling happen. So when I read yours, I can feel what’s happening. When I read, you borrowed a horse and it’s like, uh oh, that’s not a good sign. And then I go down like magnetic tended boots and popped splint, OK? And I go down and read this. And so it’s because of that–that combination that is really working because specifically in college, I remember one thing they told us during one of the breeding classes was that when you’re mathematically figuring out kind of the value of the foal, the expenses you have in it. They said they said something like, pretend that you’re going to produce a foal like once every three years. And you’re like, well, that seems like a terrible track record. Like–it was like–it was like, I’ve seen lots of people that breed their horses and they get them bred. You know, four out of five years. Where are you getting this from? But then you walk out into the real world and you start running the breeding program and it–and you can get them in foal that frequently. But is–does it actually have a foal the next spring and when the foal is born, is it okay? Like, are you gonna be able to–like are its legs straight, did it lay in the womb right? Exactly. And so even–even though they had told us the first thing and it was like, oh, that doesn’t look at all right–Where I feel like if it had been more like, let’s look at this, let’s look let’s compare these three breeding farms and where you could pick one that was like massive and produced a huge quantity and look at the percentage, but especially when you shrink it down to just a few, you’re like…a few years in you go, this is really big. I would be happy with one out of three.

Nicole Ross: [00:18:51] Right you’re like I’m looking at one out of 10. I mean…trying to get to one out of three.

Stacy Westfall: [00:18:58] And so I think that’s what I really, really enjoy about your website is that the–Because it’s a real life and specific, it has a much more–has more impact for me. So let’s go down through…Go ahead.

Nicole Ross: [00:19:15] Oh no, it’s totally fine. I was just going to say thank you for picking a month where I was actually under budget. Very kind.

Stacy Westfall: [00:19:23] It was an accident. We can jump–

Nicole Ross: [00:19:26] I feel a little bit better about myself.

Stacy Westfall: [00:19:28] I was just going to ask. Does it feel a little bit strange to go back in time and be like revisiting this?

Nicole Ross: [00:19:35] Yeah, it really does. It’s kind of like keeping a diary of what’s going on with my horse.

Stacy Westfall: [00:19:40] Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I’m just gonna keep going down through, so $46.39 for Smartpak daily supplements. And again, I love that you put the little things underneath, you know, which tells exactly which one.

Nicole Ross: [00:19:55] Sure.

Stacy Westfall: [00:19:56] And why. And that stuff. Then we get to the category called fun, which literally makes me want to click a button and see everything that’s qualified for that category all year.

Nicole Ross: [00:20:07] Yes. Yes. Well, German horse muffins are definitely in.

Stacy Westfall: [00:20:12] Yes.

Nicole Ross: [00:20:12] So that is big time fun for my guy.

Stacy Westfall: [00:20:16] Because you could maybe argue that over into like some kind of an eating budget, if you were human, you’d be like the donuts.

Nicole Ross: [00:20:24] Right, I agree with you.

Stacy Westfall: [00:20:28] But I like that you put them under fun. So. So German horse muffins, $25.99. The bags going to last a while. Yeah. Yeah. And then.

Nicole Ross: [00:20:41] So good.

Stacy Westfall: [00:20:42] What is this one. Pop up barrels. Oh a gift for your…a gift…

Nicole Ross: [00:20:47] Yes and I did–and sometimes I have to debate whether to put things in the expense report because you know something like a gif–I’m like, well, that’s not really for me. But I did sit there and think about, should I do that this month? Will I be under budget? And if I have room for that, then that’s a great way to do it. And what I did with this one was actually, I have a friend who’s keeping my horse right now while he recovers from the popped splint, and she is just the sweetest people and I want to do some things for her in return. She definitely did not have to invite him over for long, long sleepovers now. And to one of the things that we had been saying was, you know, she’s like me and she likes to do tons of different stuff. She even does drill team. She does outfitting. She does everything. And one thing that we didn’t have was a set of barrels, because neither of us know about barrel racing, we’ve never done it. But she has a horse who wants to go fast and we thought, you know what would be fun? Just getting a little set of those pop up barrels and we could just start playing it all. So I wanted to do that for her. And I decided, you know what? That probably belongs in here.

Stacy Westfall: [00:21:58] Yeah, I love it because it you know, again, like when I looked at the–when I looked at the chart at the top, the pie graph, I was like, oh, I wonder what qualifies as fun. And it does help me open up because, you know, I as a professional–And so as far as the IRS is concerned, like I, you know, I’m a professional running this as a business. And but when I look at it inside, I kind of, in my own mind, break it into two different categories because I break it into like the lucrative side of my business and the money losing side of my business is eating me out of house and home.

Nicole Ross: [00:22:37] There you go, that’s right. That is the pet category.

Stacy Westfall: [00:22:42] Exactly it’s like the pet–IRS, it really is an expense. I use them for it like but they walk the line–they walk the line a little bit. But I do know the–

Nicole Ross: [00:22:53] That should be tax deductible, 100 percent.

Stacy Westfall: [00:22:56] I, I do. You know, I think that’s where for me as the professional that owns the horses, I do make sure they each kind of pull their own weight with–they show up in different YouTube videos and they go on different things like that. But I do remember at one point–we at one point–we my husband and I–owned 16. Because he really likes breeding and it doesn’t take very many years in a row. We had really good–we had three broodmares and they were producing three foals.

Nicole Ross: [00:23:27] Wow.

Stacy Westfall: [00:23:28] Most of the time–we were like, wow, our averages are great. And then you look up and you go like the budget, however, is looking really…

Nicole Ross: [00:23:35] I want to see that budget. I want to see the budget for the year of ixteen horses.

Stacy Westfall: [00:23:40] Yes, um. I’m going to confess there was not such a so much of a budget. There was more of a get to the end of the month and be like, oh right.

Nicole Ross: [00:23:50] There was more of a panic. There was less budget.

Stacy Westfall: [00:23:53] Yeah, less–not so like the proactive budgeting where it was more reconciling what just happened.

Nicole Ross: [00:24:03] I’m familiar with that feeling, but not to the 16 horse extent.

Stacy Westfall: [00:24:09] Yes. And then now we’ve told way back now we’re down to six, and actually five. And so the…

Nicole Ross: [00:24:15] Now that feels manageable.

Stacy Westfall: [00:24:17] Yes, it does. And we really do have budgets and we really do all that stuff. But it’s–I still consider the two different sides. And when we when we buy or breed, we’re pretty open among ourselves that we’re not planning that to be for profit. Like, that’d be nice if it did, but I don’t buy, train, sell. So it’s interesting. So let’s jump in–now we’re–going to–now we’re going to scroll down to gear. So I’m going to–I’m going to breeze–I’m going to breeze through it. You did good on this month because…

Nicole Ross: [00:24:51] I did. I did.

Stacy Westfall: [00:24:52] First thing you did was you sold a saddle.

Nicole Ross: [00:24:56] Yes. And the only reason I actually got myself to post it on eBay was because I knew that for two months I’d been saying on my expense reports, I’m going to post it. I will. I’m going to do it. And I was like, I cannot post another one where I say, no, no, no, I’m going to do it. I’m really–I’m doing it and not do it. So that was my motivator, like, take 20 minutes and just do this already. So, yes, even being able to publish, I–you know, I posted it on eBay. That was a motivator. Being able to say that I sold it. Also a motivator. So, it helped me out.

Stacy Westfall: [00:25:35] Yeah, I like it. And then pants clips and again I look at it and I’m like, Oh I don’t even know what these are. This is interesting. So it’s an educational experience on this end. And yeah, I’m gonna have–

Nicole Ross: [00:25:51] Made for motorcyclists.

Stacy Westfall: [00:25:52] Oh, OK.

Nicole Ross: [00:25:54] I hate when my pants ride up over my boots. I hate it. I can’t handle it. So for $10.99 I fixed it. It was great. I was like, have the budget, I’m doing it.

Stacy Westfall: [00:26:07] Who put you on to these? How did you find the–Oh friend uses them.

Nicole Ross: [00:26:11] Ok. Yes. The friend who is keeping my horse has them. And I was like send me the link. This is worth it. I’m doing it.

Stacy Westfall: [00:26:19] Yep. Yep. See this is so perfect because again you’re–you’re outlining it and then mane and tail brush and then padded bike shorts. You…Yeah..

Nicole Ross: [00:26:30] Oh wow. Did you pick a good one. Yeah. That definitely happens. Yep. Bought those. Oh yeah, the horse I’ve been borrowing is a bumpy ride for sure. There’s a point where sometimes I can’t really walk afterwards. So I, I bought these out of desperation. Not ashamed to say.

Stacy Westfall: [00:26:52] We just need to know, did they work?

Nicole Ross: [00:26:55] We didn’t–They’re pretty good. I will say that most padded shorts and underwear do not cover it up in the seat bones. There you go, full disclosure. Maybe it’s that my seat bones are very prominent, I don’t know. I want more. I want a pillow between me and my saddle. That is what I want.

Stacy Westfall: [00:27:14] You know, I actually did that on one of my saddles. So I. So I was designing–It was designed for a mountain shooting saddle. But I use it the most for my colt starting. I use a lot for my colt starting and trail riding. And when we were doing it, I was like, I understand there’s like some memory foam in there, but how much memory foam can you put in there? And they were like, well, we can put more in there. And I said, do more to whatever more you can more, more. And they put it in there. And I’m telling you, this saddle is amazing. If anybody who rides it is like, wow, that is a really nice saddle because it’s just sits you–it just–now, I don’t use it for my reining because it doesn’t sit right like it the way that it holds me…

Nicole Ross: [00:27:59] You’ve got to be able to move. But–

Stacy Westfall: [00:28:00] I can’t move quite as much. But I didn’t need that movement in the–I didn’t want to be slipping around when I ride in a shooting. And in the trail riding, I’m completely fine with something helping me not move. And it’s so padded. It’s amazing. So, yeah,

Nicole Ross: [00:28:15] I’m very envious. And also, I have yet to try mounted shooting, but it is on the wish list. One of the few things I have not tried. And I like the sound of it.

Stacy Westfall: [00:28:25] It’s it was really fun. It was really fun. So I think we’re about halfway down through this expense report. So, Insurance’s, I love that you outlined this and put them kind of broken down because I think it’s just a good thing for people to see. So we’ll just kind of cruise through this one of those ones that are not always, you know, excited about liability. You know, $14.58 Liability. $57.50 Mortality. Major medical. $70.42 on total vehicle insurance. I love that you break it all out. The horse trailer insurance $12.75, US Rider roadside assistance $12.42. I love the breakdown.

Nicole Ross: [00:29:14] I had no idea I would need all of these Yeah.. Side note yet another thing I didn’t realize.

Stacy Westfall: [00:29:21] Yeah. Yes. So I know watching my children leave the house and it is like the idea that you’re slowly trying to be like. Oh yeah. Yep. That’d be a good idea to have that. And you kind of break them in to like the rest of the world.

Nicole Ross: [00:29:35] Right.

Stacy Westfall: [00:29:36] Yeah. Okay. So now we’re down to stabling, which I think probably explains why you were–one of the reasons why you were under budget. So this month the stabling was zero because of the popped splint. And what we already discussed was boarding at the the other barn. So you have anything to add to that one? What’s the normal ones look like?

Nicole Ross: [00:30:01] Yeah. So a normal month for stabling is $460 and that includes all the feed turn out, all of that. He was outside all the time and if we’re boarders at my barn, you also get slightly discount lessons and stuff like that. So it does give you a little extra benefits if you’re a regular boarder and a regular lesson taker, which I certainly am. Three lessons a week.

Stacy Westfall: [00:30:28] Yeah.

Nicole Ross: [00:30:29] So normally it’s about $460. But the cool thing for me, which I say on other months when I actually have that expense, is that a lot of the time I’m able to do some trades, which I think could be a fun thing to chat about, too, is just once you start to see how much you’re spending and where you’re spending it, then you have some options.

Stacy Westfall: [00:30:51] Yes.

Nicole Ross: [00:30:51] You can come up with some different levers to pull that maybe you didn’t think about. And that just makes the horse habit slightly more affordable. Which is really good. We do it for longer. So normally I try to do some trades for things like board, clinic rides, lessons. But I think the interesting thing for me is that as a professional with a full time job, I’m not out there cleaning stalls. I’m not feeding. That’s not an option for me. That’s also obviously not my skill set. I don’t know a lot about feeding, right? That’s when we have articles about things like that. I get the experts to write them because I also want to be learning about this. So for me, some of the standard ways that I feel like people decrease their horse expenses weren’t the right fit for me. So I kind of went back and said, well, what are my skill sets? What am I good at? How can I make this actually worth it to the people that I’m trying to do some trade with? For me that ended up being moving all of our barn’s clinics online to online registration, online payment, managing promotions. That’s in my field house. You know, that’s those are things that I can do as a writer, designer, communicator about stuff that I like to do. And the benefit of that is that it makes my barn a lot more revenue than what they’re going to “lose” from what they’re trading with me. So, that makes me feel really good. It makes them feel good. It takes a ton of effort off of, you know, every coach is tired. It takes a ton of time and effort off their plates, which is really nice. And it allows me to keep feeding my multi-discipline habit of learning and doing clinics on a ton of topics, right? Because we can do more clinics now that someone else is managing them. So it works out great for them. It worked out great for me. And it’s just kind of an example that it doesn’t just have to be find somewhere that lets you clean stalls. Right? I mean you may be able to do that, but there may be five other people asking them if they can clean stalls. Yeah. So what can you do that is unique and maybe make someone more than they’re ending up trading with you? So that’s–that’s kind of how I went about it. And it’s worked out really well.

Stacy Westfall: [00:33:36] Yes. I love that you just outlined that there and shared it because it was one of the things that stood out to me when I was–when I was reading on a different month that you were doing those trades. And I–it’s, it’s brilliant because it makes me almost want to, again, talk about like–I meet a lot of young ladies that, and I remember myself when I was getting into the horse world, it seemed like there was, you know, you could be a trainer, you could be a vet, you could be a farrier. It’s just amazing to see the whole…I couldn’t see beyond some of the big, big major…

Nicole Ross: [00:34:11] Right.

Stacy Westfall: [00:34:12] Right there. And so sometimes when I’m–I’m talking to young ladies who are like, I don’t know, I’ve been going down this rabbit. I don’t want to–like they realize they don’t want to be, let’s say, a trainer. Right? Because they don’t–they don’t want the total lifestyle. There’s other–there’s pieces of it, but there’s pieces that don’t. One thing that really stood out to me reading this website was how clearer it was that you can wind your skillset into many different things. And you did. And you just outlined it. You created what I love to think of as a win-win-win, because now you’ve got you know, you feel like it’s a win for you because of the discount you get on the board. They feel like it’s a win for them because it’s really challenging for them to do something that’s not–they don’t. I mean, if they’re like–like I have been a lot of times like, oh, I really don’t want to do that. Yeah…

Nicole Ross: [00:35:05] They love teaching them. They want to show up and teach that day period.

Stacy Westfall: [00:35:10] And so it’s a win for you. It’s a win for them. And then it’s really a win for the people. Because you outlined somewhere on the website that they have been able to increase the number of clinics, which is now a win for like everybody in the area. And so that’s the beauty of thinking outside the box. And it’s…It’s yeah. It’s a–thank you for sharing all that.

Nicole Ross: [00:35:31] Well, you know, and it’s the kind of thing where I see other women doing it also to some extent. And every time I see one, I think, oh, see, now there is someone who’s getting creative about making their hobby work right or making their professional horse life work. You know, I have women that I’ve met through running the website that are running Pinterest management for equestrian businesses. Right? That was not something that I thought of as a professional outlet. But they love social media and they love horses. And they’re like, you know what? There is a way to put this together and make it a win for businesses, and make it a win for me, and help pay for my horse habits. Yeah. And so there’s a lot of things like that. Course development for e-courses, all of that. Those are all options. And it doesn’t need to just be go be a vet, go be a farrier, right? I mean, now it’s the same when I was growing up and it was like, OK, well, I like animals, so I guess I should be a vet?

Stacy Westfall: [00:36:34] Yes.

Nicole Ross: [00:36:35] I don’t like science. Like, it’s not going to work out.

Stacy Westfall: [00:36:38] Yes.

Nicole Ross: [00:36:39] It’s not–that’s not going to be a good fit. Right? I mean do not think that that is the only option. So…

Stacy Westfall: [00:36:46] Yes.

Nicole Ross: [00:36:46] Yeah. There is a lot of creative levers you can pull. And I just think the more that people can kind of think outside the box on that, you know, use what your skill sets are and they’ll just think, you know what, I need to do the other things that I’ve read about. There’s a hundred more things you haven’t read about and you need to be the first one to do them.

Stacy Westfall: [00:37:06] Exactly. So good. So the last thing on this month was your travel. I love that you…you know, the fuel for going back and forth to the barn. I love how you’ve captured all these little things and you explain four visits a week, four weeks a month, IRS rate, and you know, so and then, like you said, grand total after adjustments, $715.31. Under budget by $284.69. So–very good. Now what’s interesting…

Nicole Ross: [00:37:39] Yes.

Stacy Westfall: [00:37:40] Is–Congratulations on your budget. So.

Nicole Ross: [00:37:44] Thank you, thank you.

Stacy Westfall: [00:37:46] And then I really like this too. I really like this last three thing. There’s three categories. The money well spent. The buyer’s remorse, the tips and the on the horizon. I love the closing things because you do this every report. And so–this money well spent. So what am I particularly glad I spent money on this month and just love this money focus and so–the boots and the pants clips.

Nicole Ross: [00:38:21] Gosh I love those pants clips. That’s $10.99 of my life. Love those.

Stacy Westfall: [00:38:27] That’s awesome. And then the “buyer’s remorse”. And so that’s funny. So I just asked you about them and it turns out to be like you were like–

Nicole Ross: [00:38:37] At the time I wrote them. I hadn’t tried them, yep.

Stacy Westfall: [00:38:40] So you were reserving judgment on those. Like, I read another one. I know. I read another month where I think it was a T-shirt that you bought and I liked how you outlined it. You’re like it wasn’t a need. I bought it. I know it’s kind of you know, it’s one of those things, but I just love how it’s just get this really honest look back about like, you know, maybe there could be a buyer’s remorse thing there and–

Nicole Ross: [00:39:06] Oh, yeah.

Stacy Westfall: [00:39:07] Yeah. And then this is where we’ve covered it fairly well. But the tips for reining in expenses and you really–you really do a great job of outlining on different things like barter, barter, barter, trading for lessons, trading for board, all the stuff we’ve just talked about. And you have many, many more lists on the website and we’ll link to the website so everybody can can go there. I love your tip on watching for price drops and comparing prices. And then your “on the horizon”.

Nicole Ross: [00:39:38] Oh gosh. There’s always things on the horizon.

Stacy Westfall: [00:39:42] I think what I love about this.

Nicole Ross: [00:39:43] X-rays!

Stacy Westfall: [00:39:43] Exactly. What I love about this month is like what’s on my wish list. You can tell this is like–like an every month question and then you’re like, X-ray is not really on my wish list, but I know another one’s coming. Yeah. So I love that the “on the horizon/wish list” is kind of combined there because sometimes it’s nice to have that like wish list thing that you’re–you’re coming up to and other times you’re like–

Nicole Ross: [00:40:09] Sometimes it’s things you want. Yeah. Sometimes it’s just things, you know, are coming. Yeah. The rain slicker–I’ve been–I went to a horse sale in February in Arizona where you think it is dry and warm all the time. I’ve never been wetter or colder in my life. My “rain jacket” was a monumental fail. And ever since I was like, I gotta do it. I gotta get a real one. I gotta–I really have to get a real slicker. This is why people have them. They’re not attractive. But you know what? It kept the rain off and I need to prioritize. And finally, three months later, pull the trigger. Get to wear it today. Very excited.

Stacy Westfall: [00:40:51] Good deal. Yeah. So, I mean, really, in this talk, I wanted to focus it around the budgets, but there is so much more to your website that people can find because first of all, I’m gonna go back and just congratulate you on the title because the Horse Rookie title just really resonates with me because of a few things, one of which is the idea that it’s like, I love making myself feel like a rookie by going and trying something like when I did the mounted shooting. You know, and–and then when I decided to try it–and so it’s fun because when you asked me to write the letter to my rookie self, you know, it got me thinking back in a different way. And I just–I love embracing what they always call the learner’s mind, which we just happen to be able to call it, Horse Rookie. So, yeah. Do you have a final closing thought for listeners?

Nicole Ross: [00:41:51] You know, I I actually had pulled out a quote from one of your early, early podcasts, which I think it was season one, even about, I believe is a quote similar to not all fear equals danger. Where you were just talking about, you know, a lot of fear and anxiety and worries are just in your mind. Right? And it doesn’t actually mean they’re in danger. And I think when I look at my horse journey, a lot of what makes people nervous is, you know, or maybe people won’t–they’ll find out I don’t know what I’m doing, right? Or I have this really beautiful horse and I’m definitely going to ruin him. Right? He is better than I am. And yikes, like, give me six months that I’m sure I can train him down to first level. So it’s–it’s a lot of that mindset that I’m trying to get out with Horse Rookie saying, you know what? A lot of that is just in your head. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that you don’t know it all. Right? The only thing wrong is knowing that you don’t know at all and not trying to learn any of it. So for me, I just want people to feel like it’s time. Right? You’re going to make mistakes and you’re not going to know what you’re doing. And I clipped the horse for the first time last month in thirty eight years and that’s fine. Right? Was it beautiful? No. Did the horse die? No, he didn’t. It was fine. I’m not going to make that into a side business anytime soon. It was not good enough. But you know what? It’s fine. And so I just want Horse Rookie to be a place where people are like, you know what? This is how I feel anyway. Maybe we could just start saying it out loud.

Stacy Westfall: [00:43:40] Yes. Well, I think you’ve done it. Beautiful, beautiful website. And thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today.

Nicole Ross: [00:43:47] Thank you for having me.

Stacy Westfall: [00:43:54] I know I kind of went deep into little things like pants clips, but there’s something really enjoyable about the way that Nicole has written her expense reports. And I think that the subject of money is often avoided. So the way that she’s structured it, which is a little bit like reading a diary, feels really open and fun. So if you want to learn more about it, visit horserookie.com. And I recommend checking out the expense reports, although you can also do a search for my letter to my rookie self, which you’ll also find over there. Thanks again for listening. And I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: [00:44:35] If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com for articles, videos and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

Links mentioned in podcast:

HorseRookie.com- https://horserookie.com/cost-of-owning-a-horse-may-2020-expense-report-2/


  1. Courtney Thompson on December 17, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Such a fun and interesting episode!!!!!!!!!!! I loved Nicole’s tips and immediately checked out her website!!!

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