“Do I have enough money for Taco Bell? No, I don’t,” says a trending #horsetok sound on the Internet right now.
“But you know what I do have?” it continues, “This thing, and it brings me an indescribable amount of joy.”
Yes, horses are expensive. Quantifiably so.
I have even kept a spreadsheet of what I have spent on board, the farrier, the vet, grain, supplements, and lessons. I should add the gas I use too. And the amount I spend on snacks for the horses and myself when I forget to pack them and need to stop by the grocery store closer to the barn.
I know that everyone’s experience with horses is nuanced and varied. Costs differ by region, breed, and discipline. But sticker shock seems pretty close to universal.
For a long time, I thought that a life with horses would mean financial ruin. I believed that if I chose the bridle path, I would sleep in an alley on a pile of unpaid vet bills and maxed-out credit cards. The phrase “horse rich, but cash poor” is one I still hear uttered in barns and at horse events today.
My belief in equine-induced financial ruin, however, was also a reflection of my upbringing. I grew up thinking that money was either something to fear or something to use as a weapon to shame or manipulate other people. If someone had too much money, they were an exploitive snob. If they didn’t have enough, they were irresponsible, unloveable failures.
The “proper” amount of making or spending was an impossible moving target.
As I got older, I became a grand prix-level people pleaser. To avoid conflict or discomfort, I would spend money I didn’t have to try to appease people who didn’t even like me that much. I was often too ashamed to say no and too afraid to ask for help.
“Of course, I can come to that event.”
“Of course, I can go to that restaurant.”
“Of course, I will buy that thing I actually have no interest in.”
I have spent an embarrassing amount of time reframing my thinking around the dollars in my bank account. I learned that money and power are linked, and it is easier to be good with money when you have some.
I now understand that neither being broke nor rich can be connected to one’s virtue or value as a person. The world is complicated, human behavior isn’t rational, and luck is always a part of the equation.
Horses have been an essential part of my life for years now, and my worst fears have not come true. I can still pay for the roof over my head and the groceries in my refrigerator. I have even been able to pay down debt. I do not own a magical unicorn that poops ten-dollar bills. Instead, as anonymous TikTok voice suggests, I have a horse that brings me “an indescribable amount of joy.” And that joy makes it easier to prioritize.
Healing isn’t linear, or course. I still have moments where I beat myself up about money and knee-jerk reactions to people-please. And yes, I do spend considerable sums on my horse. But here’s the thing: horses have also helped give me a financial organizing principle.
This item is as much as a lesson, I say to myself.
That outing could be a farrier visit.
This side gig will get me a new pair of riding pants.
Horses make it easier to say no because most things don’t compare to time in the barn and social media FOMO loses its power when the weather is nice, and there is riding to be done.
This essay isn’t financial advice—going out and buying a horse will not fix everyone’s money problems. Perhaps though, if money was more about reaching for what we truly want and less about shame and status, our lives would be better for it.
So no, I do not have money for Taco Bell. And I’m okay with that. That spend is earmarked for horse treats.