Do I need a $95,000 horse?

When is a $95,000 horse a great deal?

Driving to work this morning I got a call from my wife. She wanted to share something with me that she had seen on Facebook. My wife is a horse fanatic. She follows David Marcus, who is an olympic level dressage rider and trainer.

For the uninitiated, dressage is much like synchronized swimming except it’s a horse and rider and there is no pool. My wife has been trying to describe it to me for the better part of 20 years and I still don’t really understand it. Suffice it to say…it’s really hard, it takes a ton of training, and people that aren’t VERY familiar with it probably won’t understand it.

David Marcus has a Facebook page that my wife follows. He posted a beautiful horse that he had been training at his elite facility that they were selling. In fact, they reduced the price of this amazing horse named Guacamole for “quick sale.”

Guacamole is fun on four legs and ready for his next dressage partner!”  Now…horses at this level are expensive. The breeding, training and experience of these horses drives up the price to meteoric heights. So my wife went to the website to see what “reduced for quick sale” means in the highest level of dressage.

It was $95,000. That was fire sale pricing. Just a touch under $100k. For a horse.

It was shocking to see what you would pay for a horse like that. Yet I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. My wife and I have attended some of these high end events over the years and the level of affluence on display is breathtaking. 

The participants in this “3 day event” didn’t come from all walks of life. They came from a level of affluence that didn’t think twice about spending hundreds of thousands (maybe millions?) on the horses, gear, trailers, trainers and competitions. Although I can’t get my brain around that, it’s pretty common place for people living in that world.

It wouldn’t be fair of me to say that what they do is a waste of resources. I don’t like being judged for the way that I live my life any more than the next person. And although my wife and I gasped at the level of wealth that it would take to support that lifestyle, I don’t feel like it’s fair to judge.

It’s all in your point of view

My wife and I live on a 40 acre horse farm. We own a few horses (and a miniature donkey named Floyd). We also board anywhere between 8-14 horses for other people. We bought the farm with the idea that we could support my wife’s “horse habit” by boarding other horses.

Even for regular folks, horses are a pretty expensive habit. It limits how much we can travel because it’s hard to find people that can take care of the operation when we’re gone. It’s a lifestyle choice we made. Most of the time living in the country is awesome. Sometimes it’s a drag. It’s more expensive than living in the city, but we’re sticking with because we love it. For now.

One of the things that owning a horse farm allows us to do is host a special needs riding club. Our 10 year old actually participates in it. It’s a great program for all kinds of kids with special needs. Our place has plenty of room for it and we’re grateful that we can help out.

Recently my wife overheard someone who had been to the farm to watch the riding club. The person was raving about how big the farm was and how wealthy the owners must have been. I love our farm and it’s pretty nice. It’s not opulent by any stretch. But to this person, our farm was a horse paradise.

Gut check time. So the farm that we’ve lived on for 13+ years is considered wildly opulent and fancy to some folks even though it’s what we’ve become accustomed to. A $95,000 horse seems wildly opulent to us!

How to want what you have

The lesson I’m learning is that most everything is relative. No matter how bad your day might have been, there are hundreds (thousands? more?) of people that would do anything to have your life.

It’s not having what you want

It’s wanting what you’ve got

–Sheryl Crowe “Soak up the Sun”

Gratitude is arguably the greatest tool a person can have to increase their own well being. Gratitude has been the absolute bedrock of my recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Let’s face it, it’s really difficult to focus on the bad things in life when you’re conscious of the things that you are grateful for. The toughest thing for me is remembering this fact when I’m struggling.

Here’s something I try and do most every day. It’s not easy, but it’s worthwhile. Think of three things that you’re grateful for and write them down. Easy, right? Well not so fast, Tiger. You can’t use anything that you wrote down earlier. So the more you get into your cumulative gratitude list, the tougher it becomes. Except not really. Because there are an unending number of things to be grateful for. But not being able to list them twice just makes you work a little harder at recognizing them.

My wife and I had a little chuckle about the crazy expensive dressage horse. Sure, maybe it would be terrific to have a horse with incredible training and bloodlines. But remember, the current owner probably feels bad because they’re discounting it from their original price!

If there is one lesson to take away from all of this is that it’s never fair to compare your insides with other people’s outsides. This is a universal rule. Human beings make a habit of showing the world that they’re doing better than they really are. You can only really know what’s going on in your own emotions. What you know about other folks may not be the whole story. So don’t worry about it.

Keep track of your own emotions and support those that you care about. Be as transparent as you can be.

And stop comparing. Everything is relative. Which makes it kind of irrelevant.

Alan Mead is one of the co-hosts of the Dental Hacks podcast and a horse feeder.