Applying Minimalism to the Equestrian Lifestyle

Part of tiny home living, unless you want to live in a Hoarders house or pay for a giant storage unit, is minimizing possessions. Granted, at 399 square feet (plus a loft space) we aren’t going nearly as tiny as what most people think of when they picture a tiny house, but it’s certainly a change from a 1500 square foot, 4 bedroom 2 bath suburban home.

I have generally never been the type of person to collect a lot of personal (ie non-horse related) stuff. I don’t like clutter, I don’t like knick-knacks, and I’m a rather poor decorator since it all just looks like “stuff” to me. If you really want to psychoanalyze it, it’s probably due in large part to a couple things: 1) I’ve moved a lot in my lifetime. Like 17 times in 36 years. There for a while I moved every year basically. You know what sucks? Having to pack up lots of stuff. I learned how to live without things I didn’t like enough to carry up and down 3 flights of apartment stairs. 2) My mother collected all kinds of things. She was tidy about it, and decorative, but there were gas lamps, copper molds, chickens (like thousands of ceramic chickens), deorative plates, fabric, etc etc all over the place. It always felt like there was stuff everywhere, and like if I turned around too fast I might break something. She got joy out of collecting those things, and that’s fine… but I did not, and still don’t. It makes me feel suffocated.

I just collect naughty horses who destroy things

I’m also not really into clothes, or beauty products, or shoes, or jewelry, or whatever else normal people might have a lot of. I tend to wear the same types of things over and over, and the same two pairs of shoes, and I could not give less of a shit about all the different exfoliating scrubs or lotions or whatever else you’re supposed to use that I definitely do not. I’ve got like… 2 things. Hence why the idea of minimalism has been pretty appealing to me – it’s mostly in line with my natural tendencies. Granted, not the particularly “true” more extreme form of minimalism where they own like 4 shirts… that’s a bit much for me. But the idea of having things in much smaller quantities, and only keeping things that you actually use or need? Very appealing.

Except… you know what I AM into, in large quantities?

HORSE STUFF.

Yeah I know, that’s probably a real shock, right?

My real vice, when it comes to buying things and keeping excess, is horse stuff. In my own defense, horses do require a lot of shit. Like multiple blankets per horse. Different types of equipment. Boots for different purposes. Bits. So many bits. Sprays, ointments, shampoos. I mean… even if you try to minimize it, they still require a whole lot of shit if you want to be a well prepared horse owner. Also, look, I like having shit that matches and coordinates. Gotta have the boys looking cute. I also like have fun “toys”. However, I will be the first to admit that I’m like 15 steps past what constitutes well prepared.

The real question I had to ask myself though, was: do I want to minimize this part of my life too? If so, how far do I want to go, and then how do I get there?

For the first part I decided that the answer is a bit of a shaky yes, shaky only because – in answer to the second part – I don’t want to go to an extreme. I still want to be a very well-prepared and well stocked equestrian, and I want my horses to have everything they could possibly need in any forseeable training/care/riding/management situation. I have ample storage space, so I don’t have to worry about that part. The real opportunity to minimize comes when I turn the spotlight on myself.

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This jacket earned it’s permanent place yesterday while I was doing chores in the freezing cold

Do I need 16 pairs of breeches? Probably not. So I picked out my favorites – a couple pairs of tights for summer, the one winter pair I own, the “regulars” that I reach for most often, the whites I show in, and the tan I keep for foxhunting. That left me with 9. Still a lot, sure, but… better than 16. I still feel prepared for any situation, so it doesn’t feel like any kind of loss. I did the same with show shirts (god I LOVE show shirts for some reason). Did I need 8? Probably not, considering how little I show. Pared it down to a couple of my favorite white shirts, a couple of colored ones for schooling shows or if jackets are waived, and the rest went in the cull pile. And so it went, weeding out all the things I really just don’t need, and honestly don’t even wear that much. I was left with a smaller but still comprehensive collection of things I truly love and use/wear on at least a semi-regular basis.

But… it’s pretty easy to just clean stuff out, isn’t it? The harder part is preventing it all from piling back up again. So I gave myself a rule: One in, one out. Basically, if I buy something non-essential, another item has to go. I’ve been applying the rule since the beginning of the year and so far it’s actually working. I’ve passed up several purchases already because by the time I sat there and tried to figure out what I would sell in order to buy it, I talked myself out of it. And, alternatively, I’ve added one thing because I liked it so much I was willing to let go of another similar item. Really it’s not minimalism so much as mindfulness. If I have to get rid of something else in order to acquire the thing I want, I have to really want it. Especially since I’m now pared down to only the things that I like and use the most. I can’t just pile stuff up because it’s pretty and fun. My goal isn’t really to spend less money (although that’s a natural side effect), it’s to have/accumulate less unnecessary stuff.

the ball was a necessity

Except gloves. It will be a cold day in hell before you make me stop buying gloves. At least they’re small.

While it’s not true minimalism by definition, and it’s not particularly “strict”, this was the method I picked for myself because I thought it was one that I could actually sustain. Other people would maybe have more success with a different approach, but I know myself well enough to know what’s realistic for me. My horses get what they need (yes, I’m putting Presto’s ball in the need category, fight me) and I still get to be well-equipped and have/buy stuff that I like. But the purchases are more mindful and more intentional, and that’s really what the overall goal was. Will I stop window-shopping? Never. I’m always interested to see what’s new and great, and eager to try things and see if I’ll like them. Now I just have to be a little more sure before I click buy.

16 thoughts on “Applying Minimalism to the Equestrian Lifestyle

  1. I like that “one in, one out” policy. I’ve been wanting to clean out some of my stuff (I do need to get rid of breeches as well; I have 16 or 17 pairs too), but I know I tend to accumulate saddle pads. Good god I have a trunk full of them. And I realized in my “only a few dressage things” I bought with sales, I actually purchased way too much. So, I think it’s time I go through stuff and clean out what I really don’t use. It’s super freeing to declutter!

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    1. It’s so easy to pick up a couple things here and there, and before you know it there’s a giant mountain of breeches and saddle pads lol. Both very useable items that we DO need multiples of, but… maybe not mountains of them.

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  2. I’m realizing how many things I have that I don’t need (ahem, I also own 15ish pairs of breeches and wear the same… 5? over and over and over) but then after so many years of leasing or just having things still at my parents’ house 800 miles away, I’m missing really random critical things you accumulate over years of horses. Or just having a size tiny horse now and nothing fits him (I’m sorry, a 20″ girth?!) It’s a strange place to be.

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  3. I’m really enjoying your tiny home installments because this spring I’m moving into a smaller space and am using it as the opportunity to purge my possessions. I haven’t moved as much as you, I’ve moved six times in my life so far. But my god I HATE IT. It definitely keeps me from buying things, the thought of having to pack it up and move it. Knick-knacks? The worst. Who wants to dust around those friggin things?! And I’ve got cats, enough said. My problem is I love books (lots of books), and books aren’t the lightest thing. And similar to horses, my other hobbies require a bit of gear. I do trail races and ultra marathons, they take a fair amount of crap to do. But I keep it really well organized and it isn’t in plain sight looking clutter-y. As far as horse tack? Yeah, you can pretty much never have enough. I have bits I will likely never use, but I want the opportunity and it was free. #justified

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    1. Yes, my books are going to be difficult. I think I’m only going to keep my absolute top favorites/special editions and try to find worthy people or causes to donate the others to. It’ll make me feel better about parting with them.

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      1. My absolute top favorites would still be a ridiculous, so you’ve got more willpower than me. I still have my Saddle Club books from when I was a kid, I can’t see a way to get rid of them. I didn’t have the whole series, only ~10 from when the local library sold them for a quarter a piece. I don’t know any young rider that I could re-home them to because I’m allergic to children, so clearly I have to keep them.

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        1. Lol I had all those at one point but gave them to one of my mom’s friend’s granddaughters who was obsessed with horses. I figured it was totally worthy, to enable another generation.

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      2. I usually donate my books to the local public library. Most of them have a “Friends of the Library” type organization who organize and sell them and use the proceeds to support the library.

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  4. I wish I could do this better… But shopping for stuff (especially horse stuff) just really makes me happy. And I’m REALLY bad at keeping up with laundry. So my excessive pile of breeches is almost necessary. At least that’s what I tell me.
    I’m needing to save some money right now for things like getting my ring footing fixed, my fence repaired, and property taxes (I could buy another Shiny for what that costs per year…). Plus I’m trying to get my house straightened up and get rid of the stuff I don’t need/want. But I’m super bored and kinda miss getting presents from me in the mail all the time.

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    1. Yeah I definitely get that aspect of it, I love getting presents in the mail too. That’s why I couldn’t just cut off any unnecessary horse purchases completely. One in, one out seemed like a compromise that might work for me long term. We’ll see if it’s actually sustainable!

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  5. If I think about it, I guess I am the minimalist equestrian by situation, not by choice. I love the window shopping. I window shop HARD! I just don’t have the budget to buy all the things I would love to have. Luckily 90% of my wants are only found in Europe & UK (Canada has limited choices, and the cool stuff is ubber expensive) so currency exchange, shipping & duties taxes stop me from hitting the checkout button on my favourite websites.
    By the way, how cold is Texas cold?

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  6. After our last move out to the farm, I threw away basically everything we hadn’t unpacked since the prior move a year before. I’m a thrower awayer anyway. Get it from my mom. The hubby is a pack rat. Oh the things he keeps. Ugh. As for riding stuff I’m minimal there too but mostly because I’m cheap erm frugal. I have three summer tights and two winter tights plus a pair of tans for shows. Two show shirts. One jacket. One pair of gloves. One bridle. One saddle. Two school pads and one white. And that’s it. Not a lot but it’s what I need for what I do.

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  7. I have embarked on a different version of the same thing.. I have WAY too many pairs of riding tights and shirts, also socks… I ride endurance so I tend to actually wear things out, so I’m on a “buy nothing new unless it is to replace something that has genuinely fallen apart” experiment for this year.

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