Horses are an expensive hobby, but “expensive” doesn’t have to mean “unaffordable” no matter what your budget (read The Real Cost of Owning a Horse to see what you should budget for). After college, I had student loans and a mortgage to pay, and my day job paid less than $10/hour, but I still managed to afford my horses without eating Ramen noodles for every meal.
The reality is that our economy still hasn’t recovered from the 2008 recession, and most people have a side hustle. Whether you own a horse or just want to be part of the horse industry, these seven side hustles make you extra money and give you the horse contact you crave. Unlike most bloggers who recommend side hustles they’ve never tried, I’ve actually done all of these.
By far the most miserable side hustle on this list, but it made me a good amount of money in a short amount of time.
If you live in cattle country, most ranchers need help night calving. Unfortunately, most of them calve in the late winter/early spring, which is a miserable time for cattle and for people. Night calving involves sitting on a horse, in the middle of the night, riding through the herd watching for cows ready to calve so that you can get them to the barn. If you find one that already dropped her calf, you load the calf up on a sled and take it to the barn to warm it up. You have to be constantly vigilant watching the herd because in the cold weather the calves freeze quickly.
I did this in Montana where the night temperatures could drop to 20 below zero, although most nights were around 10 above, which is still bitterly cold. I was out in all sorts of weather, including snow and wind. Your horse is warm, and I wore my Carhartt Arctic Bib Overalls (buy it here) over fleece winter riding breeches (buy it here), a Carhartt hoodie (buy it here) and jeans. Don’t forget a good Carhartt winter hat (buy it here) and hand warmers (buy it here) to wear under your gloves.
Yes, it was cold, and yes, sometimes it was heartbreaking when I couldn’t save a calf, but night calving was a good source of income for me. I made $100/night cash for the duration of calving season.
Banding and Braiding
Showing is expensive, but I make more money than I spend at most shows I go to – especially top-level shows. Quality banding and braiding are always in demand. It may take some time to build up your reputation at the big shows, but once the trainers know who you are you will always have opportunities to make money.
Introduce yourself to trainers at the shows and offer to do one band or braid for free so they can see your work. I charge $30 for bands and $80 for braids, more if I also pull the mane or do some clipping.
If you have experience caring for horses and other animals, you are in high demand as a farm sitter. Duties vary with each job, but it may include mucking stalls, turning horses out, feeding, and doing basic maintenance. It may require staying overnight or visiting twice a day. I charge $75 for overnight stays and $35 for twice daily visits no matter what type of animal I’m caring for.
If you live in an area where people buy hay once a year and have to pick it out of the field themselves, you can make extra money delivering and reselling hay. Buy directly from the farmer, pick it up yourself (take help if the bales are heavy), and resell to other horse people at a higher rate per-bale plus a delivery fee.
Geldings and stallions need their sheaths cleaned every six months from the time they are weanlings. For quiet horses who don’t need sedation from the vet, this is a great, easy side hustle. For a 20-minute job you can make $30, and the only supplies you need are gentle soap like Ivory (buy it here) and warm water.
Blanket Washing and Repair
I owned a horse blanket repair business in Montana for four years, and this was a great source of income for me. Montana is a big, rural state so I had to drive quite a bit to pick up blankets, but in a more populated area your gas costs will be much lower. I made around $2,000/month by charging $15 for a blanket wash, $20 for heavyweight blanket wash, $15 for waterproofing, $15 for new heavy-duty leg straps, and $40/hour for sewing repairs. If you have sewing skills, this is a great business to start.
No sewing skills? Just offer blanket washing and waterproofing. See Wash and Waterproof Your Horse Blankets the Right Way to learn my step-by-step process. For extra money, learn how to waterproof oilskin coats. I did that for a few customers, and while it is time consuming, it is a service that no one else in the area was offering.
Do you look forward to tack cleaning day at your barn? I always did. Many horse people don’t have time to keep their tack showring-clean. If you have the patience and the skills to clean high-end tack, you can make $50 to $75 per saddle.
I supplemented my income by offering saddle pad washing too. You can use an industrial washing machine for most pads, but for Western wool pads like The Montanan by Southwestern Equine (buy it here) you need to pressure wash it. Wool pads are amazing for wicking moisture away from the horse’s skin, but they are expensive and can disintegrate in the washing machine, so you have to use extra care when cleaning them. Learn to efficiently clean saddle pads so they look new and you will always have a source of income.
People will need side hustles until our economy really improves. If horses are your passion, you can make money in the horse industry without being a trainer or a riding instructor. These side hustles allow you to network within the industry while giving you the horse contact you crave.
What are your favorite horse-related side hustles? Let me know in the comments below!
Welcome! I've been a freelance writer since 2002 and have numerous horse-related articles published in print and online publications. I have a Bachelor of Science degree from Rocky Mountain College with a major in Equestrian Studies and a minor in Business Management. My current business ventures include High Plains Arena and real estate investing.