Once or twice a week, I get a call on my cell phone. Usually it's late morning. The number on my screen comes up as "Manghi's Bread."
Seeing that number on my cell phone almost always makes me smile. It's a signal that the owner of the local bakery is calling me and asking me to make a delivery for her. The only time it makes me sad is when I'm out of town and won't be back by 5pm.
On the days I can make the delivery, I leave work right on time, walk home, grab my car, and stop by the bakery. It always smells delicious, and everyone is cheerful. I take the slightly longer route to the barn and I pull over a few times at a small local hardware store, or coop, or country store.
It only adds 15-20 minutes to my evening, and it makes me happy to have my car smell of fresh-baked bread. Each time I make a delivery, I can order off the menu: I get one of anything I want. Usually, I opt for a loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread, but sometimes I'll get a honey bran, or maple walnut, or oatmeal.
I honestly can't remember the last time I bought a loaf of bread. I think it's been over two years. Either a Manghi's delivery run comes along at just the right time, or I bake some bread of my own. I love bread, and would happily eat a loaf every two or three days, so I try to limit myself to really high-quality bread with straightforward ingredients. It's my own small version of portion control.
Delivering bread is also great because it adds in an ironclad guarantee that I'll go to the barn. Especially in winter, it's much too easy to look at the temperature, get discouraged, and not even go out to groom. The last stop on my typical bread run is just 5 minutes from the barn. On days when I know that it's too cold to ride, I often grab Arya and bring her with me, and we work on some training at the barn. I tie her leash to Tristan's stall and we work on a long wait while I fuss over him.
I've bartered for other things in my life, too, horsey and not. I work with my friend to trade either a bag of home-baked goodies or business/website work for Tristan's massages. I've done many, many hours of chores to earn lesson credits. I've traded tack, or hauling. I've taken barters in return when I've provided help or services for another person. There's something more personal and satisfying about it to me - and it helps me afford a lot of things I wouldn't be able to do otherwise. I quite simply don't have the $200 a month in my budget for regular lessons, but if I carve out enough time I can get quality advice.
Have you ever bartered for things in your horse life? What's worked for you? Or do you prefer to keep business separate, and pay for everything you get?