Buying a horse can be an exciting, but sometimes intimidating venture. If you’re thinking about getting into the horse business, whether for a hobby or for a career, there are always hidden costs to consider before making your investment. Keep in mind upkeep costs after the purchase price, from board and feed to healthcare, and other common costs should be worked into your allocated budget.
Buying a Horse
There are many potential routes to go when acquiring your horse, including adoption or auction, purchase from an individual, or high-level sales. Purchase price can vary from free to hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the level, lineage, and talent of the prospect.
A pre-purchase examination (PPE) by your veterinarian helps ensure you’re getting a horse that fits your needs and wants. A companion horse that is being adopted to live out the rest of their years in peace need not be sound, but an athlete should be examined for injuries, weaknesses, and potential management issues such as arthritis or joint injections in the future. The cost of these exams typically correlate with the price of the horse. The more expensive the horse or intense the job, the more extensive the PPE. In addition to a basic physical exam, a thorough lameness exam and sometimes radiographs and other imaging may be completed and judged to determine if the horse is a good fit for your needs.
It is not your veterinarian’s job to “pass” or “fail” a horse, but to simply give you all the knowledge possible about your potential purchase, so you can decide what or if certain issues are worth the investment. This pre-purchase exam can cost anywhere from a hundred to several hundred dollars.
Ongoing Costs of Owning a Horse
Feeding a Horse
Depending on the age and workload of your horse, they may need 15-25 pounds of hay, and up to 10 pounds of grain daily. If you have an open pasture, that is easier than having to buy bales of hay; however, depending on the climate, hay may need to be supplemented periodically throughout the year if there’s a drought or freeze.
Depending on your horse’s age, lifestyle, and nutritional needs, your horse may require a specific type of grain or ration balancer. A 50-pound bag of horse feed currently averages $14-$50, which will last your horse 5-25 days, depending on the amount they eat. Supplements may also be recommended for your horse based on their job or nutritional needs. Yearly costs for supplements can range from $200 to over $3000.
Your horse’s diet may consist of different types of hay depending on your location. Average 2-string bales range from $5-$30; these may be used in stall boarding situations. Each bale will last your horse 2-4 days; if you buy a round bale, that may last from a few weeks to up to two months, depending on if your horses eats it excessively; these cost anywhere from $75-100 a bale. Over a year, this can cost between $450 and $2500.
Boarding a Horse
If you do not have land nearby to keep your horse, boarding is the typical way to house your horse. There are many options in terms of boarding, ranging from open pasture, to stall life, and a mixture of both. Typically, prices vary based on the level of care provided by the facility. Self-care, where you provide and feed your own grain/hay is cheapest, then full-care facilities cost more per month. Full-care includes boarding, feed, hay, turnout, etc. varying by location. Boarding can range from $150 to over $1000 per month, depending on your location and the level of care you select.
Vet Care for Horses
Yearly vet care is an important aspect of keeping your horse happy and healthy to live a long life. Maintenance care includes a yearly exam, vaccines, Coggins testing, appropriate deworming, and typically a dental exam. This ensures your horse’s teeth are in good alignment, so they can break down their feed well and get all the available nutrition. Proper dental care prolongs both the life of the teeth, and the life of the horse.
These veterinary exams and routine maintenance typically cost between $350 and $600 a year, if there are no emergencies such as colic, illness, or injury. A veterinary emergency after-hours can cost between $200 and up to several thousand dollars if hospitalization or surgery is required; a typical, mild colic after-hours including emergency fees and treatment averages around $350, if IV fluids are not needed.
Investigating insurance for your pet might be something to consider; these programs may cover theft, medical, surgery, and mortality, and can help you in case of unforeseen issues. In general, equine insurance costs between $150 and $500 per year.
As your horse ages, there may be more frequent exams necessary or other medications. If your horse develops arthritis, or a common metabolic disease such as EMS or PPID, daily medication or special feeds may be required which can add up to several hundred dollars per year.
If your horse is a high performing athlete, they may need the assistance of periodic joint injections of steroids or artificial synovial products to stay comfortable competing at a high level. These sorts of maintenance costs should also be considered when purchasing your horse. Daily anti-inflammatories average out to approximately $330-$450 per year, whereas injections, depending on joint involvement and frequency (usually 6-12 months), can be from $500 to several thousand dollars yearly.
There is a common saying among horse people: “no foot, no horse.” This is because the horse’s hooves affect everything from the ground up. Proper balance and mechanics are essential in keeping your horse sound and comfortable. Some horse’s hooves may grow faster than others, but typically trimming is needed every 6-8 weeks. If your horse has a job, poor feet, or lives in a rocky environment, they may need routine or therapeutic shoes.
Routine trimming typically costs $30-$70, whereas shoes or intensive therapeutic maintenance can cost $120-$250. Trip fees are also usually incurred based on mileage, so that will be added in. Yearly farrier costs range between $300 and $2,000 per year.
Geography does come into play when evaluating these costs. It is more economical to own a horse if you have land, or live in a Southern state such as Kentucky, Tennessee, or Mississippi, than it is if you live in New York or California. Other start-up or periodic costs you may experience while owning a horse include equipment such as a saddle and tack, riding gear, showing expenses, etc. Lessons are another added expense if you’re thinking about competing and need a trainer.
Yearly Care Expenses for Horses
Typically, your expenses will fall in the middle of these extremes, but depending on your location, horse’s age, job, and health, things can add up quickly.
Horse Ownership Alternatives
Lessons are a great alternative to horse ownership, especially if you’re a novice or just trying to decide if horses are worth becoming more than a hobby. There are a multitude of disciplines to learn between English and Western events.
Western riding lessons typically range from $50-$175 per session. Common Western events include:
English lessons typically range from $45-$100 per hour. Common English disciplines include:
Leasing a horse involves paying a horse owner to ride their horse on certain days or for extended periods of time. There are contracts written and signed between the owner and leaser about schedules, who is responsible for healthcare and other such details for the duration of the lease. Although terms may vary, a lease typically costs roughly 25% of the horse’s value per year. This is also a good option for those getting into horseback riding and lessons, who aren’t quite ready to jump into horse ownership yet.
If you have acreage or somewhere close by to house a horse, fostering is a noble cause and allows you to spend time with an animal before deciding to potentially adopt, or until a permanent home becomes available.
There are usually over fifty thousand horses available for fostering and adoption through animal rescues, humane societies, the Bureau of Land Management, and other programs. Fostering a horse gives them a second chance, and you more time to spend with one of these amazing creatures.
Featured Image: iStock.com/peplow
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