How much does a horse cost?

Owning a horse can be a fun and rewarding experience, but you need to do some long-term planning to ensure you are prepared to make the commitment.

Being a responsible owner involves much more than ensuring your horse has adequate food, water and shelter. Meeting the basic needs of your horse is the most obvious of your responsibilities, but those aren’t your only duties as a responsible owner. In fact, your responsibility begins before you even purchase a horse. You must think carefully and plan accordingly instead of letting your emotions influence your decisions. Otherwise, that horse you dreamed of owning could become unwanted because it doesn’t fit your needs, lifestyle or budget.

Just because you can afford the purchase price of a horse, do you have the financial resources to care for it? Are you prepared for unforeseen emergency costs? Do you have a plan in place if you were to lose your job? What will become of your horse if you lose interest? Horses often become unwanted because their owners are no longer able to afford them or are unwilling or incapable of caring for them. Choosing a horse that matches your goals, riding skills and temperament can also ensure that the horse you buy isn’t left looking for a home because it’s unsuitable for your needs.

While no horse owner likes to think of losing their equine partner, the reality is that injuries can occur that may impair your horse’s ability to do the job you purchased it to do. A responsible horse owner thinks about the unexpected and devises a plan. Perhaps there is a less demanding job your horse could do if he becomes injured, or maybe a farm where he could live out his days. What is your plan to find a new home for your horse if you are no longer able to keep it for whatever reason?

A responsible horse owner also looks to the future – sometimes several decades into the future. With improved nutrition and advances in equine medicine, it’s not uncommon for horses to live to be upwards of 30 years old, which means long-term planning is necessary to ensure their well-being. As a responsible owner, are you prepared to commit to the long-term care of your horse? If you aren’t prepared to keep your horse through its golden years, what is your plan to ensure it has a home that will care for its needs and ensure it is euthanized humanely when the time comes?

Being a responsible horse owner also means planning for your own unexpected injury, illness or death that could leave your horse’s future in question. Have you made arrangements to ensure your horse is cared for if you were to suddenly become incapacitated, or worse?

Every horse owner owes it to their equine partner to ensure its needs will always be met and that it will be treated humanely, with dignity and respect, throughout its life. Please be a responsible horse owner. We all play a role in preventing horses from becoming unwanted.

Real Cost of Horse Ownership (Feb 2015) provided by Equine Guelph
It is often said that if you ask a question to ten horse owners, you will get ten different answers. However, one thing we can all agree upon is that horses are expensive! Affording the initial purchase cost is the least of expenses. Calculating the maintenance over the horses’ lifetime is a more realistic look at a long-term budgeting plan. How much does horse ownership really cost? The short answer is that it depends. There are many variables that come into play when calculating the cost of horse ownership:

Buying a Horse

How much does a horse cost?” is a frequently asked question, and like many things in the horse world, the answer is highly variable. Horses can cost anywhere from free to millions of dollars! Realistically, one can expect to spend a few thousand dollars to find an appropriate mount, though this price will depend on the market, the type of horse, intended use and your location.

The price of the horse is not the only expense you will encounter when horse shopping. Before buying a horse, it is recommended that you have a trusted veterinarian conduct a pre-purchase exam. After the examination, the vet will give you an opinion on the horse’s strengths and weaknesses and discuss any potential problems. This exam will cost anywhere from a few hundred to two thousand dollars, depending on the extensiveness of tests your vet performs and whether you decide to take X-rays.

Remember that you will also have to buy all the necessary supplies for your horse: grooming equipment, tack, blankets (if needed) and medical supplies. The cost of these individual items may seem small, but they quickly add up!

Routine Costs

Your horse has routine care needs. If you are boarding at a stable, the monthly bill can range from $300 to $3000, depending on the services provided. Usually, board includes: food, water, shelter and basic care – however, you may need to provide extra feed and supplements (including salt), or pay for additional services such as blanketing. Keeping your horse at home can be less expensive than boarding, but you will have to pay to maintain the property and provide your horse with feed, water and daily care.

Other essentials include routine hoof care by a reputable farrier or trimmer, approximately every six weeks. A vaccination schedule should be discussed with your veterinarian for annual core vaccines and others which will depend on your horse’s individual needs and infection control measures recommended for your area. Your horse may require medication or supplements.

Unexpected Costs

As a horse owner, you will need to learn to expect unexpected costs – your horse does not know when the next pay day is, or whether you’re planning your next vacation; the horse may need immediate veterinarian care, board might increase or the price of hay may suddenly sky rocket. The average horse owner should have a plan to deal with unexpected costs. Common health problems, such as colic, can leave you with thousands of dollars of vet bills. Even relatively minor health problems can become costly. Vet visits, medical supplies and care costs quickly add up. It is important to always have a plan to deal with unforeseen costs; you might consider creating a horse specific savings account, or purchasing equine insurance.

Human Costs

While it is entirely possible to pay only horse-related expenses; if you intend to ride or drive your horse, there will be human costs. Appropriate clothing is a must to stay safe around the barn. You will need a helmet, gloves, breeches or jeans and a boot or shoe with a low wedge heel. While you need not buy expensive clothing, safety is a must.

You will likely require lessons to learn how to properly ride and/or drive and handle your horse. Expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $100 dollars a lesson. If you are planning on showing your horse, be prepared to get out your cheque book. At the introductory levels, a schooling show will cost about $200 when you add up trailer, coaching, office and class fees. Show fees increase as one moves up through the levels.

More than Money

Horses take a toll on more than just your wallet; you will need to invest emotional and physical resources, as well as your time. Driving to the barn, grooming and working your horse can require upwards of two hours each time. For most horse owners this is a three to six day a week commitment.   Are you capable of staying up all night with a sick horse – or are you willing to pay somebody else to take on that responsibility? If you get injured by your horse, can you afford to take time off work to heal? Could you handle choosing between an expensive surgery or euthanasia if the situation arises? Horse owners often have to make tough decisions that impact more than their bank account.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, the cost of horse ownership has a number of variables. Remember that while you don’t need to buy the trendiest, most expensive products or services, you do have a responsibility to provide your horse with a safe and healthy environment. What works for one horse and owner may not work for another, and the rules of horse ownership are not set in stone. Working with horses can be very rewarding – building athleticism, co-ordination, dedication, and many life skills – but before deciding your level of involvement, it is important to plan a realistic long-term budget for time and finances.

By:  Alberta Equestrian Federation

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