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Horses are beautiful creatures that remind people of freedom, power, grace, and the wild countryside. They’re fun to brush, fun to ride, and make incredibly empathetic companions. It’s easy to see why people would want a horse as a pet. But before you say yes to your son or daughter who is begging for a pony, you must understand the sheer expense associated with owning a horse. You will be surprised by all of the expenses that go into caring for a horse, not to mention the hidden accessory expenses. Poor planning can bankrupt you at worst, and break your loved one’s heart at best. Here is a brief rundown of what you can expect if you move forward.
The primary expenses to consider when you are thinking of getting a horse are housing, food, health, tack, and riding lessons. If you are too busy to care for the horse yourself, you may also need to hire someone to do the work for you.
The cost of boarding can vary in price significantly based on the accommodations and your location. Most people keep their horse at a boarding stable and pay the stable for housing and other amenities. If they have enough land, other people have their own stable and paddock built. If renting, you can expect to pay anywhere from $400 to $1200 per month. Some metropolitan areas charge as much as $2500. If you choose to build a small 1-stall barn and pasture, the initial cost jumps much higher but may be the less expensive option in the long term.
Like every other animal, horses need to eat to survive. Horses aren’t small animals, either, so they require a lot of food to stay healthy and happy. If you or the boarding facility has quality pasture, some of the expense will be mitigated because your horse will be grazing on grass all day. But they also require hay, grain, a big water bucket, and supplements like a salt/mineral lick. You will also end up spending money on treats, although be careful not to feed those too often. Your horse will need to eat more or less depending on factors like its age and activity level. Keeping your horse well fed can cost well over $100 a month.
Owning a horse is lovely, but they don’t take care of themselves. You need to make sure it gets fed daily, has a constant supply of fresh hay and water, and gets regular exercise. You also need to “muck out” (or clean) your horse’s stall every day to get rid of manure and soiled bedding. While frequent bathing is not good for them, brushing serves the same purpose by keeping their coat, mane, and tail clean and healthy.
If you are too busy to perform these chores on a daily basis, you will need to hire a groom to do it for you. Some boarding facilities offer these services as part of the monthly fee, while others charge extra. If your boarding stable does not do groom services, you will need to hire someone from the outside. A freelance groom gets paid hourly, and rates vary, although $20/hour is fairly average.
Just like other pets need regular trips to the veterinarian, horses need their health checked regularly by a professional. They need vaccinations, parasite control, and dental care at bare minimum. And although they are large, powerful, and majestic at first glance, horses are surprisingly delicate creatures. There’s a reason why horse owners joke about their horse’s medical bills putting them in the poorhouse — horses tend to get themselves sick or in trouble more often than any reasonable person would expect possible.
Veterinarian fees vary, but $500-$1000/year is usually pretty average. Emergency calls due to illness or injury will raise that figure substantially into the several thousands. It is highly recommended to invest in pet insurance to help cover unexpected medical expenses.
A horse is only as good as its hooves, and just like you need to clip your nails regularly, they need regular hoof care from a professional called a farrier. Hoof trimming is recommended every 2 months, and depending on your horse and how much riding you do, you may also need horseshoes. Price varies depending on how experienced your farrier is. Trimming is usually under $50 and shoes are usually $100-$200 on top of that, so budget about $150-$250 every 2 months.
If you plan on riding your horse at some point (and let’s be honest, almost no one buys a horse as just a lawn ornament), you will need tack. What is tack? “Tack” refers to the equipment used for handling and riding: halter, lead rope, bridle, bit, saddle, saddle pad, girth, stirrups, etc. Depending on what riding discipline you prefer (English or Western) and the quality/materials, you can easily spend over $1000 on tack alone.That’s just for the horse. You are also likely to need to put aside some money for riding clothes. Bare minimum, you will need:
- Riding helmet for head protection
- A good pair of riding boots
- Comfortable, fitted pants like riding breeches
- Riding gloves (you’ll thank us later)
These are a substantial expense in and of themselves!
“How hard can it be to ride a horse?” you might be thinking. “You just get in the saddle, grab the reins, and kick the horse’s sides, right?”
Wrong. When horses are trained for people to ride them, they are trained to perform specific actions in response to a standard set of specific cues. When you don’t know what cues to use in order to make your horse start, speed up, slow down, or stop, you will get frustrated, your horse will get frustrated, and you’ll either end up going nowhere or putting your life in danger.
Before you even get the horse (and then for some time after the purchase), invest in some riding lessons with a professional trainer. They will teach you everything you need to know in order to ride safely, and will probably teach you the basics of how to care for a horse as well. Average prices is about $100 per lesson, but this will vary depending on where you live and how good your trainer is. You will also need to pay for more than one lesson. Depending on how much training you need, that may be 2x/month or up to 8x/month.
To sum it up…
Based on these figures, owning a horse can cost roughly between $9,800-$27,700 per year. That does not include initial expenses for tack, riding clothes, or riding lessons. Do some research about the going rates for products and services in your area to create an estimate of how much you will have to budget.
Don’t get us wrong — owning a horse is worth every penny. Just make sure that you have enough pennies to do it before taking on such a great responsibility. And ride safe!