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How Much Does a Horse Cost, Really?

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Even if you have never been around horses, you likely know that horses are expensive. After all, there is a reason the old “buy me a pony” demand seems a bit extravagant. However, most people who haven’t spent their whole life around horses may not realize that price of a horse at purchase pales in comparison to the cost of caring for a horse once you get it home. Keep reading to learn more about the kinds of costs that a new horse comes with and keep in mind that a  “free” horse is never really free.

Buying a Horse

The price of the horse that is paid when the sale is finalized is the least expensive aspect of horse ownership, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t cost you a pretty penny to secure a new equine pal. For a child’s first pony, most parents want the safest, beginner-friendly pony they can get their hands on, but when you start looking for one, you may squint at the asking price and then ask a buddy to confirm that it is in fact, that many zeros. The more experience the horse has, the more valuable to bloodlines, the proven offspring- the more the horse will cost. 

The price of the horse is not the only expense you will come across during your horse shopping journey. Before buying a horse, it is always a good idea to have your veterinarian perform a pre-purchase exam to see if the horse is dealing with any lameness or health issues. After the exam, 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 a few thousand dollars, depending on the extensiveness of tests your vet performs and whether you decide to take XRays.

Buying For Breeding

Are you looking for a stallion to add to your breeding program or a mare that you think will compliment your stallion’s qualities while also having a reputation as being a great mom to her foals? When looking for horses to add to your breeding program  you will need to take into account bloodlines the horse has which may price him or her higher than others. Picking to purchase a stallion with a proven show record and foals that are competing successfully will be much more expensive than buying a younger, less experienced stallion that has the bloodlines but no experience. 

The price paid for a horse that will be used for breeding doesn’t include fees associated with producing a foal. Breeding fees, reproductive services like collecting semen from the stallion and mare care, the mare staying at the vet to foal out, etc. is a whole other ballgame and it is very important to take the additional fees into consideration when looking for a horse that you want to use for breeding. 

Training

Your eye is on a younger horse that you are pretty sure you can bring up through the levels yourself. You also aren’t really sure what the levels are or what they will require from your horse. This is where a knowledgeable trainer comes in. A good trainer that knows what they are doing will be a necessary tool in turning the horse you have into the horse you want. A trainer that is experienced and has successful clients is going to cost a lot more than someone who has grown up with horses but has no actual training experience. Sometimes horses are sent away to the trainer and sometimes the trainer is closeby at the barn teaching the rider how to work better with their horse through riding lessons.

Boarding Vs. Home Kept

If you are boarding your horse at a stable, the monthly bill can range anywhere from the average of $400-$500  to $3,000 per month, depending on the type of turnout and services provided. Usually, board includes food, water, shelter, and basic care — however, you may need to provide extra feed and supplements. Keeping your horse at your own house can be less expensive than boarding, but you will have to make sure the property stays safe for horses, and you will have to feed, water, and provide basic care daily. You will be in charge of making sure none of the medications in your first aid kit go bad and ensuring that when your horse needs medications, you remember to order them and give them appropriately.

Routine Care

Just like you, your horse has routine general wellness needs like coggins testing, hoof trimming, vaccines, and dental care. He will need his feet trimmed every 6 weeks (unless the farrier recommends otherwise). 

He will also need to be on a vaccination schedule with the vet. Discussing what vaccines the veterinarian needs to administer for your horse is very important as the part of the world your horse lives in will determine which vaccines are the most important to have. Routine vaccines typically run anywhere from $28-$39 depending on which ones your horse needs. 

The vet can also provide dental services to your horse as often as he needs them. The average middle-aged horse usually needs to have his teeth done once a year but having a vet check them when they come out for vaccines can help you know what dental frequency is best for your horse. A routine dental float (that doesn’t require any extractions or extra services) will usually run around $150-$200. This doesn’t include the farm fee if the vet comes to you.

Unexpected Costs

When you have a horse, it is smart to set aside a savings account for the horse’s emergency health. Equine emergencies tend to occur when we have just used up the last of our funds to make a payment on the car, or we just started saving for our child’s college tuition. It is recommended that anyone with a horse sets aside a little bit each month (or paycheck, up to you) for any unexpected fees the horse may rack up should there be an unexpected event. An unexpected colic episode after hours can be very expensive but even relatively minor health problems can become costly. Vet visits, medical supplies, and care costs quickly add up. Without a plan, these can get very overwhelming very fast.

Human Costs

The horse has been paid for but now it’s time to acquire the right riding gear for you. Breeches, a quality helmet, shirts, boots, show clothes, the list goes on and on. If you are riding in a specific discipline you will need discipline specific clothing for shows. Grab any Dover catalogue and peruse the clothing section to get some ideas about clothing costs. Even barn clothes (typically riding breeches and a shirt) will get expensive. 

Tack Needs

Just like clothing, your tack will be riding style- and discipline-specific. English and Western riders use completely different saddles and bridles but that is just the beginning. Both saddles use different style saddle pads, different girths, different stirrups, etc. A jumping saddle is different than a dressage saddle. Some bridles use different bits and some disciplines require extra equipment (driving, roping). Some tack can be bought through consignment but most of it gets the longest wear when it is bought brand new.

What Your Horse Provides

After looking at the long (and scary) list of costs often associated with horse ownership, your head may be spinning.  It is important to know however, that a good horse is ironically, priceless. Horses are somehow able to help us in a way that we can’t explain. When you’ve had a rough day at work or got yelled at by the boss, telling your horse about it really works as a kind of therapy. Sure, she can’t talk back to you in a language you can understand but she can listen and sometimes that’s all that she needs to do to help. Veterans suffering from PTSD that spend time with horses through quality time or even just providing basic care rave about how life changing it is. Horses make up some of the best memories for those involved with them and many people that catch the horse bug never lose it. So while you are creating your horse budget, try to take into consideration some of the things that won’t make it into the financial part. These are the important things.

Carolina Equine Hospital

While we mainly offer equine health care, if you ever have any questions about what your horse may need (supplements, medication, care suggestions) we are open Monday – Friday, 8-5 and always have an emergency vet on call 24/7. If you just bought your first horse and would like us to go over basic care needs he will require, just give us a call! We can help set you and your horse up for success!