What are ALL the costs of owning a horse?

I'm Expensive!

I'm Expensive!

Answer From April Reeves: Owning a horse takes on a whole new set of responsibilities that leasing and lessons did not have.

I find that this is the most overlooked part of horse ownership, and I see it daily in the horse world. Horses can be expensive, even when they live with you as opposed to being boarded out. They are living, breathing creatures whose very lives are completely dependent upon YOU for survival. I cannot state this enough, especially having gone through years of watching people get them and dispose of them when no longer needed or wanted.

If you have any indications that you may not be able to keep up the commitments, I ask that you keep your lease horse and read no further. I’m not trying to be harsh, but this next step requires you to do some soul searching. It’s not really about the money.

Since you are still reading, let’s take a good hard look at the real cost of horse ownership.

There are many articles on this subject, but three factors to keeping costs down are:

Buy a sound, healthy, happy, trained, quiet horse that has passed a battery of veterinarian testing and professional trainer/coach approval.
Keep the horse in a place that is safe and free from hazards.
Research and read everything you can about horses: skeleton and structure, feed and nutrition, care and grooming, feet and maintenance. The riding is up to you and your coach.
Costs for owning a horse go through the roof when these above principles are neglected or passed by. If I wrote down all the people I know right now, whose horses are out of commission, the reasons would be because of at least one of the above principles.

Max and April

Max and April

The Cost of a Good Horse
Horse prices vary around the world, so we will use North American averages. Let’s look at a few of the necessities of a first horse and the price for it.

Sound, healthy, vetted clean, not too young or old (7-13)
Well mannered, trailers nicely, can be clipped and bathed
Has basic training levels down well: stop, go, turns, cues lightly, trained mouth
Has registration papers
May have competed at entry level.
Price for this horse: $5,000. Price for this pony: $3500 – 5000.

Now let’s add some frills:

Horse has been in many shows and pinned in ‘A’ circuits – Add $2000 and up
Horse is discipline specific; jumping, hunter, reining, breed classes – Add $2,000 (smaller levels) to $15,000 (medium levels) to anything over $50,000 (higher levels)
Breeding: purebred or reasonable bloodlines – Add $2,000 and up. For the top bloodlines – Add $5,000 and up. Poor bloodlines can drop the price of a horse.
Horse has level 3 and 4 dressage – Add $25,000 and up
Horse is a proven broodmare – Add $2000 and up
Horse comes from a notable trainer – Add $3000 and up.
Costs vary with every horse, but these are generalities. When it comes to the price of a horse, it’s not always the quality or training. Market value is what someone will pay, and if no one will pay $50,000 for a well-bred hunter, you won’t sell it. It’s very simple.

Good ponies are worth their weight in gold, so you may have to spend more for a winning pony, but if the pony is young enough, you will recoup every dollar and sometimes more.

The price of horses also is dictated by the economic climate. As of the writing of this article, July 2008, you don’t even have to pay for a horse these days. Auctions have been selling them from $20 to $200; half of the value of meat. Check out this site for the truth on auction horses and the current auction prices: fuglyhorseoftheday.com

Speaking of Auctions
Can you get a good horse at an auction? Absolutely, but it relies on 50% – skill and 50% – luck. There are more bad reasons for horses being at an auction than good reasons.

Should you try an auction? As a first time buyer, absolutely not, unless you bring someone skilled, and even then it’s still 50% luck. If it’s your first horse, it would be heartbreaking to bring the horse home and a week later have a vet tell you the horse is unserviceable for life. We will have more on auctions in a future article.

Cost of Ownership
Keeping your horse at a stable varies immensely. Let’s look at the monthly variants:

Backyard, no barn, reasonable feeding, full care, shelter, no arenas – $150 – $350
Private small facility, good care/feed, stalls, turnout, arenas (outdoor) – $300 – $550
Self board, you do everything, pay for all feed, clean stalls – $150 – $350
Quality barn, come competitors, excellent care, instructors, indoor arena – $550 – $700
Competition barn, discipline specific, best of everything, trainers, coaches $700 – $1,500 (plus frills)
Keeping your horse in your back yard depends on the amenities and outbuildings you have. Lets start with the buildings you may have to build (based on averages only):

Outside shelter/run-in, 14’x14’, open 2 sides: $350 – $600 (untreated or treated lumber), if someone else build it: $1,000 +
Small barn, 2 stalls, hay storage, concrete floor, one storey, ‘traditional’ building style, around 36×40: You build-$35,00. They build: $45,000
Hay storage shed: $400-600.
Shavings and bedding shed: $400-600.
Fencing, corral 40’ x 100’: Wood 3 rail painted – $16,000. Bayco high-tensile horse wire at 5 strands: $17,000. Metal: $65,000.
Fencing, pasture: wood, untreated unpainted – $60 per every 10 feet.
*Please note the absence of barbwire pricing. Barbwire has no business around horses. I have a saying: “That horse never died before.”

Building anything on a property only increases the property value, if done well. Anything less becomes a safety issue, which we talk about later.

Training and Lessons
Lesson, one hour, qualified instructor: $30 – 50/hour
Training, one month, qualified trainer: $1,000/month

Grain for one 1100 pound horse: $35 – 50/month
Hay for same horse: Grass/orchard hay: $110-150/month. Timothy: $120-170/month. Alfalfa mix: $120-170/month. (pure alfalfa is for cattle. More on that in future articles, or see Kathryn Watts, Marijke van de Water).
Average 50 lb. bale cost: orchard $5-12. Timothy: $12-18. Alfalfa mix: $16-24.
Hay will rise substantially in the next 2 years from the cost of fuel and the depletion of farmland for corn crops. Drought and economy also play a role in the variable feed pricing.

Every 2-3 months: $20 each time

Vet Care
Call out (before they do anything) $65-85
Average one hour visit with no return or emergency: $250-350
Vaccinations: $120/year

Trim, all 4: $30-45
Shoes, general all-purpose set of 4: $220-280
Shoes, 2 fronts: $90-140
Specialty shoes, all 4: $280-450

Trims average every 4-6 weeks for optimum health. Shoes the same.

Per month: Shavings: $40-65. Pellets: $50-85. Straw: $25-50.


English, medium quality. Dressage: $1,700 – 3000. Hunt seat/all purpose: $1500 – 3000.
English, used, good quality: Dressage: $700-2500. Hunt seat/all purpose: $400-1600
Western, medium quality, all purpose trail: $1800-2400.
Western, good quality used: $800-2200

English with bit: $85-125
Western with bit: $70-110

Web traditional: $25-55
Rope: $14-29
Leather: $50-120
Lead ropes: $12-30

Grooming Equipment
Brushes, combs, picks, misc: $30-100

Misc: saddle blankets, horse blankets, boots, wraps, first aid, tack cleaning supplies, sprays, bandages: $200-600/year.

Average 100 mile trip: $1 to $2.50/mile

This cost varies too greatly to make sense or put it on the site.

Total Equine Costs/Averages for One Year
Recreational horse at home (after building): $1800
Boarded recreational horse $7000
Boarded competition horse $15,000

It costs the same to board and feed a bad horse as it does a good horse. The initial price of the horse is the easy part.

For more articles on First Time Horse Ownership go to:

Your First Horse Part 1: What you should know before buying a horse

Your First Horse Part 2: A horse or a pony?

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