By Dr. Jennifer Williams
Many people get horses and other equines without a good understanding of the costs involved. Before you make the decision to buy or adopt a horse, donkey, or mule, consider whether or not you can afford these costs:
This is always the least expensive part of owning a horse and can vary from the “free” horse you are given to hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on top level show horses or millions of dollars spent on race horses.
|Bit, Hackamore, or Bosal||$15-100|
|Saddle Pad or Blanket||$10-50|
|Girth or Cinch||$20-75|
This is very minimal equipment. Often you will buy additional riding and training equipment whose cost can vary. Additionally, remember that the cheapest equipment often is not the safest equipment nor the best fitting. Old bridles, saddles, and girths with cracked leather or frayed stitching can break during your ride. This can lead to serious injuries. Poorly fitting equipment can cause pain which in turn may cause your horse to buck, rear, or bolt. It is wise to spend more money now to prevent problems in the future.
|Grooming Supplies (brushes, hoofpicks, shedding blades, sweat scrapers, etc)||$50-100|
|First Aid Kit (bandages, peroxide, thermometer, linament, ointment, etc)||$100-200|
For some people, it is tempting to overlook rider safety. However, always remember that the horses you are interacting with greatly outweigh you. If they step on your unprotected toe or foot, your foot/toe may break. If you are thrown without a helmet, you stand a higher chance of a serious head injury (which can lead to death). While safety equipment doesn’t prevent all horse-related accidents, it helps reduce your risk. Additionally, if you will show or compete, you may be required to wear boots and/or a helmet. Some cities and counties are passing laws requiring the use of safety equipment.
If you will be keeping your horse at home, he’ll also need some kind of shelter – a shed or barn may cost $1,000-$2,000 for a simple run-in shed or could costs thousands ($5,000-$50,000+) for a barn with stalls and other amenities.
|Safe Fences (something other than barbed wire)||Prices vary depending on location and type of fencing|
You also need to figure in the cost of running water lines and electricity to your barn or water lines to your pasture/run in shed.
You’ll need a way to transport your horse to the vet’s, to where ever he’ll be living, etc.
Truck: The costs vary. You’ll need something that’s able to safely pull a trailer with your horse inside. This means that you cannot use most SUVs, all small pick up trucks, cars, and vans – they don’t have the ability to tow and even more importantly stop a loaded horse trailer. You may find a well-used towing vehicle for a few thousands dollars – or you could spend up to $50,000 on a new truck.
Trailer: Again, the costs vary. You may find a safe trailer for $750-$1000 or you may spend up to $100,000 for a custom horse trailer with a tack room and living quarters. When looking at used horse trailers, remember to put your horse’s safety first. Make sure the trailer is road worthy with good tires and brakes. And check to make sure the floor is strong – weak spots in the floor can break open as you are driving down the road, causing your horse to fall through the trailer floor and sustain life-ending injuries.
At Home Feed and Care Costs
For people keeping their horses at home, you’ll have the following expenses:
Unless you have exception pasture available (and most people do not), you’ll need to supplement your horse’s diet:
|Hay||$25-75/month or $300-900 per year|
|Grain||$25-75/month or $300-900 per year|
|Mineral Block or Mineral Feed Tub||$10-30 (sizes vary but you will at least have to replace the tub or block 3-4 times/year)|
If you have an older horse or a horse who is working hard, you will need to feed him much more. Hay and grain for an older horse or one who has trouble maintaining weight can easily be $100-$150/month for a total of $1200 – $1800 per year.
If your horse will be spending any time in a stall, he’ll need fresh bedding to keep him comfortable. Bedding costs range from $100/truckload of shavings which may last you months to $4-$8/bag – and you’ll need 4-8 bags/month.
If you don’t have your own place, you’ll have to look into boarding barns or farms. Some places may cost as little as $50/month but require you to provide hay, grain, shavings, etc. while others may cost $300-$500 or more/month and include hay/grain/shavings.
You’ll also need to have farrier work for your horse. The average is every 6-8 weeks. Some horses don’t need shoes, but their feet still need to be trimmed at a cost of $25-$40/visit for a total of $150-$240/year. Other horses need shoes, and these may cost anywhere from $50-$150/visit for a total of $300-$1200. If your horse is lame or develops problems with his feet, he may need more frequent farrier work or the assistance of a specialist which will cost much more.
Vet and Dental Work
Even healthy horses will need to see the veterinarian once/year for annual vaccinations, annual dental work, and a routine check up. Costs associated with this visit:
Vaccinations vary by region. Rabies, tetanus, West Nile Virus, and Encephalitis (Easter, Western, and/or Venezuelan Sleeping Sicknesses depending on your region), and flu/rhino are recommended most places. $75-$150
Dental work: Routine teeth floats may cost between $50-$150. Additional dental work can cost anywhere from $100-$1000 depending on what is needed.
Coggins Test – $25-$50
Check up and farm call or office visit: $25-$75
Your horse will probably get injured or ill at some points – and some horses seem almost accident prone! When this happens, you’ll have to call your vet for an emergency visit (the emergency visit charge may be $50-$100 depending on where you live and when the emergency occurs). Treatment may be simple such as wrapping his foot or hydro’ing an injury (running cold water over the injury site). Or your horse could require expensive surgery.
Your horse will need to be maintained on an appropriate de-worming program. You may decide to feed a daily wormer – this can cost about $15-$30/month. You may decide to worm him every 2-3/months at about $10-$15/worming. Or you may decide to have your vet perform a fecal exam every few months and worm only when needed.
You will also have supplies such as fly spray, shampoo, treats, mane and tail conditioner.
Depending on your horse, you may also need a longe-line, longe whip, fly mask, sheets, blankets, hoods, leg wraps, and splint boots or other protective boots (for the horse).
Unfortunately, euthanasia and disposal are part of horse ownership. Your horse may become ill or injured with no chance or recovery or old age may cause him to slowly fade. Euthanasia costs vary from area to area but may be as low as $50 or as high as $200. Once he’s euthanized, you’ll have to dispose of his body. You may be able to bury him on your property but unless you own a backhoe you’ll have to rent one or hire someone to bury him. Costs vary, but this can run from $100-$400. If you can’t bury him on your property, you’ll need to find a rendering service, pet cemetery, or landfill who will take him. Costs again vary anywhere from $100-$500 for these services. If you choose to have your horse cremated, you may pay as much as $1000-$1500.
In addition to the costs of ownership, keep in mind the time-commitment you are taking on. If your horse is at home or in a self-care/partial-care boarding barn (a barn/pasture where you pay for a stall/pasture space but provide all the care), you’ll have to feed him twice/day, water him twice/day, and clean his stall daily.
When your horse is at home, you’ll spend time on fence, barn/shed, and pasture maintenance.
You’ll also need time to clean your tack (dirty tack can crack or fray – leading to the possibility of an ugly tumble from your horse).
You need to have time to meet the farrier every six to eight weeks and you’ll have to be available for veterinary visits.
Last – don’t forget that horses are a herd animal. Your horse most likely won’t be happy if you bring him home and put him in a pasture alone. This means you’ll need a companion for him. You might consider fostering for a rescue or taking in a boarder if you don’t want to purchase or adopt a second horse.
Horse ownership is a huge commitment – if you have the time and the money, horses are great companions and friends. But it isn’t fair to the horse if you buy or adopt him and cannot afford to care for him or spend time with him.