Before purchasing your first horse, it is important to understand the entire financial commitment this entails. Many people overlook the monthly and annual costs it takes to responsibly own a horse.
According to many experienced horse owners, owning a horse costs $215 – $375 a month or $2,580 – $4,500 annually. These expenses include feed, tack, barn supplies, vet bills, shoeing, riding lessons, shows and boarding. That averages out to $295 in monthly expenses for a single horse. Adding additional horses increases monthly costs by about $200 each.
Horse ownership is a wonderful experience. So let’s go over the financial side of owning a horse so you know what to expect and can plan accordingly.
Unavoidable costs of owning a horse
Buying a horse is the easiest step. Once you commit to owing a horse, the daily feeding and care begins.
There are basic requirements that go along with responsible horse ownership. The following chart summarizes the essential things required to keep your horse happy and healthy on your own property.
If keeping a horse in your own yard isn’t an option, you will have to pay for boarding. The more services a stable provides, the higher the cost. Monthly boarding fees usually range from $100 – $700. Budget an additional $1,200 – $8,400 a year if you plan on boarding your horse.
|Hay||$80 – $100||$960 – $1,200|
|Grain||$30 – $50||$360 – $600|
|Water||$3 – $10||$36 – $120|
|Farrier Fees||$40 – $90 (every 2 months)||$240 – $540|
|Vet Bills||$19 – $55 (usually paid annually)||$225 – $660|
|TOTALS:||$152 – $260||$1,821 – $3,120|
Let’s go over each expense category in a little bit more detail and see what makes up each cost.
Feed – Hay, Grain, Water
Horses are large animals that require a lot of food. They can eat 2-3% of their body weight everyday. The bulk of a horse’s diet is hay. Most horses are given hay even if they have access to pasture grass. The type of hay, cut grade and weight of the bales determines the price. Typically, you can expect to pay $13 – $16 per bale at your local feed store. If you have space to store large amount of hay, you can save a lot of money by buying in bulk. This usually drops the price to $8 – $10 a bale. You just have to pay more upfront for the larger supply.
Healthy adult horses that receive plenty of fresh grass and hay do not require gain. However, certain horses do benefit from additional supplements. These include horses that are heavily worked or exercised often, brood mares and horses that need help maintaining weight like the young, old or sick.
Grain is typically sold in 40 to 50 pound bags and if you give two 1 liter scoops per day, one bag will last about 3 weeks. Horse specific brands cost about $25 a bag. You can save money by feeding a barnyard buffet style grain which is intended for multiple farm animals, not just horses. These brands will cost about $15 a bag.
Supplying fresh, clean water for your horse is a no brainer. This includes water for drinking, cleaning equipment and horse bathing. And it is by far the cheapest requirement. Water companies charge either per gallon or per CCF where 1 CCF = 748 gallons. If you use less than 748 gallons per month, which you probably will for one horse, expect to add $3 – $10 onto your monthly water bill.
Hoof maintenance is extremely important, regardless of the activities your horse participates in. Idle pasture horses do not require as much shoeing work as a show horse but they still need basic trimming.
Horse hooves grow continually and if left untrimmed they can splay out, crack and even curl causing great pain to your horse and even prevent them from walking properly.
Budget for horse shoeing every 2 months. Basic trimming on unshod horses ranges from $40 – $75. If your horse wears shoes, expect to pay $60 – $90 for a farrier session. If your horse requires corrective work, which is determined by your farrier, plan to pay more for specialty shoes and more frequent sessions until the problem is fixed. This can cost upwards of $120 depending on the issue.
Annual checkups that include vaccinations and deworming is necessary for your horse’s overall health. This is especially important if your horse is around other horses. You don’t want him to either spread or contract harmful or potentially deadly diseases. Veterinarian fees vary so budget for at least $130 – $360 annually to cover the farm visit, hourly rate, physical exam, vaccines, dewormer fees.
Teeth floating is also necessary for most horses at least once in their lifetime. Some horses require it annually. Floating is the process of snipping and filing down horse teeth. It’s essentially dental work for your horse! Horse teeth continually grow and can develop sharp ridges and even long points that make chewing grass and hay difficult. Teeth floating costs $75 – $200 if sedation is required to make your horse compliant.
Another important annual check for your horse is a Coggins Test which costs $20 – $100. This is a simple blood test that determines if your horse is positive for Equine Infectious Anemia. This is a highly contagious virus with a death rate of 30-70% as there is no cure. In order to participate in most shows and events, you must provide proof of a recent negative Coggins Test. Some stables also require this test before they will allow you to board your horse.
Tack and Riding Costs
Now comes the cost of the fun stuff! Tack, grooming supplies, riding clothes, barn supplies, riding lessons, show/event fees and don’t forget the horse trailer.
After your chores are done, you are going to want to groom and ride your horse. Take a look at the table below to get an overview of these additional costs of owning a horse.
|Expense||One Time Cost|
|Barn Supplies||$300 – $500|
|Grooming Supplies||$100 – $250|
|Tack||$450 – $2,000|
|Riding Lessons||$60 – $100 (per lesson)|
|Show/Event Fees||$50 – $200 (each event)|
|Two Horse Trailer||$8,000 – $15,000 (new)|
Horse related barn supplies are unique and make chores that much easier. At a minimum, you will need the following:
- Muck fork
- Feed bucket
- Hay rack
- Water trough
- Garden hose
- Hay hooks
- Rubber boots
I’ve spent hours upon hours grooming my horses and I can tell you that it is therapeutic for both you and your horse. If you are a minimalist, you can get the job done with these 4 brushes: blunt tooth comb, dandy brush, soft body brush and a hoof pick. However, having a fun variety of brushes makes spending time grooming your horse much more enjoyable.
Brushes run from $5 – $20 each. A dedicated grooming tote to store your brushes will cost $15 – $40 depending on the style you choose. I’ve had my heavy duty Duratote for years and recommend it to everyone. It’s easy to wipe out, holds every imaginable brush and fits perfectly over wood fence boards and rails.
If you want your horse to be the best looking mount in the neighborhood, on the trail or at the show, don’t forget shampoo, conditioner, tail detangler, showsheen, hoof conditioners and fly spray!
Putting together a collection of tack for your favorite riding discipline(s) is often never ending. Just browse your local tack store and you will see what I mean. There are endless colors and styles to choose from so creating that perfect fit and unique look for your horse can take some time and experimentation.
The basic tack setup for any riding discipline will include a bridle, bit, reins, saddle pad, cinch and saddle. These are the bare bones needed to direct your horse and keep you on his back (unless you want to ride bareback). Be ready to spend $450 – $1,000 for the basics.
Of course, you can get into the nitty gritty of breast collars, specialty stirrups, back cinches, half pads, tie downs, cruppers, running martingales, bell boots, etc… Add another $500 – $1,000 dollars for this list.
Riding clothes can be as simple or fancy as you like. If you are riding for fun or work, wear what is comfortable. If you are participating is specific events, you will want to wear traditional clothing to match. Western riders often wear jeans, chaps and a button down shirt while English disciplines prefer riding boots, jodhpurs, polo style shirts and coats. Be ready to spend several hundred dollars to look the part.
Riding Lessons, Shows and Events
If you want to perfect your riding skills and see how you stack up against others, then you will need to take riding lessons and participate in horse shows. Riding lessons typically cost $60 – $100 an hour. If you are training once a week that will cost $240 – $400 a month. If you train twice a week, double those costs to $480 – $800. This article can help you decide if riding lessons are really worth the money.
Entry fees for shows and western events such as barrel racing and cattle roping depends on how much it costs to put on the show. The more riders that participate, the less they charge to cover setup expenses. On average, expect to pay $50 – $200 per class. However, there are many more fees associated with horse show circuits. A 2 month show season can cost many thousands of dollars to participate. If you are truly interested in showing, investigate those shows specifically to get a better ball park price for all required expenses.
We can’t forget the horse trailer that you are going to need to transport your horse to all the shows, events and trail rides! The cheapest option is to borrow a horse trailer from someone you know. The next best option is to buy a good, used horse trailer. You will save thousands of dollars buying used instead of new.
A brand new, 2-horse, bumper pull trailer will cost $8,000 – $30,000 depending on the brand and features. If you can’t buy one outright, a 5 year loan with 2% interest, will cost $180 – $500 a month.
Check out this article where I compiled the actual costs of the most popular horse trailers on the market today.
The costs of owning a horse are not black and white. Unforeseen things do happen and they are often more expensive than preplanned purchases. Here’s a quick list of unexpected things that might happen while owning a horse.
- Significant injury or illness. Vet bills quickly add up to thousands of dollars when your horse gets really hurt or sick. And believe me, it’s amazing what a horse can do to itself in an empty pasture with no visible dangers.
- Fence or barn repair. Natural disasters including wind, snow, ice and water can destroy your property. A damaged fence or barn must be repaired before your horse can be turned loose again.
- Broken tack or barn supplies. Routine use of all equipment leads to eventual failure. Have some cash set aside to buy a new manure fork when the tines break off or a new riding helmet when you drop yours too many times and it cracks.
- Your horse dies or needs to be euthanized. This is probably the most shocking and least thought of expense when owning a horse. Horse disposal costs $300 – $2,000 depending on which method you choose. I’ve written a comprehensive article that covers all the details and costs you need to know about when it comes to disposing of a dead horse.
How much does it cost to buy a horse
The initial purchase price of your horse also needs to be accounted for in the total cost of owning a horse. The cost of a horse ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars with the average being $2,500 – $5,000 for the most common breeds. Check out my article on horses for every budget if you haven’t bought your horse yet. It will help narrow down the search for your perfect horse.
We’ve covered all the costs that go into maintaining and owning a horse. As you can see, the list is quite extensive. However, don’t let that scare you away from owning a horse of your own.
The bare minimum it takes to care for a horse is only a couple thousand dollars a year. Break that up into monthly expenses and it is completely doable. Everything else is extra. Remember, you don’t have to purchase all your supplies at once. Save up and slowly add to your collection. Besides, shopping for horse tack and gear is half the fun!