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Costs of Owning a Horse

By: Galadriel Billington

10:28AM Apr 8, 2004

Horses can be wonderful friends. I love having my own horses; we have a great relationship, and I can go see them any time I like. I can ride, I can play with them, I can do whatever. This isn't often possible when you're taking lessons or leasing a horse; you're restricted by the owner's preferences for the horse, or by the stable's schedule. Among other things, having unlimited practice time can greatly improve your riding ability (though it's still important to get regular coaching).

Horse ownership should not be undertaken lightly. Buying a horse can be expensive, but the horse's purchase price is not usually your biggest cost in owning a horse. Taking care of a horse, keeping a horse, feeding and providing for the horse's health, are all expensive.

Horses are delicate creatures. In the "wild," in the environment for which horses evolved, they have the ability to walk miles a day (wear down their hooves); travel to a better place if the food available is not suitable; find water when they need it; move on if the area isn't suitable.

But just because a horse is in a more natural environment doesn't mean he's free and clear. Wild horses still have dental problems, die from colic or illness, and suffer when a foal is not turned right to be born.

We have provided horses with an environment which is very different from the "natural" one. A confined horse requires regular farrier care. A bored, confined horse may sample a weed he would otherwise not touch, and poison himself (poisonous plants). A horse who does not have access to fresh, clean water may just not drink--a dehydrated horse will get very sick. Horses' lives with us are not like the lives for which their bodies are designed. As a result, horses require a great deal of careful management to keep them healthy and safe in a domesticated environment.

I wrote up a rough spreadsheet of what each of my horses costs me in a year. Remember that many of these figures will vary wildly depending on common prices and conditions in your region of the world (for example, while I spend about $5/bale on hay, you can get it much cheaper some places, or it can run you as much as $15/bale in other areas). All these prices are in US$.
table of costs

That doesn't take into account the vet visit when Duchess was sick with something flu-like ($150), or the bills from Katherine's abcess (ended up being about $150 with vet and farrier both working on it).

The spreadsheet also doesn't figure in the costs of supplies: saddle, bridle, saddle pads and girths, halters, lead ropes, buckets for feed and water, and so on. These are usually called "one-time costs," but if you use it up (particularly first aid supplies), or something breaks, wears out, or doesn't fit anymore, it must be replaced.
Here is an approximation of one-time costs, and also an essential first aid kit.

Emergency veterinary expenses can skyrocket. If you can afford major medical insurance for your horse, then when he gets sick you have something to fall back on. But if you don't have insurance, then an expensive vet call can cost as much as you spent on the horse originally. If your horse has to have colic surgery, it can run you $5,000 to $10,000. Some people put away money each month into an "emergency fund" to draw on if the horse has an emergency; some people just wing it and hope nothing bad happens. If your horse has a very expensive problem and you can't afford it, sometimes the only alternative is to put him down. Owning a horse should not be undertaken without full knowledge of the potential dangers.
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2004 Galadriel Billington. All rights reserved.