Ever wondered how much does a horse cost? I hadn’t, and I’ve had horses all my life. Growing up we owned property with a nice barn and a wonderfully sized arena. We boarded a few horses and trained our own for the local level show circuit – all on my mom’s dime.
It wasn’t until my twenties when I purchased my first horse, that I had a real understanding of what a horse costs. I handed over $2000 for the purchase of an ex-racehorse gelding that morphed into a fortune of small (and large) never-ending bills. After the first month, in an attempt to get ahead of the bottomless pit of expenses, I marched my paycheck out to the barn and fed it to him straight… only kidding, he didn’t actually eat it. Instead, he snubbed his nose at my puny check and asked for fancier feed…
How Much Does a Horse Cost: There’s No Such Thing as a Free
So, after that rude awakening, I put together a list of what exactly a horse costs. I’ve broken it down by monthly costs, as well as annual costs and emergency needs. First, we need to discuss the difference between a free horse, a $1000 horse, a $5000 horse, and a horse in or well over the ten thousand dollar mark.
Horses selling in the $10,000+ market are often not for first-time horse owners, and if they are, they are usually with elite show barns or working with top of the line trainers. These horses are high-end athletes and see far less impact on their price, or sell-ability when the market drops compared to lower-priced horses.
Most local show circuit and casual riders purchase horses below the $10,000 mark, and that’s what this article targets. Ponies and grade- or unregistered- horses tend to be your cheapest option, running anywhere from free to $2000.
Registered horses with no training, or horses with trail training run in the $2,000- $6,000 range. Horses with local show training and your larger warmblood types can run $4,000 upwards, depending on their level of training and experience.
So does the monthly, or yearly cost differs from a free horse to a $5,000 horse? Sure does! But only if you want it too. You can make that free pony cost $10,000 a year. And the horse you forked over $9,000 for, can live a lovely life on $300 a month. Let’s break it down…
How Much Does a Horse Cost: Monthly Costs of Owning One
They eat. A LOT. You should budget for your horse to eat 1.5% of their body weight every day in hay. Hay can cost anywhere from $4 -$15 a bale, and the average horse goes through 1/2 a bale a day.
Horses can eat 3-10-pounds of grain every day, depending on their nutritional needs, as well as the quality of hay they are eating. Grain can cost $6-$30 for a 40-pound bag.
Supplements are not required to keep your horse alive and kicking – yea, actually kicking – but they are often used to cover deficiencies in your feed, or to boost horses with issues in their hooves, airways, and everything else you can imagine. They can range from 10 cents to $4 a day, or even higher. Supplements can add up QUICKLY, And there are A LOT of false claims out there. So do your research, and only buy what is truly needed for your horse.
On that note- what goes in, must come out. Manure management can be costly- but only if you own your own property. Since most first-time horse owners board their horses, myself included, I’ve looked into the cost of board instead.
Cost to Board a Horse
What’s covered in board changes depending on each individual barn. The self-care board almost always covers manure management, provides a stall, water, electricity, and some form of turnout. Owners are usually responsible for providing feed and hay, bedding, buckets, and all the manual labor involved in caring for the horse. These barns can run from $50 a month, up to $400, depending on the facility.
Full care barns can cover every single need your horse requires, and range from $200 to $1000 and above. I’m currently switching my horse from a self-care facility, where I provide everything and they provide a stall, over to a full care training facility. At my self-care location, I pay $160 inboard, but the rest of her feed and care costs run me around $480 a month. The barn I’m relocating to starts their lowest training package at $1025 a month- that’s over twice what I’m paying now, eek!
Bi-Monthly, and Annual Costs of Owning a Horse
Horses require trims every six to eight weeks. A trim can range from $30-$100 dollars. A fully shod horse ranges from $80-200, and if your horse requires special shoes, you can go upwards of $400 for a single farrier visit.
Veterinarians are now recommending horses be dewormed two times a year, costing on average $40 annually.
Once a year you’ll need to schedule a health workup on your horse. Horses require dental work annually, as well as their vaccinations. Depending on your barn, or your traveling agenda, you may also need a Coggins and a health certificate.
Dental work averages between $100-$200. Vaccinations can be as low as $60 if you do them yourself, or over $200 with the vet administering. The cost of vaccinations depends heavily on what shots your horse requires. You can expect a Coggins and health certificate to be no less than $50, per exam.
Speaking of your veterinarian… if your horse is anything like mine, he will start an immediate and unashamed affair with your vet, (some of you know what I’m talking about…) It’s hard to budget for emergency services, such as colic, those surprise injuries, or sudden lamenesses that need the vet’s attention. But you can be sure that these expenses will add up, fast.
So, how do you budget for an emergency? I’ve had a lot of success with this simple old school trick. I tuck away $50-300 a month for emergency services, whatever my budget allows. If my horse doesn’t use it that month, it collects up in a separate account, allowing me not to feel the pinch when a real emergency does happen.
The Bottomless Pit…
You’ve got your horse home, fed, vetted-up, and you’re ready to go! Right? Well… not if you want to actually RIDE your horse. Tack can be crazy expensive, and easy to get carried away with. A saddle, saddle pad, bridle, girth, personal riding attire, and a helmet are just the basics.
Buying all these items used can save you a lot of money, but it will still cost you at least $600, on the low end. Buying new (high quality,) gear? Better write that check for well over $5,000. At this point in my horse career, my tack has cost me WAY more than my initial horse purchase.
Don’t Be Discouraged!
Just because you don’t live on millionaires row, doesn’t mean you can’t afford a horse. There are a thousand different ways to own, on many ranges of income. But it is smart to plan ahead, and budget appropriately. Horses come with a whole host of known expenses, and a good dose of unknown expenses as well. Planning for each can make horse ownership more rewarding than anything else.
Did we miss something? Let us know! Comment below on the biggest expenses you have with horse ownership, and tell us how you budget to keep your horses happy, healthy, and keep you from eating ramen noodles every night.