How Much Does a Horse Cost? True Horse Costs Revealed!

Last Updated on February 27, 2023

How much does a horse cost to buy? And how much does it cost to keep a horse? Owning a horse can be an expensive business, with many hidden costs! Let’s find out everything you need to know about the cost of buying and keeping a horse, and help you figure out whether horse ownership is an affordable option for you.

I’ve had horses all my life, and when I was 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, 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

The horse’s breed, pedigree, training, and show record can all factor into how much the horse will cost. On average, horse prices in the USA tend to be two to three thousand dollars, for an average riding horse.

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.

How Much Does a Horse Cost: There’s No Such Thing as a Free

How much is a trained horse?

The most expensive horses are those that are trained to an exceptionally high standard or those that show promising levels of talent in a particular equestrian sport. This group includes horses such as elite dressage horses and young racehorses with a prize-winning pedigree.

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.

The time spent training a horse is often reflected in the price tag it commands. Training a horse is an expensive and time-consuming business, and horses trained to a high level will be very expensive indeed.

It is not uncommon to find untrained horses for sale at a high price, and this is normally due to their pedigree. For example, if a foal is sired by a stallion that is a champion racehorse, it will attract a very high price. These horses are often referred to as unproven, as it is a gamble whether they will fulfill their potential or not.

How much does a riding horse cost?

Further down the price scale, we have a group of horses that may not be able to achieve impressive athletic feats but can still participate in a wide range of riding activities. These horses are often referred to as ‘good all-rounders’, as they can perform relatively well in many equestrian sports at a local level.

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. 

After you buy a horse, there are still many expenses you have to pay afterward. To be healthy and happy, horses will require a healthy diet, and regular visits from the farrier, vet, and dentist. In addition, many people will board their horses because they do not have room to keep them on their property.

How Much Does a Horse Cost: Monthly Costs of Owning A Horse

So, how much does a horse cost to keep each month? Well, the answer is …… a lot! However, the cost of keeping a horse is hugely variable, as it will depend on the type of horse you own and where you keep it. A horse that lives out all year round in a paddock that you own will be much cheaper to keep than a horse kept in rented barn accommodation.

To help you figure out a budget for keeping a horse, we’ve broken down each of these costs to understand exactly what is involved. This will help you to calculate how much it will cost to feed and house your horse each month.

Cost Of Food

They eat. A LOT.  You should budget for your horse to eat 1.5% of their body weight every day in the 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.

How Much Does a Horse Cost: Monthly Costs of Owning One

Cost Of Supplements

Supplements are not always essential 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 the board instead.

Cost To Board a Horse

Boarding your horse at a public or private stable is a practical option for many people. Most boarding barns will provide care for your horse. They will feed them, clean their stalls, turn them out, and make sure they are in good health.

The average cost of boarding a horse is generally between $400-$700 a month. This often includes the cost of food, shavings, a stall, turnout, and deworming. Many boarding barns also offer training options with the board, which typically costs $500-$1,000 a month.

What’s covered in the board changes depending on each individual barn. The self-care board almost always covers manure management and 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!

A pasture board is often a cheaper option than a regular board. Horses will live in a pasture with a run-in shed. This typically costs $100-$400 a month.

If you want to know more details check the following article: Average Cost to Board a Horse

How Much Does it Cost to Maintain a Horse?

As well as providing your horse with food and somewhere to live, there are also routine maintenance costs to take into account. These are essential for all horses, no matter how big or small, and no matter what they are used for. So, even a pet pony that lives in a paddock near your house will incur a considerable amount of maintenance costs!

Let’s take a look at some of the most common maintenance costs to factor in when calculating how much it costs to keep a horse:

Cost Of Farrier Visits

Horses need to have their feet trimmed every four to six weeks to keep them healthy. The price for just a trim usually costs between $30-$100. 

However, the cost for a horse with shoes is usually around $80-$200 a visit, and if your horse requires special shoes, you can go upwards of $400 for a single farrier visit. The type of shoes and any special adjustments can affect the price of the services.

Cost Of Veterinarian Visits

The cost of veterinarian visits can range widely based on your horse’s needs. Some vet visits, if the situation is serious, can cost several thousand dollars. Fortunately, most of the time you don’t have to worry about your vet bill being in the thousands if your horse is healthy. 

Most people will spend a few hundred dollars a year on vet costs for their horses. This typically includes check-ups and vaccines. 

Veterinarians are now recommending horses be dewormed two times a year, costing on average $40 annually.

Cost Of Vaccinations

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.

Another option is to take out a comprehensive horse insurance policy that covers veterinary fees. The premiums for horse insurance can be quite pricey, but it will give you the peace of mind that you can cover the costs of any injury or illness your horse may have. This means you will never be in a situation where you have to calculate whether you can afford the very best treatment options for your horse.

Cost Of Horse Dental Care

Dental care is an important part of horse health care. Healthy teeth are vital to every horse’s health. On average, it will cost $150 a year for a horse’s dental care, and it is not something you want to skip doing to save money.

Horses require dental work annually, as well as vaccinations. 

Bi-Monthly, and Annual Costs of Owning a Horse

The Bottomless Pit…

You’ve got your horse home, fed, and vetted up, and you’re ready to go! Right? Well… not if you want to 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. If you are considering buying newer, high-quality gear, you’d 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!

Horses are amazing creatures to own, but they require lots of care and upkeep. Before buying a horse, it is important to know all the proper care they require. Owning a horse is very rewarding, but it is also a big responsibility.

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 a horse, on many ranges of income. But it is smart to plan, 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.

How Much Does a Horse Cost? Average Cost of Owning One. Don’t Be Discouraged!

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, and healthy, and keep you from eating ramen noodles every night.

Read more about How Much Do Horse Trainers Make?


Why are horses so expensive?

Horses are expensive because they require care and maintenance. They need to be fed, groomed, exercised, and protected from hazards. Horses also require veterinary care at a rate of about $400 per year on average, depending on the health of the horse.
The cost of hay and grain can vary greatly, depending on several factors. The cost of keeping a horse is not only dependent on how much it eats, but also on what type of feed you feed it. As in illustration - the average cost of keeping a horse is a bit less than $4,000 per year and the majority of this cost is only for feeding the horse and the essential treatment.

How much are mustang horses?

Mustangs can be purchased for up to $5,000 for a trained horse that is 7 to 10 years old while stallions with impressive show record cost from $3,000 to $15,000. It's also possible to adopt a mustang from the Bureau of Land Management. The adoption fee for a trained horse starts at $125, depending on the age and sex of the animal.
Mustangs have a long history in North America. They were domesticated by Native Americans in the 1800s and are now protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The BLM manages more than 1 million acres of land with wild horses and burros on it.

How much do ponies cost?

The value of the horse or pony depends on a variety of factors, including age, breed, training, conformation, health, temperament, temperament, performance ability, and personality. Even though ponies are smaller than horses, the cost of purchase or upkeep can be the same or even higher than for a horse. Prices normally start at about $1,000 and can go up to more than $30,000. The price of a pony will vary from dealer to dealer, depending on the quality of the animal and the type of pony you're looking for. A less expensive pony may be suitable for a beginner with a small yard. A more expensive pony will likely be suited for a professional trainer or handler.

How much does a stallion cost?

A stallion can cost as much as $25,000 for a good stud. In the US, stud fees are paid by the owner of the horse, while in Europe they are paid by the owner of the mare. The cost of breeding a mare and a stallion can range from $300 to $3,000.
Breeds of horses used as stallions include the Thoroughbred, Arabian, Andalusian, and Quarter Horse. The Arabian horse is the most popular breed used as a stallion. Arabians are also known for their beauty and graceful movement as well as for their stamina and ability to compete at high levels in dressage.

How much does 1 horse cost monthly?

Horse ownership is expensive, but the benefits of owning a horse are also very rewarding. Horse ownership provides a range of benefits, including exercise, social interaction, companionship, a sense of accomplishment, a chance to teach children about responsibility, and the chance to provide an animal that is not the same as a pet.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, the average person who owns a horse spends an average of $1,645 per year on the horse, but this figure does not include the cost of board, training, veterinary care, and other costs. The average annual cost of horse ownership including bedding, feed, training, vet, and other costs is approx. $3,876 per horse. Therefore the average monthly expense ranges from $200 to $325.