The Cost Of Keeping A Horse
by Annamaria Tadlock

Before you buy a horse, it's good to know what kind of costs are going to be involved in the long run.

Many horses each year are neglected or auctioned off because their owners can no longer afford to care for them. Before you make the decision to own a horse, educate yourself about the basic costs involved in horse care so you are prepared.

As long as you own a horse, you'll need to be able to afford to care for the horse's upkeep. The initial price of purchasing a horse is quite small compared to the upkeep.

This is to list the minimum costs to keep a horse only, not the initial buying price for the horse, tack, fencing, barn/shed, helmet, horse trailer, truck, or any other expenses that need to be taken care of before you purchase the horse.

Below is a ballpark figure for what basic upkeep costs. Keep in mind that it can vary greatly depending on the local prices, the type of horse you have, the amount of time you ride, etc.

If you have property, you won't need to pay for boarding, and you'll cover all the costs of feeding and cleaning yourself. If you do board, the prices as well as services vary widely. To calculate costs, I'm going to go with the situation where you have the horse on your property and pay for all feed expenses and do all the stall cleaning and care. If you would be boarding, simply find the price your stable would charge per month and calculate it in (subtracting the hay, grain, bedding, or any other prices that might be included in your boarding fees).

Hay & Grain
The cost of hay varies in different areas, but grass hay is generally $3-5 a bale and Alfalfa $12-16 a bale.
The type and amount of feed your horse needs depends on a variety of factors-- the horse's age, size, and activity level. Expect to feed about 1/4 to 1/2 a bale of grass hay per day per horse. You may also choose to feed a flake of alfalfa along with it, or grain. If you have pasture, you may be able to graze the horses part of the year.

Assuming you have an average height, middle aged, healthy horse that is ridden lightly, that eats 1/4-1/2 a bale of grass and no alfalfa; We'll say $18 a week in hay. That's $936/yr.

I have had ponies that will get very fat on anything other than grass hay, and horses that need alfalfa, grains, and supplements just to keep a healthy weight. Older horses generally require more calorie-rich feeds than younger horses and may need a special diet if they have health problems. Your horse may need more food in the winter cold than other times of the year.

Grain costs vary depending on type, but generally about $10-18 for a 50-pound bag. This can last from 1-2 weeks per horse. We'll say $8 a week in grain. That's $416/yr.

- Dewormer
Your horse will need to be dewormed every two months. This can run from about $5 to $20; cheaper brands are sometimes rotated with more expensive; some people deworm more or less often. We'll say $8 every two months. That's $48/yr.

- Yearly Shots
You will need at the minimum a 4-way shot; We give WNV too. We were running about $300/yr for shots for 15 horses, and we gave all shots. If you have a vet visit to give the shots the farm call will cost you additional. It really varies on the vet's costs. We'll say you need the farm visit and the total is $75/yr.

- Farrier
Trimming and shoeing will need to be done on a regular basis, every 6-8 weeks or so. What farriers charge can vary widely; For me it's $35 to trim and $75 to shoe. Assuming you will be doing no corrective or special shoeing, and have 8 visits from the farrier a year, three times trim only and the rest shoes, that's $480/yr.

- Teeth
Your horse will need its teeth floated (rough edges filed down) eventually, and the cost varies. We'll say $150/yr for teeth.

- Injuries/Vet bill
If you have horses, you'll experience injuries. Abcesses, mysterious lameness, colic, and random wounds are all a part of horse ownership. Having a safe facility can lower the risk of injuries, but horses will always find a way! I've been lucky and never had a truly expensive visit, but the costs of farm calls, penecillin, bute, and simple operations do add up. If you don't experience a massive emergency, you'll still likely have the vet out at some point. We'll say you spend $250/yr on health costs.

- Tack
Tack could be counted as a one-time expense, but things do break and there will always be the random piece of equipment you need to buy; maybe a new halter or bit, a flymask or new pad when your horse chews up the old one. Brushes have a way of disappearing, as do hoofpicks. We'll say you don't go buy the latest tack in cool colors but you'll need the occaisional new item so your costs are about $100/yr.

If you're keeping your horse in a stall part of the time, then you'll need shavings. Some climates allow you to keep horses out all year round, or use a run-in shed, but where I"m from stalling is necessary in the winter because of the rain. We buy shavings in bulk, $250 for a truckload, and move it using our tractor. For simplicity we'll say the first time horse owner has one horse and buys it per bag at $4-10/bag, so we'll say $10/wk half the year, totalling $260.

This comes to a total of $2,715 a year per horse, as a very rough estimate. Keep in mind the cost can quickly escalate if your horse falls sick, your fencing needs to be repaired, you need a new saddle, etc. A new horse owner is likely to need the assistance of a vet to do deworming, shots, or other routine care. The cost of learning to ride-- lessons, training, etc.-- was not calculated in this estimate, either.

Having more horses will increase the cost but lower your per-horse cost (vet can do several shots at once, you can buy bedding and dewormers in bulk, etc.), and doing all the shots and deworming yourself reduces costs. A new horse owner is likely to rely on the vet and/or other professionals

If you have a safe environment the likelyhood that your horse will need a vet for injuries will go down, but you cannot prevent every possibility.


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