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