So, You Want to Buy a Horse
The costs of owning and riding a horse
Since you were little you dreamed of galloping along the beach atop the black stallion. You may have friends who ride or own their own horses, and you're tried of pressing your nose against the window, hoping to fall into the wondrous world of horses. Now you're grown, you have a job, and you're ready to grab mane and go. So what's it going to cost?
When it comes to horse ownership, the equestrians win the "who's sport costs the most" game. I understand every sport has it's costs, but nothing compares to owning a horse.
For the sake of keeping it simple, all costs are approximate. Horse costs do not include highly specialized and trained horses like FEI level, Grand Prix, Rolex, Reigning or other champions.
Usually, but certainly not always, the horse is the cheapest purchase. In this market you can get a decent green broke horse for $3,000- $5,000, maybe even less depending on breed and age. A trained horse can cost from $5,000 to $10,000 depending on breed, age, and experience (excluding FEI level horses, or certain breeds like Warmbloods which can cost from $15,000-$100,000). Before buying your new friend, though, you need to think about the most important part to owning a horse. Where are you going to keep him?
Unlike your cat, dog, fish, bird, or iguana, a horse needs a lot of outdoor space both to live in and work on. If you own acreage, then you need to build a fence. If, like most people, you live in the suburbs or the city, you have to board your horse at a barn.
Horses can live a long time, up to thirty years. If you don't have land of your own, you're looking at a high monthly cost until you no longer have your horse. The cost will vary depending on what part of the country you live in. On the west coast, horse board costs range from $400-$1,000 a month. Different barns include different services in their cost. Typically your board check covers food, lodging, and having a facility to ride in like an arena (indoor, outdoor, and sometimes both). The more costly facilities also include graining, vaccinations, worming, and training. Depending on the place you choose, you're looking at spending $4,800 to $12,000 a year just to keep your horse. And this cost doesn't go away. Unlike a car, it's not paid for in four to six years. It's a constant fee. Barn owners can also raise the board when they need/want.
Horses don't have health insurance. When Thunder has an injury, you can't put him in the back seat like you can your dog. When Thunder gets sick, it's always a big deal and will cost you emotionally and financially. Depending on the sickness or injury, a vet bill can run very high. Unless it's vaccinations, nothing is routine. If you do not have a truck and trailer, or you can't load your horse due to his sickness or injury, the vet has to come to you. That'll cost ya.
Unless you're riding bareback with a halter, you need to buy a saddle, pad, girth or cinch, and bridle.
There are many different types of saddles, with different brands and costs. You can usually get a decent leather saddle for around $2,000. You can also buy saddles used. The good thing about a saddle is, so long as it fits your horse and you take great care of it, it lasts a long time. However horses backs continually change. You may find that the saddle that once fit your horse no longer does and is causing your horse pain. That means you have sell your old saddle and buy a new one. I recommend purchasing a saddle that can be adjusted, like a Reactor Panel. Then you have to buy saddle leathers ($70-$250) and irons ($20-$120). The saddle pad runs anywhere from $20-$100.
A girth or cinch can run anywhere from $70 to $200. Like the saddle, so long as you take good care of it, it can last many years.
The bridle, bit, and reigns are must haves if you want to have an enjoyable ride. Decent bridles range from $200-$600 depending on brand and type (Dressage bridles are very pricey). Bits can be anywhere from $20-$100 or more. Reigns sometimes come included with the bridle.
Apparel (if you're not showing)
If you ride western, you typically just have your boots and maybe a helmet. Boots ($80-$200) Helmet ($50-$150) Gloves ($10-$30)
If you ride English, you probably wear breeches, boots, half chaps, and a helmet.
Breeches with knee patch ($50-$70) Full seat breeches ($90-$200) Paddock boots ($70-$180) Half chaps ($100-$200) Helmet ($50-$150) Gloves ($10-$30)
To keep your horse looking nice and staying healthy, there are a few things to need to do.
Research is starting to show that keeping your horse barefoot is the best way to go, a fact I have witnessed in my own horse, a 10 year old gelding who has never been shod and never been lame. Ever. Keeping the foot free allows it to expand and contract on impact when needed, keeping the leg healthy and preventing injury. This is good for horse owners, as shoeing a horse can be very costly. It's best to have a horse's feet trimmed anywhere from 9 to 12 weeks. A fierier's fee varies, but it's typically in the $30-$50 range for a trimming.
Other riders swear by the shoe. The cost more than doubles when shoeing a horse.
Depending on your disciple, horses are usually trimmed around the feet (unless you own a Friesian), have their manes clipped for a bridle path, and a full body clip for winter if you're hardcore and do heavy riding in winter months. Clippers cost from $150-$400 depending on size and brand. For regular trimming you just need a small clipper. For full body clipping you need the large heavy duty clipper. Many people pay to have their horses clipped for winter and pay a flat fee to whomever is clipping.
No one is a perfect rider. We all need someone on the ground telling us what we're doing wrong, how to improve, and get us ready for a show or just get us ready for our next ride. Lessons for riders can be very pricey ($30-$75 per lesson). A cheaper way to learn is to observe a lesson and pick up tips.
Training your horse is a different matter all together. Whether you decide on natural horsemanship, dressage training, or event training, costs range from $600-$1200 a month.
Here's where the real cost comes in. Chances are you know someone who has a truck and trailer and they may let you borrow it, or you may be able to catch a ride with them when you want to go riding somewhere else, go to a show, or perhaps go on a trail ride (or maybe that beach!). At some point, however, you may want to have independence and get your own rig.
To really get the job done, you need a ¾ ton truck. A half-ton will also work, but your towing capacity is very limited. Most ¾ tons run from $35,000- $48,000 depending on trim and fuel type. A good truck can last a long time and fill many uses other than transporting your horse. If you just have one or two horses, you can get a decent come-along trailer from $4,000-$6,000.
Though the costs of owning a horse are steep, there are many ways to lessen the burden.
1. Owning land is a huge plus. By having acreage for the horse to live on, your only monthly obligation is feed. Cutting the cost of board can save you thousands of dollars a year, making it that much easier to own a horse. But owning property is a cost unto itself.
2. If you buy a lot of your tack used, you can save hundreds of dollars.
3. See if you can borrow a clipper from a friend when you need to trim your horse.
4. When you want to go to a show, offer to pay the gas on the truck and maybe you can borrow it.
5. If you really want to own a horse but money is tight, don't show him. Plenty of riders just have fun and don't worry about competing. There are plenty of low-cost clinics, student-shows, or hunter paces that are a lot cheaper if you want to compete but don't have the bucks for a show.
Having a horse can be extremely rewarding. He is more than a friend, he's a partner. No matter what kind of riding you choose, when you get that perfect ride, it's amazing. Galloping through a field is more fun than should be legal.