So you want to buy a horse?
So you're thinking about buying a horse? You have probably been perusing the online ads looking for your dream horse, or perhaps you have already picked out a horse and you're wondering if you should take the plunge and write a check. Maybe you're a non-horsey parent with a horse crazy kid who has just about talked you into buying a pony. Before you dive headfirst into horse ownership, there are a few things to consider.
First, horses are expensive. With the economy in a depressed state, many people are selling horses at prices far below their value. These people simply can't afford to feed or board them anymore and need to find a buyer fast. There are many excellent deals to be had on the horse market! However, a horse who is relatively inexpensive to buy can become a financial headache in a hurry. The basic expenses will be lodging and food. Different barns offer different arrangements ranging from as little as $100 per month to $700 or $800 per month. A cheaper barn will require you to purchase feed and hay for your horse and probably muck your own stall. If you don't mind doing some barn chores, this kind of arrangement will save you a pile of money.
In addition to board, you will also have to pay a farrier to trim your horse's feet or put shoes on him. Some horses can go without shoes; some cannot. If you plan to ride your horse on trails or jump, shoes are most likely necessary. Your horse's hooves are not an area you should cut costs on; a horse with poorly cared for feet is useless!
You also have to consider vet costs. Horses have to be vaccinated once a year against a number of diseases for their own safety and the safety of other horses with whom they come in contact. There is an old saying among horse people that horses spend their lives looking for an expensive way and an inconvenient place to die. This is a clever way of saying that horses are prone to injure themselves in very creative ways! It is a question of when, not if, you have to call the vet for something other than the yearly check-up. Before you buy a horse, you should have some money tucked away in an emergency fund for that unexpected vet bill.
The second thing you should consider before you buy a horse is what exactly you want to do with it. Do you want to be an accomplished rider? Do you want to show? Do you want to trail ride through scenic vistas? Do you simply want to look out on your property and watch your horse graze peacefully? If you want to ride competitively, horse ownership may not be your best option. Once you own a horse, he is yours for good. He is still yours even if he is sick, lame or otherwise unfit for riding. If competition is your dream, you may be better off riding other people's horses. You can take the money you would spend on board, farrier, and vet bills and use it to take lessons. You can ride a variety of horses and gain experiences you wouldn't have if you only ride your own horse.
Finally, before you buy a horse, you have to decide if you want to make a commitment that could last 20 to 30 years. Horses live longer than most dogs and cats and for the last few years of their lives, they are generally not very useful. Horses that have worked hard throughout their lives deserve an easy retirement with plenty of hay, rest and maybe occasionally taking a kid for a ride on the leadline. But you will be footing the bill for this retirement. Keep in mind that old, arthritic horses eat just as much as young, fit horses and often require extra care!
Some people go into horse ownership with the idea that they can always sell the horse if it doesn't work out. Unfortunately this is not always the case. The horse market, much like the house market, is flooded and you may not be able to find a buyer or recoup the price you paid for your horse. Horse rescues are overrun with unwanted horses whose owners simply cannot afford to keep them. This is a sad situation, especially for the horses.
I have given you the warnings; now I want to encourage you. If you have done the math and the expense of horse ownership is feasible for you, then I can tell you that horse ownership is one of the most rewarding experiences you could be lucky enough to have. Every time I go to the barn and my horse greets me with a whinny, all the board bills and vet bills are worth every penny. My horse is my best friend and one of the brightest parts of my life. I plan to own him until the day he dies, and when he is old and I can no longer ride him, I will be happy to watch him graze and think back to all the wonderful memories he gave me. Other than having children, horse ownership is the only thing I've ever done that has exceeded my expectations. It's a friendship and a journey that is worth every penny!