When I tell people I have a horse, I get a variety of reactions. One of the most perplexing is when people tell me about how they hope to buy a place with some acreage and put a horse or two on it. From my perspective, they are volunteering themselves for a lot of time, money and effort for something they aren’t truly passionate about.
Horses are expensive. Horse ownership is really only for those who truly love horses and will make them part of their everyday life.
Any prospective buyer has to take in all the expenses — including time and effort. Besides the outright monetary costs of hay, grain, water and health care, there’s the investment of feeding, cleaning and other labor — as well as the realization that there’s no more sleeping in.
Choosing instead to board a horse means a smaller time and labor commitment, but the monetary costs will be similar. Even if you board your horse, you should still go do minimal care for it — such as grooming — every day. Board doesn’t always cover all your expenses; you may have to purchase extra hay, grain or other treats for you horse. Board rarely covers veterinarian’s expenses or farrier work.
Here is a sample yearly budget:
Boarding a horse can cost from $100 to $1,000 per month depending on the barn you choose and your location. This covers hay, grain, and stall cleaning.
Here in Fort Collins, board ranges from about $150 to $500 a month. We also have a fairly short pasture season and the pasture is not always of high quality when we have dry summers or too many horses in an area.
Hay: 7 tons per horse per year, if pasture is provided during spring and summer. Hay costs $80 to $250 per ton, for a minimum cost per year of $560
- Grain: 50 pounds per month minimum. Grain costs $15 to $25 per 50-pound sack, for a minimum cost per year of $180.
- Stall cleaning requires a minimum of 30 minutes per day. If you pay the $7.25-per-hour minimum wage, the minimum cost per year would be $1,325.
Board may not include enough hay or grain for your horse if he is a hard-keeper or if pasture is slim. Board sometimes does not include stall cleaning, which you may be expected to do. The more you pay for board, the more services will be covered.
Health care and maintenance
- Farrier $60 to $200 per visit. A farrier typically visits every 6 to 8 weeks for a minimum cost of $360 per year — only if your horse can go barefoot, which is almost impossible for horses which live on rocky ground or which get ridden extensively.
- Vaccines: $60 per year minimum.
- Teeth floating: $100 per time, 1 to 3 times per year.
- Sheath cleaning: $20 to $50.
- Lameness exams: $100 minimum.
- Health certificates: $30 minimum.
- Coggins test: $30 minimum.
- Farm call $30 minimum.
Veterinary costs can be significantly higher if your horse has health or lameness issues, which all horses will have during their lifetime.
Total minimum annual costs for veterinary care would be $2,705 — and that’s if you are keeping your horse at your own place, which means you have added labor and time costs.
Remember, this cost is for just one horse. Horses are herd animals and need to have at least one other horse with which to live.
Remember also that these are merely basic costs of care. To really enjoy having a horse around, many other costs should be considered:
- Halter and lead rope
- Riding clothes
- Protective gear for both horse and rider
- Horse cookies
- Toys for the stall or pasture
- At minimum, the costs of gasoline or other hauling fees
- You may have to purchase a truck and trailer if you want to be able to:
- Go trail riding
- Compete at costly horse shows
- Class fees
- Stall fees
- Vet costs
- Show clothes
- Move your horse to a new barn
Horse ownership is a huge step that should not be taken lightly. These are live animals with many needs. Horses should be under the care of someone experienced and knowledgeable who has the time to really care for the animal.
Enjoy the idyllic scenery of a group of horses grazing in other pastures. Leave the care to professionals.