Can I Afford to Be a Horseback Rider?

Before you decide to get involved with a sport, it’s important to know the financial aspects that the sport requires. If you’re thinking about getting into horseback riding, you’ve probably heard that it requires a big financial commitment. In this article, I want to discuss exactly what that commitment looks like for anyone interested in getting into horseback riding.

So, is horseback riding expensive? My short answer is yes; from paying for riding lessons and competition fees to spitting out money for the upkeep of a horse, the average amount people spend on horseback riding is $4,000/yr.

Having an idea of some of the expenses that come with horseback riding can help prepare you for what to expect. For a complete financial breakdown of horseback riding expenses, check out our article What Does it Cost to Own a Horse: Complete Expense Guide.

I’ve made a list of some of the common expenses a horseback rider will have to pay throughout the year:

Common Expenses of a Horseback Rider

* Keep in mind that this list reflects the expenses of a horseback rider that owns a horse and must pay to keep the horse at a boarding stable.

Believe it or not, but your initial investment to buy your horse probably won’t be your biggest expense. It’s not buying a horse that makes horseback riding expensive, it’s the upkeep of the horse that makes horseback riding expensive.

Below is a list I organized with the potentially biggest expenses being at the top and the smaller expenses at the bottom.

Shows, Events, and Lessons

If you plan on competing regularly, competition fees can easily become your biggest expense. While these fees tend to vary greatly depending on the competition, instructor, facility, and distance, here’s a list of the fees you can expect when competing with your horse:

  • travel fees: Many times, you’ll have to pay to trailer your horse to competitions. Even if you have your own trailer, you’ll still have gas to cover.
  • accommodations for you and your horse: many times, you’ll have to pay a stall fee to keep your horse on the showgrounds and find yourself a hotel room to stay the night in.
  • class fees: each class you compete in at a horse show requires a “class fee,” or a fee you have to pay in order to compete in that show. These fees can vary greatly in price depending on the competition.
  • coaching fee: a coaching fee is a fee you pay to your instructor to get instruction and direction during the competition
  • meals: during a horse show, you may have to rely on vendors for your 3 meals a day. This can stack up quickly.


If you plan on competing as much as possible, these expenses can rack up fast. Luckily, it’s usually easy to figure your horse show budget. Many competitions will post class fees and accommodation fees ahead of time so you can see what prices will be included.

If you don’t plan on attending equestrian events that much, then this isn’t an expense to worry about too much.


If you have to keep your horse at a boarding stable, your boarding fees will easily become one of your biggest expenses. This is a monthly expense that can range in pricing depending on the type of boarding you choose. Here’s a list of the most popular boarding options:

  • Full-Board: This is usually the most expensive option for boarding, but also the most popular. With full-board, your horse should be provided a stall and turn-out. The stable staff will take care of the daily needs of your horse, like feeding, mucking the stall, blanketing, and turning-out.
  • Pasture Board: This is a boarding option that can be cheaper than full-board. With pasture board, your horse will live out in a pasture 24/7, but the barn staff will still usually see to the horse’s daily needs.
  • Self-Care Board: This is the cheapest boarding option for someone on a budget. With this option, your horse may get a stall or live out on pasture 24/7, but it is up to you to see to your horse’s daily needs. You’re basically just paying the landowner to keep the horse on their land, but that’s it.


Not every stable will offer every boarding option, so it’s important to know the option you’d like and find a stable that offers it. When it comes to choosing a boarding stable, it’s important to choose one that meets the need of you and your horse. Check out our article Choosing a Boarding Stable Your Horse Will Love.

Vet Bills

The annual amount you spend on vet bills can vary greatly, depending on how healthy your horse is throughout the year. Sometimes horses will randomly get injured or sick, which can definitely increase your annual vet bill expense. Because of this, it can be hard to budget for this specific expense.

There are a few vet expenses you can expect throughout the year. Horses need regular check-ups and procedures to keep them healthy. Here’s a list of the vet expenses you can expect throughout the year:

  • Vet Call: A vet call is a fee you’ll pay for the vet to travel to your stable. The price will depend on how far the vet’s office is from the farm. To save on money, find a vet that’s located close to your stable.
  • Vaccines: Horses need annual and bi-annual vaccines to keep them safe from certain equine illnesses. You can save money on these vaccines by giving them to your horse yourself.
  • Coggins: In order to board your horse, travel, or attend a competition or event, you’ll need proof of a negative Coggins test. These tests are taken annually to make sure that your horse doesn’t have the contagious Equine Infectious Anemia.
  • Teeth Floating: The way horses choose their food causes their teeth to develop sharp edges. These edges can cause the horse to get abrasions and ulcers in their mouth. To avoid this, your horse will need their teeth floated, or filed down, at least once a year.
  • General Health Exam: Horses should get a general health exam at least once a year. The vet will take the horse’s vital signs and measurements to make sure that your horse is healthy.


There are other medical expenses to be aware of for your horse that may not require the vet. You can deworm your horse by yourself, which usually needs to be done twice a year. You should also keep different ointments, wraps, and remedies on hand in case your horse has a minor injury you can treat.


Another regular expense you should prepare for is the farrier bill. A farrier is a skilled tradesman who works on your horse’s hooves. Your horse’s feet need to be trimmed or shod every 4 – 8 weeks, depending on the terrain where your horse lives, the weather, and your horse’s conformation.

There are a few different expenses to be aware of when the farrier comes to visit. The price of your farrier expense will determine the type of attention your horse’s hooves need:

  • Trimming: Every horse needs to have their hooves trimmed regularly, but that’s the only attention some horses need. These horses can go barefoot, without shoes, due to the conformation and strength of their feet. A standard trimming fee is usually cheaper than your horse being shod.
  • Shoeing: Some horses get shoes put on their feet in order to provide support and protection. The price to have your horse shod can vary depending on if your horse is getting shoes on all four feet or not, the type of material used for the shoe, and the way the shoe is put on the horse’s foot.
  • Corrective Shoeing: Corrective shoeing is used to correct your horse’s conformation. A corrective shoeing rate can be more expensive as it is a more specialized service.


You’ll be seeing a lot of your farrier throughout the year, so make sure you find one you like. To learn more about how to schedule your horse’s farrier, check out our article Horse’s Feet Trim Frequency: Easy Guide.


What you spend annually on feed for your horse will depend on what specific dietary needs your horse has. Many horses can keep a healthy weight simply by staying out on a pasture that has adequate forage while others need the concentrated nutrients grain offers to help them stay a healthy weight.

Here’s a list of some of the feed expenses that you may need to be aware of:

  • Hay: Hay acts as a replacement for forage when pastures don’t have sufficient grass or when your horse is in a stall. Horses are used to grazing continuously, so providing hay is important in times where your horse can’t graze. Many boarding stables provide hay in their boarding charge, but some do not. Buy hay in the summer for cheaper rates compared to the winter when hay is in high demand.
  • Grain: Horses should only be fed grain if there are certain nutrients they are lacking or if they’re not keeping weight off of adequate forage. Grain varies in price, but higher quality grain with more nutrients and minerals will be at a higher price.
  • Supplements: Supplements provide highly concentrated nutrients and minerals to correct deficiencies and imbalances in your horse’s body. These powders can be very expensive as they are used to target specific things about your horse’s health. If you’re on a budget, research natural supplements like apple cider vinegar, flaxseed, and essential oils which you can buy much cheaper.


If you need help determining what feed your horse’s need, ask a veterinarian. They can advise you in providing a balanced and natural diet for your horse.


In order to horseback ride, you need tack! Luckily, if you take good care of each piece of tack, it should last a while. Here’s a list of some of the tack pieces you may need:

  • Bridle
  • Bit
  • Saddle
  • Stirrups
  • Saddle Pad
  • Girth
  • Halter
  • Lead Rope
  • Martingale
  • Breastplate
  • Crupper


The great thing about tack is that you can find used items for some great deals. (I only buy used tack 😉) Just make sure you have your horse’s measurements before you decide on purchasing an item. If you want to learn how to measure your horse for a saddle, check out our article Measuring a Horse Saddle: Everything You Need to Know.

Both ends of the annual financial commitment spectrum can fluctuate depending on certain variables. As of 2018, my annual expense for my horse was only about $2,500. I was able to spend much less because my horse didn’t have any serious health issues and I kept extracurricular activities to a minimum.

My horse is an easy keeper and doesn’t need grain to keep his weight. I also choose a self-care boarding option which is often much cheaper than a full-board or pasture board option.

If you want to get into horseback riding or purchase a horse but you’re concerned about budgeting, check out our article 16 Tips for Owning a Horse On a Budget.

P.S. Save this article to your Horse Care Pinterest Board!

How Much Does Horseback Riding Cost

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My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

Thank you for reading, and happy trails!

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