16 Tips for Owning a Horse On a Budget

There’s no doubt that owning a horse can be expensive. The average annual expenses can easily add up to over $4,000. It’s a big financial commitment to consider before having a living animal depending on you for care.

If that number intimidates your or dashes your dreams of ever owning a horse, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways you can make owning a horse more affordable. I’ve come up with sixteen tips to help you save money on your horse. I’ve at one point either done or considered all of these tips, so I know they work.

Without further ado, here are 16 tips to owning a horse on a budget:

TIP 1: Choose a Self-Care Boarding Option

Boarding fees usually come out to be the most expensive aspect of owning a horse. Full-care board can range between $300 – $700 a month, and pasture board can be anywhere between $150 – $400 a month. These expenses can quickly add up to thousands of dollars each year.

Self-care board is an option that someone on a budget should consider. Self-care boarding fees run between $100 – $200 a month. This is a much cheaper option that full-care board and even pasture board. Self-care board means that the horse owner is solely responsible for the care of the horse. This means you have to feed, turn-out, muck out, and fill the watering buckets.

At a full-care stable, the barn staff would be responsible for these tasks; however, when you invest in self-care boarding, these will fall on you. This means that you’ll have to be out at the stable at least once every day.

While this may seem overwhelming, many self-care boarders help each other out so if someone can’t make it one day, the others will look after their horse. This boarding option also allows you to spend more time with your horse and build a stronger bond together.

TIP 2: Trade Work for Boarding Costs

If self-care board isn’t an option and your schedule doesn’t allow you to get to the barn every day, talk to your barn manager. They may let you trade work and doing barn chores for reduced board. Not only will this help you to save money, but it will also teach you about all the care and responsibility that goes into running a stable.

If the barn you board at doesn’t need any help, check around. I’m constantly seeing help-wanted ads trading work for board. Try joining local horse groups on social media and posting your availability on there.

TIP 3: Consider a Half-Lease

A half-lease is when someone would either pay you or pay for half of the horse’s expenses in order to lease the horse out for a few days a week. While the idea of sharing your horse with someone else may not appeal to you right away, this option could immediately cut your expenses in half.

If you consider offering your horse for half-lease, set a schedule for the days you want to ride and spend time with your horse and the days that the horse will be offered to the other person. If you can’t get out to the stable every day, this will work great because the days you can’t be there, the horse can be leased out.

TIP 4: Offer Your Horse for Lessons and Shows

Another tip for owning a horse on a budget is to offer your horse to be used for lessons, camps, and shows. There are people constantly looking for horses to ride and there are instructors constantly looking for trust-worthy horses to use. This is a great way to make some money as well as get your horse used to different riders.

Another thing you could do is let someone show your horse is a few classes if they’ll pay for the classes you want to show in. That way, you basically can show for free!

TIP 5: Do Group Lessons Instead of Private

While private lessons do allow you one-on-one attention from your instructor, they do tend to be at a higher rate than a group lesson. If you need to budget for your equine activities, a good way to do this would be to schedule group lessons instead of private lessons. Not only are group lessons cheaper, but its also a great way to make friends and get your horse used to riding with other horses.

TIP 6: Take Off Your Horse’s Shoes… If They Can Handle It

Paying to get your horse shod can cost triple of what a trim would. Some horses need shoes because of tender feet or corrective issues, but if your horse is one that has solid feet, consider ditching the shoes and going with the trim.  This will save you a lot of money when the farrier comes to visit.

TIP 7: Buy Used Tack

Let’s face it; tack is expensive. It can be nerve-wracking trying to find quality tack on a budget. The thing I recommend is to buy used tack. You can find used tack stores everywhere. These tack stores inspect the quality of the saddles, bridles, and girths to ensure that they are still safe to use, and then they sell them at discounted rates. No need to worry about getting a broken piece of tack and no need to worry about spending a ton of money.

TIP 8: Learn Basic Medical Skills

Learning basic medical procedures can potentially save you a lot of money in vet bills. While I will never undermine the importance of contacting your vet, there are times when you can treat your horse at home. 

Administering Vaccines

Many horse owners choose to administer their own vaccines instead of paying for a vet call and inflated vaccine prices. You can purchase vaccines at farm stores or online for half the price you will pay for the vet. Just be sure that you know exactly how to administer the vaccine before trying to do it yourself. There are some complications that can come with administering a vaccine incorrectly.

Treating Common Horse Injuries

There are times when you can common horse injuries instead of having a veterinarian do it. That being said, it’s important to recognize in what situations the vet will need to be called.

for example: If the cut is deep and won’t stop bleeding, then the horse will probably need stitches. With puncture wounds, specifically in the legs, if the horse turns up lame or the wound is near a joint, you should contact a vet as there could be further interior damage.

If you’d like to know more about treating common horse injuries, check out our article: Common Horse Injuries and How To Treat Them.

Knowing Basic Medical Skills

Knowing how to wrap a horse’s leg, create a duct tape boot for abscesses, take a horse’s temperature and pulse, deworm, and check their teeth, mouth, and gums will be able to save you from multiple vet calls. It will also help you in communicating with your vet if you need to ask a question regarding one of these areas. 

TIP 9: Split Vet Calls With Other Boarders

Veterinarians charge a travel fee or a vet call fee on top of any medical bills that may be produced. This vet call fee is what it costs for the vet to travel to your stable. Depending on how far your stable is from the vet’s office will usually determine your vet call fee.

These fees can range anywhere from $35 – $150 depending on where you’re located and whether or not it’s business hours. A way to save money on a vet call is to check to see if any other boarder is in need of the vet. If so, then you can split the vet call fee with the other boarder.

This works great for the annual test, exams, and other services your horse needs. If you want to encourage all the boarders to get on the same rotation, you can save a lot of money splitting the vet call between you.

TIP 10: Buy Hay In The Summer

Hay is a necessity to horses that are stabled and to horses that live out in the field during the winter. When winter rolls around, all the grass dies and the horses are left with nothing to eat. This means that horse owners will have to provide hay for their horses.

If you wait until the winter months to purchase hay, you’ll find that hay prices are much higher at this time of year. People are scrambling to find food for their horses; sellers know that they’ll be willing to pay more. Also, depending on what part of the country you live in, once you hit the later winter months, hay is scarce and prices skyrocket. Not only that, but the majority of the hay left will be bad quality.

Hay is cut in the summer months. This is the best time to stock up on your winter hay supply because sellers have an abundance of it and no one usually thinks to buy hay during the summer when the fields are full of lush grass. Buying early will get you a better price and a better quality of hay.

TIP 11: Buy Seasonal Items in the Off-Season

There are many seasonal items you will need for your horse: blankets, water heaters, coolers, fly masks, fly spray, and fly sheets to name a few. All of these items tend to be more expensive during the season you need them due to greater demand by consumers. Start purchasing your seasonal items during the off-season. The products will be offered at much lower prices at these times of the year.

TIP 12: Watch for Clearance Items on Popular Online Tack Shops

There are a plethora of online tack shops found on the web. Something I love to do is click on the clearance tab at the top of these websites and look through all the marked-down items. You can find ridiculous deals by doing this, and I’ve been able to snag a few decent pairs of riding breeches this way.

TIP 13: Buy Anything Other Than Name-Brand

Like anything in the consumer market, name-brands will sell for much higher prices than off-brand items. You can save yourself a lot of money by steering clear from name-brand tack and horse healthcare items. Off-brands have caught on to fashion trends, so finding something you’re specifically looking for won’t be that hard.

TIP 14: Join Local Online Horse Groups

Joining local online horse groups on social media is a great way to find used tack and horse supplies. Also, you can usually get a great deal because people are simply posting just to get rid of stuff. These groups are great places to ask questions for horse advice, so maybe post a question seeing how you can budget better for your horse!

That being said, always do our due diligence on who you’re buying from and make sure you take someone along if you go to pick something up or meet someone somewhere.

TIP 15: Properly Care and Maintain Tack and Supplies

Properly caring for your tack and supplies can make them have a much longer lifespan. Leather saddles can last a lifetime if you take care of them. You can clean and oil you saddle regularly to keep the leather elastic. 

Also, make sure that you always properly store your saddle. Storing your saddle incorrectly can wear and strain the foundation and tree of the saddle. To properly store your saddle, make sure you place it on a saddle rack.

Wash blankets and saddle pads regularly and wash out buckets when needed. Not only is properly caring for your things about ensuring its longevity, but it’s also about being a good steward.

TIP 16: Study Alternatives and Natural Remedies

Knowing alternatives to name-brand horse products can be helpful to those on a budget. Horse shampoos, wound spray, and antiseptics can tend to run on the more expensive side. If you want to save money, being aware of other options will be the way to go.

For example, instead of buying the name-brand horse shampoo, you can use baby shampoo or even Ajax dish soap. (I know, I know; a little extreme.) Instead of paying more money on thrush-treating products, you can use an iodine solution that can be purchased for $7 at Walmart.

Using alternatives or natural remedies is not only cheaper, but it also offers options that don’t include harmful side effects or chemical imbalances.

If you want to know more about natural remedies for horses that actually work, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Get A Horse For Cheap?

If you’re looking to purchase a more inexpensive horse, you may have to be willing to buy an untrained horse. There are some pretty good deals, but that means you have to have the skill, knowledge, and time to train the animal.

Another option would be to get a horse from a rescue or a kill lot. You can find diamonds in the rough at these places. I’ve seen many well-trained registered horses end up on the kill lots for whatever reason, and it’s very sad. This is a great opportunity to not only save money but also save a life. There are kill lots all over the country where you can go and rescue horses before they ship to slaughter.

Do You Have to be Rich to Own a Horse?

You do not have to be rich to own a horse. When I was eighteen, I moved away from home and got a full-time job to pay for school. If you want to know what my financial situation was, I’ll just say I had to eat ramen noodles every day for lunch and dinner. Nonetheless, I bought my horse, Tucker, and through disciplined budgeting, I was able to care for him.

If owning a horse doesn’t seem to be working out for you financially, you can always consider leasing a horse or simply taking lessons. That way, when you are able to afford one of these lovely animals, you’ll have the knowledge and the skill to do it properly.

How Much Does it Cost to Own a Horse?

The annual average cost of owning a horse is $4,000; that being said, it can be done for much cheaper. By sticking to a budget and being disciplined, you can cut this number in half.

Some things to consider when figuring the cost of owning a horse would be the cost of board, feed, vet bills, farrier bills, tack, supplies, and any activities you may be interested in. It’s important to have an idea of what you can and can’t afford before jumping into the world of horse ownership, as there can always be surprise expenses.

If you’re interested in purchasing a horse, check out our article: What Does it Cost to Own a Horse? Complete Expense Guide.