30 Oct Pros & Cons Of Owning A Horse: From An Actual Horse Owner
Is It Worth It to Own a Horse?
If you are considering taking the plunge into horse ownership, you may have talked with a lot of people who have opinions on the matter. You may have heard things like “the vet bills though!”, or “they are so expensive to feed.” How many of those with strong opinions actually own horses though?
What are the pros and cons of owning a horse? Compared to other pets and livestock, it is true that owning a horse is costly. Boarding fees, grain and feed prices, and routine farrier and vet visits are some of the regular expenses that come with owning a horse. They also require a lot of time and commitment from you. However, to most horse owners the emotional benefits alone are usually worth the cost and time.
There’s a saying that only the rich can afford horses. That is not the truth! I have owned horses for years while staying on a tight budget. Read on to learn more specifics on the pros and cons of owning a horse, so that you can decide for yourself whether the benefits outweigh the downsides.
The Pros Of Owning A Horse
Before we get into the cons of owning a horse, let’s first look at the many benefits.
Pro of Owning a Horse#1: Your Bond With Your Horse
You can’t put a monetary value on the bond you will develop with your horse, and this bond will be highly emotionally rewarding – for both you and your horse. When you climb onto a horse, you are entrusting that horse with your physical wellbeing. Horses are significantly larger and more powerful than their human partners, and a relationship built on trust will give you a much more satisfying experience than a relationship without trust.
This is not only true for the trust you have in your horse, but also in the trust that your horse has in you. If you have your own horse and you dedicate time to properly training and working with him, your horse will develop trust in you as well. This is fundamental in your growth as a rider and your horse’s growth in training.
This benefit is not only an emotional one, but a practical one as well – trusting your horse will allow you the freedom to work with them in a way that you can’t work with a leased horse or a lesson horse.
Looking for ways to bond with your horse? Visit my article Bonding With Your Horse: 8 Simple Tips That Actually Work.
Pro of Owning a Horse#2: You Will Have The Horse You Want
An alternative to purchasing your own horse is taking lessons or even leasing a horse at a local barn. When looking into these alternatives, you are bound by what is available to you locally. You may end up leasing a horse that does not quite measure up to what you were looking for.
When you are looking for your own horse, there are a number of factors you will take into account. The first is what discipline you are looking into. Are you a Western rider, or an English rider? Are you interested in jumping, dressage, or are you looking for an easy-going trail partner? You will also want to consider your level of experience. Are you experienced enough to train, or re-train a horse? Or are you a beginner or a parent of a horse-loving child, looking for a seasoned and dead-broke horse?
When purchasing your own horse, you have the luxury of finding a horse that perfectly matches your lifestyle and what you are looking for. And if you are an experienced rider and willing to take the time to train a horse, you open up your options even further.
Pro of Owning a Horse#3: Consistency In Training
Horses that are leased are often used for lessons or other activities as well. In other words, if you lease a horse you run into the issue of other people taking care of and riding your leased horse. This can lead to inconsistency in training. If you are working with your leased horse in a particular discipline, this work can be undone by an inexperienced rider (or even an experienced rider that uses different tactics than you). This will make it more difficult to attain growth – both as a rider and as a horse.
If you have your own horse, you can ensure that you are the only one riding and training your horse. The only riding cues your horse is getting are your cues and ones that the two of you have worked on together consistently. This will also allow you and your horse to grow together, with more speed and ease than if your horse was being ridden and used for other purposes.
Pro of Owning a Horse#4: Staying Physically Fit
One of the benefits of having your own horse is that riding, working with, and taking care of your horse are all great workouts. Owning your own horse will give you the opportunity to get into shape and keep physically fit.
If you regularly ride horses, you know how much core and leg strength it takes to ride properly. Riding is not a passive sport, but one that engages muscles that are not usually utilized in our normal daily activities. Those who believe that riding consists of simply sitting and slouching in a saddle have never ridden a horse. You can hop on your horse in November with a Winter jacket on, only to throw the jacket over a rail 15 minutes in because you are working up a sweat.
The Cons Of Owning A Horse
Now that we’ve gone over some of the pros of owning a horse, let’s look at a couple of the cons.
Con of Owning a Horse#1: Horses Can Be Expensive
Horses themselves can be an expensive purchase, but that is usually the least of your financial burdens when it comes to owning a horse. The maintenance cost usually quickly overtakes the initial expenses of tack, equipment, and the horse.
Maintenance costs that you will need to take into consideration are feed, boarding fees, farrier bills, and vet bills. It will be helpful to discuss hay costs with those around you that own horses, as the cost of hay can vary greatly depending on your region. You will also need to have a farrier out every 4-8 weeks, whether or not your horse is shod. Even if you are saving some money with a horse that is not shod (shoeing does typically cost more than simply trimming), your horse may end up needing shoes down the road, and you want to ensure you can afford this.
Vet bills are where you will hear the most groaning when people talk about how expensive horses are. Some horses can go 10 years without needing to see a vet, outside of maintenance procedures like vaccines and teeth floating. But if your horse does need to see a vet, you will rarely get by without spending at least a few hundred dollars. Some horses are prone to colic, some may develop infections, and others are simply accident-prone.
Con of Owning a Horse#2: Horses Are A Big Time Commitment
You need to be able to dedicate a lot of time to your horse – from the daily commitments like exercising (whether that be riding, lunging, or walking around), feeding, and grooming; to the maintenance commitment of making vet and farrier appointments and making an order of hay.
Exercising your horse may not seem like a con to you – after all, you likely want to buy a horse so that you can ride. But your horse will still need to be exercised even when you don’t feel like it – for example, when the weather is freezing and you just want to sit inside in front of the fire, your horse still needs to be exercised or turned out.
There is a lot of work that goes into owning a horse besides just riding it. I can’t tell you how many hours I have spent in the car simply driving out to the barn to either take my horse’s winter blanket off or put it on. That being said, keeping your horse at a boarding stable can help alleviate some of these demands, as some boarding stables see to the daily care and maintenance of your horse.
You also need to understand that you are not making this commitment for just a few years. Unless you plan on re-selling your horse shortly after purchasing them, you will need to be able to make this commitment for five, ten, or even twenty years. Horses can live into their 30’s or even 40’s. You will want to have a long-term plan for your horse, including retirement.
Do The Pros Outweigh The Cons?
While the cons are admittedly not minor, you may decide that the pros of owning your own horse vastly outweigh the cons. If so – don’t rush into your purchase; take the time to find the perfect horse for you and your family. If you do, you will surely be rewarded!
To get a complete rundown on what it costs to own a horse, visit my article What Does it Cost to Own a Horse? Complete Expense Guide.
P.S. Save this to your “Horses” board!
I’m a lifelong horse trainer and horseback rider who’s passionate about teaching others about the things I’ve learned. I grew up competing in numerous English horseback riding disciplines and am now a certified equine massage therapist. I currently own three horses.