The cost of owning a horse stretches way beyond the initial purchasing price of the animal. Horses require daily care and maintenance, and this can quickly add up to thousands of dollars a year. If you’re interested in getting your first horse, it’s important to know exactly what financial obligation you’re getting yourself into.
What does it cost to own a horse? The average annual amount that horse owners spend to care for their horses is $4,000. Here is a list of things to consider when determining how much it will cost to own a horse:
- Vet Bills
- Shows, Events, & Activities
Before you purchase a horse, its important to research and understand how each of these items will affect the amount of money you spend on your horse each year. Below, I’ve provided the average fees that each list item warrants along with explanations and budgeting.
If you don’t have the luxury of owning your own land, then your other option would be to board your horse at a local stable. Horse boarding is when you pay a monthly rate to keep your horse at someone else’s stable. These stables usually have all the facilities you need to enjoy your time with your horse.
Depending on the boarding stable you choose, there may be different levels of boarding offered. Most stables offer full-care boarding, pasture boarding, and self-care boarding.
Understanding what each boarding level offers will help you to narrow your search in finding the correct stable for you and your horse.
Monthly Average Rates: $300 – $700
When you choose a full-care boarding option, the stable will provide your horse will a stall in the barn as well as a field for turnout. The barn staff will attend to all the daily needs of your horse, which can include: feeding and watering, turn-in and turn-out, blanketing, stall cleaning, and applying fly spray.
Full-care board is a good option if you would like a stall for your horse and if you can’t make it out every day to attend to your horse. These boarding stables will also usually schedule farrier and vet visits so you don’t have to worry about that either.
Monthly Average Rates: $150 – $400
Pasture board is when you pay a stable to keep your horse is one of their pastures. This means that the horse will be out in the field 24/7. When you pay pasture board, the barn staff will still cater to your horse’s daily needs.
Barn staff will check the herd for any injuries, fill the water buckets, blanket, and un-blanket your horse, and feed. Usually, a run-in will be provided so that your horse can escape bad weather or hot days.
Pasture board is a great budget-friendly option. It’s also great for people who don’t like their horse’s stalled all day; being out in the pasture will allow your horse to graze, get exercise, and keep up their circulation. You also don’t have to feel obligated to get to the barn every day because the barn staff is there to take care of your horse.
On the other hand, pasture board may not be the best choice if your horse does not do well in the elements. Yes, a run-in will be provided, but there is usually a pecking order to what horses get to stand under it.
I had a thoroughbred that would shiver and get cold any time it rained. I had to start stalling her because of this; if you have a horse like this, the full-care board may be the better option.
Monthly Average Rates: $100-$200
Self-care board is when you pay a stable to house your horse but you are required to attend to all the daily needs of the animal. This kind of board is pretty much you renting out space for your horse. It’s another budget-friendly option to consider.
Self-care board will offer pasture and sometimes stabling for your horse, but you will be solely responsible for cleaning the stall, turning out your horse, feeding and watering your horse, and blanketing them. This means you’ll have to go out at least once a day to check on your animal.
Self-care board is hard work, but it’s also an opportunity to spend more time with your horse. If you aren’t able to make it out every day but this is the only option you can afford, other self-care boarders usually work together in monitoring each other’s horses.
While most full-care and pasture care stables provide grain and hay for your horse, there are some instances where you will be solely responsible for feeding your horse. This can happen if you are boarding via self-care or if your horse requires specific feed and supplements your boarding stables doesn’t offer.
Horses that keep weight easily don’t usually require grain unless they’re under a heavy training regimen or need certain supplements. This type of horse will save you money in feed bills.
That being said, even if your horse is an easy keeper, they will at least require hay. If they’re stalled for the majority of the day, they will need to be fed hay. The horse’s body is built to be constantly grazing, which a stall doesn’t offer; hence, the need for hay.
Horses will also need hay if they live in the pasture if there isn’t enough grazing land or grass offered to sustain the herd. This is usually seen in the winter months when the vegetation dies away.
Here is a list of feeding options for your horse and what each one costs:
Average Price per 50 Lbz Grain Bag: $15 – $60
Grain offers horses certain proteins and minerals that they can’t get from grass or from grazing. Horse owners will feed grain to help a horse with a vitamin deficiency or to help a horse gain weight. Another reason to feed grain is to get your horse to eat supplements or medicines that they wouldn’t eat otherwise.
The price of grain is always dependent on the quality. More expensive grain bags will have a larger count of minerals and vitamins in it, while cheaper bags won’t. The cheap grain is simply used to fill the horse’s stomach rather than provide health benefits.
Depending on how much grain your horse needs to eat a day will determine how fast you go through a bag of grain. However, if you are having to feed your horse large quantities of grain a day, it’s important to split the amount up over a few feeding times. This reduces the risk of colic that can be caused by overfeeding.
Price per Square Bale: $3-$20
Price per Round Bale: $40 – $120
Horses are supposed to eat up to 1%-2% of their body weight a day via grazing; however, if meeting that quota by grazing isn’t an option, you may have to feed hay. Horses were meant to spend a majority of their day grazing, so providing hay for your horse throughout the day will help replicate this pattern.
Hay usually comes packed in two options: square bales and round bales. The price of hay depends on the quality and the scarcity of it. If you wait until winter to start stocking up on hay, you’re going to spend a lot more on your bales as everyone is scrambling to get the last supplies.
If you stall your horse or trailer them to shows, you’ll want to buy square bales. Square bales break off into flakes, so it makes it easier to put in a hay net or to measure and ration out.
Round bales were intended to feed a herd. These big round bales can keep a number of horses happy for days. This is why they are ideal for the pasture.
When purchasing hay, it’s important that you buy hay cut specifically for horses. The reason for this is because horses can’t digest certain materials like cows and other livestock can. Before choosing a hay provider, check the hay to make sure it’s not filled with weeds, thistles, or foxtail. These can not only damage your horse’s mouth, but it could also hurt their digestive system.
Price per 5 Lbz Bucket: $15 – $70
Supplements usually come in powder or pellet form so that they can be mixed with grain. They offer certain nutrients that can’t be found in grain or in the hay. Horse owners will often give supplements to their horses to help improve physical and mental health. Veterinarians will also recommend supplements for this purpose as well.
Depending on the type and brand of supplement you give your horse depends on the price. Supplements can be found in feed stores and online. I always like to read reviews on certain supplements I’m interested in to see if they’re worth the money. You may want to do this too.
Adult horses require vet attention at least once a year to get a physical exam, get vaccinated, have their teeth checked or floated, and to have a Coggins test run. However, depending on injuries or illnesses your horse may be affected by over the course of the year, you may be seeing the vet more often.
While other injuries and illnesses could easily run your vet bills into thousands of dollars, let’s focus on the necessary routine vet bills you will have to pay.
Rate per Vet Call During Business Hours: $35 – $80
Rate per Vet Call After Hours: $50 – $150
A vet call is when the vet will have to travel to where you keep your horse in order to provide service. Depending on how far they have to travel usually determines how much they’ll charge for the call.
Scheduling a vet visit during business hours will be much cheaper than scheduling on a weekend or after business hours. Fortunately, veterinarians make themselves available around the clock to respond to emergencies, but if I was called at 2 am in the morning to go travel to someone’s farm, I would charge extra too.
If you’d like to avoid paying for a vet call, you can always trailer your horse over to the veterinarian’s office. Just check with your vet first to make sure that they’ll be available when you arrive.
Physical Exam Fee: $60 – $150
A horse should get a physical exam at least once a year to make sure there aren’t any subtle problems that the horse may be living with. The veterinarian will check your horse’s temperature, pulse, and breathing. They’ll determine the horse’s body count on a scale of 1 to 9; 1 being very skinny with no muscles and 9 being obese.
The vet will check other things like the horse’s feet, genitals, ears, eyes, and nose. Depending on the type of physical exam your horse is getting will determine the price. Basic exams will be cheaper than more in-depth exams, which may include X-rays and ultrasounds.
Administering of Vaccines
Administering of Vaccines: $20 – $60
Horses require certain vaccinations once a year in order to stay happy and healthy. Depending on where you are located in the United States may determine what shots your horse needs. Here is a list of some of the vaccines that are usually given:
- Eastern Encephalitis
- Western Encephalitis
- West Nile
Ask a veterinarian what vaccines they recommend for your horse. If you don’t want to pay a vet call or a fee for them to administer the vaccines, you can order vaccines online or buy them from a local farm store. However, before you do this make sure you are well-versed on how to administer a shot to your animal.
Teeth Floating: $75 – $200
Horse’s teeth can get weared down by the way they chew their food. Jagged edges form on the outside ridges of their teeth; this can cause cuts and ulcers to form in their mouth. It’s important to have your horse’s teeth checked at least once a year. Your vet will be able to tell you if they need their teeth floated.
Teeth floating is when the veterinarian will take a rasp or a drill and smooth out the sharp edges that your horse’s teeth have formed. Depending on the horse determines how often the teeth will have to be floated; some horses require it every six months while others can go a few years. Needless to say, before you buy a horse, you should be aware of this service and its cost.
A vet will usually determine the price for the teeth floating depending on how bad the teeth are and how bad your horse misbehaves during the process. Some horses can through a fit having their teeth floated even if they’re sedated. This can make it dangerous for the horse and for the vet.
Coggins Test: $20 – $60
Shows, events, and other horse-related activities will require you to show a negative Coggins test in order to allow your horse into the grounds. Even some boarding stables require that a Coggins test is on file.
A Coggins test will check your horse for any traces of Equine Infectious Anemia. This is a virus where there is no known cure and it can spread rapidly if horses are within close proximity of each other. Since this is an infectious contagious virus, the only option is to put the infected horse down.
A Coggins test should be run every year. Once you get the negative results back, make sure to make copies to keep with you in case it’s ever asked for.
A farrier is a professional who attends to your horse’s hooves. A horse’s hooves grow like a person’s fingernails. Like fingernails, the hooves will have to be trimmed every so often. A horse will need the feet attended to every 4-8 weeks depending on the horse and the time of year.
In the summer, horses require the farrier more often. Stopping their hooves at flies and more moisture in the ground will cause the hooves to wear more quickly. During the winter months, it gets dry and horses are more immobile, meaning that they can go longer without a visit from the farrier.
Farriers usually offer three types of services to horse owners. This would include barefoot trimming, shoeing, and corrective shoeing. Depending on your horse or the type of discipline you’re involved in will determine which service you choose.
Average Price per Visit: $30 – $50
Barefoot trimming refers to a farrier trimming the hoof back to its correct position. This keeps the horse balanced correctly and it ensures that the weight is distributed evenly through the horse’s hooves rather than through other joints in their body.
If your horse is barefoot, that means that it doesn’t wear horseshoes. Some horse owners choose the barefoot option if their horse has well-shaped, strong feet or if the horse doesn’t get ridden or worked that hard.
Average Price per Visit: $65 – $130
If your horse is getting shoed, then that means the farrier is applying semi-permanent horseshoes to the hooves. Horseshoes can be made out of steel, aluminum, and plastic. They can be attached to the horse’s feet either by nails or by glue.
A horse may need shoes if they are soft-footed or if they compete in strenuous events like endurance riding or eventing. Shoes will keep the hooves from enduring too much trauma during these events. This type of farrier service can also be used to hold a hoof together that has significant cracks or damage.
Average Price per Visit: $100-$250
Corrective shoeing refers to a farrier using shoeing to correct a problem your horse may have, usually in conformation. When a horse’s body isn’t balanced correctly over their hooves, it can cause the weight to shift to one particular hoof or even other joints in the body. A farrier can create a custom shoe in order to help fix the problem.
Corrective shoeing is ideally a temporary service, as the corrective shoeing should help to fix the problem overall; however, some horses will require custom shoes for the span of their lifetime.
If your horse needs corrective shoeing, it’s important to find one who has been trained not only to know the hooves of the horse but also to know the other functions of the body. Most professionals who happen to know corrective shoeing are veterinarians for this reason.
Buying tack for your horse may seem like an initially large cost; however, if properly maintained and cared for, most tack pieces can last a long time. Prices of tack can range greatly, appealing to the beginner on a budget and the professional on the show circuit.
Price: $150 – $3,000
Saddle prices can vary greatly depending on brand and quality. In the English world, M. Toulouse is known for being an expensive brand, but if you’ve ever ridden in one of their saddles then you understand why. If you’re on more of a budget, look for used tack stores that offer discounted rates.
Price: $20 – $250
A saddle pad goes between the saddle and the horse in order to provide cushioning and comfort. Like saddles, saddle pads will vary in price range depending on brand and quality; however, there are many decent cheap options out there.
Price: $15 – $120
Known as a girth in the English world and a cinch in the western world, this piece of equipment holds the saddle on the horse. There are girths designed for whatever discipline you choose to compete in. Girths and cinches vary in price depending on material and quality. A synthetic girth will not cost as nearly as much as a leather one.
Price: $20 – $200
Bridles go over the horse’s head and it gives you control. The bridle will include cheek straps, browbands, throatlatches, and chin straps. Some bridle sets may include the reins and the bit as well; however, sometimes these parts have to be bought separately. You can usually buy these pieces for around $20 each.
As a horse owner, there will be certain things you need on hand to take care of your horse. All of these things can be found at your local farm store or tack shop. Here is a list of the daily items you will need for your horse:
- Halter: $10 – $60
- Lead Rope: $5 – $20
- Brush Set & Bucket (see the price here on Amazon): $10 – $70
- Water Bucket: $5 – $10
- Feed Bucket: $5 – $10
- Fly Spray: $10 – $20
- Fly Mask: $15-$30
- Winter Waterproof Horse Blanket: $60 – $120
- Liniment: $10 – $20
- Wound Spray: $5 – $30
Average Price per Private 1 hr Lesson: $35 – $100
Average Price per 1 hr Group Lesson: $25 – $45
Just because you are getting a horse doesn’t mean that you should stop taking lessons. Having an instructor to guide you during the process of getting to know your horse will be beneficial to both you and your animal. It is also nice to have someone to go to if you have any questions.
I’m not going to give price points on competition aspects because they can vary so greatly. If you just plan on showing the schooling circuit in your local area, competing won’t be that big of an expense. If you plan on showing rated and FEI shows, you may be churning out thousands of dollars a weekend.
Here are some expenses you may run into: entry fees to compete, trailering fees if you rely on someone else to get your horse to the event, hotel fees for your overnight stay, and stabling fees if you wish to stable your horse at the showground. Let’s not forget the price of proper show attire. Competing in horse shows can quickly become an expensive hobby, so it’s important to know your budget going in.
Price per Annual Membership: $100 <
Club memberships refer to being apart of foxhunting clubs, polo clubs, or any other clubs you may come across. Growing up, I was a junior member of a hunt club, so each year I paid an annual fee to be a member. This meant that all my capping fees were waved because I had membership privileges.
As you have probably noticed, there is a lot of variation in price points when it comes to the horse world. This allows people from all different income levels to still enjoy and own their favorite animals. You can find many budgeting options to help keep costs affordable.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Hard Is It to Take Care of a Horse?
Depending on you and your horse’s situation can determine how much work it takes to care for them. If you can afford to pay for full-care board, then it will be the barn staff’s responsibility to take care of the daily needs of your horse. But if you love your animal, then you know that you can care for them past the responsibilities of hired people.
Caring for your horse means going out to the barn in rain or shine, in freezing cold and blistering hot. Caring for your horse goes past the daily routines and requires time set aside to build trust and to strengthen bonds. It’s about learning to grasp how your horse thinks, reacts, and learns so you can care for them more properly.
This is dedication, but it’s also love. If you are truly an equestrian, your love for your animal will greatly outweigh the hard work that has to go into caring for them.
Thank you for reading! If you’re ready to take the next step and purchase a horse, check out my article on 10 tips for choosing the right horse.