People who owned horses historically - how did they afford it? - The Horse Forum
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 13 Old 08-01-2012, 12:32 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: NYC
Posts: 25
• Horses: 0
Question People who owned horses historically - how did they afford it?

This may be a very naive question, coming from a non-horse owner, but nonetheless it's something that I've been wondering about for a long time now, and I'm sure it's crossed other horse-people's minds, too.

'Back in the day' when there was NO other method of transportation other than horses (and maybe railroads), how on earth did people afford them? Nowadays of course care, facilities, riding, etc. have become fancier, and prices on land and such have gone up a lot, I know, but obviously those horses were doing pretty well as far as living and being prolific goes.

Yes, they weren't treated as well perhaps by the general population, but how about Native Americans, for instance, who had horses? There was nothing fancy about anything with them--no fancy tack, feed, whatever, and of course most of them were not involved with the industrializing USA. Granted, the land was shared by them all (which is a much healthier way to go about things) but I highly doubt most of those horses had shoes, or regularly visited farriers, or got their hooves trimmed, or got vaccinated. And yet they existed just fine apparently. Also, Amish people, even nowadays--they only use horses. Granted I think they don't treat them very well but everyone knows that a horse can't work for you if it is not healthy, so that in itself is good enough incentive to keep a horse healthy.

So, what I'm asking is, besides general inflation, increasing land prices, and all the extraneous fancy stuff we do with them, why is keeping a horse still so expensive? Is it possible for someone who is middle class to keep a horse reasonably inexpensively if one sacrifices, for example, luxuries such as fancy electronic entertainment equipment in the home, a large house, etc. etc. and doesn't do the extra fancy stuff like get high end training or enter shows and contests, etc.? Maybe like the Native Americans? I know it may sound crazy to an experienced horseperson but I wanted to get that question off of my chest so I could move on to other things.
Domnopalus is offline  
Sponsored Links
post #2 of 13 Old 08-01-2012, 12:45 PM
Super Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 40,783
• Horses: 2
Well, most of the expenses of keeping a horse are due to boardind costs and vet bills. If you kept your horse on your own acreage, and you didnt' feed it anythig but the simple grass hay you grew and cut yourself, and you never vetted unless the horse would die otherwise, then it would be much less expensive.
But, I think historically, for example in midievel times, horses were a great luxury. A man who went into the military , if he wanted to be mounted, had to provide his own mount, or two. This was beyond the reach of most people.

I think in the industrialized world, like 1890's NY, if you didnt' keep a hrose, there were any for "hire".
There lives were short and maybe not so pleasant.

PS sorry for typing errors. This keyboard is reall sticky
tinyliny is offline  
post #3 of 13 Old 08-01-2012, 01:02 PM
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 155
• Horses: 0
I think a large part may have to do with your experience/situation. More and more people board horse so that has drove up the cost greatly for keeping a horse along with inflation in land, feed, etc. Also I think people feel that they need to have an abundant amount of care for their horses that sometimes I don't think is very necessary.

I don't take my horses in for regular check ups to the vet and basically only go to the vet if they seem off or need to be stitched up for some reason. Horse survived in the wild for years with out needing regular hoof trims, teeth floats and vet care so I sometimes feel that they will do just fine if they are checked regularly but also allowed to just be horses to an extent. Other than my main rope horse I do all my own trims and have yet to have any that have come up lame and I am not the best trimmer in the world so that reduces costs considerably. I think horse in the old days were used more and everyone new how to knock a shoe on to a horse in those days so if they needed shoes they would get them. Also these were work animals so if they had bad feet they probably didn't last very long before being sold. Today you see so many horses with bad feet because we are willing to spend the money on shoes and corrective farrier work that you wouldn't have seen in the past in my opinion.

Also I put up my own hay each year and feed them myself so that also helps but when I was boarding I can definetly see why costs to keep a horse each year could rise considerably. I figured out that in my area I would need approximately 8 round bales weighing in at about 1400 lbs to feed one horse all year long and thats being generous I feel at 30 lbs/day. In our area good horse quality hay is about $60.00/bale which works out to only $480.00 in hay per year. Of corse you have other costs like electricity for the water tank to keep it unforzen in the winter but even if you said it was another $50-$100 on top for additional costs it is still pretty cheep per year compared to $250.00/month that I was paying for board in southern Alberta.

Have a good one
boots likes this.

Last edited by HanginH; 08-01-2012 at 01:05 PM.
HanginH is offline  
post #4 of 13 Old 08-01-2012, 01:11 PM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Just south of sanity
Posts: 16,385
• Horses: 3
'Back in the day', only the gentry owned horses. Then, as now, they were expensive animals to maintain.

Poor people had oxen with which to pull carts and plow fields. Don't buy into the Hollywood version of 'back in the day'. Horses simply weren't affordable for regular people. Oxen were easier to care for, and didn't break down as often.

Sure, Native Americans had horses, but the average lifespan of horses back then was about 15 years. 20 years was considered ancient, and they'd have eaten it by then. If it didn't work, it became food.

Horses nowadays are luxury items except to the Amish/Mennonites, who use them for transportation and planting. They're livestock not pets, and those communities are really the only ones who utilize them that way.

You can certainly get away with cheaping out on proper care for your animals, but they'll live shorter lives. People aren't the only ones who have benefited from medical and nutritional advancements over the years. The feral horses of today don't live much past 15, so if you think they're hardier or have it better than their domestic counterparts, you're mistaken.
HagonNag, bsms and boots like this.

You want the truth? You can't HANDLE the truth!

Last edited by Speed Racer; 08-01-2012 at 01:14 PM.
Speed Racer is offline  
post #5 of 13 Old 08-01-2012, 06:16 PM
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Canada
Posts: 1,613
• Horses: 0
Originally Posted by Speed Racer View Post
'Back in the day', only the gentry owned horses. Then, as now, they were expensive animals to maintain.
In Europe, yes. In North America there was a time when most families had a horse. That's why we never got in the habit of eating them.

To answer the OP's question, everything horses need was cheaper back then because land was cheaper.
ponyboy is offline  
post #6 of 13 Old 08-01-2012, 06:40 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: Surry, Va
Posts: 4,712
• Horses: 0
Originally Posted by ponyboy View Post
In Europe, yes. In North America there was a time when most families had a horse. That's why we never got in the habit of eating them.

To answer the OP's question, everything horses need was cheaper back then because land was cheaper.
MOST families have never owned a horse. You have been watching to many westerns.
I just looked it up and even assuming NO ONE ever owned more than one horse, which we all know isnt true, there was never a time in US history when horses exceeded 20% of the population. In fact the ratio seemed to remain pretty stable from the end of the War of Northern Aggression to the 1920's.

Nope back before cars and trains, people traveled by foot or boat. Thats why even to this day our big cities all seem to be centered around navigable water.
Joe4d is offline  
post #7 of 13 Old 08-01-2012, 06:43 PM
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: Ashland, OR
Posts: 8,433
• Horses: 1
The horses worked for their feed.

If they didn't, they shot them, ate them, fed them to the dogs. Got a new one.

Horse hurt its leg? Too bad, not worth it anymore, shoot it, set it free, find someone to take it.

Of course that's the heartless side but from what I understand that's how it was. It's just like the slaves: They were viewed as property to work, not living beings.

Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
SorrelHorse is offline  
post #8 of 13 Old 08-01-2012, 06:47 PM
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 718
• Horses: 0
Personally, I think cars can be pretty stinkin' expensive...perhaps oneday when most humans ride mass transit, they'll look back and wonder how we all afforded vehicles, fuel, and mechanics...
Posted via Mobile Device
smrobs, Koolio and hberrie like this.
katbalu is offline  
post #9 of 13 Old 08-01-2012, 07:49 PM
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Finleyville, Pa.
Posts: 405
• Horses: 0
I wouldn't mind being able to get rid of my car and ride my horse everywhere. I saw a post from a girl on here who wanted to ride her horse 8 miles to work everyday. I thought that was awesome! I wish I lived in the country where the roads were safer to ride on.
Blondehorselover likes this.
hberrie is offline  
post #10 of 13 Old 08-01-2012, 08:00 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Posts: 9,532
• Horses: 4
Originally Posted by hberrie View Post
I wouldn't mind being able to get rid of my car and ride my horse everywhere...
It is 12 miles to the closest grocery store. I like my cars...

IIRC, the US horse population peaked in 1915 and then went down for 40 years. During the 20s & 30s, horses were cheap because people were getting rid of them. In the 1800s, if you lived in the city, you needed to be rich to keep a horse.

"Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing...well, ignore it mostly."
bsms is offline  

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the The Horse Forum forums, you must first register.

Already have a Horse Forum account?
Members are allowed only one account per person at the Horse Forum, so if you've made an account here in the past you'll need to continue using that account. Please do not create a new account or you may lose access to the Horse Forum. If you need help recovering your existing account, please Contact Us. We'll be glad to help!

New to the Horse Forum?
Please choose a username you will be satisfied with using for the duration of your membership at the Horse Forum. We do not change members' usernames upon request because that would make it difficult for everyone to keep track of who is who on the forum. For that reason, please do not incorporate your horse's name into your username so that you are not stuck with a username related to a horse you may no longer have some day, or use any other username you may no longer identify with or care for in the future.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Old Thread Warning
This thread is more than 90 days old. When a thread is this old, it is often better to start a new thread rather than post to it. However, If you feel you have something of value to add to this particular thread, you can do so by checking the box below before submitting your post.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Horses I've Owned--Neat Colors/Patterns BlackCricket Horse Colors and Genetics 6 10-28-2011 09:10 PM
Dog Breeds typically owned by Horse People Small_Town_Girl Horse Talk 47 04-20-2009 05:57 PM
Almost all the horses I have owned Juno21 Horse Pictures 5 06-23-2008 03:34 PM

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome