Annual cost of owning a horse - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 08-01-2017, 03:13 AM Thread Starter
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Annual cost of owning a horse

We're trying to buy our first horse, and it occurred to me today that although I don't doubt we can afford to keep one, I've never really put a number on what it will cost us. Can you folks take a look at what I anticipate, and tell me if I'm overlooking something major?

Prior to this summer, our entire experience with horses came from the Pinto that I owned as a youngster. He was our only horse, we had 40 acres of land for him to graze, and we rarely rode him after he hit middle age. He didn't see a farrier nearly enough (I now know), and I don't think he ever saw a vet. Not really a good example of how I want to care for our next horse. I've learned a lot this summer, though.

We currently live on 10 acres of land in southeast Nebraska. We have our own barn with a few stalls, a corral, and (currently) 1.3 acres of adjacent pasture fenced in. We have a smaller pasture (maybe 1 acre) on the other side of the barn that could be fenced in if we think we need to rotate grazing. Until then, we have it baled when necessary. We have a third 1.5-acre pasture that isn't located conveniently for grazing, but which we typically bale for hay. This third pasture is mostly alfalfa with a mix of other grasses. The first two pastures are more grass and a lot less alfalfa.

An easy keeper horse that eats only hay consumes about 1/3 of a small square bale per day, right? So 10 bales per month during the winter? My expectation is that we'll be able to feed one horse (and maybe a second horse) using only grazing and the hay from our own land. The horse friends I talk with are mixed on whether they give their horses any grain--it seems to depend mostly on how hard they're competing. So, most of the feed should cost us $150/year to pay our neighbor to bale our non-fenced pastures.

Farrier trimming should cost about $40 every 6-8 weeks, right? So about $300/year just for trimming. Front shoes, if needed, would be about $60 every 6-8 weeks. Is that in addition to the trimming, or is trimming usually included in that price? Front shoes is then $450/year. Front & rear shoes is $900/year.

I have no clue how much worming costs or how often it should be done. Any pointers? At least initially, I'll have to pay someone to do it, since I don't know enough to do it myself. It sounds like many horse owners do it themselves, though.

Other than worming, should an apparently-healthy horse get a vet exam on a regular basis?

There's lots of horses in our neighborhood, so if I piggyback on their vet/farrier appointments, I shouldn't have any trouble scheduling an on-site visit for just my one horse.

I expect that our horse(s) will have free access to the barn stall, corral, and pasture nearly 24x7, unless we shut them into the barn for really nasty weather. Given that, how much stall bedding do you really think I'll use? At what cost?

If I've done it right initially, fence & stall maintenance shouldn't cost enough annually to make a difference.

A 500W water bucket heater will burn 12 kWh per day, or about 1100 kWh for three months. That's about $80/year at our rate. A fan in the stall area would cost less than that. The LED lighting over our stalls is even less.

Registration & insurance for a cheap horse trailer will depend on how much travel my daughter decides we need to do with this horse. I don't mind borrowing a trailer once a year. When I was growing up, I don't think our horse ever left our farm.

I'm not going to address the cost of any lessons, training, or club memberships for now. I'm also not considering the cost of up-front, one-time purchases like tack & buildings. I'm just considering the recurring cost of letting a healthy horse stay on my property.

So far, a horse with no shoes and no medical issues is sitting around $600/year. Add in four shoes year round, and you get $1500/year. Not including the unknowns I already mentioned. So what else am I missing? There's got to be something... I'm too new at this.
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post #2 of 28 Old 08-01-2017, 04:46 AM
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Hi,

It is good you are thinking about costs here. Horses are expensive. At least mine is. Some things to consider when it comes to cost is:

Horses should have annual exams, at the very least.

Vaccines should be given by the Veterinarian as they suggest, yearly or every 6 months.

Teethe need to be checked every year and possibly floated. More often if the horse is older or has dental issues.

The Veterinarian should be submitting a fecal sample to the lab to check for internal parasites. Then deworming is done as warranted

Some horses need to have chiropractors out on a regular basis.

Things happen to horses. Bad things. Even when the fence is good and all seems well, horses have a way of getting hurt or getting ill. There always has to be a "nest egg" account put aside just for emergencies like: Colic, Injuries, Metabolic issues, Laminitis, Toxicities, Lacerations, and the list goes on.

Farrier care where you are sounds very low priced. You are lucky. My horse's feet cost $500 every 5 to 6 weeks.

There are reoccurring costs such as fly spray, I use a bottle every 2 weeks.

Fly masks. My horse is good with them, but I still have to buy her around 5 or 6 a year. You need one with a long nose, one for riding in, one fine mesh for when the midges are out. They all wear out.

You may get a horse that you discover needs to wear a fly sheet. They don't last forever and are costly.

Fly boots are also needed to prevent stomping and damaging legs and feet. They also do not hold up forever.

Shampoos, medicated shampoos, Tail detangle spray, body sponges, grooming brushes, curry combs.
( I don't bat an eye at spending over $20.00 on my horse's shampoo, yet will buy myself the cheapest I can find.)


There are wound sprays and ointments and first aid kits to be made, and restocked throughout the year. Leg wraps and horse boots that all wear out after a while.

Halters, rope, leather, whatever the trainer wants you to get. They also don't last forever. Nor do lead ropes and lunge lines, lunge whips, regular whips,

There is of course saddles. Oh, so many saddles. The first saddle you get and use till you realize it doesn't fit. Then the 20 other saddles you buy that also don't fit. And the cost of the saddle fitter coming out to fit your horse, and get you a saddle' when you finally can no longer take the stress of saddle searching.

There are the many bits you will go through till you find the one that works for your horse.


Don't forget supplements. I spend about $200.00 a month on that alone and I really am at bare minimum using them right now.

Many more expenses are out there, but I cannot think of all of them right now.


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post #3 of 28 Old 08-01-2017, 06:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ObiWan View Post
An easy keeper horse that eats only hay consumes about 1/3 of a small square bale per day, right? So 10 bales per month during the winter? My expectation is that we'll be able to feed one horse (and maybe a second horse) using only grazing and the hay from our own land. The horse friends I talk with are mixed on whether they give their horses any grain--it seems to depend mostly on how hard they're competing. So, most of the feed should cost us $150/year to pay our neighbor to bale our non-fenced pastures.
In a cold, Nebraska winter, I think a horse is going to eat more than 1/3 a small bale a day to keep warm. Our low maintenance Paints eat 40-50 lbs a day of hay EACH in January/February NC winters.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ObiWan View Post
I have no clue how much worming costs or how often it should be done. Any pointers? At least initially, I'll have to pay someone to do it, since I don't know enough to do it myself. It sounds like many horse owners do it themselves, though.
There are different philosophies on how often to worm and doing fecal tests, but to ballpark a cost number you can estimate using old fashioned rotational worming every 2 months at less than $10/worming if you do it yourself (so $60/year max).

Quote:
Originally Posted by ObiWan View Post
Other than worming, should an apparently-healthy horse get a vet exam on a regular basis?
You certainly want at least the yearly vaccines that are recommended for your area and probably a check of the teeth. Vet costs vary greatly, so it is best to call a vet and get an estimate from them.
Don't forget to plan for an emergency vet call. Again, vet prices vary greatly, but we figure a typical emergency call at night (for stitching a cut) costs about $500.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ObiWan View Post
If I've done it right initially, fence & stall maintenance shouldn't cost enough annually to make a difference.
This has been our experience. Fence maintenance costs are negligible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ObiWan View Post
Farrier trimming should cost about $40 every 6-8 weeks, right? So about $300/year just for trimming.
We pay $35 for a barefoot trim, but I've seen some farriers charge more. We do 6 weeks in the summer, 8 weeks in the winter.
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post #4 of 28 Old 08-01-2017, 07:57 AM
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You have frigid winters in Nebraska ----- plan in feeding a LOT more hay ---- on a good day, it is scientifically documented a horse needs 1.5% to 2% of its body weight in forage daily, whether that is hay or pasture, or both combined. Feeding a flake doesn't tell you how much the horse is getting ---- a scale does.

It bothers me that you already are trying to budget a horse's hay and it isn't there yet --- easy keepers don't need starved unless you want to deal with ulcers --- they need their hay in slow feed nets so it lasts longer.

The digestive acids never stop processing in a horse's stomach , not even when there isn't anything to process --- left empty long enough that is one of the recipes for gastric ulcers.

What will you do about water in the winter? In spite of what many new horse owners think a horse can NOT eat snow as a sufficient water source.

They need unfrozen water and a salt block 365 days/year. That means make sure your water lines don't freeze or plan on carrying water to the barn.

If I were you, whatever dollar amount you come up with on paper, double it. If you don't spend it on a daily basis, you will have it as a cushion for the medical bills that absolutely require a vet.

Which, If you don't have a equine vet, line one up before the horse is bought. Ask the vet for the name of a quality farrier that shows up on time.

I still have two horses -- both retired trail horses in their early 20's. The healthiest one has environmental allergies that are pricey to manage. The other one developed insulin resistance and foundered pretty bad - he costs me a several thousand dollars a year. If I was t privileged to have the means to care for him, I would have made the vet PTS him before I would ever send him down the road to face certain death.

You asked a very serious question --- expect serious answers:)
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Last edited by walkinthewalk; 08-01-2017 at 08:04 AM.
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post #5 of 28 Old 08-01-2017, 08:07 AM
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I posted a spreadsheet of my actual expenses a couple of years ago...

Basically, each horse cost me about $5.25 a day....

I figured the mileage rate alos at something like $21 a mile.

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post #6 of 28 Old 08-01-2017, 11:36 AM
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I'm not sure your grazing will provide all the forage needed during the summer. You might have to supplement with hay even then, depending on the quality of the grass and how long it takes the horse to eat down a pasture. And as mentioned, in a cold winter a horse will eat more than the average 1.5-2% of its body weight. In really cold weather I double that amount. As mentioned, your horse will need a vet exam at least once/year and whatever vaccinations are recommended for your area.

What about a companion for your horse? Horses are herd animals. Although there are horses who don't mind being alone, most horses are happier with a friend. You could go with a mini donkey or horse, or even a goat.

I pay $50 for a trim but that is very subject to your location. Some areas are more, some less. Teeth generally need to be floated once a year. In my area that can cost $100-$150.

My QH mare is an easy keeper and doesn't really require any special supplements to her diet. My QH gelding, on the other hand, has Heaves, which I give him a supplement for and once every couple of years he needs some additional vet intervention. He also takes a supplement to prevent ulcers and I'm considering increasing his protein intake and putting him on a supplement for his hooves as he is getting older and needs a little additional support. So there are a LOT of things to consider.

And, by the way, happy horse shopping. That's an adventure in itself!
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post #7 of 28 Old 08-01-2017, 01:05 PM
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I'm located in the Great Lakes region, with boarding barns far and few between. Here is my current cost breakdown for my horse, annually:

Board: $150/month or $1,800/year

Feed/Grain: $100/month or $1,200/year

Farrier Costs: $35/month or $315/year (9 trims a year)

Fall & Spring Vet Visits: Estimated $150/visit twice a year so $300/year

Dentist Costs: Estimated $150/visit twice a year so $300/year

So for "living" costs alone, I am paying approximately $3,915/year.


BUT this isn't factoring in emergency vet visits, trailering fees, replacing old and broken tack, entry fees for shows, etc. etc.

And I am VERY lucky with how cheap my board is compared to some places. Where I previously lived, you could easily be paying $450/month for full care board.
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post #8 of 28 Old 08-01-2017, 01:14 PM
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Very nice that you are putting so much thought into the cost of a horse. Good preplanning is an asset.

That being said, I purposely do not add up what everything costs for my horses. I think I would have a heart attack. One time I did add everything up, and I burned the paper before my (then husband) could find it.

Just figure everything can cost 2-3 times what you calculated, and then put aside that money each month. Anything you don't use, you will find a use for.

My barn is in the pasture and the horses are free to come and go as they want. I can close them up if I need to, but rarely do. I started out using shavings to cushion the ground, but now just have rubber mats in the stalls. They seem quite comfortable, but I do occasionally still add shavings.

Of most importance, to keep your cost down is selection of the horse you choose.

You want one that is sound of mind and body, well trained, and generally calm. Easy keepers and hard keepers both have feeding challenges, so a nice middle is best.
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post #9 of 28 Old 08-01-2017, 01:43 PM
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The annual cost of owning a horse will vary greatly depending on where you live/what you plan on doing what your horse.

I probably spend in the realm of $700 per month on my horse (so, approximately $8,000 a year), and he's retired. This is board, supplements, maintenance (feet/vet/etcetc), and the occasional tack/apparel purchase, and a few unforeseen expenses.
I was paying easily twice this (as a bare minimum!) when I was competing.

I think your best bet is to chat with some of your neighbors. You mentioned there are several horsie people in the area--offer to take them to lunch, and politely ask what they're paying.

The sensitivity of the internet baffles me.
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post #10 of 28 Old 08-01-2017, 01:53 PM
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Way back in the day when I had just one horse (young and healthy) I got away with feeding...


50lbs of grain a week and 1 bale of hay per week. (no horse is the same on feed)
Annual shots were twice per year and I think that was about $150 per set.
He had no shoes so the farrier was about $25 bucks every 6-8 weeks.
I dewormed every three months I think? Can't remember for sure but it's cheap... $6 to $20 per tube depending on what I bought.


I feel like I'm missing something - but honestly just one horse was about a car payment per month. (a used car that is)

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