Chiming in late ... my horses were free - $2k (USD). My first two horses were free - my GREEN GREEN Arab gelding and later a yearling 1/2 Arab mare (in my avatar). I was very fortunate starting out that the friend who gave me my first two horses kind of footed the bill for a couple of years. I was clueless in all aspects, but thought I knew everything, LOL. I at least knew enough to know I could not start the yearling on my own when she needed to be started.
I sent her to a local "cowboy" "natural horsemanship" trainer (Matt) when she was 4. I put those in quotes since people have preconceived ideas and this trainer, who I still ride with after 17 years, is none of the stereotypes those terms invoke. Anyway, I sent her to him for 3 months (he remembers 4, but I think he's wrong
). I can't remember how much it was, but when I got her home I realized I needed lessons so went back to him. I did the rest of her training with the help of many many MANY people. I really enjoy the process, but wouldn't necessarily recommend it for others.
My next horse was an AQHA 2 yo filly who had about 40 rides on her. I wanted a 4 yo (my trainer wanted me to get a 8-9 yo), but this filly was being sold by a friend - she was a full sister to my friend's cowhorse mare and I loved her mare. I wanted a horse I could be more consistently competitively on and this horse had the breeding and ability. And she was in my price range ... I always call her my bargain basement clearance price horse ... I paid $1,500 for her (almost 9 years ago). 8 years later she took me to the NRCHA World Show in the $1k.
But same thing - I was too cheap to put her in training and enjoyed the process of bringing a horse along. We did it all - Snaffle to Hackamore to 2 Rein to straight up in the bridle - again with the help of a multitude of people. So between lessons, general upkeep, & shows, I spend a fair amount. If I would sell her (will NEVER happen - my trainer laughs at me ... he said I never sell horses. He's right!
) She would easily sell for $8k+.
My most recent purchase was three years ago ... my friend was selling her mare's, who I love, yearling filly and I was looking for a Snaffle Bit futurity prospect for me. She's my mare's niece! The plan was to have Matt start her and I would ride her in the Non Pro Limited futurity in Reno. (Her journey is documented in this thread
). I paid $2k for her. Matt gave me a KILLER training deal that made it affordable for me to keep her in training through Reno Snaffle Bit to now. If I had sent her to anyone else, I could have eeeked out maybe 6 months. This will likely be her last year with Matt, although I'll be taking lessons on her to learn his training.
GOOD horses can be found for affordable prices, but they are hard to find. Of course, affordable is relative. I have a friend who paid $25k for her for her horse - way to rich for my blood; but it's taken her almost two years to learn how to utilize/ride her mare to the best of the mare's ability (who has a LOT of ability). She still has yet to transfer that to the show pen. Another friend paid $8 for her gelding - a Snaffle Bit contender who washed out of the open division. It's taken her about 3 years to get him settled down & relaxed enough to do his job, which is less than before since now he only does boxing now.
Just because my friends and I compete, we do not limit our horses to cowhorse competitions. With my 1/2 Arab Mare, I learned it was way fun to do a lot of different things with her - show in different types of shows (including versatility, ranch & obstacle races), trail ride, or just hang out. I cannot own a lot of horses, so I want my horses to be able to do different things. I also find it keeps their minds fresh to do different things with them.
Anyway, horses are expensive, but they can be affordable. Good deals on Good horses are out there. Sometimes it takes a little work to bring out that "good", but if you have the time and patience and skill (or help from those with skill) you can really get a good diamond in the long run.