Your first step should be researching house costs and finding out how much property costs where you plan on living. The more land you can have the better. Keep in mind that there are likely local municipal "minimums" for how many horses you can have per acre of land. Also keep in mind that these "minimums" will NOT allow for you to have any kind of grazing land. A minimum sized enclosure will be nothing but dirt/mud in a matter of months and then you'll have another whole slough of issues to deal with like thrush, scratches, flies, slipping ... that's just to name a couple of things.
For two horses, I would recommend at least 5-6 fenced acres, split into two fields with an additional small pen built for a "dirt lot", in case you need to separate a horse due to injury or sickness. All of these pens should have shelters in them. 5-6 acres would give you some bare minimums to allow for 2 grazing horses during the summer with minimal need for hay supplementation if you rotate your fields religiously and maintain them meticulously. This would likely mean going out into the field and picking up all the poop every day. At the very least, you would need some kind of manure spreader to stop the poop from building up too much and causing issues. You would need to budget for hay during the winter months when grass doesn't grow.
Speaking of hay, your next step would be to see what hay prices are like in the areas you are interested in. Typically speaking, your average horse will go through 1 average sized round bale per month. Find out how much round bales cost. Find out how much square bales cost. Round bales are great for convenience but, for many reasons, sometimes they don't work well. If your horse is an easy keeper and gains too much weight or if they have breathing sensitivities, round bales won't work and you'll need to buy squares. Horses eat around 20 ish lbs of hay per day. That's around 620 lbs of hay per month per horse. That doesn't include wastage and all the hay your horse will throw on the ground and trample and pee on ... Your horses may also need additional feed if they are hard keepers. It's probably a good idea to have a budget contingency for buying bags of supplemental feed. Don't forget you will need salt licks and mineral blocks as well.
You'll have to factor in costs for maintaining your fencing and ideally have a "rainy day fund" because you never know when a tree will fall on your fence or when wildlife will wreck something or your horse will decide to go through it. Depending on the type of fence you have, the costs will differ. Find out how much it costs to replace 50 feet of fence. Horses break stuff all the time ... you will constantly be fixing fences and shelters.
Horses require a large water trough and fresh water every day. Keeping them in water will skyrocket your hydro bill. If you have a barn with lights etc, it may also skyrocket your electricity bill if you're not careful.
Check out what farriers are charging in the area for basic services. Budget for the chance that one or both of your horses may need shoes. Where I'm from, it's usually around $180 for a new full set of shoes to be put on and $120 for resets. That adds up quickly when you have to pay $240 every 4-6 weeks for resets on two horses ...
Horses need to be dewormed every 3-4 months ... dewormer costs anywhere between $10-30 a tube depending on the type of dewormer you need to use and you need a tube per horse.
Horses need yearly vaccinations every spring. You can learn to administer them yourself. I am lucky and my sister is a vet tech at a race track. She is able to get me my vaccines for cost. It still costs me over $100 to vaccinate my horse every year. If I were to call a vet to do it and pay full price for the vaccines, it would be double that. I would say to budget $300 every spring for a vet to vaccinate two horses.
You should also ideally have a rainy day fund for vet care. Horses are clumsy and prone to injury. You never know when you will need to drop $500-1000 on stitches or xrays. Don't forget your yearly teeth floating (my horse just cost me $400 to have hers done) ...
Those costs I've mentioned literally only cover the horses living at your house and I've likely forgotten some. That doesn't include buying saddles, bridles and other tack and equipment.
That also doesn't include the hours and hours of sweat equity you will be investing in your land. Horses don't care if you're sick, injured, tired, stressed, burnt out, having a bad day, on holiday etc etc. Horses do not stop pooping because your boss is a jerk or because it's Christmas and you'd rather not go out at 6 am to feed them. Rain or shine ... snow or hail ... you are responsible for caring for those animals and you will very rarely get a holiday from that responsibility. Finding reliable farm sitters is difficult and costs money. If you want to go on vacation, you'll have to either find a place to temporarily board your horses ($$$) or find someone to come to your house to care for them. Either way, you will likely be paying someone for their trouble so that will be an added cost.
To move round bales, you need some sort of tractor or skid steer. You will likely need to invest in some farm equipment. At the very least, you will probably need a quad and trailer. If you can't move the whole round bale, you can fork portions off of it into the trailer and pull it out into the field. Having farm equipment means maintaining farm equipment. This is not cheap either. If you happen to be lucky enough to find a house with an outdoor arena, you will also need equipment to harrow the footing on a regular basis. Again, this could possibly be done with a powerful quad, but pulling harrows is hard on a quad or other run around vehicle unless the harrows are small and small harrows aren't very heavy and tend not to do a great job anyways ...
If you have horses at home, chances are you will also need a way to move them around. Investing in a truck and trailer is likely another smart idea. Now add in the cost of buying them, maintaining them, registering them, and insuring them.
I can't think of anything else off the top of my head ... but keeping horses isn't simple or cheap ... not even if you do it at home ... this estimate was based on 1 or 2 horses ... for 4 horses you'd need 10-12 acres, 2480 lbs of hay per month, 4 times the dewormer, 4 times the vaccines, 4 times the rainy day fund, 4 times the annual teeth floating, 4 times the farrier bills every 6 ish weeks ...
You would need to make a LOT of money to comfortably keep 4 horses without feeling like you're scrimping or "scraping by".
Last edited by Siren; 01-27-2016 at 02:39 PM.