How Much to Own 2-4 Horses in Southeast USA? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 01-26-2016, 09:34 PM Thread Starter
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How Much to Own 2-4 Horses in Southeast USA?

I am planning on living in the Southeast (Most likely North Carolina/Virginia) after grad school, near a mid-size city like Greenville, Charlotte, DC, Blacksburg, or Asheville. I want to buy my own decent-sized property and keep 2-4 horses on it. I know there are a lot of variables, but what would a comfortable annual income be to own this number of horses? I don't want to scrape by and have to have 4 jobs to take care of them (though major props to those of you who do), but I want to give them good vet/farrier care, feed (when the pasture isn't enough), etc. What is a realistic annual cost for taking care of them?

Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 18 Old 01-26-2016, 09:56 PM
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Whatever you come up with, multiply by 3.
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post #3 of 18 Old 01-26-2016, 10:07 PM
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I feed my horses coastal, alfalfa, and my old girl gets a small amount of legends carb care senior. They also get a supplement that I put together which consists of California trace mineral sup., ground flax seed, yea sac, and a little salt. It costs me about $130 a month to feed and supplement each horse. I pay 30 dollars for each horse to be trimmed about every 5 to 8 weeks depending on hoof growth. 60 for each to have their teeth floated usually once a year but if I had a young horse it would be more often. I do my own vaccinations. So, that adds up to close to 500 a month to keep 3 horses not including what I pay to board them.
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post #4 of 18 Old 01-27-2016, 12:50 PM
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Probably researching prices in that region are the way to go. It is easy to find a list of boarding facilities, farriers, hay, veterinarians, etc to see what regional prices look like. A boarding facility can tell you how much they feed of what for comparison. You would need to know what kind of equipment you would need per horse (tack, accessories like buckets and the like) which can be priced on line (I am assuming you are starting from scratch since you are asking). If you have had no horse experience you need to look at cost of riding lessons as well to give you an education into horse handling at the very least.

There are many state and county publications that can give an idea of how many pasture acres per horse would be needed to graze, what kinds of grasses are common in that area and what kind of hay is available.

Costs can vary widely by region.

It sounds as if you are not really familiar with horses, getting that many at once may not be a god idea.

No good answer for you annual income, you need to know how much you are going to be spending on housing, transportation, food, etc and see what is left over for a horse.
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post #5 of 18 Old 01-27-2016, 02:30 PM
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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".
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Last edited by Siren; 01-27-2016 at 02:39 PM.
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post #6 of 18 Old 01-27-2016, 02:42 PM
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Hi! I am from the nc area clt and Ral. Boarding here is +/-600 across the board for both cities (you can find some pasture boarding for 350-500) (north clt is so horsey). It was a bad season for us hay wise so the square bales are running high. There are several nice properties that are horse ready from $250+. But you will be living on the out skirts of the cities with that lower pricing and most of the cheaper properties get snapped up but typically there is always a 400k property for sale.
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post #7 of 18 Old 01-27-2016, 06:49 PM
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I'm in Jacksonville Florida and it is a roughly estimated $9,000 per horse per year on the low end. This includes feed, bedding, vet, farrier, dental, deworming, supplements, pasture and property maintenance. And a $600 per year ($50 per month) deposit into an emergency fund.

Here you have to have a minimum 2 acres per 1,000+ pound animal and the county at one point even discussed raising that minimum to five acres per animal but faced some very nasty/ angry backlash from some of the more wealthy residents so backed off on that idea completely.

It'll cost less if you try to go as simple as possible, that's for sure.

When I estimate annual cost of keeping (since I'm horseless atm.) I use the most expensive products in my area and base it on a 1200-1300 pound horse. For example, I know I can get 600 pound bales of horse hay for $60, but I budget for the $12.00 40 pound bales instead, just in case I couldn't get the 600# bales. I also budget for trims and shoes every 4 weeks even though all of the horses I've cared for have been barefoot. I do the same for bagged feed I pick out the most expensive one in my area and then estimate the amount I'd feed a horse and find what I would pay per year and go with that number.

I've found doing this is a good way to let me know how expensive it could get if I can't find a better and cheaper alternative. That way if it's a bad hay year or gas prices go up I'll be prepared and anything under 'budget' is a very welcome 'surprise' of sorts.
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post #8 of 18 Old 01-27-2016, 08:17 PM
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It truly depends on how resourceful you are. We grow, cut and bale our own hay. Roughly $800 dollars of fuel yields 60 round bales, which last us the winter (barely). At $50 a bale boughten that would be $3000 dollars worth of hay. We also know a farrier that does our feet for free. But at $45 dollars a trim every 8 weeks (pushing it) it would total 3375 in trimming costs a year if they only needed trims. Knock on wood we haven't needed a vet in years, but average at 1000 dollars for a vet a year plus emergency costs. Grain is $25 dollars a bag and five bags lasts us a month. So $1500 in grain a year. The bare minimum would cost you $8875 a year for five. And that's not if you buy hay year round, have farrier or vet emergencies, spend money on supplements and tack, trailers, gas money, show fees, vaccines etc. We give our vaccines ourselves and they cost us 7$ a horse. Get a vet out and it's 75$ plus time spent trying to calm the vet weary horse.
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post #9 of 18 Old 01-27-2016, 08:50 PM
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You should plan on marrying money.
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post #10 of 18 Old 01-28-2016, 06:58 AM
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It also depends what breed of horse you are thinking of. Some tend to be easy keepers, but if you are planning on Thoroughbreds the feed costs go up a lot. Some Thoroughbreds require 8-10 lbs of complete feed daily besides their 20 plus pounds of hay, and around here those 50 lb bags of feed cost around $20 each. Even some "easy keeper" breeds have individuals that need a lot more food than average. One of my mares costs $250 per month to feed. Personally, I'd never own more than two horses because I don't have time to get more than two exercised and ridden. Plus it's so much work just to take care of two horses.
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