Owning a horse can be the culmination of a lifelong dream. It can also be an expensive adventure. No one likes to think about the cost of owning horses, but it’s crucial to understand the financial factor before you sign on the dotted line of that sales contract. Expenses like boarding fees, farm upkeep, veterinary care, farrier visits and more can add up quickly – not to mention feed and hay bills! But with a little research and preparation, you’ll discover that while owning a horse can be expensive, the experience is priceless.
BUILD A BUDGET
By now, you’ve probably figured out that your horse’s purchase price is only the first entry in your horse budget. Just like your home budget, your horse budget should stay flexible – because almost all the costs associated with owning horses are variable. For example, feed and hay costs vary depending on that year’s weather; vet bills go up and down depending on the health challenges of your horse; and farriers increase their fees annually. Plus, you never know when an expensive health challenge may crop up.
Susan Friedland of Glendora, Calif., owns a Thoroughbred gelding named Tiz A Knight. Knight occasionally has bouts with ulcers – which means Susan budgets for unexpected vet bills.
“Your budget needs to have wiggle room as things are always more expensive than what you plan for,” Susan advised. “Knight colicked severely once, which required a 10-day hospital stay as we also found out he had extreme ulcers. That experience was about $1,000 per day. When Knight has bouts with ulcers, it’s about $1,000 a pop for treatment.”
Consider starting a savings account for your horses. Just like budgeting for your household and saving for household repairs is part of being responsible, budgeting for your horse is a big part of ensuring you can care for them as long as you need to.
Kathleen Haak, a lifelong horse enthusiast in Lexington, Kentucky, recommends planning long-term for your horse’s care.
“Before you buy a horse, if you know you are the type of person who wants to keep a horse for their entire life span, evaluate what your contingency plan is for losing your job or getting hurt,” Kathleen advised.
SAVE SMART, SPEND SMART
Although there are times when horse ownership is unavoidably expensive, there are ways to save yourself money. For example, pasture board can be a cheaper option than full board. You can also negotiate with your boarding stable, says Taylor Stephens, a horse owner from Santa Rosa Valley, Calif.
“If you can’t keep your horse at home, then find a boarding place with decent prices or one that’s willing to work with you on certain things, such as cleaning your own stalls yourself for a lower monthly price,” Taylor said.
Kathleen recommends calculating your mileage into the cost of your boarding fees.
“If board two miles down the road is $650, that might end up being cheaper for you than the $450 place that’s 20 miles away, especially if you’re driving a truck,” Kathleen said.
Many people choose to purchase equine insurance for their horses. While the premiums are an added expense, insurance may save you money in the case of a catastrophic accident. Although lifelong horse owner Jamie Samples of Howell, Michigan, hasn’t elected to insure her horses yet, she recommends investigating horse insurance to see if it’s the right decision for you.
“Even if your horse is not worth a lot of money, if you had an accident and lost your horse and incurred vet bills trying to save your horse, you could have coverage for some of those expenses,” Jamie said.
DOLLARS & SENSE
Although owning horses can be expensive, there’s nothing like spending a lifetime with your best friend. If you’re worried about buying your first horse, consider leasing a horse first so that you can start to get an idea for the finances associated with horses. We guarantee the first time you hear that soft nicker or stroke your horse’s whiskery muzzle for the first time, you’ll be hooked!
“Is owning a horse crazy expensive? Yes,” Susan said. “Is it worth every penny? Absolutely.”