You turn on the television to watch the evening news. You watch with sadness and disbelief as the camera pans across a corral full of horses who are in very sad shape. Some may have sores or injuries, most look as if they have not eaten in a very long time. The owner of those horses will face multiple charges of animal cruelty.
I have no sympathy for the owners of the horses. But I do wonder if the condition of the horses is intentional cruelty or just owner ignorance. I spoke with Megan Bradley of Norman Oklahoma about the proper care of horses. With the help of her mother (Deborah Maxon), Megan began working with horses when she was only 8 years old. She now has almost 30 years of experience training and showing horses.
The first thing Megan had to say about horse ownership is “They are not backyard pets”. Horses need space, and quite a bit of it, according to Megan. I asked Megan to outline the basic care and costs of owning a horse.
If you do not have adequate space for a horse you will have to board your horse. You can either rent pasture for around $250.00 per month. You could also rent space with a stall. The fee for this rents on the average of $600.00 per month. Remember if you do this, you will also have the expense of traveling to take care of your horse on a daily basis.
All animals need attention and affection, even horses. Usually if a horse receives the attention and affection it needs, it will be a good horse. Horses are herd animals so it is best if they have a companion. It does not necessarily have to be another horse, the companion can be a donkey or even a goat. But, a horse does not like to be alone. They may tolerate being alone, but if they have a companion they will be happier and more well-adjusted.
Horses will graze in the pasture, but they still need grain and hay supplements. You do not want to change the type of grain you feed them as that can make them ill. You also do not want to feed only grain because they can get too fat. If your horse is a hard worker he will require a little more grain because grain is a source of energy for your horse. The price for hay will vary but the average is around $500.00 per year. Grain is $15.00 per 50 lb. bag which will last about a week for a yearly cost of $780.00.
Even though a horse is a big animal, they have a delicate system. A potentially lethal condition for a horse is Colic. Colic can be caused by a number of reasons but the main reason is stress. A sudden change in feed, or the build-up of dirt in their gut from eating feed off the ground can also cause Colic. Horses do not have the ability to vomit (cause of Colic). When this happens the horses gut can become twisted. Should this happen the horse will more than likely require surgery to correct the situation or they may die. The cost of this type surgery could range from $7,000.00 to $10,000.00 or more.
A horse should not live in dirty conditions. This means the stall should be cleaned every day. You will have to add shavings once the stall is cleaned. You will use approximately one bag of shavings every other day. Shavings cost around $4.00 per bag for a total of $624.00 per year. Their water trough should be clean (dirty water is not only unhealthy-it can harbor mosquitos). They also need to have their grain in something to prevent ingesting dirt along with their grain. Horses need to be bathed and brushed (including their mane and tail). You will also need to keep special bug repellent for horses and use it frequently, particularly during warm weather. This repellent costs about $31.00 and will last about 3 weeks which results in $527.00 per year.
Now for a little information about the general routine health care for your horse. Horses need vaccinations too. If your horse does not get the required vaccinations you put him at risk for serious illness. The cost of vaccinations are about $150.00 annually. You need to have a farrier tend to your horses hooves about every 6 weeks. If a horse’s hooves grow too he can become lame. An average farrier fee is $45.00 which totals $360.00 yearly. If you notice your horse dropping grain from his mouth as he eats it could be due to sharp points on some of their teeth which can painful and difficult for them to grind their food adequately. If you notice this, you need to call an equine dentist to tend your horse. Your horse will need to have his teeth “floated”, which means having the sharp points filed down to adjust their bite. This fee is about $150.00.
If you plan on taking your horse to any type of event you will need a suitable trailer to haul him in and a truck to pull the trailer. The cost for that will depend on you. You also have all the tack to buy, saddle, bridle, bit, blanket and well the list can go on. Again the cost of these items will depend on you.
So, owning a horse requires a big investment both in time and finances. Time involved will be no less than two hours a day EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK. There are no days off, your horse depends on you to take care of him.
The actual purchase price of a horse will depend on you, I will use the figure of $3,000.00. I will recap the other items listed above:
$3,000.00 – horse
$3,000.00 – pasture rental
$7,200.00 – stall rental
$500.00 – hay
$780.00 – grain
$624.00 – shavings
$527.00 – bug spray
$150.00 – vaccinations
$360.00 – farrier
$150.00 – dental
$3,000.00 – miscellaneous tack (including grooming supplies)
Total $9,091.00 (if you have your own space)
Total $12,091.00 (with pasture rental)
Total $16,291.00 (with stall rental)
If you do the right thing for your horse and provide companionship for him, everything except the pasture or stall rental and part of the tack and grooming supplies will be doubled.
There you have it, the cost of equine ownership. You should never get a horse (or any animal) with the expectation of only giving it feed, water and an occasional pat on the head. Horses are beautiful and powerful. They are poetry in motion. If you really want a horse you should be prepared to care for them in a manner they deserve. Happy trails.