For many school-age children, and even some adults, owning a horse or pony may seem fun and exciting. The thought of cantering along on horseback with the wind in your hair can seem appealing, but there’s plenty of behind-the-scenes work. Caring for large animals like equines requires an expansive budget. Here are five things to think about before you spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars, buying a horse.
You’ll need to budget for the ongoing expense of keeping your horse well fed with hay and grain, and a healthy horse can really chow down. Horses can eat between 1.5 percent and 3 percent of their body weight every day. How much you’ll spend can depend on the market price of feed, as well as your horse’s lifestyle. Active horses that are regularly ridden can eat more than those who stay in the barn and only go out for the occasional jaunt.
Horse-Sitting and Boarding Costs
If you can afford to take a vacation after you’ve bought a horse, you’ll need to pay someone to take care of your four-legged friend while you’re out of town. An alternative is to board your horse, but either way, it’s not cheap. When it comes to paying for labor, you get what you pay for, so finding someone knowledgeable about proper equine care will cost you some bucks. Boarding can cost as much as $500 to $1,500 per horse a month, depending on the services offered, the type of facility, and the geographical location.
As with any other animal, taking care of a horse involves occasional veterinary services. Unlike humans with their health insurance plans, when the vet comes to visit, you pay full price. Expenses can include routine shots, preventative medicine, dentistry services, and new shoes from the farrier. In case of illness or injury, emergency services could include surgery.
Bedding and Supplies
To make your horse comfortable in his stall, you’ll need load after load of wood shavings. The bedding needs to be changed regularly, and you need to factor in the cost of having truckloads of shavings delivered. Not all suppliers charge the same rates, so research is in order to find the best deal. Also, buying supplies like saddles, bridles, halters, blankets, saddle pads, and even hoof picks, combs, and mane and tail shampoo can add up.
Hidden Costs of Showing
Horse shows can be fun, but expensive. Participating in shows can mean paying for the gas to get to the competitions and back, making hotel reservations during the event, and paying entry fees. If you’re really bitten by the show bug, competing in local, regional and national competitions could mean driving cross-country, to whatever state the show is being held in. If you don’t already have a horse trailer, you may need to rent one, for a fee.
Owning a horse can mean weighing opportunity costs to decide if what you want is worth giving up the lifestyle you have. If you buy one, instead of having your evenings and weekends free, you’ll spend it cleaning your horse’s hooves, mucking out the stall, washing him, exercising him in the paddock, or buying hay and fee at the local seed and feed store. But if you’ve got a vision of horse ownership you just can’t shake, the expense and sacrifices will all be worth it.