Horses are a lifelong dream for many. They begged their parents to buy them a horse growing up only to be told, “Horses are too expensive!” Horses are well known to be an expensive hobby. They are expensive to buy and expensive to keep. But unless you already have the horse, what they cost to keep might be a mystery, leaving you wonder, exactly how much do I need to have a horse?
I’m going to break down all the costs so you can figure out what you need in order to pursue horse ownership. Please note that costs are highly dependent on where you live. It’s going to be more expensive in densely populated areas where there’s less land, and likely cheaper out in rural areas.
Board – You need somewhere to put your horse. If it’s not on your property, you’ll be paying someone else to care for it. The cost range is huge, from cheap, basic, no amenities pasture board to stall, full training, groom service, etc.
Expect to pay starting at $150ish for very very cheap pasture board all the way into the thousands for full service. The standard where I live in about $500 for basic stall board.
Hay – If you don’t board, or your barn doesn’t provide it, you’ll need to buy hay, particularly in the winter months when no grass is growing.
Expect to pay $7-$15 per square bale, which lasts a normal horse about a day and a half. Round bales range from $50 – $80, and can last a horse about two weeks.
Lessons – I really believe that lessons enhance the riding experience. It’s amazing how a few lessons have smoothed out issues I have with my horses, things that have been driving me absolutely crazy, and a lesson or two fixes the problem. I firmly believe they are such a help, everyone should try to take them. That said, not everyone takes weekly lessons, but even a few lessons here and there help.
Expect to pay anywhere from $40 – $100 per lesson. Lessons are usually set up to be weekly, but even if you don’t go weekly, try to go when you can.
Farrier – Horses need their hooves trimmed, this is not optional. Your horse might end up completely unusable if you don’t do it, and then you’ll have a very expensive pasture pet. Do not neglect this task. Farrier work can range from $50 – $60 for a simple trim with no shoes required, or $150 for front shoes, or $240 for shoes all the way around. If your horse has any kind of issues, corrective shoeing is even more expensive. Shoeing your horse can get expensive – which is why I have mine barefoot (plus they seems happy that way!)
Yearly or Bi-Yearly
This is the the vet maintenance. Horses are outside a lot and need vaccination shots to keep them safe from many of the insect-borne, horse=borne and environmental diseases. It’s way cheaper to vaccine than it is to treat the disease later.
Horses typically get shots in the spring and fall. You should follow your vet’s recommendations for what your horse needs based on your location and your horse’s lifestyle. For my horses, a round of spring shots is about $200 for each horse, mainly because I do the coggins then. Fall shots are be cheaper but usually about $120.
Your horse might also need injections or some kind of treatment to stay sound. That’ll be maybe $250 or more per appointment. This could be a yearly bill, or it could be an every few weeks kind of bill.
Unfortunately horses get hurt, and some of them seem prone to getting hurt a lot. Unexpected vet bills can be really painful. There’s no way to really estimate how much you’ll end up spending in unexpected vet bills but it’s a good idea to have at least $2,000 saved up, just in case. Vet calls are usually $100 per visit, and that’s without even doing anything to the horse yet. Then treatment can be anywhere from $100 – $400 or more. Medicines can be $100 or more. Then you might have to pay for someone to continually treat your horse, if you aren’t on property to do it every day, which could be $15 a day.
And then some people get lucky and their horse never gets hurt, and nothing ever happens. But there’s no promises that’ll be you and your horse.
All the Accessories and Additional Purchases
Honestly, this is where it’s it’s going to make or break you. You could exist without many of these purchases, but would you want to?
Saddle, saddle pad, girth, bridle, bit, and all horse tack – the range of how much this costs can be huge. You can find things used, pursuse yard sales and tack auctions to find the cheapest equipment possible. Or you can buy exquisite leather goods, stylish and beautiful, with high quality sheepskin saddle pads with decorative tasteful piping – all for thousands of dollars. For exact pricing, check out SmartPak or Riding Warehouse… or you could contact a saddle rep for the expensive, custom made tack.
Care Equipment – You’ll need grooming supplies, consumables like lotions for cuts and skin issues, shampoo and fly spray. Fly masks, fly sheets, anything you might need to take care of your horse. Not all of it is needed, but some people want to pamper their horse. Usually you end buying these kinds of things as you need them, or if you find them on sale.
Supplements – Some people really believe in supplements. Others… think they are a complete waste of money. I personally believe your usual feeding program should take care of all your horse’s needs, plus get a salt lick, but people have their horses in all sorts of environments which may or may not include all the nutrition they need. Supplements are usually purchased monthly and they can be a really big expense. Check out supplement costs here.
Your Accessories – We all want to look good and fit it, which is why there’s pressure to buy breeches, matchy matchy sets, fancy boots, and brand name clothing. But this will get costly fast. You don’t really need any of this stuff, but hey, we do like looking good. I don’t fault anyone, I also like to look good. But I’m just pointing out, this will get pricy.
Horse Shows – For some, horse shows are the main reason to ride so they are not optional. But, if you’re trying to save money, they absolutely are. Horse shows, just like the other stuff on this list, can be fairly cheap, or mind blowing expensive. If you decide to get involved in showing, make sure you know what all your costs are first. Expenses could include: Show fee, individual class fees, stall, bedding, various trainer fees, shipping, matching blankets and/or tack trunks so your barn looks cool, grooming fee, exercise fee, feeding fee. Basically, prepare to be nickel and dimed for this experience, so find out what you are getting into before you do it and it’s too late.
Alternatively, you can take yourself to the little show down the road, pay just your show fee and class fees and have a merry old time. But not everyone wants that kind of experience. There’s also tons of other experiences that aren’t actually shows, like group trail rides, judged trail rides or hunter paces, usually costing about $40 – $70 a ride.
Truck and Trailer – If you’re at a barn that takes you everywhere, you probably won’t need to worry about this (although you’ll be paying for those rides!). But for some, they start getting the itch for their own independent adventures. They want the freedom to take their horse wherever they want. It’s possible, but at a very expensive price. Vehicles capable of towing a horse trailer are expensive. Trailers are expensive. Used may be the way to go to stay on a budget, as new can be $40,000+.
Overall, your costs are going to vary wildly depending on what you want to do with your horse experience. You could be happy with a bare bones budget, just hanging out at the house or wandering down your road for a trail ride, or you might have the desire for intense competition. You’ll end up unhappy if you really want that competition but don’t actually have the budget to afford it.
If you are on a strict budget but love horses, there’s nothing wrong with just taking your weekly lesson (or whenever you can afford it.) If you have time, many barns offer the opportunity to work off lessons, just don’t let yourself be taken advantage of, something that is unfortunately super common in this industry.
It is possible to be involved in horses without spending much money, but there’s no doubt that having lots of money makes for a pretty incredible experience. But what is not an incredible experience is realizing you’re majorly in over your head and drowning and debt. Make sure you fully understand all the expenses of owning a horse before diving in.
I hope this helped, and have fun on your horse journey!
Love horses but don’t know where to get started?