How much does it cost to own and maintain a horse?
April 22, 2015 12:26 PM   Subscribe

Curiosity, more than anything, compels me to ask this question. Hop over the fence for details.

For the purposes of the question let's assume:

1. I live on property zoned for keeping horses.
2. A barn already exists on the property.
3. I have experience riding and grooming horses, and plan to groom them myself or with the help of family.
4. The horses I would own would be just for riding a few days a week; I wouldn't be planning to show them.

So, I'm curious as to both one-time costs (like purchasing riding equipment) and monthly maintenance costs, including but not limited to food, water, and vet bills.
posted by vignettist to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak to the overall monetary costs, but I had a girlfriend in high school that kept horses. Do not overlook the non-monetary costs. She spent a tremendous amount of time each daily/weekly cleaning, feeding, etc.
posted by Silvertree at 1:21 PM on April 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This is from my wife who has had horses for the past 36 years. These costs are based on living in Florida and with the horse grazing, not strictly barn fed.
Western style tack and grooming equipment- About $2000 one time cost
Monthly hay and feed $150-250 (more in the winter)
Annual vet checkup, vaccinations, tooth care $350
Hoof care (farrier) unshod $35-50 every 6 weeks
Fly spray $50 month in summer
Wormer $25 every 2 months

Also take into account pasture maintenance, fence repair, stall cleaning and bedding supplies, etc.

It's not a cheap hobby.
posted by white_devil at 1:22 PM on April 22, 2015 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I worked on my grandfather's horse farm for almost 20 years. We had between 2 and 10 horses at a time. There are certain (optional) incidentals that you can build yourself, so costs will vary:
  • Outdoor wash rack: mainly a drainage convenience for us.
  • Storage: we built an covered outdoor area for hay and then converted a stall with shelving and bins for feed and supplies.
  • Composting area / garden: might as well put that manure to good use
  • Large outdoor stall: we tacked on some fencing and a gate to the side of the stables for a double-wide stall that was useful for when we didn't want a horse in its normal stall, but taking it out to the paddock was a hassle. Also worked well as a birthing stall and a holding stall after being washed.
  • Training structures: Even if you're riding recreationally, you might want some training stuff. We bred paso finos, so built a little boardwalk where we could train the horses on their special gait.
Also consider your electrical bill -- we had overhead fans running in the stables down here in Florida, plus general lighting.

And goddamn, I felt we were always repairing the roof of the stables and attached casita where we kept all the tack and other incidentals. The farm was in an area surrounded by old scrub oaks and they would constantly drop huge branches, which took off shingles and one time completely smashed the roof in. Ah, the joys of owning a large structure on a lot of natural land.

Machinery costs: If you're riding trails on your own property, you'll also need to have tools for managing them. Another possible cost: we used a tractor attachment for hauling manure, feed, etc. And do you need to move your horse? 3k-16k for a trailer.

I love horses, but like houses, there are a bunch of hidden costs (and also a lot of DIY solutions).
posted by Wossname at 2:10 PM on April 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Crap, more costs I forgot about -- your own gear!

Even if you're not showing the horse, you'll probably want riding boots ($100+) and a helmet ($50+). And probably clothing/boots for mucking out the stables and all those other fun chores.

There's also a whole host of cleaning/maintenance supplies for the stables themselves, which boil down a lot to preference, but can include stuff like a pressure cleaner, misc hand tools, paint, buckets, pitchfork, wheelbarrow, extra long hoses, leaf blower, etc., etc. A good chunk of costs go towards maintaining the barn/stables, not just the horse directly.
posted by Wossname at 2:19 PM on April 22, 2015

You should also budget for at least one unplanned vet visit per year, at emergency rates as it'll be on a weekend, because horses never hurt themselves or get sick during normal business hours. In 8 years of horse ownership we had two cases of colic, one case of Lyme Disease, one scratched eye from a tree branch, and a few more issues. Luckily, neither colic case required surgery, which would have been a couple of grand, and we caught the Lyme very early, so he made a full recovery. But even so, six weeks (IIRC) of antibiotics for a 1000 lb. animal ain't cheap.

We boarded him, so we had so costs you won't. My horse expenses, including riding lessons every other week for my daughter, averaged about $800 a month.

We re-homed him last year when my daughter headed halfway across the country to study equine science, on a full ride scholarship. So I'm the rare person that made money owning a horse :)
posted by COD at 5:22 PM on April 22, 2015

Budget in random regular meds for the horses (maybe one's a little arthritic and gets Bute, maybe one's got a thyroid disease, etc).

Washing various horse supplies can also get costly: you have saddle pads, blankets, sheets, leg wraps. My old barn used to get pretty cheap washing machines that we would absolutely destroy within a year or two and then have to buy new ones. Other places take their blankets to the laundromat, which is also costly (and depending how dirty your stuff is and how much horse hair you leave behind, may get you banned from the local laundromat, ahem, not that that every happened to anyone I know).

Extra insurance, especially if you'll be having non-family members ever come and care for the horses or ride them.

Hay can get REALLY expensive if summers are bad with drought in the region where you buy your hay--imagine having to pay premium rates because there's a shortage and now your hay is being trucked in from halfway across the country.
posted by TwoStride at 5:52 PM on April 22, 2015

For the sake of comparison, here in Australia in the 90s my horse costs were- saddle, bridle, rug, helmet, boots, halter, lead- prob around $600 as a one off. Intermittent visits from the farrier and vet. That's it. No hay, special shed set up or anything else. The horse ate the grass and there was enough of it. I rode the horse in a local pine plantation, which was free. So location and approach to the subject can make costs vary quite a bit.
posted by jojobobo at 1:47 PM on April 23, 2015

I got my horse when he was 10, he's 28 now, and the vet estimates that he'll live to 40 (barring accident, he comes from very long-lived stock).

Vaccinations here are biannual, but that is regional--I live in an area that has potomac horse fever and west nile. The less regional vaccines (tetanus/EWEE and rabies) are yearly. I schedule our vet at the cheapest possible time, I'm lucky enough to have someone who can be near the barn all day to be there whenever the vet shows up. Vet also does a yearly wellness check at the same visit, and sometimes dental work (how much of this you need is highly dependent on the age of your horse). Our vet also does a few other incidentals like sheath cleaning, which is admittedly just a luxury for me to not have to do it. Average, say, 250$ twice a year? 500$/yr.

And yes, assume that your horse will develop some condition after you have bought him/her that will require some special medication or treatment. In our case, ventipulmin syrup for breathing issues which developed around 7 years ago, 280$ per large bottle and we go through about 5 bottles a year... When he was younger, it was a nasty protozoal illness, and then once a colic call, and once an ear infection. This section may seem excessive, but it's really not, my horse is one of the least accident prone that I've met--for your horse it could be a one time injury that costs five times as much, or something cheaper but chronic, but... "horse: a large animal just waiting for the most inconvenient and expensive time to get sick". 1400$/year

Farrier, comes as needed which is as long as 10 or 12 weeks in the winter and as short as 6 weeks in the spring--around 7 times a year, total. My horse is happily barefoot (although--I have known one horse with otherwise sound hooves that just did not tolerate bare feet, so you never can tell) and our farrier is cheap for this area (and awesome), around 50$/visit. 350$/yr.

Fly predators (or fly spray if you really prefer..., I only have one horse so I split an order of fly predators with our neighbors) split in half with neighbors so 10$/month times 6 months of summer. Equispot (to keep the ticks off--I live in a high tick area and neighbors horse got lyme disease, so this is well worth it) 12$/box and I use probably 3 boxes a year (or a little less). Plus a new fly mask every year because nothing else gets rid of the gnats and my horse doesn't know what's good for him and destroys them at an insane rate (some years I have to buy two!) at 20$/mask... Round a bit and call it 120$/yr.

Dewormer paste (or the pelleted kind, but that's more expensive). I lose track of how much I spend here, because I'm on one of those different-dewormer-every-two-months schedules, but say it's just under 12$ per tube on average and 6 tubes a year, 70$/yr.

SWAT and AluShield for small scrapes, tick bites, fly irritations... SWAT is 10$ and one tub lasts a couple of years, AluShield is 15$ per can and the can doesn't last that long at all, so it's a bit of a luxury but really useful. Average say, 25$/yr.

Mowing, seeding, dragging, fertilizer, removing the tree that fell across the path, removing the tree that fell across the fence (and fixing the fence), removing the tree that fell on the barn (and fixing the barn)... and other maintenance--I don't really spend money here, because my family does this all for me (best family ever) but basically it's not cheap. Horses love to overgraze clover patches and carefully leave behind all of the weeds. The war with the dandelions is never-ending. You can't turn horses out on just fertilized or just sprayed pasture, so you have to have some contingency plan for that (my pasture is split up so it's not that hard, but I only have one horse and about 3 acres fenced--minimum for primarily grazing horses is 1 acre of grazing per horse, but you'll definitely get over grazing at that level). It's complicated and it depends on what area you're in, what the current pasture looks like, if you already own some farm equipment, and if you're handy with a saw, and so on.

Feed--so dependent on your horse. When mine was younger he got about 1/4 pound twice a day (basically nothing), now he gets about twice that, and our neighbor's elderly quarter horse gets 3 pounds twice a day... Let's just say costs vary. A 50 pound bag of feed costs me around, let's round up, 20$, and... let's say around 7 bags a year?... Plus any supplements you do, for me that's only a salt block, 10$ and probably one a year... Plus any hay, which... I just can't even estimate. Depends so much on the quality of your hay, the pickiness of your horse, and how much you have to supplement your pasture with hay. For us, that's mainly during the winter and depends on how hard the winter is. If you have more horses, you can feed round bales which are cheaper, but with just one too much of it molds before he eats it. Plus you need a truck to transport hay or pay for delivery (maybe you already own a truck). 150$ to 200$ per load of hay, and... I don't know, 3-4 loads per year? Let's round it all up and call it 1000$/yr.

Equipment, some of this does wear out... blanket, basically just the cheapest sheet and he's only blanketed a few of the coldest nights every year and doesn't usually rip up his blanket, but it does still wear, 100$ for a blanket and probably get 5 years of use out of it. Helmets, my head is a funny shape so I get the one (expensive) brand that fits, replace when the padding starts to wear or when I fall and land on it, 200$ per helmet replace on average every 3 years. Boots, buy on sale, replace when they're really worn, probably 100$ every 4 years. Breeches, I rotate through a bunch of pairs riding a few days a week, but I probably have to replace one pair every two years... 50$ per pair, every two years. Gloves, I wear these out like a bunch of pairs on sale, usually replace one pair per year, 25$ per pair replaced every year. The rest of it, I usually just wear my oldest tee shirts and jackets to the barn. Plus a few incidentals, like that hoof pick that got lost, or the new style of brush that you want to try, or the saddle pad that the washing machine ate... 200$/yr.

So we're at 2265$ + 1400$ for his medicine per year, for just necessities, and I'm sure I've forgotten stuff.

(And then you will want some luxuries. 40$ for a small shopvac is so worth it.)

(And I'm assuming that you really have lots of time. It's not so much the grooming, it's feeding twice a day, cleaning out the trough every couple of weeks, keeping the worst of the manure cleaned up, fixing that board that rotted in the fence, doing a pasture walk in the spring to make sure nothing poisonous is growing [like red maple], doing a liniment rub on a swollen leg twice a day for a week...)

(And my coworkers wonder why I won't buy a new car and always say I'm broke, haha.)
posted by anaelith at 8:29 AM on April 26, 2015

(Forgot to mention insurance--you probably want at least some liability coverage for horse accidents through your property insurance--and rider's hospital bills...)
posted by anaelith at 9:43 AM on April 26, 2015

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