Once you fall in love with horses, it’s only a matter of time before you start dreaming of owning one. Owning a horse can be an incredible experience, as the relationship is extremely satisfying. As you might expect, however, owning a horse can be rather expensive. So before you either rule it out entirely or plunge forward only to be surprised by the total cost of horse ownership, it’s best to look at a basic estimate of what you can expect. That’s why we’ve put together this practical guide to how much it costs to own a horse, including the cost of buying the horse and annual upkeep expenses.
Considerations Before Buying a Horse
It’s easy to get lost in the details that go into calculating how much you should expect to spend to own a horse. Especially when you consider costs for upkeep vary widely depending on where you live, and if you board your horse, or keep your horse at home. But starting big-picture will allow you to get a better perspective. Here are a few questions that will help guide your decision-making:
- What type of horse do I want?
- Where can I purchase a horse?
- What can I expect to pay to keep a horse?
- What horse supplies will I need?
- How will I care for my horse’s needs daily?
- Where will I keep my horse?
When considering the type of horse you want, think about the intended use of the horse. Do you plan to mostly pleasure ride, or do you plan to compete? Is the horse for adults or children? Your answers will determine the best breed and temperament for the horse you select.
Check out our list of top horse breeds for competitive riders as you consider the type of horse you might want.
When it comes to cost, do your research online and talk with people locally who own horses. Since you’ll find a wide range of costs associated with horse ownership in different areas of the country, it’s a good idea to determine what expenses typically look like in your specific area. We include cost ranges in this guide to give you an idea of what you might expect, but you’ll get a more precise estimate by talking to horse owners local to your area.
How Much Does It Cost To Buy a Horse?
The value, and ultimately the cost, of a horse will depend on a number of factors, including breed, pedigree, conformation (build), and ability. If you choose a pedigree horse selectively bred for specific traits, expect that horse to come at a higher cost since it’s considered of greater value. However, a pedigree may not hold value for you personally if you’re seeking to ride for pleasure and care more about the temperament of the horse.
Training will also impact the price of the horse, as training a horse for a specific task takes time and expertise. Lastly, there may be geographical price differences for horses due to supply and demand in the horse market.
You can generally expect to pay anywhere in the range of $1,500 to $60,000 or more to buy a horse. The price is highly dependent on the age of the horse, level of training and skills required by the rider.
If you are simply looking for a trail horse to ride occasionally you can expect something on the lower end of the range. However if you are looking for a seasoned competitive show horse, the price will be significantly more.
What Is the Cost of Owning a Horse?
As with the purchase cost of a horse, there is a wide range of ongoing expenses for owning a horse. Will you keep the horse at your home or at a boarding facility? The costs of ongoing upkeep will vary based on location. But to help you get started, we’ll share a general idea of what to expect here in the Western Carolinas, where our flag ship location resides.
Feed ($2500-$5000 per annum)
A large portion of the cost of horse ownership is dedicated to feeding. On a daily basis, a horse eats around 0.5% of their body weight in grain (about 5 pounds or 1 large coffee can) and 1.5% (15 pounds or 2-3 generous flakes) in hay. Considering an adult horse weighs over 1,000 pounds, this is a lot! They also may need salt and minerals and potentially vitamins and other supplements.
A good quality bag of horse feed is currently running about $40.00 per 50 pound bag. Based on a 1000 pound horse fed 2.5 pounds of grain twice per day you can expect to use about 7 bags of grain per month or 84 bags per year.
Add in the costs of any regionally needed vitamins, minerals, electrolytes or supplements and your Horse feed and any needed supplement will cost around $2,500 to $5,000 a year, possibly more in some areas.
Learn more: What to Feed a Horse (+ Health Benefits)
Horse Care ($1500-$5000 per annum)
Horses need regular maintenance and care from a veterinarian and a farrier. This includes check-ups, vaccinations, deworming, hoof trimming, shoes disease testing, and any additional care needed. Hoof care is essential for a healthy horse, so this isn’t something to skimp on!
Expect to pay another $1,500 to $5,000 yearly if your horse is healthy. That range seems large but considering semi annual vet visits for vaccines and routine care like teeth floating will be around $500 per visit, add on farrier visits to trim your horses hooves and you are in a the lower end of the range. However if your horse needs shoes, joint injections, or special hoof care and the costs can quickly go up, especially if your horse gets hurt or sick.
Learn more: Parts of a Horse’s Anatomy With Pictures
Home Care Stall Boarding ($1200-$7000 per annum)
Whether you are keeping your horse on your property or boarding elsewhere, you’re going to have boarding expenses. There are operating costs to maintain a barn, including equipment, and arena management, as well as horse bedding. If you have a barn on your property that is in good working order, expect to pay around $1200 to $7,000 a year to maintain it.
Commercial Boarding ($12,000-$24,000 + per annum)
If you don’t have barn space, you can board your horse at a facility. You’ll probably pay a minimum of about $300 per month for straight pasture board where the facility provides a minimum of care usually including grass pasture or hay, and water in a group setting. If you are looking for full care boarding the cost will vary a bit by the amenities offered by the facility.
That said basic full service would include two feedings per day, turnout, bring in, blanket changes as needed, stall cleaning, arranging for and holding your horse for vet & farrier services paired with a safe arena to ride in, you can expect rates to start at about $1200 per month.
If you require an indoor riding area, a lit ring to in ride after work, training rides, lessons, grooming, or tack up and cool down services you can expect to pay upwards of $2000 per month at minimum.
It should be noted that commercial boarding facilities generally do not include routine vet and farrier care. These services would be in addition to your monthly board bill.
Basic Barn Equipment & Tack ($1500-$2000 to get started)
In addition to the various expenses for maintaining a barn or renting a stall, you’ll also have equipment and tack costs. This includes a saddle, bridle, halter, bit, and other tack, essential clothing and gear, as well as grooming equipment like brushes, buckets, and more. There can be a wide range in cost depending on your experience, skill level and chosen discipline.
For example, if you are only looking to occasionally hit the trails when the mood strikes, your tack and equipment costs will be much less than a rider who has specific equipment requirements that plans compete and the highest levels of their chosen discipline.
That said basic grooming and barn supplies, (brushes, halter, lead rope, turnout sheet, buckets, lunge line, etc.) trail riding tack, and don’t forget tack cleaning supplies, a riding helmet and half chaps for your excursions. This will likely run you a minimum of about $1500 to $2000 for basic new horse owner gear.
Keep in mind the more specific your goals and needs, the more costly the equipment can be. The rider looking to compete at the top level of any English riding discipline can expect the figures to three times this amount or higher for equipment and tack. These estimates do not include costs for the different types of apparel required to compete.
Lessons ($2400-$3500 per annum)
If you’re new to horse riding or want to compete, taking lessons is a great idea and an additional cost to include in your budget. Group lessons tend to run from $50 to $65 a lesson, and private instruction is typically between $75 and $150 an hour. Most active riders take at least one lesson per week, more if actively competing. Budgeting for at least one lesson a week throughout the year at the low end of the group lesson range runs about around $2,400 per year.
Equine Liability and Equine Health Insurance ($400-$3000+ per annum)
Insurance is something to consider, especially if you plan to keep your horses at home, have a trainer come to your farm to ride your horse or if you plan to compete. Liability insurance will cover you if a neighborhood child accidentally gets bit when visiting your horse, if your trainer has a fall on your property or if you compete and while off of your property, your horse bites or kicks someone.
Equine Surgical and Mortality insurance would offset the cost of medical bills incurred by your horse due to illness or injury and in some severe cases offset the cost of losing your horse to a catastrophic injury or illness.
Major medical and mortality insurance is generally about 3% of the horses value as determined by purchase price. High value horses may require a routine physical exam to qualify for coverage.
Equine liability insurance costs depend on how much coverage you are looking for. Coverage costs will vary by situation, a person keeping a few horses at home will not need the same coverage as a commercial farm with a lesson program. For the purpose of this blog we will focus on personal equine liability for the rider who keeps horses at home. Basic coverage, again depending on liability limits chosen by the owner and how many horses are on the property, starts at about $400 per year.
How Much Does a Horse Cost Overall?
Owning a horse can be a costly proposition. However, keep in mind that some of these expenses aren’t required immediately. The minimum up-front cost to purchase a horse and your tack will likely range from $4,000 to $9,000. You can then expect to pay a minimum of $6,000 to $8,000 a year, depending on where you live and if you have a barn with equipment or need to board your horse.
There’s nothing more rewarding for horse lovers than owning your own horse, so most equestrians believe the expense is worth it. However, we want to be sure you go into purchasing a horse of your own with your eyes wide open to the costs. That way, you can spend your time enjoying your horse and not worrying about the expense!
You might also like: