I can’t remember a time when I was not madly in love with all things equine. “Horse” topped every wish list I made, followed by all the things I felt were necessary for good horse-keeping. My wish finally came true when I was 10. Oh, what a magical time! Now, over 30 years later, I realize how much my mother had to sacrifice for my dream. How much does a horse cost per year? In this article, we’ll find out.
My horse-crazy brain gave no thought to how much a horse cost per year!
Before you can bring your newest family member home, you must have suitable living arrangements. The cost for boarding varies widely. For example, self-care pasture boarding can be $125 or less per month, while full stable board can be $750 or more per month. If you have enough property, you may decide to keep your horses at home. Speaking from experience, it is often less expensive and certainly extremely rewarding. However, what you save in money, you will more than make up for with “sweat equity”! Make sure you have enough land, suitable shelter for horses and dry storage for hay and feed if you decide to take this route.
Speaking of hay and feed……
If you don’t have suitable grazing, this will probably be your biggest horse-related expense. Depending on the size of your horse, his metabolism and workload, he will need to consume around 2% of his body weight per day. Forage should make up the majority – if not all – of his diet to maintain proper gut health and should be available at all times. If your horse requires more calories, add plain whole oats with a ration balancer or vitamin/mineral supplement. For easy-keepers, forage and a ration balancer should be all they need. For hard-keepers, a quality senior feed may be a better choice as they tend to have more fat as well as being highly digestible. Bagged feed can be purchased for $15-$30, varying by brand, type of feed and location. Hay prices fluctuate constantly unless you are fortunate enough to have a single supplier. Expect to pay $5-$15 for small/medium square bales and $40-$90 for large squares or rolls. Buy the absolute best quality feed and forage you can afford. It will payoff in the long run with fewer and less expensive vet bills!
Did someone say vet?
If you had a pre-purchase exam performed on your horse, then you already know the value of a great veterinarian. Even the healthiest of horses needs a physical and dental care each year. You and your vet should work together to come up with a proper schedule for vaccinating and deworming your horse. Gone are the days of simply vaccinating and deworming every horse for the same things and on the same schedule! An annual farm call for a horse with no health issues will probably be around $200. It is always a good idea to have some extra money set aside in case of unexpected vet bills. You might be surprised how quickly $500 can disappear when it comes to horses!
Parasite control has progressed a great deal since the mid-1900’s. Back then, vets had to deworm horses with drenching tubes. With the advent of over-the-counter paste dewormers, tubing is mostly a thing of the past. In recent years, many equine caregivers have turned to fecal egg checks(FEC) to get a more precise reading on internal parasites. Instead of the old standards of rotational deworming, ivermectin every 8 weeks or moxidectin every 12 weeks, we are now seeing more people only deworming horses with a heavy parasite load. Now horses with minimal parasites are no longer being dewormed at the same rate as their parasite laden herdmates. This is not only better for the horses, it also helps control resistance. However, some parasites may not present in a FEC so be sure you speak to your vet about the best methods for keeping your horses worm load low.
No hoof, no horse.
The importance of excellent hoofcare can’t be stressed enough. Depending on hoof quality and rate of growth, hooves should be trimmed approximately every 5 weeks. Highly qualified barefoot trimmers and farriers charge $40-$70 per trim. If you keep your horse shod, expect to pay at least double the cost of a trim. This is another area where you should never skimp. The best hoofcare professionals are generally not the least expensive. But when you consider how often you and your horse will be dealing with this particular person, you will understand why you need to get the best trimmer or farrier for the job!
If you have made it this far……
We have covered the basics of horse care above. So what about the not-so-basic care? Horses, like humans, are individuals. Some horses would not only survive but even thrive on those general guidelines. But many require more in the way of nutritional supplements, herbs, medications, massage therapy, chiropractic care, etc. And as your horse ages, even if he has no health issues, he will probably still require special care. You should consider all these extras as they may very well be a part of his daily care going into his senior years.
So, how much does a horse REALLY cost per year?!
On average, horse ownership (excluding boarding fees) will be around $2400.00 per year. If you have healthy horses and plenty of your own forage, you may not spend even half that much. On the other hand, if you are training and competing, raising young horses or caring for horses with special needs, your costs may be several times that amount.
When it comes right down to it, though, the benefits far outweigh the costs of having horses in our lives!