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How much does a horse cost?

What you need to know before you buy.

Wanna buy a horse, but not sure if you’ve got enough pennies in your piggy bank?

Today we’re gonna answer the question – how much does a horse cost?

The answer is going to be different for each person.

But once you’ve read this post – you should have a very good idea of how much you’ll need.

Let’s find out more.

How much does a horse cost?

The cost of buying a horse can vary quite a lot.

On one end of the scale, you could get a horse without spending a dime (yes, really!). On the other, you could spend upwards of $10,000.

It all depends on what you are looking for.

Horses that cost over $10,000 are usually thoroughbreds. They have great bloodlines and are good for competitions.

If you’re looking to buy a horse for casual riding, you should be able to find a great one for well under $10,000.

To get a horse that’s good for a complete beginner or an intermediate rider, $1500 to $3000 is a realistic budget.

Keep in mind that the cost of horses can vary depending on things like age, condition, and even the economy.

Let’s take a look at some of the key factors you should be aware of when you’re looking to buy a horse.

Factors that affect the cost of horses:

This might be an obvious point, but the age and condition of the horse will greatly affect the cost.

Often younger horses with very little training can be much cheaper. But they do come with greater risks and/or challenges.

Buying a young horse cheap can be a great idea if you are knowledgeable about training. You also need to be willing to put in a whole lot of work.

If you don’t have much experience with horses, young and cheap might not be a good idea. You could find yourself facing behavioral or health issues, or even hurting yourself!

horse bucking in a rodeo

You can also find older horses for very little cost.

With older horses, you should be able to avoid any behavioral issues. But, it is more likely that you will have to deal with (and pay for) health issues.

Ponies can also be cheaper than horses, but the cost to keep them is often the same, even though they are smaller. Pony prices start at around $1000.

The economic state can also affect the cost of horses.

People sell or even give away horses in hard times, so you may be able to get a horse for less during an economic downturn.

The other side of that coin is that if the economy is thriving, more people will want to buy horses. This can raise the price.

The cost to keep horses can also affect the price.

stacked hay in a field

For example, let’s say there is a poor hay crop one year. This drives up the cost of feed because everyone needs hay but there’s not enough to go around. If horses cost more to feed, sellers will demand higher prices to cover their costs.

Are free/cheap horses a good idea?

People do sometimes give away horses for free or for very little money. This can work out well if you know what you are doing or if you are very, very lucky.

Let’s go over some of the pitfalls and challenges. Here are some things you should think about if you’re considering taking a free horse. Or buying one for less than $1000.

If you’ve found a great deal, it’s likely going to be because the horse is young and untrained. Or old.

A young and untrained horse will not have experienced much handling. Young horses need lots of training and this can be expensive if you don’t have the skills to do it yourself.

Here’s a handy video that explains more:

On the flip side – old horses may need you to spend more on health care and vet visits.

Your best bet, if you are inexperienced is to go for a slightly older horse (not a baby) that has been fully trained already.

If you are buying a cheap horse (one that costs between $500 and $1000). You could also run the risk of your horse having soundness, conformation, or behavioral issues.

“Soundness” refers to a horse’s health.

a person checking a horses teeth

“Conformation” means the shape and structure of the horse’s body. Poor conformation can affect your horse’s athletic ability for example.

Behavioral issues can be quite varied. They are often related to either fear (running away) or aggression (biting and nipping).

Experienced horse owners can turn these low-cost horses into real gems. Thus increasing their value. But it takes knowledge, skill, hard work, time, and dedication.

For first-time horse owners, it may be better to pay a little more. $1500 and up should increase your choices. It may be worth it to get a horse that is ok with handling and which has had some basic training.

Trained horses should be much easier to look after. You will be able to clip, bathe and load a trained horse onto a trailer without issues. A trained horse will behave well for the vet, too.

A good tip for saving a bit of money when buying a horse is to go for a common color. Often people are set on getting their favourite color. But it pays to be open minded about color. You can get a fit and healthy horse with training for much less just because it’s not a “fancy” color.

stallion in desert

Increasing your budget above $1500 will go a long way to ensuring you get a horse with a good track record. One that is sound, well behaved, and fun to own.

Ownership costs

Horse ownership costs start early in the buying process. You’ll pay for sales taxes, the before-you-buy vet check, and transportation costs. They never end.

A survey of horse owners by the University of Maine found that the annual cost of keeping a single horse is $3876.

The main costs of owning a horse are:

  • feed
  • boarding/stabling
  • health care
  • equipment & training

Let’s go into each of these core costs in a bit more detail.

Feeding costs

The average horse weighs 1100 pounds, and needs to eat at least 1.5 to 2.5% of its body weight in hay and grain mix each day. This means that feeding your horse is going to set you back, on average, more than $1000 per year.

Your feeding costs will vary slightly depending on your horse’s activity level.

Boarding/stabling costs

 

horses costs for stables

Do you want to keep your horse on your own property? Or are you going to rent stables? Either way, there are significant costs involved.

Keeping your horse on your land

If you are lucky enough to have a few horse friendly acres – you’ll need to think about general maintenance and equipment costs.

Horses poop out 50 pounds of manure every day! So manure management is the main concern when it comes to your care budget.

Some people spread it on their fields. Others use dumpsters or collection services to deal with all that poop.

If you use dumpsters or a company that collects manure a couple of times a year, this could cost between $100 to $300 per horse per year.

Added to that are the costs involved in maintaining the stables and pasture. You’ll need to buy equipment. Think tractors, fencing, and automatic water systems.

You will likely need tank heaters to stop water troughs freezing over too. All these things come with an upkeep cost on top.

Boarding your horse at a facility

Boarding fees can and do vary wildly depending on the facilities on offer.

The minimum cost is $100 per month, and for that, you’ll get a pasture only (no shelter or food).

Do you want to board your horse in a cozy stable? Where it will have plenty of food, water, fresh bedding and regular exercise? If so, you can expect a monthly bill of at least $260, with many places charging up to $500 per month.

The top-end boarding facilities offer all the basics. They also offer extras like training and health care. These high-end options can cost anywhere between $600 and $1500 per month.

Health care costs

 

As well as the essential vet visits, you’ll need to budget for farrier care too.

Here are the main health-related costs you should be aware of before you buy.

Hoof care

Horse’s hooves grow like crazy and need trimming regularly by a certified farrier.

Hoof care is super important. It helps prevent painful infections. It also prevents joint hypertension and damage to ligaments. These conditions can lead to lameness.

looking aster horses hoofs

Poor hoof care can also lead to the development of arthritis. Arthritus in horses can be very expensive to treat. Not to mention extremely uncomfortable for your horse!

You should aim to visit a qualified farrier every 6 to 8 weeks. This is for trimming (and shoeing if needed) during the summer months.

In winter, your horse’s hooves won’t grow as fast so every 8 to 10 weeks during the colder months is fine.

So how much does all this hoof trimming cost?

Well, you should budget around $350 per year for trimming alone.

Shoeing can cost more than that.

The price of shoeing will depend on the number of shoes replaced and how often. Prices for shoeing typically range from $75 to $300.

Vet bills:

Most horses need worming 2 to 3 times each year.

They also need a yearly dental check-up. This is to check for any abscesses or sharp teeth that can affect their ability to feed properly.

You will also need to cover the annual cost of vaccinations. Horses need tetanus, rabies, Eastern and Western encephalitis and West Nile virus protection.

According to a recent survey – on average horse owners spend $485 per year on checkups and treatment.

If you can afford it, it’s worth having a few thousand dollars set aside for emergencies. Emergency vet fees can be very expensive.

Don’t worry if you don’t have thousands of dollars lying around. You can get a health insurance policy that will cover you for emergency medical expenses.

Tack & Equipment costs

 

saddle reigns blinkers tack

Once you have the food, boarding, and health care costs taken care of, you’re going to want to think about riding – yay!

This is the fun part – but if you want to actually ride your horse, you’re going to need a lot of stuff. All this costs money.

First of all, there are some one-time tack expenses you’ll need to cover. You may be able to rent some of this equipment if you’re boarding.

You may need to buy a saddle, saddle pad, bridles, reins, halters, bits, etc, which can add up to a pretty penny.

Then you have the stuff you’ll need to keep yourself safe and comfortable. Things like riding boots, a helmet, riding pants, and some gloves.

You’ll also need some equipment for grooming. Some brushes, shampoo and maybe a caddy/bag to keep everything nice, tidy and organized.

Training costs:

Finally, you have your training costs. I promise there are no more bills after this!

Training costs include not only training for your horse (if needed), but also training for you. I’m talking of course about horse riding lessons.

If you want a good horse riding teacher you should expect to pay anywhere between $45 and $80 per hour-long lesson.

Final thoughts:

by now you have a pretty good idea of how much moolah you’re going to need to buy and care for your horse.

Remember – the ideal budget (based on the average cost of horses) is around $3000.

You may be able to find a great horse for less than this if you are patient. You’ll need to do some homework and be willing to put in some work (i.e training).

You could also spend more than $3000. At this price point – you can expect to get a very well trained horse. One with a proven track record of good behaviour and health.

Any horse over $10,000 is probably going to be a thoroughbred. So unless you are looking for a horse to use in competitions you should not spend over $10,000.

No matter how much you’re spending, you should always get a vet to check over your horse before you buy. This can save you a lot of money – not to mention heartache!