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How Much Does A Horse Cost?

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Almost every student I have ever taught has wanted to get a horse within the first year of riding. One student was so enthusiastic that he bought seven appaloosas after only riding for three months!

However, this student and many others have often been surprised by expenses they failed to account for in their monthly budgets.

The initial capital costs associated with buying a beginner safe horse and equipping yourself and horse vary between $1,443 and $41,453. It will cost approximately $13,000 per year to keep a horse.

horse in the field

Costs associated with caring for horses vary between states and individual horses.

Perhaps you are reading this article in the hopes of convincing your parents or significant other to buy you a horse, or maybe you’re a parent wondering if you can afford to make your child’s dream’s come true. This article answers those questions by providing a complete overview of the cost of buying and caring for a horse.

How Much Does It Cost To Buy A Horse?

Horse prices range from free to millions of dollars, based on a variety of factors. Thankfully, not all horses cost millions!

When buying your first horse, it’s essential to remember that the horse will be your teacher as much or even more than any riding school instructor.

Young horses are like young children; they don’t know anything and so can’t teach anyone! An older horse is often better suited to the role of the teacher than a young horse.

When looking for a suitable first horse to buy, you need to look for the following attributes:

  1. The horse must be sound and healthy:
  • Between 6 years and 20 years. If you will be doing physically strenuous riding, look at a younger horse but don’t dismiss an older horse. Often the best teachers are horses in their late teens. 
  • Bombproof and patient. A horse that gets a fright at every shadow will quickly cause beginner riders to lose confidence.
  • A schoolmaster who is easy to ride with no vices. Your first horse doesn’t have to be an Olympic champion to be the best horse for you. However, the ideal horse for a novice rider needs to have good basic schooling.
  • The correct size horse will vary according to your riding discipline. A horse should never carry more than 15% to 20% of its ideal body weight, e.g., an 1100 lb horse can carry a 176 lb rider plus 22 to 33lbs of tack.

A horse fitting this description will often cost between $1000 (a crossbreed with minimal competition experience) and $35,000 (an experienced purebred schoolmaster with competition experience).

(Source)

tack room for horse

How Much Does It Cost To Buy Tack For A Horse?

Buying quality tack is an investment that pays off over the years; however, it is a significant capital cost to consider when purchasing your first horse.

Each item of tack needs to be correctly fitted to the horse. This article details what to look for in a correctly fitted western saddle and explains why correct saddle fit is a non-negotiable welfare rule.

  1. Bridle – $20 to $687
  2. Bit – $7 to $680
  3. Saddle – $150 to $4,425
  4. Halter – $7 to $327
  5. Grooming Equipment – $30 to $55

There is a thriving second-hand tack market in both the USA and UK. You can often find high-quality tack at a fraction of the price if you are willing to look at second-hand items. (source) (source)

(Sources: Chick Saddlery; Horse Bit Emporium; Mary’s Tack & Feed; PS of Sweden; Horse.com)

woman rider in helmet with her horse

Why is Buying A Helmet A Non-Negotiable Expense?

Riding helmets are the only piece of equipment that a rider can wear to protect their brain. Many riders are resistant to wearing helmets as they’re hot, uncomfortable, and look silly. The short-term preoccupation with comfort comes at a high cost as brain injuries are the leading cause of horse-related deaths and permanent disability. (source)

Riders will often justify their lack of helmets by claiming they’re experienced riders on good horses doing a typically non-dangerous riding activity. These arguments hold no weight when faced with the testimonial of Courtney King-Dye. (source)

In 2010, Courtney, a 2008 Olympic dressage rider, was riding a good horse at home. Her horse tripped, and the pair fell, with Courtney sustaining a traumatic head injury. Courtney has suffered permanent, life-altering consequences from failing to wear a helmet on that fateful day. (source)

So, unless you are a better rider than Courtney, riding a safer horse than her Olympic mount, doing a safer activity than riding at home in a trot, I would advise you to WEAR A HELMET!!!

A Swedish company conducted tests on 13 equestrian helmets in 2018 and found that two helmets outperformed the rest:

  1. Back On Track EQ3 Lynx ($279)
  2. Back On Track EQ3 ($229)

(Source, Source)

How Much Does It Cost To Care For A Horse?

It is difficult to determine the exact monthly and annual costs associated with keeping horses due to various factors.

For example, the feed may be more expensive in states where it’s challenging to grow and bale hay, e.g., Alaska vs. Denver.

Individual horses may also be more expensive than others, e.g., if your horse struggles to keep in condition, you may have to feed them more and consult an equine nutritionist.

The following is a brief overview of the monthly costs associated with an 1100lb healthy barefoot horse in Arizona living out with a field shelter on your property.  

Monthly Costs:
CategoryAmount per monthPrice Per UnitTotal
Teff (hay)15$16/bale$240
Concentrated Feed3$16,29/bag$49
Fly Control2$20$40
Dewormer1/3$18 (Deworm every three months)$6
Farrier1 Trim$38$38
Dentist1/12$240 (Routine floats are done annually)$20
Routine Vaccinations1/12$213,45 (combined cost of annual and semi-annual vaccinations)$18
Riding Lessons4$60$240
Insurance1$100$100
Property Maintenance & Repairs1$100$50
Emergency Fund1$300$300
    
  Total:$1,101

Conclusion

The cost of buying a beginner safe horse will be between $1000 to $35,000. To equip yourself and your horse, you will need to spend between $443 and $6,453. The amount calculated to kit your horse and yourself out includes the price of a riding helmet.

Your horse’s monthly costs will vary depending on the location and your horse’s needs. However, a comfortable rough estimate for all costs would be slightly over $1,100 per month.

Sources