How much does it cost to own a horse?
Feb 5, 2013
If you don't earn whatever current politicians consider the top 1% fear not; this article is not going to suggest that only top earners should own horses. In fact only 28% of horse owners have an annual income of over $100,000. Nearly half of all horse owners earn between $25,000 and $75,000 per year.
When new horse owners ask me how much they should spend on a horse I often reply; "Buy the most expensive horse you can afford because the price of purchasing a horse is the least expensive aspect of horse ownership." I counsel them to be sure that the horse is well trained and suited for the riders particular needs. Generally new horse owners will get more value and enjoyment from a horse that can help train its owner - not a horse that requires a lot of training from an inexperienced owner. But the question remains; once the perfect horse is purchased how much will it cost to keep him?
Health Care Needs: As the experienced horse owner has learned through tough experience, horses can have a variety of health issues. For such a powerful animal in many ways they can be quite fragile. For the purposes of this article I will just discuss the basic health care that the average horse should receive; except to say that if you own a horse you should have an emergency medical fund available to cover catastrophic health expenses.
Hoof care: The horses hoof grows continuously and requires frequent trimming to keep your horse's feet in balance. Remember 50 to 80 lbs per square inch are being supported by each foot. Imbalances of the hooves will lead to lameness and osteoarthritis in the future.
If your horse grows quality hoof wall or does not have special performance needs you can probably have your farrier trim the feet every 6 to 8 weeks. In our area of Indiana, trimming cost ranges from $30.00 to $40.00 per visit. If your horse needs shoes the cost in our area is between $90.00 and $100.00 per visit.
So you will spend between $195.00 and $867.00 per year depending on your horse's individual needs.
Vaccines and examinations: At Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital we believe in comprehensive vaccination with the highest quality vaccine available. Our vaccine recommendations for most horses cost $127.95 for annual vaccines plus $85.50 for semi-annual vaccines equals $213.45 per year.
Every horse should have a veterinary examination twice per year. Physical examinations help us to determine: what type of vaccines your horse needs, what deworming programming you should be using, if dental maintenance is necessary, what feeding program you should be on, if your horse has lameness issues, if your horse has eye problems, or if his internal organs are functioning properly. Most importantly physical examinations help us catch small health issues before they become large health issues. We usually perform physical examinations when we vaccinate. Examination cost $30.00 per examination or $60 per year.
Deworming: All horses should be on a planned, well managed deworming program. Parasites are the number one cause of medical colic (for those that don't know, colic is one of those catastrophic health expenses that you should have an emergency fund ready for). Parasites rob your horse of nutrients and cause a variety of other health issues. A good deworming program will save most horse owners money in the long run.
At Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital we have developed an Individual Strategic Deworming Program that when implemented correctly saves the horse owner money and is better for the health of your horse. The program for most horses includes a quantitative fecal egg count twice per year and deworming with the recommended dewormer as little as two times per year. The cost is $12 for each quantitative fecal egg count and approximately $15.50 for each dewormer. Total yearly cost is $55.00 per year.
Other horse owners prefer the older way to deworm a horse by administering a paste dewormer every 8 weeks at a cost of $93.00 per year. Still other owners elect to use daily dewormers that can cost up to $260 per year plus the manufacturer recommended larvacidal paste dewormer at $15.50 twice per year for a total of $291per year. For the purposes of this article I will use the Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital recommended Individual Strategic Deworming Program at a cost of $55.00 per year.
Dental Care: Like the hoof, a horse's teeth also grow throughout their entire life. Unmaintained teeth will develop sharp points that will make chewing painful and impair proper digestion. Left unattended the teeth can become imbalanced causing a myriad of health issues. Most horses require dental maintenance every 6 to 18 months. This number can vary widely depending on the age of the horse and its use. Young show horses need their teeth done more often while mature pasture horses need their teeth done less often. At Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital we check your horse's teeth as part of their physical examination to help determine when your horse should have dental maintenance.
Equine dentistry should only be performed by a licensed veterinarian. In Indiana it is illegal for a lay dentist to perform equine dentistry unless supervised by a licensed veterinarian.
The cost of dental care can be quite variable but a good estimate is about $265.00 per year.
The total yearly cost of basic health care in Indiana is between $788.45 and $1,460.45
Feed: Horse's like to eat every day. Most of them can consume a tremendous amount of feed and produce a tremendous amount of manure. The amount of calories and the nutritional requirements for any individual horse will vary greatly. For the purposes of this article I will focus on the two basic elements hay and grain. I will use the "old timers" estimate of feeding 2% of the horse's body weight, half in hay and half in grain, every day.
Hay: There are almost as many types of hay as there are types of grasses. There is also mixed hay of different types of grasses. A common type of mixed hay is alfalfa timothy mix. Your veterinarian can help you decided what type of hay to feed your horse. The availability of hay is inversely proportional to the cost per bale. Some years hay is plentiful and the price per bale is quite economical. In a drought year hay can be quite scarce and quite expensive. The average price for grass hay in Indiana is about $6.00 to $9.00 for a 50 pound bale. For a 1000 pound horse you will feed approximately 3650 pounds per year or 73 bales. That comes to $438 to $657 per year. Pasture can offset some of this cost but keep in mind that pasture has cost of its own such as; the cost of the land itself and fencing cost.
Grain: Grain is always available but the cost can vary depending on the cost of the
Ingredients. There are many types of commercial grains, again have your veterinarian help you choose a grain that is right for your individual horse. The average grain price in Indiana is between $10.75 and $22.60 per 50 lb bag. You will be feeding approximately 73 bags a year at a cost of $784.75 to $1,649.80.
The experienced horse owner is looking at all that feed and thinking of all the manure that needs mucking. We will focus on manure next but for now the cost of that manure (I mean nutrition) is approximately: $1,222.75 to $2,306.80 per year.
Manure: If you have a horse you will have waste in the form of manure and urine to deal with. Equine specialists at the University of Minnesota report that the average 1000 pound horse excretes 50 pounds of manure and urine per day. That seems like a lot but the point is there will be a lot of mucking to do. If it takes 20 minutes to clean and bed a stall every day (I know we all clean our stalls daily), uYou will spend 7,300 minutes or 122 hours per year mucking stalls (If you do not clean your stall every day it takes longer to clean the unmucked stall the next day so the estimate is still good). In Indiana you will pay between $7.25 and $10.00 per hour for someone to clean your stall so it will cost you between $884.50 and $1,220.00 per year to keep the barn clean. If you clean your own stall remember that your time is worth something so the estimate stays the same.
Bedding: Bagged shavings in our area cost between $0.42 and $0.63 per cubic foot. The amount of bedding you will use per year varies greatly depending on your housing situation. Let's estimate that the average horse soils 24 cubic foot of bedding per week or 1,248 cubic foot per year. That is a cost of $524.16 to $786.24 per year. You may be able to use bulk shavings which are less expensive to purchase, however delivery, storage and labor cost are increased. Straw is inexpensive bedding but its availability is inconsistent and using straw dramatically increases labor cost.
Horses are big animals and cleaning up after them can be a big and expensive proposition. The total annual cost of dealing with waste is $1,408.66 to $2,006.24.
Facility and boarding: There are two ways to keep a horse. You can keep him at home or you can use a boarding facility. If you keep your horse at home you have the advantage of having your horse near at all times. The disadvantage is that you have to provide all the facilities and labor. Having a horse boarded can be convenient because you do not have to do all the work every day. Camaraderie with other horse enthusiast is another advantage of boarding. The disadvantage is that you have to drive to see your horse and you don't get to manage every aspect of his care.
Keeping your horse at home: Agricultural economists from Purdue University tell us that you have to have three to four horses to make keeping a horse at home the correct economic choice. This is because of what economist call opportunity cost. Land, barns, fencing, labor, etc. are all expensive. If you took the opportunity to invest the money that you spend on these items the proceeds will pay for board for up to four horses. Some people will say; "yes, but I will lose the opportunity to have my horse at home". There are of course many reasons to choose to keep your horse at home but because this article focuses on the cost of a single horse let's examine the cost of boarding a horse.
Boarding a horse: Boarding can be as simple as a physical place to keep your horse and you provide all labor, feed, and bedding. Boarding can also be very elaborate facilities that offer amenities such as; tack stalls, training, lessons, feed, bedding, lounge, indoor riding, outdoor riding, trails, nursing care, etc. The type of boarding you choose depends on your personality, your available time, your goals for your horse, and your pocket book. The least expensive boarding facility I was able to find in our area was $170 per month or $2,040 per year. This price includes a stall and a place for turn out. The boarder provides everything else. The most expensive board I found was $800 per month or $9,600 per year. This price includes a stall, turn-out, full care, labor, feed, and bedding. It does not include services that the boarder would pay extra for such as training.
If you decide to keep your horse at home or at a boarding facility the yearly cost will be between $2040 and $9600.
There are of course a lot of other expense associated with owning a horse. Most of these expenses I will put in the "optional" category and will not count them in the basic cost of horse ownership. For example, tack can cost a few hundred dollars for some used tack at a tack auction or I have literally seen $40,000 dollar saddles. We could include, trailers, trucks, training, show clothes, clinics, competition fees, camping equipment, tack, etc. but since all these expenses are not basic horse necessities I did not try to include any in the calculation.
Back to the original question; How much does it cost to own a horse? In northern Indiana in 2013 the annual cost to own one horse is between: $5,459.86 and $15,373.49.
|Horse Ownership: Definitely worth the cost!|
All horse lovers know that our horses are well worth the price. Cowboy wisdom teaches us that: "Buying a horse is cheaper than paying a shrink". When I start grumbling about how much my girls spend on horses, my wife likes to remind me that "horses are cheaper than boys or drugs". I did not write this article to discourage any one from experiencing the pleasure of owning a horse. I just want people to realize that horse ownership is a lifestyle choice and you should be prepared, at least financially, what you are choosing.
Robert H Koontz DVM
Conley and Koontz Equine Hospital