I wouldn’t trade my pony in for greater financial stability, and I’ve done pretty well to make it work. Only had a few times where my credit card had to make it work. But here are some thoughts I have about owning a horse and the cost. There are plenty of articles on all of the things to consider and budget for, these are the thoughts you can’t find in such an article, or at least I never did. Plus I’m pretty sure I never read any articles about financially preparing to own a horse, because I was going to do it come hell or high water. Don’t be like me.
- Don’t ask don’t tell is the best policy when it comes to the cost of purchasing a horse. If you’re not a horse person, the price is always going to seem way too high. If you are a horse person, you’re going to be thinking many things. Possibly evil things, like: that was too much for that old cow; that was a steal, she must be lying; or she can’t afford another one! That last one may have been from the husband. If you are new to horses and asking because you want to know what you should plan to pay, a better question to ask would be “what should I budget for a similar prospect?” And if you are new to the horse buying experience, remember to negotiate the price, it is negotiable. Everything is negotiable. Well, except vet bills. Those are as sure as death and taxes. If you need some insider advice on wading through all of the ads for magical-unicorns (they can’t all be that great of horses) check out my blog post on how to tell if a horse sale ad is actually full of horse shit!
- Buying the horse is the slash to the wallet, but the rest of horse ownership is a slow bleed that you never quite get a handle on. God help you if you (or your child, or your spouse, or all of you) want to show. I’m a big believer in showing, at whatever level you’re comfortable, because of how it pushes your boundaries and pushes you to become a better rider. (I talk about that here). But the cost to show seems to increase at an alarming rate and doesn’t have an end. When I bought my horse my trainer said, “Yeah, there’s always something to buy.” I thought he was joking and I’d get to a place where I didn’t need anything else. I was wrong. He was right. There is no end. There is always a new blanket, a new saddle pad, a new show shirt, show fees, training fees, hauling fees. If you are new to horse showing, I recommend starting at small open shows. The show fees are less, you can work out your nerves, and you can generally show without chaps and fancy show shirts.
- You own a horse! Yay you! Now, unless your horse is one of those blessed 20 year old nags that does exactly as she’s told every time and is less flappable than Eeyore, you should consider taking lessons. “But I know how to ride!” I’m sure you’re thinking. I know because I felt similarly. But does your horse understand everything you’re asking of him? Are you having behavioral issues with your horse? Lessons aren’t just for jodhpur-wearing, velvet helmet-donning hunt seat riders looking to be in the ribbons. Lessons from an accomplished trainer can help you foster a better relationship with your horse. They can give you skills to cope with those bad days when your horse is acting like, well, an asshole. They can help you become a better horsewoman (or horseman). But they cost money. The good ones aren’t cheap and the cheap ones aren’t good. I know lessons are another expense, one that seems like you might not need, but what really is the point of having an incredibly talented/beautiful/athletic horse if you aren’t able to work together as a team? If you’re not able to feel comfortable riding? To tide you over until you can really swing the cost of lessons, check out Four Rookie Riding Mistakes To Avoid.
- Whatever you budgeted for horse ownership, throw in another couple thousand per year, it always costs more than you planned. Horses are not inanimate objects which can be enjoyed and then left alone. They are like devil-toddlers who entertain themselves in ways that prove to be dangerous. Entertainment that can lead to a vet bill. Vet bills that range from “No new show clothes or boots for a while,” all the way up to “Sorry honey, we need to mortgage the house.” Even the planned maintenance costs can throw in a twist every now and then. Take for example, horse shoes. You anticipate a farrier visit and new shoes every 6 to 8 weeks. Then one day you come out and your stupid horse threw its stupid shoe and now you have to pay for an extra visit by the farrier to fix the dang thing. Hopefully you found the shoe, or you’re paying for a new shoe as well. And please, for the love of sound horses, don’t ride the horse with only three shoes thinking “How big of a difference could a couple centimeters make in unevenness between legs?” Horses are like the Princess & the Pea. They’ll know the difference, and they will come up lame a couple days later, and then you’ll be venturing down a road of expenses dedicated to lameness. Which is just lame.
- You’ve recovered from the financial upheaval of purchasing a horse and now you’re ready to go on a vacation. Away from the barn. Maybe even outside of the state. If you’ve never had pets, or had a low maintenance pet like a fish, or a cat, you might not have thought about finding someone to take care of your horse or horses while you’re gone. If you’re at a boarding facility this is so much easier, you can pay the boarding facility for the extra care (feeding, cleaning the stall, exercising or turning out your horse). I prefer to employ the industrious teenager of the barn who is looking for some extra cash. If you live on property, hopefully you have a trusted friend or family member to look after the homestead in your absence. If not, see if you can find the industrious teen I speak of. Either way you go, you’re paying for someone to take care of your equine buddy. One more cost I’m sure wasn’t in my unrealistic budget.
Regardless of the cost, horse lovers will defend the expense of horse ownership until the death. Being lucky enough to own a horse, I can tell you that I’ve never found a more fulfilling or rewarding hobby that made me happy and lowered my stress. (Aside from the days where my horse was being a jerk and I needed the lessons I spoke of in #3). It’s worth the cost, and there are ways to make it more or less expensive for yourself (skip the shows if you’re strapped for cash).
If you really are considering making the plunge, you might think about leasing a horse first. Leasing is more like easing into the shallow end of the pool and working with water wings on as opposed to diving head first into the deep end. Although I’m not one to talk, as I dove all in from the start. The Horse magazine online has a good article on the cost of owning a horse and links to a helpful worksheet on planning for the cost of owning a horse here. Though you should do your own local investigating on the cost of hay and boarding, etc. as these costs can vary greatly between different regions.
Good luck and ride on!
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