How Much Does it Cost to Buy and Maintain a Horse?

If you’re wondering how much do horses cost, you’ve come to the right place. Getting started here!

Before buying a horse, you not only have to have a good understanding of their care but also their cost.

Horses are a long-term commitment, that can get expensive.

how much do horses cost

a blonde girl embracing a brown mare

Your biggest initial cost is buying the horse. This can vary vastly and will depend on what you want to do with the horse and its general health.

While this cost will seem large, as it is one big lump sum, it is usually the cheapest part of horse ownership.

The price of a horse can range from free to millions of dollars. Most people, of course, won’t want a horse that costs six-figure or more.

If you are just starting out and want a safe, but not fancy horse, you can expect to spend between $5,000 and $10,000 dollars.

If you go below $5,000, it doesn’t mean you won’t get a safe horse, but it is more likely that these horses will have health issues that will increase the long-term costs.

In general, horses offered for free are probably not rideable and only suitable as a companion. Though there are rare exceptions.

The more fancy, talented, and highly trained, the higher the purchase price. If a horse has excellent breeding and a good competition record, you can expect a big price tag.

Feeding A Horse

woman feeding a white horse some hay

Horses eat, they eat a lot! The main part of a horse’s diet is forage. This comes in the form of hay and grass.

A horse will eat between 1.5 to 2.5 percent of its body weight per day.

Over the course of a year, for a 1,000-pound horse, this equates to around 2.7 tons of hay per year!

During the summer, grass from the pasture is often enough to keep your horse at a healthy weight. That is if you have enough land.

You also have to consider that some horses are at risk of laminitis if they eat too much grass. In the winter, you will need to feed hay.

And in some cases, if the horse is in work, it will need grain throughout the year. If a horse has special dietary requirements, then the cost of feed will increase.

Hay

The cost of hay can vary quite a bit depending on where you live. A bale can cost from $4 to $30 dollars. Small bales are the cheapest and easiest to manage, but a horse will easily go through a small bale in a couple of days.

Large bales, offer better value for money but are very difficult to move around without a tractor with the right attachment.

Grain

Grain usually comes in 50-pound bags. The price per bag ranges from $12 to $35 dollars. Specialty grains, that some horses require will fall at the higher end of the price spectrum.

When feeding grain, the average is around 4 pounds a day. At this rate, the horse will go through a bag every 12 days.

Monthly Feed Cost

When you take hay and grain into account, it will cost you around $125 dollars a month. This does not include any supplements.

Tubs of supplements usually come in 30-day supplies. This can cost from $30 to over $100 dollars per tub.

Keeping The Horse

white horse and lady in a barn

You will need somewhere to keep your horse. This is either on your own property or at a boarding facility.

If you want to keep the horse on your property, you will need to do some work to make it ready and safe for a horse.

On Your Property

Setting up your property can add considerable expense to the initial cost. You will need enough land to manage pastures for grass growth.

You will also need to install horse safe fencing, gates, water access, and shelter. 

All horses need a shelter, whether it is a large run-in shed or a barn with stables. You will also need a secure place to keep hay dry and feed away from little unwanted critters.

It is a good idea to ensure grain is stored in a place the horse can not access, should it get loose. If you do not own a suitable property, then you will have to purchase one, which doesn’t come cheap.

You will also have regular maintenance costs, such as repairs, pasture reseeding, manure removal, and replacing equipment.

Cost To Build Facilities

The cost to build your own facilities, even if you have the land already, is significant. An arena with good footing and you definitely want good footing, will cost at least $20,000.

A basic shelter will cost $3 to $5,000. For a barn and stables, expect to pay north of $50,000.

Bedding

The most common type of bedding equestrians use is shavings. A bag of shavings costs around $5 dollars. To start a stall, you will need to add 5 or 6 bags.

Then you will have to add at least 2 bags a week. You will also have the responsibility of cleaning the stall every day.

This works out at around $20 dollars a week for the minimum amount of shavings. 

A Boarding Facility

If you don’t have your own facilities, you will have to use a boarding facility. These facilities can have a lot of differences in the care offered and the standard of the environment.

Choose a boarding barn carefully to make sure they offer what you want, and those looking after your horse know what they’re doing.

Boarding barns

Boarding barns offer different levels of services from self-care, to part care, to full care. The more services available, the higher the cost. Also as the facilities get better, the price increases.

At the lower end, you can expect to pay $500 per month. At high-end show barns, the board can cost at least $2,000 a month. 

Health Care

All horses need ongoing health care, no matter how healthy they are.

Essential Vet Care

a vet putting syringe to the horse

Horses need certain essential vet care every year. They will need annual or bi-annual vaccinations.

Don’t skip these as some diseases they prevent are deadly! The horse will also need a check-up at least once a year.

If you’re lucky, this is all you will need. However, if you own a horse for many years, you will undoubtedly have to have the vet out for something else.

Make sure you join a veterinary practice for at least the essential care. You want some kind of relationship in case you need an emergency visit.

If you do not, it can sometimes be very difficult to get a vet to come out in an emergency, as they are so busy, they will limit this to their regular clients.

Vaccines will cost around $200 a year and will depend on what ones your horse needs where you live. 

Emergency Vet Care

If your horse has an emergency, vet care gets very expensive. Colic surgery will set you back at least $5,000, and usually more.

Other non-expected care, such as injuries, can also quickly deplete your funds. Insurance, if possible, is a good idea. Also, try to set aside a savings fund for horse emergencies.

Worming

Horses need regular worming. Today, as many worms show resistance to wormers, vets advise doing regular fecal egg counts.

Both of these will put your yearly worming care costs at around $100 per year.

Farrier

Another area, you can’t skimp on is farrier care. A horse needs its feet trimmed every 6 to 8 weeks, as its hooves continually grow.

Neglecting hoof care can lead to serious issues, an unsound horse, and huge vet bills. For each visit, expect to pay around $50 for a trim and up to $300 for a set of shoes.

Teeth

Like their feet, a horse’s teeth grow continually. The teeth can develop hooks and razor sharp edges. Because of this, the teeth require dental care one or two times a year.

A float is when the teeth are filed and balanced. A visit from an equine dentist will cost over $100.

Equipment

Whether you keep your horse on your property or at a boarding bard, you will need equipment. Luckily, this cost isn’t always yearly, but it can get costly.

You will need tack, such as a bridle and saddle. You will need blankets, a halter, lead rope, lunging equipment, saddle pads, bits, and stirrups.

For the barn, if you stay on your property, you will need a pitchfork, broom, wheelbarrow, and more. You will need horse grooming items, such as brushes, hoof picks, and fly sprays.

Some horses also need tendon boots.

Lessons And Training

back view of lady riding a horse

You will likely want riding lessons, especially if this is your first venture into horse ownership.

If you want a professional to work with your horse for a few weeks, you will have to pay a training board.

Training board costs more than full care, usually at least $200 more per month.

Many riders will want to take regular riding lessons. For a private lesson expect to pay $30 to $100 per hour depending on the reputation of the instructor.

Sometimes if you keep your horse at a boarding barn, they will offer discount lessons to their clients.

  • Cost Summary Per Year For One Horse
  • Feed – $1,500 month without supplements
  • Farrier – $450 – $2,700
  • Lessons (weekly) – $1,560 (at $30 once per week)
  • Boarding – $6,000 – $12,000
  • Equipment – $2,000 to get started and about $200 – $500 after
  • Essential Health Care – minimum of $300
  • Emergency Fund $5,000 – $10,000 (if you want enough for colic surgery)
  • Shavings – $1,040
  • Property Maintence (estimate) $400 – over $1,000

Conclusion

What we’ve included here is just the introduction to how much horses cost. It will give you a good idea and hopefully allow you to work out if it is something you can afford.

Always keep in mind unexpected costs will arise. This is a definite with horses! Work out your budget, and then add some.

If you come in under budget, use the remaining money to fund your emergency horse care account.

Resources

“How Much Does a Horse Cost?” The Horse, 1 Aug. 2012, thehorse.com/117877/how-much-does-a-horse-cost/. Accessed 1 July 2021.

“How Much Horses Cost & How You Can Actually Afford One.” Horse Rookie, 4 Apr. 2019, horserookie.com/how-much-do-horses-cost-afford-one/#The_Horse_Itself. Accessed 1 July 2021.

lady holding the face of a brown horse

What do you think about the total cost of buying and maintaining horses? Please share your thoughts below!

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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