The ‘Unseen’ costs of horse ownership

As a follow up to my post regarding the basic costs of horse ownership, I would like to highlight some of the more common overlooked costs, both monetary, physically and mentally of owning your own horse.
Where the horse lives:
Horses at home
While the idea of looking out of your window, and seeing your lovely equine friend grassing lazily in the summer sun in the perfect green pasture and the lovely, chew free fencing, this is not the reality of keeping a horse at home. It is more about rainy dark nights, chewed fencing and an ever growing muck heap.
But it is also about the routine of chores, the ability to ride when ever you have a spare moment, the chance to catch a quick hug with your friend to help sooth the day.
If you are thinking of keeping your horse at home, consider the potential impacts of:
  • A longer commute,which impacts both time and cost in both gas and car maintenance, as there are not many properties large enough for a horse in the city.
  • A higher property insurance cost. (Budget over $5000 a year)
  • Potentially bigger mortgage, or higher rent. A farm property with generally cost more than a “normal” house. OK, Vancouver may be slightly different, but generally the statement does apply!
  • Maintenance costs of a farm are much higher than a single family home, and then there is the need for additional vehicles… for example, a tractor!!
  • Do you have the time for daily chores and riding? Horse need some stimulation and human contact, otherwise they can become unruly and even dangerous to handle.
  • What about vacations, or even just being late home one day? Do you have someone that can cover for you?
  • What if you are sick and cannot do your chores?
Boarding your horse
The impacts of boarding a horse do differ depending on the type of board, but apart for the cost of the board, these are the main items that need to be considered:
  • The time and cost of going to and from the barn, the additional wear and tear on your vehicle, gas money and time it takes to travel, which may need to be multiple times a day.
  • Time required at the barn to ride and do your chores (if not on full board). How does this impact on other areas of your life?
  • If you have children, what are they doing while you are looking after you horse at the barn?
Additional costs and considerations also include:
  • Tack –  A saddle and bridle which need to be in good repair so that you are your horse are safe
  • Supplies –  Saddle soap, horse shampoo, hoof oils, fly spray, first aid sprays and creams… as a horse person, we like our lotions and potions!
  • Rugs –  They get destroyed, if not by your horse, then it could well be someone else’s horse, then you will also need to be some anti-chew spray and a rug repair kit…
  • Horse appointments –  Who will be there for your farrier or the vet?
  • You decide to show…. that is a whole post on it’s own!!
Owning a horse is a wonderful experience, but, before taking the plunge, please consider the effects it will have on your life and on the life of your family, as it will affect them too.

The BASIC cost of horse ownership

Recently, I have seen a lot of free horses posted on various pages, and I have been asked a number of time about how much does horse ownership cost, so I thought I would give a brief outline here on how much it may cost to keep a horse per calendar month in my local area.

  1. Somewhere to live – there are two main options, either at a boarding barn or at home, both have a cost
    1. Board –  from self to full, this can be from $150 (for grass only) to $800 plus depending on the facility
    2. At home –  even if you have space t home for a horse, you need to consider maintenance and repair, along with possible property improvements. For example, horses love to chew through fencing, fencing boards are not cheep, but need to be replaced for the safety of your horse. A simple shelter will cost $2000. A monthly cost of $100 is not over the top
  2. Feed –  Horse will need hay and probably some grain along with a multi vitamin, and mineral blocks
    1. Hay – At CURRENT prices, for an average keeper, $110
    2. Grain –  for example, a simple feeding routine of beet pulp and alfalfa pellets and supplements, $30
    3. Feet –  Horse need their feet looked after by a professionally trained farrier. Cutting back here will only lead to bad things happening in the future, along with higher maintenance costs, and vet bills. Costs between $35 – $50 for a trim, $160 plus for a set of shoes, every 6-8 weeks, so, being generous, $80 per month
  3. Worming –  again every 8-12 weeks, average dewormer cost, $16, so $8 per month
  4. Vet  –  A yearly maintenance visit, including teeth float, $300, emergency call out (because it will happen) $1000+. So, I advise putting aside $200 a month, just in case, then you will, at least, have some aside if needed, if not, you have a nice saving plan!

Basic estimated cost for a horse kept at home = (100+110+30+80+8+200) $528 per calendar month

Basic estimated cost for a horse kept at a barn = (220+110+30+80+8+200) $648 per calendar month

A free horse will cost the same as an expensive horse, and size will make little difference, as most of the costs are not dependent on the size of your horse.

This numbers are estimates only, and costs will vary with area, but when you are working out your budget, all these basics need to be considered. There are a lot of other items to be taken into consideration, for example, rugs, training, tack, safety equipment, items for you, but we can cover this another time.

Edit: I am going to include some sort of basic insurance (3rd party at least), as a basic requirement. You need to protect yourself if your horse causes injury or harm to another person or animal that is not your own. For example, an escaped horse can cause much damage if it runs out into the road and causes an accident. You could be seen as liable as the horse is in your care. In BC, membership to the Horse Council of BC will provide some insurance, and is worth it for peace if mind. Membership is just under $50 a year, so add $4 onto your monthly cost.