Horses have fascinated humans for thousands of years. Many of us can recall times in our lives when the dream of riding our own horse was about all we could think about. Maybe you drew pictures of horses in your spare time; maybe you read every horse-related book in your public library. Maybe you still re-read The Black Stallion or My Friend Flicka every so often. If you’re a horse lover, you know how admiration for these beautiful animals is something that never really leaves you.
But is horse ownership for you? Maybe you have a child whose only wish for Christmas or birthdays is a pony—and the demands are getting stronger each year. Or maybe you have finally purchased that tract of land that you always wanted, and you think it’s time to indulge your long-deferred dream of having your own equine companion, pastured on your property and ready to ride.
Well, it’s no secret that horse ownership is much more expensive and involved than what is required for most other pets. Even after the horse is purchased, pasturage—or boarding—nutrition, regular veterinary and hoof care, tack, trailers, and other equipment all come with a price tag. Not only that, but horses can easily live 30 years or more, so this can also be a long-term relationship, with all the commitment that implies.
Let’s take a look at some of the financial implications of horse ownership, and then we’ll consider some alternatives to owning a horse that can potentially supply much of the same enjoyment without the big budgetary requirements.
Annual Costs of Owning a Horse
Leaving aside buying the horse as well as the cost of purchasing the real estate required for a pasture and the construction expense for building a stable, here is a breakdown of the average annual expense of equine ownership.
- Nutrition. The average horse weighs about 1,100 pounds and needs to eat 1.5‒2.5% of its body weight in hay and grain, daily. At an average of about $1,000 annually, feeding your horse will likely account for a third to half of your annual horse-related expenses
- Veterinary and farrier expenses. Your horse needs regular medical checkups, including quarterly de-worming, and the hoofs should be checked, cleaned, and trimmed by a qualified farrier about every six to eight weeks (this is in addition to your own daily hoof checks, if the horse is being ridden regularly). All this will cost an average of $835 per year.
- Boarding. Unless you own a pasture and stable (which means you’re incurring upkeep expenses to keep the structure and fences in good repair), you’ll likely spend anywhere from $260 to $600 per month.
- Equipment and lessons. Saddles, bridles, halters, lead ropes, blankets, grooming supplies, rider apparel… The costs can run from $400 to several thousand dollars, depending on what you’re willing to spend for various levels of quality. And if you—or your child—are inexperienced as a rider, lessons are a good investment; the average cost is $55 per hour.
Alternatives to Owning a Horse
If you aren’t quite ready to take the plunge into owning a horse, you’re in luck: there are alternatives that can get horses into your life without the expense and responsibility of ownership.
- Riding Lessons. Check your local area for stables that offer lessons. Especially for beginners, paying for one or two lessons per week from a qualified instructor—and a well-mannered, patient horse—can both make the learner a more knowledgeable, skilled equestrian and save you the ongoing upkeep of ownership. This can also be an opportunity to try different styles—English, Western, and various permutations of both—to see which one appeals most.
- 4-H Clubs. Some 4-H clubs have horses available for use, especially by young riders. Most members own their own mounts, but this is can be a viable way to get some experience, not only with riding, but also with caring for and learning about horses, up close and personal.
- Volunteer. Often, local animal shelters will exchange riding opportunities or lessons for help around the stables. This is also another great way to be around and care for horses while also contributing time and effort to a worthwhile cause.
Ultimately, deciding to live “the horse life” is like any other life decision: it helps to have an idea of what you’re committing to, and it’s important to look at all the costs—in money and time—before you take the plunge. As fiduciary financial planners and wealth managers, we take seriously our duty to help our clients make sure that they have a financial plan in place that will provide for their most important goals—whether that involves adding a horse to the family, providing for a child’s or grandchild’s education, or building a secure retirement. If you have questions about your financial future, please contact us and let us help you find the answers you need.