It's all too tempting to imagine purchasing your own horse and galloping off into the sunset. What's not as easy to picture are the costs associated with horse ownership. From housing to food, the expenses related to caring for a horse will vary depending on where you live but must be considered prior to purchase.
If you don't own enough land to support a horse, boarding at a barn or stable is the next best option. A horse is assigned a stall and you're given access to trails, a pasture or arena. The cost of boarding averages $400 to $500 per month but can go as high as $1,200 to $2,500 in metropolitan areas. Services such as mucking out stalls, feeding and turning out your horse to pasture may not be included in the price. For those lucky enough to own sufficient land, there are still costs to consider. Providing bedding, maintaining pasture fences and paying for utilities will average about $300 per month. Moving your horse requires a trailer, which can range from $1,500 for a used trailer or $50,000 for a top-of-the-line model.
A healthy 1,100-pound horse will eat feed and hay costing from $100 to more than $250 per month on average, although horses let out to graze on grass will eat less hay. The price of hay depends on the type, quantity at time of purchase and time of year. You might pay $4 to $18 for a 50- to 130-pound bale of alfalfa or timothy hay or hay mixed with grass or clover. Hay tends to be cheaper in rural areas where it's abundant. Supplemental, prepackaged feeds can cost $10 to $30 per month per horse.
A horse's hooves should be trimmed, much like a human's nails are clipped, in order to function. A simple trimming costs $20 to $50 every other month. Shoeing costs more. A full set of shoes costs $110 to $135 near cities or $75 to $80 in rural areas. Some horses may need corrective shoeing -- for a cracked hoof, for example -- for an average of $175.
Tack and Grooming
One of the best reasons to purchase a horse is to ride him, of course. To do so, you need a saddle and pad, halter, bit, bridle and lead. A new set costs thousands of dollars and last five to ten years; that breaks down to about $200 a month. Used equipment can keep the price down to $10 or more each month, though the tack may not last as long. The cost of grooming supplies -- a curry comb, hard and soft brushes, hoof pick, mane and tail comb, face sponge, sweat scraper and a bucket to carry it all -- will vary depending on quality, though it shouldn't total much more than $100.
A yearly veterinary visit includes teeth cleaning or floating and vaccinations; deworming is generally done every other month. This can cost anywhere from $77 to $250 depending on location. Tack on a $35 to $75 fee if the veterinarian comes to your property or boarding facility, plus mileage if it's not within reasonable traveling distance. Though emergencies are never planned, they can cost thousands of dollars. Putting aside some money each month, whether it is $25 or $100, will help you bear the burden should one arise.
Though training is optional, it's especially helpful if you're a novice rider or want to learn a new riding style. Lessons can be as low as $20 to $50 for an hour of private lessons and can go as high as $650 to $850 per month. Specialized training -- barrel racing clinics, for example -- can cost $300 to $500 for a weekend.
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Pam Smith has been writing since 2005. In addition to her work for Demand Media, her articles have been published online at CBS Local. She also wrote for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary Map while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an editorial assistant for Circulation Research.