The Real Cost of Owning a Horse: 6 Expenses to Plan For

28 Oct, 2019 by Sylvia

Horses are outstanding pets, but they are notorious for being expensive ones. Before you commit to buying a horse, it’s wise to get an idea of what your real costs would be. Here’s a breakdown of the major expenses you’ll want to plan for if you decide to follow through with buying a horse.

1. The Upfront Cost of the Horse

Red border collie dog and horse together at sunset in summer
Photo: ksuksa / Adobe Stock

Horse breeders put heaps of effort and skill into their work. The barriers to entry are high in this line of work, and so are the associated expenses. The end result is that horses are expensive animals to purchase. Indeed, the typical horse in Australia costs at least $400. If you want to buy a racehorse from impressive bloodstock, you’re looking at a cost in the range of $50,000 to $250,000.

It is sometimes possible to find a free horse in need of a home. This could happen for a number of reasons — perhaps because a fellow horse owner fell on hard times and is no longer able to afford the horse’s upkeep. Or, perhaps the horse is injured, sick or just not working out for the purpose the original owner intended. There are situations in which such a horse could be a bargain and other situations in which it could be a bad deal. It’s worth consulting a horse trainer and / or veterinarian before you agree to assume responsibility for such a horse.

The upfront cost of the horse is something to take into consideration; but in the long run, it isn’t the initial cost that you should be most concerned about. It’s the ongoing costs of horse care that could bankrupt you if you don’t plan carefully for them.

2. Agistment or Stabling

If you don’t own suitable accommodations for your horse, you’ll have to pay for agistment or stabling. Agistment is a situation where you pay fees to have your horse boarded on someone else’s property. These costs vary widely depending on the accommodations and amenities – but you could expect to pay somewhere around $25 per week or more for use of a paddock your horse will share with other horses.

3. Feed

Child feeding beautiful brown horse in a farm
Photo: V&P Photo Studio / Adobe Stock

You’ll likely be astonished at how much feed a horse can consume – and how quickly the related expenses can add up. Hopefully, your horse will spend some time at pasture, where he can nibble fresh green grass at will. But when the horse can’t realistically be pastured, the feed will be necessary.

If you’re paying for agistment, it is possible that you may not have to pay a separate bill for feeding the horse. The feed may be included in the agistment agreement. But even if it is, you may want to budget extra for occasional treats for your horse such as apples and carrots.

4. Veterinary Care and Insurance

You’d expect to have veterinary expenses with any pet – but a horse has a particularly detailed list of ongoing needs that you’ll have to address. For starters, a horse usually needs to have shots at least two times each year and worming every couple of months.

When you own a horse, the vet bills can be unpredictable – but, at the same time, it is entirely predictable that they will be an ongoing necessity. Equine insurance can help you to ensure that the vet bills will be reasonably manageable when they come due.

Costs of Horse Insurance

Equine insurance policies can vary widely in cost. Factors influencing the cost can include your horse’s value, age, breed and life situation. Best case scenario, you’re most likely looking at an expense of at least $150 every year in exchange for $5,000 worth of insurance cover – but costs could go much higher depending on your specific circumstances.

What Does Horse Insurance Cover?

There are different types of horse insurance policies available. Major medical equine insurance usually covers services such as veterinary diagnostics, surgeries, and some other types of treatments and medications.

Surgical insurance covers your horse against medical emergencies that would require surgery. This type of policy typically only pays out claims for services such as surgeon’s fees and anesthesia that directly relate to surgery.

Usually, horse owners take out full mortality insurance policies along with either type of policy mentioned above. Taking out this type of policy will ensure you can recover the horse’s value in the event of the death of your horse. Limited mortality policies may also be available if you do not opt to enrol your horse in a full medical or surgical insurance policy.

A personal liability insurance policy can protect you from legal liability if your horse accidentally causes harm to another person, animal or property.

What’s Not Covered?

Most equine insurance policies do not provide any cover for pre-existing health conditions or degenerative conditions.

5. A Horse Float

Horse float pulled by four wheel drive along a dirt road, dry dust flicking up behind the vehicle. In the near distance rising sandstone cliffs rise up in rural Australia
Photo: Leah-Anne Thompson / Adobe Stock

You’ll need to be able to transport the horse comfortably from location to location. This is particularly true if you plan to participate in events such as races or horse shows. If the horse is going to be mobile for much of his life, it could be worth buying your own horse float. Costs for a float vary, but they’ve been available for sale for prices as cheap as $7,000 through sites like Horsedeals. Most horse trailers cost significantly more than that, but you may be able to find a similar deal if you’re vigilant about searching for one.

Even if you expect the horse to spend most of his time at home, there will be times when you may have to rent a horse float to transport him. At the very least, you will probably need to buy or rent a horse float to relocate the horse from the seller’s premises to his new home.

It is possible to ship a horse within Australia. According to Uship.com, the typical cost for this averages around A$2.55 per kilometre at times when you need to transport your horse less than 100 kilometres. If your horse needs to travel between 100 – 1,000 kilometres, the costs would average A$1.10 per kilometre.

6. Saddlery, Tack and Riding Equipment

Good saddlery is expensive — and even mediocre sadlery can be pricey. It isn’t uncommon for a new saddle to cost upwards of $3,000, and you’ll most likely pay more for a new, top quality saddle. You’ll also need bridles, reins, blankets, blanket pads and an assortment of other riding gear.

So now you’re updated on the real costs of owning a horse. These numbers have hopefully reaffirmed your awareness that owning a horse is expensive. If you’re buying a racehorse, you could realistically expect to pay between $40,000 and $50,000 per year in total upkeep costs. But if you’re racing the horse, hopefully you could recover some of those expenses by winning races that award lucrative prizes for the winner– although you can’t count on it.

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