Horses are expensive to keep. The initial purchase price of your horse, pony, donkey, or mule is only a small part of its overall cost, and there is no such thing as a free horse. Whether they are $100 horses or $10,000 horses, basic horse care can cost the same. Your horse needs daily care, and that can be costly and the costs can vary due to a number of uncontrollable factors.
Basic Minimum Costs
Here is a breakdown of the basic minimum costs assuming you are keeping your horse or pony on your own property. These costs do not reflect the value of the property, land taxes, insurance, or property maintenance, including barns and fences. These costs vary depending on the area. The closer you are to an urban area such as New York, Toronto, or places like Kentucky or Florida that are horse meccas, the more expensive horse ownership can become.
You may be able to cut costs by shopping for the cheapest good-quality hay and taking it off of the field yourself, learning to trim your horse's hooves yourself, and buying your own vaccinations (not recommended).
- One-half bale of hay $3.00 per day—this can easily cost more as some places hay is over $10 a bale. Or, your horse may need more than one-half bale.
- Six-month supply of loose mineral supplement $30.00 or $0.17 per day
- Salt block $14.00 or $0.04 per day
- Two two cup servings of inexpensive concentrate per day $1.00
- Farrier every six weeks at $35 per trim or $0.83 day
- Dewormer every 3 months $0.20 per day
- Dentistry once a year at $125 or $0.35 per day
- Annual basic core vaccinations of rabies, tetanus, equine influenza, and other routine vaccines at $95.00 or $0.27 per day
Minimum cost per day to keep one horse is $5.01 per day or $1,828.65 per year.
Potential Cost Increases
- Feeding more expensive concentrates or supplements
- You have unexpected veterinarian bills
- Immunizing for other diseases such as West Nile Virus or Potomac Horse Fever
- A horse that requires shoes or special trimming
- Competing with your horse
- A horse that is ill or injured
- Breeding your horse to produce a foal
- Rapidly rising fuel prices
- Your normally good pasture is hit with drought or the price of feed is driven up by bad weather or other circumstances
Boarding a horse can cost anywhere from $100 per month for pasture board, with no inside stabling to over $1,000 per month in barns with stalls, individual turn-out, arenas, and other amenities close to urban areas. You will also pay for extras such as farrier and veterinary care, special feeds, or care such as removing and putting on blankets and fly masks. In self-care facilities, the monthly board is less expensive, but you will supply your own feed and bedding and travel to care for your horse daily.
One thing that really can throw your budget is unexpected veterinarian bills. The cost for off-hour calls can be very expensive and something like colic surgery can cost thousands or tens of thousands, depending on what procedures you choose to do. It's wise to think ahead and plan how you might cope with a large vet bill.