How Much Does a Horse Cost?

A look at what it really costs to own a horse besides the initial purchase price.

Initial purchase price is usually the more affordable aspect of horse ownership; feed, stabling, health care, and equipment costs add up

It has often been said that owning a horse is akin to digging a deep hole in the backyard and throwing in large sums of money, never to be seen again. Horse-crazy people, however, might say, “So what? What does it matter how much it costs as long as I have my horse?”

Because for many the dream of horse ownership is not to be denied, let’s take a look at what it really costs to own a horse besides the initial purchase price. How much an owner is willing to spend to support this “habit” varies, of course, depending on the equestrian sport she pursues, her geographic locale, and whether she keeps the horse on her home farm or boards him.

The American Horse Council’s (AHC) 2005 Economic Study “dispelled the misperception that the horse industry is an activity only for wealthy individuals.” Study results indicated only 28% of horse owners have an annual household income of more than $100,000; nearly half earn $25,000-75,000; and 34% earn less than $50,000.

Aside from stabling costs, the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) estimates that the minimum annual cost of owning a healthy horse is $2,500. The Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses (CANTER), a nonprofit organization that rehomes these retired athletes, places this figure at $3,600.

Insurance

Horse owners often gain a measure of financial relief by insuring a horse, particularly one that is valuable. While insurance costs vary according to breed, age, and use, here’s an example of how an insurance agent might calculate annual insurance fees (AgriRisk-Markel) for horses 1 to 15 years old based on the horse’s value: mortality insurance: 3-4%; loss of use: 3.85%; medical and surgical annual fee: $279-389 with $375 deductible per claim.

In addition to the insurance premium, Wilson says, “An insured horse is required to have an annual examination, so combining the examination with annual vaccinations and dental equilibration saves on (farm) call charges for owners on a tight budget.”

Take-Home Message

The cumulative daily expenses of horse ownership, which reach a minimum of $2,500-3,600 per year in addition to stabling, impact an owner’s disposable income significantly. Understanding anticipated expenses can help owners–especially new ones–budget efficiently and provide their horses with consistent and diligent care.

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