Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Basics: Horse Costs

I wanted to talk today about horse costs. I know I talked a little bit about them at the beginning of this blog, but I wanted to get a little more in depth. There seem to be quite a few people out there that think it is a piece of cake to keep a horse. Just give it a bit of grass and it will be fine. And as much as I want to laugh at that statement, it is a serious issue. Of course, it also doesn't help that with the horrible economy that we are in, horses are being sold for much less than they would have gone for about 5 years ago.

The Facility
Now, I know that there are possibly people out there that think, well wait a second, don't we need the horse first?  And while it is true that you do need a horse, I doubt you want to be rushing around at the last minute looking for a place to keep the horse. If you have your own land, great for you, but you are not out of the woods yet. And while we are on the topic of having a horse on your own land, in my opinion you need at least 1.5 acres (not the whole thing for the horse, but a property large enough to keep the horse). Keeping a horse in your backyard or, god forbid, garage, is a big no-no and is asking for a huge lawsuit.

If you keep a horse on your own property and do not have the appropriate equipment, you will need to buy the appropriate equipment. That means fencing. I recommend pipe corral or PVC fencing as it is safe and easily visible for the horses. Barbed wire fencing is again asking for trouble. Or, here I will put it this way, barbed wire equals a huge vet bill for all the lovely gashes and cuts your horse will receive. Depending on your area, the price for paneling can be $30 - $100 per panel. On top of the paneling (No pun intended!!), you will need to create a safe structure for the horse to go in to protect from the elements.  This standing shelter can cost $100 and up depending on your area.  Now that you have the required safe fencing, and a roof, you need a water bin, and possibly a feed bin depending on the area. Areas with higher sand content in the soil will need a mat or feed bin. Those can cost $20 and up depending on the area and item to be purchased. Also, don't forget the maintenance and repair costs on your own fencing, etc.

If you are planning on keeping the horse at a boarding facility, depending on location and what services you want to include, you might pay, on average, $200 to $600 per month. Usually with boarding they give you a few options, which depending on the barn, can mean a bunch of different things. This means full board could mean one thing to Barn A and mean something totally different to Barn B. So, make sure to ask a lot of questions about what is required of you, what is required of them, and so on and so forth.

Bedding, Feed, Mineral/Salt Licks
Now that you have a nice place to keep your horse, you will need some of the essentials to keep the horse happy and healthy. Beyond horse clothing and playthings, the horse will need some sort of soft-ish bedding to lay and stand on. Some people use a combination of rubber mats and sawdust. This is a pretty good method. The rubber mats run anywhere for $2 for the interlocking ones to over $100. The bedding, depending on the type you get (*Black walnut and maple bedding is toxic to horses and can cause severe problems*) can be $30 and up per bag. And when you get bedding, you will need to get a few bags, as you want the bedding to be at least 2 inches deep.

If you are buying your own feed, it can get expensive quick. First off, you will need to get the horse hay. Hay comes in a variety of choices by the bale. This includes grass hay, alfalfa, fescue, mixed, etc. It all depends on what your horse needs nutrition wise and what is available to you. A bale will run you about $6 and up depending on your area. On top of hay, some people will give their horse grain and supplements. The prices of these are actually all over the place depending on the type and amount given, so I will not be able to give an estimate on that. A bag of grain is usually about $12, but that can increase or decrease depending on the area you are in.

On top of the bedding and food, you will need to provide the horse a salt lick or mineral lick. As we may not get all of the nutrients from our daily intake of food, neither do horses and a free choice mineral or salt lick will help them get those nutrients. A salt lick may also help the horse increase water intake during the winter months. Blocks will usually run, again depending on the area, about $5.

Farrier and Vet
Now that you have a facility to keep the horse, food to feed it and bedding to make it happy, you are done right? Wrong. On top of all that, you have to trim the horse's hooves. They are pretty much like our fingernails, and grow out on a regular basis. To trim them, you will need the services of a farrier. This will cost you about $15 per session depending on the farrier and the area. Make sure to note that shoes will cost more than just a trim. You will need to have the farrier out to trim the horse's hooves every 6-8 weeks.

Now the vet is a little bit more expensive. There are numerous services required, such as vaccinations ($10 and up depending on the vaccination), dental work (approximately $100), illnesses (Some years this amount will be $0, but if your horse has a major problem such as colic, it can run you up into the $1000s), etc.

Another medical cost that you will incur, but won't necessarily be linked with the veterinary costs is worming. The liquid or paste usually comes in nice little tubes that you stick in the horse's mouth and try not to get all over yourself. At a cost of about $10 per tube, you have to worm a horse on a rotational plan every 6 to 8 weeks.

Did you really think that was it? On top of all of that other fun stuff, you need to get equipment. This includes grooming equipment, a western or english saddle, a halter and lead, saddle blankets/ pads, leg gear, replacement parts, show clothes for you and the horse, fly repellent (masks and spray), possibly a blanket, etc. All of this will run you at $1000 and up, without the needed repairs to tack.

The Horse
Once you fully understand how much it will cost to care for a horse, then and only then can you begin to think about purchasing one. As I stated above, the economy is still pretty horrible, which means you can get a good horse for around $1000 or less. As much as those craigslist ads for free horses pull at your heart strings, I would suggest staying away from them unless you know what you are doing and what to look for. If you plan on going to an auction in your area, a rehab facility, adoption location or just a private owner, make sure to bring a horse professional with you to look at the horses available. You do not want to buy an unfit horse that does not match what you want as that is an undue expense on you.

Miscellaneous Expenses
On top of the massive amount of money pouring out of your bank account already, here are some more expenses that horse owners may or may not use:

Training of the horse is one of those miscellaneous expenses, as you may or may not need the services of a trainer. The cost of training depends on the amount of training and time put on your horse, the area, and how much the trainer charges per hour. If you do have a trainer, I recommend checking in on the horse from time to time to view progress.

Another miscellaneous expense is showing, as not all horse owners show their horse. In addition to the show fee, you will also most likely need to pay a stall charge, bedding charge, membership charge, and trailer charge as well as pay for horse show equipment (saddle, bridle, etc.), and show clothing. This can be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the type of show and location.

Now, I rarely do this on my blog, but I am going to today just because this is an awesome tool for anyone that wants to know how much it would be to keep a horse.  This link will take you to The Horse Channel, where in fact, there is this neat little calculating device, Horse Cost Calculator, to show how much you will spend monthly and annually. Pretty cool, right?

If your mouth is in fact gaping right now, which I am pretty sure it is, think twice the next time you see a horse and think it will be the perfect easy pet.

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