The up-front cost of buying a horse is likely to be only a fraction of the total cost of owning one, particularly if you plan to keep it over the long term. They also make significant demands on their owner’s time. In short, owning a horse is a major undertaking and it is best for all concerned if prospective owners have a clear idea of what will be required of them before they take a final decision as to whether or not to go ahead and buy a horse.
The single biggest expenditure is likely to be finding your horse a place to live. How much this will be will depend on what kind of horse you own and where you live. Some horses and many ponies can live out all year round for most, if not all of their lives. This can substantially reduce costs, not so much because stables themselves are expensive but because stables mean bedding, which in turn means mucking out. It also means bringing a horse in and turning it out. Bedding is an unavoidable cost, whereas owners can potentially take care of their horse themselves. In practical terms however, owners who look after their own horses themselves will need to have some sort of plan B in place for when they are unable to do so. Everyone gets sick from time to time or needs to pop away for a day or two. There may also be occasions where stabling is a necessity rather than a nice-to-have. Horses sometimes need box rest when recovering from injury. There may be some places where you can rent stables as and when, but many places will require owners to pay rent on the stable itself all year round, even if they are not using it.
Food, shoeing and worming are all relatively minor expenses, but they do add up. It’s also worth noting that the cost of feed can vary hugely from year to year depending on the results of the harvest. Feed includes hay as much as hard feed.
Vet’s bills are a reality for anyone who owns any animal and the size of horses means that the potential for serious bills is much higher than it is for smaller animals such as cats and dogs. Insurance is, therefore, standard practice in the horse world. As with other types of police most horse insurance has a payable excess, for which owners will need to budget. Owners will also need to be ready to pay for minor treatments, which are below the level of the excess. They may also want to have funds set aside to pay for treatments which are just above the level of the excess since this may ultimately work out cheaper than making a claim.
There are many reasons for taking out equine insurance of which vets bills are only one. In fact, it may be worth taking out insurance even if your horse is too old to qualify for medical coverage. One of the most compelling arguments for doing so is to have liability insurance. In other words if your horse causes damage to someone else’s person or property, your insurance policy will make a payment. It is important to note that, like all insurance, you will only be covered provided that you have provided accurate information on your claim form. In particular insurance companies will generally ask owners to specify the type of work to which their horse will be put. Obviously the cost of cover will depend on the extent to which the horse (and the insurance company) is exposed to risk. A child’s hack will be cheaper to insure than a three-day-eventer. This means that not only is it important to be honest about what the horse is doing but also to be prepared to adapt the cover if circumstances change, for example if you discover that your horse has a talent for competition and you want to take it seriously.
“Lack of time forces sale” is a fairly standard comment on adverts and many times it’s absolutely true. If your horse-keeping budget depends on you being responsible for your horse’s everyday care then you could potentially find yourself in a very precarious position if circumstances dictate that you have to spend more time on other matters (such as work or family commitments). While some people find themselves faced with genuinely unforeseeable changes in circumstances, in other cases owners could have avoided the situation with a bit of forethought. How secure is your job really? How long could you live off savings if you needed to? Do you have any plans to have children or move? If, on the other hand, your budget can be more flexible then there may be scope for you to pay for enhanced livery if only on a temporary basis. On a similar note, how much time a horse will need for its care does depend largely on what kind of animal it is. While all horses need daily attention there is a world of difference between popping along a couple of times a day to check on an animal in a field and having to cosset a more delicate animal which needs stabling.
Another fairly common reason for sale is loss of grazing. Not to put too fine a point on the matter, if grazing land becomes of interest to developers it is entirely possible that they will make the owner an offer the average horse owner is unlikely to be able to match. With this in mind, it can be worth looking very realistically at the overall availability of grazing in your area and your potential options if your first choice of grazing location became unavailable for any reason. It’s also worth looking at the likelihood of your grazing location becoming affected by floods and what contingency measures you could put in place if this were to happen.