Taking horse-riding lessons every week is one thing, but owning or leasing a horse is quite another. Whether you’re the horse enthusiast or your child is, there always comes a point in a rider’s progression when it’s time to take stock of how what the sport requires from budget-wise.
I’m a believer in making things work, and that’s how I’ve approached budgeting for my own riding career. You could easily spend gobs of money showing and caring for your horse — but you don’t have to. What’s important is knowing where to draw some lines in the sand. And it’s vastly easier to do that when you have an idea of the expenses that might be coming your way.
The Horse Purchase
Your one-time horse budget needs to cover more than the cost of the horse. Typically, you’ll also absorb the cost of a pre-purchase veterinary exam and commission. If this is your first horse and you’re light on equipment, you’ll want to set aside some dough for things like blankets and tack. And finally, if the horse is not local, you’ll have transport costs as well.
Have an open conversation with your trainer or broker about your overall budget, and how that translates into what you have available to cover the price of the horse.
Keeping and Caring for Your Horse
Budgeting for boarding may be straightforward, or it may not be. Board programs can range from minimal care to full care. Get clarity on what’s included in your board fee — renting a stall with no services is the least expensive, but then you are responsible for hay and stall cleaning and everything else. Some facilities may charge a rate for the stall, and then add on extra fees for services like turnout.
Full-board facilities should provide feed, shavings, daily stall cleaning, turnout, blanketing, etc. This is the best route for new horse owners who aren’t experienced in the daily demands of horse care.
Training and Lessons
Training programs also range from full-service to a la carte. You might pay $40-60 for a lesson, or for each time your trainer rides your horse. Your facility may also offer full training and/or full lessons programs which can range from several hundred dollars on up, depending on what “full” actually means. Verify with your trainer so you know what you’re getting for the money.
Your horse will need to be shod every four to six weeks at a cost of $100-150. If you are in a full-care facility, your trainer likely has a preferred farrier and can give you a more exact number to expect here.
You may choose to insure your horse with mortality and major medical coverage. Horses, like people, can have trouble getting insurance. But assuming your new horse is insurable, the annual premium for mortality coverage will probably be 2-5 percent of the horse’s purchase price. Medical coverage can run about $200 for the year.
Medications and vet bills
The hardest thing to budget will be medications and vet bills. Even if you have medical insurance for your four-legged friend, you’ll have a deductible of $100-500 for each claim of injury or illness. And then you may have co-insurance of, say, 20 percent of the post-deductible expenses. Say your horse goes lame in May and then suffers a gash in turnout in August. If you submit both incidents to the insurance, you’ll pay the deductible for each.
Your horse will also have some health maintenance expenses, which includes things like calming supplements, digestive support, dental work, chiropractics and joint injections. Know that these won’t be covered by your major medical insurance. For any new horse that makes your selection short-list, ask about its maintenance program so you have an idea of what these costs might be going forward.
Budgeting for Equipment
It’s important to outfit yourself and your horse properly, but a savvy shopper can also save a few bucks on tack and equipment. Shop the consignment section of your local tack shop and ask around the barn about used gear.
For your horse, you’ll need a halter, saddle, saddle pad, girth, bridle, bit, polo wraps or boots. Seasonal needs include blankets and fly gear. If your facility doesn’t provide grooming supplies such as brushes, curry combs and fly spray, those go on your list too.
And for you: tall boots or paddock boots and half chaps, plus breeches and a helmet. Once you’re ready for the show ring, you’ll need a show shirt and coat, plus tan pants and tall boots.
Costs of Showing
Showing costs can vary dramatically based on your discipline, and the type and location of the show. Rated hunter/jumper shows that are close to home, for example, can cost $1,800 or more for four days of competition on one horse. The components of this might include horse transport, stall fee, entry fees, braiding, training fees, and food.
Costs go up quite a bit when you start travelling to shows. Your horse transport fees will be higher, plus you’ll take on your own travel expenses and your share of the training team’s travel, board and food.
Local, non-rated shows are far less expensive. You can get a day or two of experience in the show ring for a few hundred dollars.
Ways to Reduce the Cost of Horse Ownership
The reality is that experienced horse owners have more opportunities to skimp on costs than equestrian newbies. If you have a truck and trailer and you’re comfortable hauling your own horse, for example, you’d skip out on transport costs. You could also do your own grooming and braiding at the show.
New riders and parents of new riders may prefer to pay for some of the hauling, grooming and braiding. If you’re in this group and the budget is tight, you’ll have to find other ways to manage your costs, such as:
- Buying used tack
- Cleaning your tack daily to extend its life
- Skipping the brand-named apparel that the cool kids wear
- Saving your show clothes for the show
- Showing locally when you can
- Bringing your own camera to the show and skip the professional photos (A word of advice here: if you don’t want to buy the photos, don’t even go to look at them. Professional show photographers are talented, and they’re sure to capture some amazing moments.)
- Packing lunch and bringing your own water bottles to the show
Lastly, always invest in good care for your horse. A solid preventative care program will keep your costs down in the long run.
If you have cost-savings tips to share, feel free to leave them in the comments!