Owning a horse in the UK costs an average of £6000 per year, according to a recent study. This figure includes the cost of stabling, feed, equipment and veterinary care. Costs will vary a great deal in proportion to the level of livery and the type and age of horse. How much horse care you provide as an owner can make a significant difference to the cost of having a horse.
Owning a horse
Owning your own horse is a dream of almost every child. Some of us lose that dream as we grow up and cultivate other interests. However, there are die-hard horse fans who won’t be satisfied until they have a horse of their own, and whose dreams only grow larger as time goes by.
You may be a parent of a young horse lover and are considering making his or her dream come true. Or perhaps you are the one whose life-long horse goal is about to be realized. Whatever the situation, if horse ownership is in your future there are things to be taken into consideration before you become the cowboy or cowgirl you were born to be. One major area which is often underestimated is the cost of owning a horse. Horses come with their own set of expensive necessities.
Help! I Bought a New Horse: What First Time Horse Owners Need to Know About Grooming, Riding, Training, and Horse Care
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Where will your horse live? Do you have ample land of your own for a sufficient grazing area and barn? Pasture land must be sown with optimum grazing grasses, suitable for your climate. In colder climates, you will need to feed your horse hay along with his regular daily feeding regimen during the winter months.
Hay prices tend to fluctuate according to the hay production in any given year. It can be quite expensive in years of drought or flooding, for example. You will also need to construct and maintain adequate and safe fencing in which to contain your horse.
If you have to house your horse at a livery yard or any other kind of boarding facility, there will be boarding fees. These fees will range in price according to the level of care or special services the horse receives. Does it include grass livery, for example. You will find that the area in which you live and board your horse will also come into play in determining boarding rates. Livery costs are variable, so you can spend more during seasons when you have the funds available, and less when you have to cut back.
You will need certain items of horse paraphernalia. Saddles, blankets, and reins are basic necessities for horseback riding. Many times these can be purchased somewhat less expensively secondhand, perhaps at an online auction site. You will need feed and water buckets, brushes and currycombs, to name a few essentials. For climates where the water freezes in winter, a heated water bucket will be a lifesaver for you and your horse.
You will find that a horse trailer, while certainly not a necessity, will pay for itself over time. Veterinarian fees are less if you take the horse to their office when possible, as opposed to the doctor coming out to your place to see your horse.
Horses, just like other domesticated animals require regular checkups and inoculations to stay healthy. They catch equine diseases. At times they will have dental issues and require the services of a horse dentist.
Horses develop joint and bone disorders and often require the attention of an equine chiropractor. Many horses have intestinal or gastric issues and must be administered daily medications. Just as with humans, medical attention for horses can be extraordinarily expensive.
Although the expenses incurred through horse ownership are many and large, true horse lovers will tell you that it is money well spent.
One of the line items in your budget is the cost of equine dental care. While the price of routine teeth floating can vary depending on the region in which you live. If your horse needs more extensive work, such as tooth extraction, the cost can increase significantly.
If you have a horse with particularly poor dental health, the costs can be much higher than average. To keep your horse healthy and happy, it is important to factor in the cost of regular dental care when budgeting for your equine companion.
Out of all the variable costs associated with horse ownership in the UK, farrier fees are perhaps the most unpredictable. Depending on the type of horse and the amount of shoeing required, annual costs can range from a few hundred to a few thousand pounds. A
s such, owners need to budget for these expenses and be prepared for unexpected increases. Although there are ways to reduce the cost of farrier fees (such as by doing some of the work yourself), they will always remain a significant variable cost for horse owners in the UK.
If you’re thinking of buying a horse, it’s very important to take into account the need for horse insurance to protect both you and your equine companion. In the UK, horse insurance typically covers aspects such as veterinary fees, third-party liability, loss of use, personal accident, and theft or straying.
The cost of insurance varies depending on factors such as the horse’s age, breed, value, and intended use, as well as the level of coverage you choose. Basic coverage for a horse in the UK might start around £200 per year, but premiums can reach over £1,000 annually for more comprehensive plans or high-value horses.
Compare policies from different providers and understand the specific terms and conditions to find the best insurance for your needs. Taking the time to ensure you have the right coverage will give you peace of mind and allow you to fully enjoy the rewarding experience of horse ownership.
Should I buy a horse? A cautionary tale
My parents purchased a pony for me when I was 6 years old. I had begged for a pony for years. For every birthday and Christmas, my standard answer to the question of what I wanted was, “A pony. I only want a pony.” Finally, they found a pony.
When they went to see the pony, the owner’s child showed how gentle the pony was. My parents were satisfied and closed the deal. I was ecstatic when the pony was delivered. I told everyone it was the best present ever. It wasn’t. It was finally a relief when we sold the pony.
My parents wanted the pony to be a surprise so I never saw the pony until it showed up in our driveway. The person who is going to ride the horse or pony should try it out before the purchase. It’s good to also have a trial period in the purchase agreement.
The owner’s child was very experienced with horses and ponies. I was not. The pony quickly realized that he could easily intimidate me. He acted like he was going to bite me. The pony would kick me or try to squish me against trees or the fence. He liked to step on my feet and when I tried to get him to move, he’d put more of his weight on my foot.
I had only ridden a horse a handful of times and never by myself unless an adult was leading it. At the time, I was more experienced with drawing horses than riding or caring for them. I did not have anyone experienced with horses to talk with me.
Before deciding to purchase a horse, you need to ask yourself some questions.
Why do I want a horse?
To help you decide on purchasing a horse, you need to know why you want it. “It would be fun to have a horse” or “I’ve always wanted a horse” are not good reasons to buy one.
Am I ready for a horse?
You need to get experience with horses first. Taking riding lessons will test how long your interest in horses will last as well as give you experience. If you only enjoy riding horses a couple of times a year, purchasing a horse is not a good option.
I boarded a horse for someone who fell in love with a horse but didn’t have any time for it. He just had to have the horse and purchased it without knowing what he would do with it. He rode the horse three times during the two years that I kept the horse. I offered to buy the horse several times but he was attached to the thought of owning a horse.
How much time do I have?
Caring for a horse takes quite a bit of time. It’s not just whether you can fit in a ride a couple of times a week. Grooming and feeding must be included also.
Can I afford a horse?
Draw up a budget and analyse your income and expenditure. How much disposable income do you have? Are you willing to make sacrifices in other areas to cover the cost of buying and owning a horse?
Once you’ve decided to buy, how do you find the right horse?
The ideal situation would be that you’re taking riding lessons and finding the perfect horse. You get to ride that horse for most of your lessons. You inquire about the horse. It is for sale and at the right price. You become the happy owner of a horse. However, it’s usually not that easy.
As a beginner, you should not consider young horses (pass on those weanlings, yearlings, etc). You will want a well-trained gelding or mare that you can ride now. Stallions are not to be considered.
The breed isn’t that important for a first horse. A crossbred will do fine. Try to match your level of experience with the horse. If you are a beginner, get a fully trained horse. You need one who has experienced what you intend to do with it and won’t be frightened at new experiences. Older horses are great and with good care can last into their twenties.
There are several places to look for horses.
Auctions are not a good place to find your first horse. It takes an experienced eye to quickly rate a horse and decide upon it. Even experienced horse people can come home from an auction with an unfit horse.
Newspaper ads or internet
Most newspapers have a section for horses and ponies (or at least a livestock section). Horse magazines have listings of horses. You can search on the internet.
Breeders, trainers and stables
Let your riding instructor know that you are looking to buy a horse. Not only will they have access to and/or knowledge of horses available, but they can also match you with a horse knowing your experience and personality and the horses. Sometimes the stable will have a bulletin board where you can post an ad describing what you are seeking in a horse or find ads from people who are selling horses.
Friends or relatives
Let others know that you’re looking for a horse. You will be surprised at how many people know of others who might have a horse for sale.
After you have found some possible candidates, you will need to go and evaluate each horse. Take your riding instructor (or other ‘horse savvy’ person whose judgment you trust) with you to examine the horse. The owner should ride the horse so that you can see the horse in motion. You should ride a horse. If you feel uncomfortable on the horse, don’t buy it.
Don’t make a snap decision to buy a horse the first time you see it. You need to go home and think about it for a few days.
- How well did you like the horse?
- Did you enjoy riding it?
- Were you comfortable with the horse?
- What were the recommendations of the person you took with you?
- Did that person think that horse would be a good match for you?
You need to see a horse at least twice and observe its behaviour when it’s being saddled or groomed. You will also need to have your veterinarian evaluate the horse and give it a full assessment.