Economy Saddles Lovers of Horses with Hard Choices

By Matt Russell
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

If you’re looking to buy a horse, the good news is there are plenty on the market, and they’re cheaper than ever.

Cost of care

The average yearly cost of owning a single healthy horse is $6,432.

Costs include hay, grain, vaccinations, supplements, veterinary care, insurance and hoof maintenance.

The bad news? Horse buyers often have the same problem horse sellers have these days: The rising cost of care forces them to get rid of the animals.

It’s a vicious cycle — the cost of care forces horses onto the market only to be purchased by new owners also can’t afford to care them — and it has horse lovers concerned about the animals’ welfare.

“People live in this fairy tale world when they think they want a pony and they don’t check to see what it costs,” said Mary Jones, founder of Rescue/Recreation Involving Deserving Equine (RIDE) of Rochester. “Horses are a luxury.”

The cost of hay and grain has risen recently, adding to standard horse-care expenses such as vaccinations, supplements, veterinary care and hoof maintenance.

“We are seeing more people contacting us with horses they can’t afford,” Jones said. “Even veteran horse people are weeding out their herds now because it’s more expensive.”

The average yearly cost of owning a single healthy horse is $6,432, according to an article published in this month’s University of Minnesota Horse Newsletter by Julie Christie, head of the equine science program at Rochester Community and Technical College.

The figure is based on Twin Cities boarding costs and might be slightly less in Rochester, Christie said, but it doesn’t include common expenses such as specialty feeds and supplements, training, veterinary care and insurance.

With the economy making it tougher for people to afford horses, Jones worries high heating bills this winter could force even more people to get rid of their horses.

Problems can be avoided if people did more research before buying a horse, she said.

At a minimum, horse owners are responsible for ensuring hooves are trimmed every six to 10 weeks, vaccinations and deworming are done regularly, and the horse is fed and exercised properly, Christie wrote in her article.

Owners also should be prepared to pay for unforeseen medical costs, she added.

Alternatives to buying a horse include leasing a horse or taking lessons at a local barn.

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