What can you afford and where are some of the hidden costs?

Horses are expensive! I sure found that out. And it has nothing to do with the purchase price. That’s the easy part. It’s everything after the fact. Now we need halters, saddles, rain sheets, winter blankets, fly masks, grooming aids, you name it. He needs manicures and doctor’s appointments. For most of us we also need to rent a one bedroom apartment for him; it’s just not that practical to have him share the couch at home like a cat or dog, though some people do it.

When you start adding it all up the expenses could run as high as those for a single person living on their own. I used to rent a one bedroom apartment for $450 per month. If you go for full board, it could cost you more than that. If you want access to a gym, you pay an extra $100 each month for membership. To have access to an indoor you typically pay an extra $100 per month around here. And what about memberships, events, clinics, and other fun stuff? This is an expensive hobby, plain and simple. So putting a budget together is very important, but it’s also very important to build in some breathing room so that you can accommodate board increases and possible surprises like unforeseen vet bills.

Self and semi board provides you with the basic space your horse needs: a stall, turnout area and an area where you can store your things. Oh, and be sure that the barn has the basic needs like manure forks and wheel barrows! As well the more you can store at the barn the fewer trips you have to make to the feed store. Apart from pasture board, this may be the most economical option just because you are taking care of the labor part.

However, we now need to add in the extras and see if it still is an economical solution.

  • Hay
  • Grain and salt
  • Bedding (some places may have this included)
  • Supplements
  • Travel
  • Distance to the feed store
  • Number of visits per week to the feed store
  • Distance to the barn (from your home, from your work)
  • Number of visits to the barn per day
  • Cost of gas for the above travel
  • Make a note of the amount of time you’ll be spending in the car driving around

With full board you don’t have to worry about all the things we just talked about with self and semi board. You don’t need to be at the barn every day or make regular trips to the feed store, but if you live in town you may decide to move your horse further out so that he can have access to better turn out. Now instead of being 5 minutes away from the barn, you may be an hour away. So, make sure your travel time and gas expenses are part of your budget, especially with the constant rise in gas prices.

As we’ve already seen, full board can have different meanings so it’s very important to be clear on what is included and what is not. In my mind full board should at minimum include a shelter, turn out, feed and feeding, fresh water, bedding and cleaning. Beyond this you get into the “extra services” domain and some may be part of the package and others may not. Or they may be included, but up to a certain point like blanketing for example.

Blanketing quickly becomes a very time consuming task. I have a couple of horses where sometimes I’m switching evening blankets for day time blankets. Sometimes it’s double blankets or in the summer time I have to put fly sheets on for the day off for the night. The amount of time involved with this many changes add up very quickly, so it’s understandable that there will be restrictions.

Extra bedding and feed obviously will be dependent on what your horse actually uses. And what your horse needs will be largely dependent on breed and what you do with him. If you’re new to horse ownership see if the barn owner can give you a rough ballpark of what your horse might need for food based on their past experiences.

Following is a list of things that may or may not be included and if not included they will be candidates for extra charges. Some things may not be included but you will be required to do them, like deworming and certain vaccines for example. You will also want to check on the “barn rate” since services like standing for the vet for example will be based on that.

So, here are some of the likely candidates that could be subject to extra charges

  • Extra bedding
  • Extra feed
  • Deworming
  • Fly masks on / off in the summer months
  • Fly spray
  • Blanketing in the winter time
  • Blanketing in the summer time (fly sheets, rain sheets)
  • Bandaging
  • Grooming
  • Basic medical care like attending to cuts and scrapes
  • Basic medical supplies
  • Medical care when your horse is sick and you can’t be there
  • Medicating
  • Supplements
  • Adding supplements to the feed
  • Standing for the Vet
  • Standing for the Farrier
  • Organizing Vet and Farrier appointments
  • Pasture turnout

In addition to the above, you also have to allow for veterinarian and farriery care. Give yourself some extra room here too in case your horse becomes ill or injured. Vet bills are NOT cheap.

If you’re into shows and competitions you’ll want to include entry fees, hauling fees, and travel expenses for example. Perhaps you need to train your horse and need the help of a trainer? If you want to take lessons, you’ll need to add those to the budget.

What about things for your horse like blankets, grooming aids, tack, etc? When you’re on a budget you really have to set some boundaries on this, because it’s way too much fun and easy to buy things for your horse.

So, let’s see what we’ve got:

  • Distance and travel time to the barn
  • Gas expenses to get to and from the barn
  • Vet visits (2x per year for general care)
  • Farrier visits (6x per year on average)
  • Laundry service for blanket cleaning
  • Memberships to clubs
  • Subscriptions to magazines
  • Insurance
  • Entry fees for shows
  • Pony club fees
  • Clinics
  • Hauling fees to get to clinics or shows
  • Truck and trailer maintenance
  • Travel expenses
  • Training for your horse
  • Lessons for you
  • Blankets, tack, fly masks, halters, etc. for your horse
  • Grooming aids
  • Supplements (these are rarely included with board)

And I have no doubt that you have some more things that you could add to this list. Tally up your expenses for the year and then divide that by 12 months. That will give you your monthly budget that you need for your horse. Can you afford it?

There will be times of the year when expenses will be higher and other times when expenses will be lower. Summer time is usually the most active time of the year when it comes to riding and showing. So you may have to balance your budget so that you will have the necessary funds available for the things you want to do during these more active times.

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Taken from: How to Find Trouble Free Horse Boarding

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Reader's Comments

2 Responses to “What can you afford and where are some of the hidden costs?”

  • This is definitely an important post for anyone thinking about getting into owning a horse. And while owning horses are extremely expensive, it’s important to know that there are options out there to lessen the cost. Choosing a cheaper boarding option is definitely one option but for people who can’t take advantage of partial care board, you can always make your own flyspray, create your own standing wraps, make your own horse treats, etc. Many of these secrets are discussed in the United States Pony Club manuals as well as other equine websites. And while these little tricks won’t cut your costs significantly, every little bit does help.

  • This is a great post. I don’t think people realize how expensive it can be to own a horse. The initial purchase is probably the least amount of money. Only those with a great passion will pursue this sport. There are ways to work around it and make things a little cheaper like pasture board or use of consignment shops. But all in all, it will cost a chunk of change.

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  • Do you have that nagging feeling that you may be paying too much for board and are worried that your horse may not be happy? Finding the right horse boarding stable doesn't have to be that overwhelming ... When you have the RIGHT information at your finger tips! Pick up a copy of my book How to Find Trouble Free Horse Boarding, Even if You are New to Horses.

    Do you have that nagging feeling that you may be paying too much for board and are worried that your horse may not be happy? Finding the right horse boarding stable doesn't have to be that overwhelming ... When you have the RIGHT information at your finger tips! Pick up a copy of my book How to Find Trouble Free Horse Boarding, Even if You are New to Horses.

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