The Cost of Keeping a Horse

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Note: When this article was written in 2002, the prices were fairly accurate for that year and in the Western US. However, please read the factors that affect the cost estimates and adjust the prices higher (east and west coasts) or lower (Midwest) to fit the costs in your area. Then increase the costs by 5% each year to keep up with inflation. So if you are reading this article in 2008, the costs will be at least 30% higher than stated.

Cost of Keeping A Horse

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Did you know that you could easily spend as much or more keeping your horse each year as you did purchasing him or her in the first place? This will be true if you were given a horse, you rescued a horse, or you purchased a horse that cost $2000 or less.

Horsekeeping costs are constantly rising as our planet continues to "shrink", making land a valuable commodity. The cost of pasture and feed is a huge part Horsekeeping On A Small Acreageof your horse budget and is directly related to the high costs and increasing scarcity of agricultural land. Finding a place to turn your horse out or ride your horse may involve considerable expense, especially if you live near an urban area.

StablekeepingOf course, there are many things you can do to minimize horse costs, such as performing most of the labor yourself rather than boarding, sharing facilities with a friend, working for board or pasture space, and keeping your eyes and ears open for bargains in hay, bedding, and horsekeeping supplies.

Just to give you a rough idea of what it costs to keep horses, I'll outline below the customary routine costs needed to properly care for a horse. I'll give you a cost estimate based on today's prices.

For example, I just figured the average cost of feeding my horses for the entire year of 2002. I kept 7 horses during 2002 and fed each horse hay twice a day and grain once a day. When they were turned out on pasture, I just considered that as a recreational supplement as far as the ration was concerned because in these semi-arid, non-irrigated Colorado foothills, you can't rely on pasture to support a horse's nutritional needs.

So my average is based on full feed rations, twice a day, 365 days a year. The figure represents the cost of hay, grain, supplements, salt, and mineral. All other horsekeeping costs (which I will outline below) are separate from this figure. My feed cost per head for 2002 was $730.00 per horse.

Cherry Hill's Horsekeeping AlmanacBelow is a breakdown of all costs so you can get a better idea of the total cost of keeping a horse. Remember, these are estimates only and will vary widely depending on the following factors:


  • Where you live: costs are usually higher in urban areas and lower in farm country.
  • How many horses you keep: the more horses you keep, the lower the cost per head will be.
  • If you own your own farm or board.
  • If you have access to grazing to provide nutrition for your horse: grazing can reduce feed costs, but not always.
  • How much of the horsekeeping labor you do yourself: even if you board, if you clean your horse's stall and pen, it will likely lower your board bill.
  • If immunize and deworm yourself or require a vet's services: if you purchase health care supplies in quantity with friends and are competent to administer medications yourself, you'll save.
  • How much you use your horse and for what: the greater the workload, the more feed your horse will require; if you are breeding horses, the mare and foal feed costs will be higher.
  • Whether you feed simple whole grains or processed feeds: there is often a great price discrepancy between plain oats and processed sweet feeds. In farm country, you might want to consider feeding plain farm grains.
  • If your horse requires specialized feed: junior, broodmare, and senior feeds are specially balanced and cost more.
  • If your horse requires specialized veterinary care: if your horse has a chronic problem or is accident prone, he may have high annual vet bills.
  • If your horse requires specialized shoeing: if your horse has navicular, has foundered, or is recovering from hoof neglect, his shoeing bill will be higher.
  • If your area was hit by a drought, flood, or other agricultural disaster: these factors create a scarcity in feed and a rise in feed prices.

Horse Health Care by Cherry HillAlthough looking at the annual costs can make you take a big swallow, you can shave off costs in all categories by performing routine health care tasks yourself and being a conscientious horsekeeper. The cleaner you keep your horse's stall and pen, the less bedding you will need to buy. The closer you stay to the schedule your farrier recommends, the less reconstruction and rescue work your horse's hooves will need and the lower your farrier bills. The better you feed and care for your horse, the lower your veterinary bills will likely be.

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