Most children dream about having a pony. Whether it’s My Little Pony or the cowboys of the wild west, nothing captures the imagination of a child quit like a horse.
Whether the portrayals that lead to these idolizations are realistic or not one thing is clear: most children dream of having a horse at some point while growing up.
But how much does a horse cost?
A horse isn’t your run-of-the-mill family pet. They are a large animal that can be very expensive to care for, and without proper training and experience, they can even be dangerous.
But don’t despair. Even if you’re unable to afford to have a horse of your own there are plenty of ways to still get that horse fix.
This article will detail how much it costs to own a horse, from the purchase of the horse itself to the care of a horse to the equipment needed to ride it.
Like anything, the cost of a horse falls on a spectrum. While there are options for many budgets, we’ll be mainly discussing the average costs and the things you must be willing to do/spend to ensure your horse has the proper care.
We’ll also talk about some more affordable ways to get your horse fix without actually owning one.
So, how much does a horse cost?
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents
Buying the Horse
The cost of the horse itself has probably the biggest range in price of anything on this list. Horses can be had for nothing or for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even into the millions.
The cost of a horse will depend on a number of factors. These include age, size, breed, pedigree, temperament, health, level of training, and accomplishments.
Certain breeds, especially rarer breeds or breeds used for special purposes, will generally cost you more. The training level of the horse is also important. The more training a horse has and the less you have to do yourself, the more the cost. You’ll also pay more for a horse coming from a winning pedigree, such as a horse sired or born from a winning racehorse.
Other important factors to consider are temperament and health. Any horse can have issues from time to time, but you don’t want a horse that you have to constantly fight or that is dangerous. You also don’t want a horse with serious health concerns or chronic lameness issues.
Simply put, the nicer the horse the more you’re going to pay.
Luckily, most are only looking for a horse for basic riding but that will still cost you a pretty penny.
According to a survey from The University of Maine, the average cost of a hobby-horse was $3,000.
While that may seem like a lot, it’s worth it to spend a little more and get a good horse. A horse is a bit like buying a car, you want to spend enough money upfront that you can drive/ride it for a long time.
If you’re new to horses and thinking of getting one, I highly recommend consulting with a professional trainer or someone else who has experience with horses who can help you find the right one.
Cost: One-time average cost of $3,000, but could be less or much more.
Housing and Transportation
Now that you’ve got the horse you need to figure out where you’re going to put it and how you’re going to get it home.
Pro tip: you should actually have this figured out BEFORE buying the horse.
Unfortunately, buying the horse is just the beginning of the costs of ownership.
Two costs of ownership that also vary greatly depending on your circumstances are housing the horse (called board) and transporting it.
Let’s start with transportation.
Most who own horses have their own equipment for transporting their horses in the form of a horse trailer and a truck to pull it.
Horse trailers come in all shapes, sizes, configurations, and costs. If you’ll be buying your own horse trailer, you’ll want to carefully consider what your needs are before buying.
If you only have one or two horses, then a simple two-horse straight or slant-load will likely do. If you’re an avid shower with many horses, you’ll likely need a 3 or 4 horse slant-load with living quarters.
The average cost of a slant-load horse trailer ranges from $5,000-$30,000 depending on size, weight, and materials.
On the other hand, a horse trailer with living quarters will typically run $35,000 and up.
If you’re just starting out or not as picky, I’d recommend looking for a nice used horse trailer to save money. Used horse trailers start at around $1,000 and go up from there depending on age, condition, size, etc.
Another thing you’ll need to consider when choosing a horse trailer is the truck you have to pull it.
It’s absolutely critical that you have a truck large enough to safely pull the horse trailer you’re trying to tow. Accidents involving horse trailers are horrible and it’s very likely the horses will be killed or seriously injured.
Having said that, a half-ton truck (F-150 or 1500) should be able to pull small horse trailers. However, the safest option would be to use at least a ¾-ton (F-250 or 2500) for most horse trailers.
For larger horse trailers you’ll want a one-ton (F-350 or 3500) or maybe even a larger truck for the biggest trailers.
You’ll also need to consider the towing options on your truck. All trucks have the ability to tow bumper-pull trailers, but not all have goose-neck towing capability.
New trucks range from the low $30k’s to upwards of $80k, with the average price around $50k, while used trucks can typically be had for $10k and up depending on age, size, and mileage.
If you don’t fork out the money to buy your own truck and trailer, you’ll be reliant on friends/family or paying someone every time you want to transport your horse.
Cost: Anywhere from $15k to $100k+ for a truck and trailer, plus maintenance.
The cost of keeping your horse can similarly range in price, but it really comes down to two options.
You either own your own place or you board.
If you own property where you can keep your horse then the costs are the purchase price and cost to upkeep the property.
However, many can’t afford to own their own place and thus board their horse at another facility or stable.
There are several options for boarding depending on how much effort and time you want to put into caring for your horse. You’ll typically have the option of self-care (you do all the work daily), partial-care (you do some of the work and barn owner does the rest), or full-care (barn owner does all the work and you mainly ride).
The cost of board will generally range from $150 a month per horse to $1,000 a month per horse depending on the level of care and the facility.
Cost: If you own your own place the costs will be based on mortgage and upkeep. If boarding the cost will range from $1,950 to $12,000 a year.
While the upfront costs can be high, what typically contributes the most to the cost of a horse is the day-to-day care.
Horses eat a lot, and you can’t typically just rely on grass. Most horses-owners feed primarily hay, but horses also need a mixture of grain and supplements to ensure their health.
It’s most cost effective to buy hay by the ton in the summer, which typically run a few hundred dollars per ton (20 or so bales). You can also buy individual bales from a feed store for $10-$20 per bale.
Given that a typical horse eats 3-4 tons of hay a year (unless eating significant grass as well), buying bales individually will quickly add up.
Cost: Buying hay by the ton is most cost effective and will run you roughly $1,000 for one horse. The cost of grain and supplements will add a few hundred a year.
Horses need a clean environment to be healthy, so it’s important to regularly clean and replace the bedding in their stalls.
Bedding typically comes in the form of bags of chips, which run around $10 a bag. Some people also use straw for bedding although it’s not as easy to clean out.
Cost: Depending on how messy your horse is, you can expect to spend at least around $250 a year on bedding.
Aside from feed, hoof care is one of the most critical on-going care needs of a horse. Their feet must be properly cared for to avoid lameness issues and vet bills.
Getting your horses feet trimmed will typically cost around $50 per horse every 6 to 8 weeks. Horses needing shoes will typically cost you around $100-$150 per horse every 6 to 8 weeks depending on the type of shoes.
Cost: Hoof care will cost $400 to $1,200 a year per horse depending on the type of care needed.
Health care for your horse will vary greatly depending on their needs, but at a minimum should include vaccinations and deworming, along with basic medicines and bandages for minor cuts and scrapes.
Horses also need to have regular dental care. Every few years horses should have their teeth floated to smooth out the sharp edges they develop while chewing.
You should also be prepared for the possibility of vet bills resulting from injuries or other health concerns that may pop up, which add up fast.
Cost: You’ll be looking at a minimum of about $150 a year plus any additional vet care needed.
Grooming and Accessories
The last major horse care category to discuss is grooming and accessories.
You’ll need to make a (likely) one-time purchase of brushes, curry combs, and hoof picks so you can keep your horse clean and beautiful.
You’ll also need to purchase accessory care equipment like blankets, fly masks, wraps and anything else your horse needs to stay comfortable.
Additionally, you’ll need supplies to help feed and clean up after your horse such as buckets and forks.
Cost: A grooming kit will typically cost around $30, blankets run from $100-$200 each, fly masks are around $20, and wraps will run you $20-$100 a set. Total grooming and accessories cost will be from $150 to $350.
While you may need to replace equipment as time goes on, these are largely one-time costs.
Okay let’s get to the fun part: riding!
Riding is why we got the horse in the first place, but you’ll need to get the proper equipment before hitting the trails.
The equipment used to ride horses, called tack, will vary in price depending on the type of tack you need and whether it’s new or used.
A used western tack set will run you between $200 and $500 (bridle and saddle). New or show tacks sets will cost more, and even upwards of several thousand dollars.
English tack sets will run about the same as western.
You’ll also need bits, a saddle pad, stirrups, a helmet, and equipment to care for your leather tack (saddle soap and oil).
Cost: Typically $500 and up for all the equipment discussed.
You should seriously consider taking horse riding lessons, especially if you’re a beginner or your child is learning to ride.
Taking lessons from a professional will help you become a better rider and help advance the training of your horse.
Cost: Horse riding lessons typically cost between $40 and $80 per lesson, but are worth it to improve yourself and your horse.
Places to Ride
If your place or the place you board doesn’t have a covered riding arena you will likely need to take your horse to a place that does during the winter or bad weather.
Many facilities offer the option of trailering in to use their arena for a fee, which you’ll need to pay each time you use the facility.
Cost: Barns will typically charge between $10 and $30 each time you trailer in.
Most people with horses just want to have fun, but many also want to “show off” their horse and their skills by taking their horses to horse shows.
Horse shows are expensive, especially if you do them often and are really serious about it.
Showing often requires a separate set of clothing (show clothes) and possibly tack, plus the entry fees which can run $10 and up per class you enter in.
Cost: $500 and up for show clothes and tack, plus at least $10 per class entered. Don’t forget incidental costs like gas, food, and possibly accommodations for yourself and your horse.
Putting it all Together
After going through all the basics and options, how much does a horse cost?
Again, it will depend on you, the kind of horse and equipment you want/need, and what you’ll be doing with your horse.
However, we can get a general idea of how much a horse costs by averaging the numbers we’ve discussed.
The University of Maine survey found the average annual cost of a horse to be $3,876, with the median cost being $2,419. These numbers mean the average monthly cost of owning a horse ranges from $200-$325.
Essentially, owning a horse will cost you about the same as a car per month.
However, the survey cost averages didn’t take into account the purchase price of the horse, transportation costs, tack, or other accessories like brushes and blankets.
So, let’s break it down using the numbers above into one-time costs and ongoing costs.
One-time costs include purchase of the horse, truck and trailer, grooming and accessories, and tack.
Horse – average of $3,000
Truck – $10,000 – $50,000
Trailer – $1,000 – $30,000
Grooming – $30
Accessories – $120 – $320
Tack – $500 and up
Total one-time costs: $14,650 – $83,650
These one-time costs assume you’ll be buying your own truck and trailer, so those costs may need to be taken out if you already have them or plan to transport your horse through some other means.
Ongoing costs include feed, bedding, hoof care, healthcare, board, lessons, and shows. The costs below will represent annual cost ranges.
Feed – $1,000 – $1,500
Bedding – $250 and up
Hoof care – $400 – $1,200
Healthcare – Minimum of $150 a year (survey average was $485)
Board – $1,950 – $12,000
Total ongoing costs: $3,750 – $14,850
While there’s quite a range in ongoing costs, it’s important to note that the estimate used for healthcare is on the low end and will likely fluctuate every year, especially if your horse needs vet care.
These ongoing costs also didn’t include lessons or shows. When those costs are added your total climbs even more.
Lessons – $40 – $80 per lesson, 1 lesson a week is $2,080 – $4,160 per year
Shows – $500 and up for clothes and tack, plus at least $10 per class entered (total annual cost depending on number of shows and classes entered)
Adding a lesson a week will increase your yearly totals by roughly $2,000 to $4,000.
Buying show clothes and attending a few shows a year will also significantly increase your totals.
How much does it cost to own a horse again?
One-time plus ongoing annual costs (excluding lessons/shows) = $18,400 – $98,500
One-time (excluding truck/trailer) plus ongoing annual costs (ex. Lessons/shows) = $7,400 – $18,670
(The numbers above also assume the need to pay to board the horse)
Even someone looking to buy a horse just to ride around for fun will pay some heavy one-time and ongoing costs (average of $7,400 in first year).
So, as you can see, horse ownership is not viable for everyone. It’s an extremely expensive hobby and even more expensive if you pursue it as a passion or career.
Luckily, there are some other options for kids and adults who want to spend time with horses but can’t afford to have one of their own.
Alternatives to Owning a Horse
There are plenty of ways to get your horse fix without having to fork over the money to own and care for one.
Luckily, you don’t need your own horse to participate in horseback riding lessons because most trainers will have great horses for you to learn on. In fact, kids should probably take lessons first to ensure their desire and dedication before parents take the leap and buy a horse.
Lessons are typically $40 – $80 per lesson, but some trainers may let you offset the costs by helping with feeding or stall cleaning
Another great way to spend time with horses and learn about their care is by volunteering. Many stables, rescues, or horse therapy programs gladly accept volunteers, and may even offer lessons or ride time in exchange for your work. Check your local area for horse facilities and reach out about volunteering options.
Another way for your child to get their horse fix is to go to horse camp. Horse camps offer day or overnight experiences for children to spend time with horses, learn how to care for them, and learn the basics of riding. While these camps can be a bit spendy, they’re much cheaper than the cost of horse ownership.
This option may be especially good for adults looking to explore their inner cowboy or cowgirl. You can vacation with horses by spending a week or two at a dude ranch or adult summer camp. You’ll learn life as a ranch hand and participate in the daily tasks of a cowboy/girl.
Leasing a horse may be another good option for those who aren’t quite ready to take the plunge to full ownership. While the specifics of leasing can vary, typically you’ll care for a horse in exchange for the ability to ride it without actually owning it. Similar to leasing a car, you can lease a horse for a set amount of time without needing to pay the money to buy it. Leasing could even lead to ownership down the line.
Another option for those looking to spend time with horses without owning them is to foster. This may be an especially good option for those who have their own place to keep the horse. The rescue organization will typically cover the costs of vet and hoof care while the foster placement covers food and other standard care.
Although fostering is a great option, there are some things to keep in mind. First, a foster animal may be adopted at any time. Also, foster animals have often experienced abuse and neglect, and may not be suitable for riding. In fact, some horses may need experienced handlers only.
4-H or Pony Club
One of the best places for kids to learn about horse care and riding is through 4-H or Pony Club. Some clubs may have horses available to ride, while others may offer the chance to share a horse with another member. Additionally, kids will have the opportunity to take lessons, attend meetings, learn about horse care, and take part in shows and events.
Moral of the Story
How much does a horse cost?
Unfortunately, having a horse is one of the most expensive hobbies out there. They are large animals that need a lot of care. Because of their size, they need space and special equipment to be transported.
The costs of a horse will vary greatly depending on the type of horse you want, what you want to do with it, and how serious you are about riding and showing.
But bottom line, expect to spend an average of $3,000 for the horse plus around $3,500 a year caring for it (including board).
If owning your own horse is too expensive (which let’s face it, for most it is) there are some other options out there.
You can have a horse without owning one by leasing or fostering. You can also get your horse fix through lessons, horse camps, riding vacations, volunteering, or joining 4-H or Pony Club.
No matter your level of interest and financial situation, there is a horse out there waiting to become your best friend.
Talk about Money Learned.