What it costs to own a horse

·8-min read
 (Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

Owning a horse is an expensive hobby and one that can easily end up costing a small fortune.

It’s not unusual for the initial outlay to run into thousands of pounds. And ongoing costs, which can exceed £10,000 a year, can weigh heavy on your the finances in the longer term.

The total bill could be in the region of £200,000 for an owner who keeps his/her horse for a (not unusual) 20 years after foaling.

Unsurprisingly, some horse owners find that almost all their money goes on maintaining their animal. In some cases, meeting the costs can mean making sacrifices elsewhere, such as ‘making do’ with a car, or keeping holidays to a minimum.

Owning a horse is a true labour of love; a huge commitment in terms of both time and money. As costs can soon mount up, you need to think long and hard before taking the plunge.

That said, horse obsessives will insist their beloved animals are worth every penny and will somehow find the cash required to keep their equine dream alive.

Here’s a closer look at how the costs break down.

What affects the price of a horse?

The price of a horse or pony can vary considerably, as a lot of different elements contribute to the cost. This includes factors such as breed, size, age, type, pedigree and training.

While you may be able to pick up a pony for a few hundred pounds, expect to pay closer to £3,000 for a good first pony. When it comes to horses (defined as anything over a height of 14.2 hands, or about four feet ten inches), you may be able to pay as little as £500.

That said, you cannot expect to buy a good horse cheaply. And, in many cases, costs are more likely to be in the thousands than the hundreds. As a rough ballpark figure, expect to pay around £4,000 for a horse and much more again for a performance horse.

Typical costs

As a guide, here are some examples of what popular types of horse might cost, according to equine marketplace, Horsemart:

  • Cob: £1,500 - £5,000

  • Irish Sport Horse: £3,500 - £7,500

  • Connemara Pony: £3,000 - £7,000

  • Irish Draught: £3,000 - £6,000

  • New Forest Pony: £1,000 - £3,000

  • Dutch Warmblood: £4,000 - £6,500

  • Hanoverian: £4,000 - £8,000

  • Andalusian: £4,500 - £9,000

  • Friesian: £1,500 - £4,500

  • Appaloosa: £2,000 - £4,000

Tips when buying a pony or horse

Bear in mind the following factors before making an equine commitment:

  • Ask around locally for horses for sale

  • Check out adverts on a site such as Horsequest, Horsemart and Horse & Hound

  • Consult relevant groups on Facebook and other social media sites

  • Don’t rush your decision

  • Research carefully before you buy

  • Don’t forget to factor in travel and transport costs if you have to view potential animals further afield from home

Vetting fees

Having found the horse you want to buy, you should then get it ‘vetted’ to ensure it is fit and healthy. The cost for this will vary from one vet practice to the next, but a ‘basic’ stage vetting will typically cost around £75, rising to around £250 for a more in-depth examination.

Are there ways to cut the cost of buying a horse?

If you’re looking to bring costs down, you could consider taking on a rescue horse or pony. Costs may be lower, plus you’ll get the warm and fuzzy feeling of knowing you’re giving that animal a second chance.

Another option to consider is loaning or leasing a horse. This will be less costly than owning outright, and you can hand the horse back if things don’t work out – or if you decide you do want to buy.

A further route to explore is a horse-share or pony-share. Typically, this involves paying a monthly fee for a horse’s keep in return for regular access. You may be able to set up this arrangement with a riding school, or with a private owner.

With a horse-share, you get the benefits of ‘owning’ but at a fixed cost. What’s more, you can get out of the arrangement if you need to, making it less of a commitment.

What about ongoing costs?

While you may be focused on being able to afford the upfront cost of a horse or pony, it’s important to realise that ongoing costs such as shoeing, stabling, feed, equipment, annual vaccinations and insurance, will likely surpass the initial outlay by some way.

Costs will vary hugely, depending on where you live. In London and the south east bills are likely to be higher if there is no option to keep a horse at home. In that instance you’ll have to pay for livery.

Livery

Unless you’re in the very fortunate position of having your own land and facilities, one of the biggest expenses you’re going to need to budget for is livery.

The cheapest option is grass livery, but this could still set you back between £80 and £200 per month, depending on the level of care.

The next level up is known as ‘DIY livery’ where you pay for the stable, but are then responsible for the day-to-day care of your animal. For example, this might mean having to go to a yard twice a day to feed, ride and rug your pony or horse. Expect to pay between £200 and £300 per month.

With full livery, the livery yard is responsible for your horses’ needs including stabling, field access, exercising, feed, hay and bedding. Costs start from around £400 a month, though near London you could find yourself having to pay almost double this.

Feed

If you keep your horse on grass, it will only need to be fed hay in the winter. If your horse is stabled, it will need hay all year round. As a guide, look to budget around £10-£15 a week.

For a horse that needs additional hard feed, expect to pay another £10 a week. A further £10-£20 a week will need to be added for stable bedding, such as straw or shavings.

Farrier costs

Horses’ hooves grow continually, so you’ll need to pay for regular visits from the farrier. As a guide, you’ll need to pay around £30 for trimming around every six weeks, and just under £100 for a new set of shoes.

Equipment

While you may be able to pick up a rug for less than £100, and tack for just a few hundred pounds, you could easily find yourself paying £300 for a rug and £1,500 for a saddle and bridle. Equipment costs could soon mount up to more than £2,000 per year.

If you can, try and get the existing tack and equipment included in the deal when you buy your horse. This will help to keep costs down.

Medical costs

If your horse gets sick or injured, vet fees can soon mount up. But even if your animal is in good health, you still need to factor in annual vaccinations (around £40 plus a call-out fee), and worming (around £15 per treatment), and less-obvious costs such as dental work, clipping, and alternative treatments.

A routine dentist visit could cost around £80. A horse chiropractor could set you back around £800. Plan for vet fees of around £1,000 a year but be prepared for a much bigger bill.

Insurance

While it may be tempting to go without equine insurance, this is one expense you can’t afford to cut back on. Vet fees are far from cheap, and specialist procedures can be eye-wateringly expensive.

As well as cover for vet fees, policies will also offer cover against theft or loss (if your horse strays), as well as third-party liability.

Typically, you can build your own policy by ‘bolting on’ features such as personal accident cover, damage or theft of tack and equipment, cover for your trailer, and cover for disposal (cost of removing your horse’s body in the event of its demise).

Policies can often come with lots of exclusions, so be sure to read the small print carefully. Costs can vary widely, but a decent policy could cost around £1,000 a year.

Transport costs

If you need to transport your horse or pony, you’ll need to pay for a trailer or lorry if you don’t own one yourself. On top of that, you might then need to invest in a bigger vehicle to pull the trailer (not to mention the cost of petrol/diesel). A new trailer could easily cost a few thousand pounds. Costs will be lower if you buy second-hand.

Riding lessons

Costs can vary considerably but expect to pay between £20 and £50 an hour, with costs potentially higher in London and the south east.

Clothes

As a rider, you’ll need the right kit. Budget for around £500 but be prepared for a bill that’s closer to £1,000. Make savings on some items of kit by shopping at a store such as Decathlon or by buying second-hand.

Competitions and affiliations

You could pay a nominal amount to a riding club for a yearly membership. This will give you access to club activities and to both internal and external competitions. But if you get serious about competing, you could pay around £1,000 for competition fees and affiliations. You also need to factor in the cost of travelling to competitions, too.

Other costs worth factoring in include:

  • Shampoo and grooming products.

  • Buckets.

  • Treatment for minor cuts.

  • Washing and repairs to tack and rugs.

It’s worth budgeting around another £1,000 a year for ‘incidental’ costs such as these.