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Cost of Owning a Horse: November 2021 Expense Report

How-Much-Do-Horses-Cost-3
Written by Horse Rookie

How much do horses cost? Here’s my answer for November.

These reports are intended to be a tool for horse enthusiasts who are considering buying (or leasing) a horse and want a transparent look at the real cost of horse ownership.

(If you’re new to these expense reports, make sure to read the “reminders” section here for background on my finances.)

What’s the point of having a budget if you never stick to it? That’s what you’re probably going to wonder after reading October’s report and this month’s. It turns out that shopping for a horse is almost as expensive as a new horse itself. In my mind, you try a couple horses and one of them works out. Instead, I tried two—neither passed vetting—then I tried two more… that I didn’t like enough to vet at all.

As I write this report, I’m actually in a hotel in Portland about to try yet another prospect.

I decided to vet this pony before making the trip, so I won’t risk getting attached only to have it fail vetting later. (That happened twice already.) Watch for December’s report to learn if I ended up purchasing a new horse!

In the meantime, here’s the recap of where my horse funds went for November:

nov expense chart

Summary Breakdown

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Cost of Owning a Horse This Month

EDUCATION

$225 // Lessons

  • I typically aim for 3 lessons per week—jumping, western flatwork, and cow work. 
  • This month, I did 1 western flatwork lesson, 2 jumping lessons, and 2 cow working lessons.
  • (Adjustment: I traded clinic management services in exchange for all 5 lessons.)

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$25 // Riding Mindset Webinar

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$29.99 // Ride IQ Trial (1 Month)

  • In October, I signed up for a trial of the Ride IQ mobile app after one of our contributors wrote a review. Then I promptly forgot to try it before it auto-renewed to my credit card. 
  • I’ve paused the auto-billing now until I’m able to test it out.

HEALTH

$90 // Bodywork

  • This was a routine appointment to help keep my gelding feeling good, especially after so much time standing in the cold and mud.

$226 // Vet Consults

  • I did pre-purchase exams on the first two ponies I tried. Both of them had a few troublesome findings arise, so I had a couple of local vets give me their opinions, too. 
  • This is what I paid to have them give those opinions… and no, I didn’t realize there was a cost associated with this when I asked them to take a look. Yet another lesson learned.

$170 // Mini Horse Vaccines & Coggins

  • In October’s report, you met my Appaloosa Mini Horse Bug!
  • This month, I had the vet come out and do his first round of vaccines, as well as pull a Coggins test. This way, he’ll have the paperwork he needs to make visits to my barn. Everyone is excited to meet him 🙂
buggy

Vaxed and ready to mingle!

$93.06 // SmartPak Daily Supplements

$1,145 // Pony #5 Pre-Purchase Exam (PPE)

  • The more I spend on failed vettings and trips, the less I feel like I can justify for the next prospective horse. Unfortunately, the horse market is HOT, and prices are 2-4x higher than when I bought my first horse five years ago.
  • After trying a pair of Thoroughbreds, and not liking either, I went back to my original plan—finding a younger, greener sport pony prospect. That’s when I came across a 7-year-old Azteca (Quarter Horse x Andalusian). He’s 14.1hh, restarted this summer, lightly schooling over jumps. 
  • His price is right, and he’s located on the West Coast so I could try him fairly easily. After asking a lot of questions, and watching a lot of video, I decided to vet him before trying him.
  • As a reminder, a typical PPE exam includes a basic health check, neurologic exam, and flexion test. I also decided to add a limited number of x-rays of key joints like hocks and stifles, as well as films of the feet. Be aware that the cost of each x-ray adds up quickly, which is why I did one hock and one stifle vs. both.
  • Good news: His exam went very well, and there wasn’t anything concerning in his x-rays! I’m flying out to try him next month.
azteca

Here is the third pony I’m vetting…

FUN

$750 // Pony #5 Deposit

  • I found the Azteca pony before Thanksgiving, and I had a work event out of town scheduled too. It would be at least two weeks before I could make a trip, so I offered to make a deposit if the seller would hold him for me. 
  • *This is a risk.* But, I created a contract outlining the rules: namely that my deposit was refundable if anything came up in the PPE that would make him unsuitable for my intended purpose. 
  • The horse market is insane this year, and many horses are sold within days, if not hours. I felt this was my best shot at making sure I could fully vet and try the horse within my scheduling constraints.
horse rookie guide to jumping

GEAR

$14.95 // Heated Insoles (x5)

  • Every winter, I purchase a stack of HotHands foot warmers. Though I own rechargable heated insoles, too, there are days when I forget to recharge the batteries. I keep these backups in my car just in case. 
foot warmers

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  • (Adjustment: I used credit card points to purchase this item.)

$45 // Kerrits Momentum Pocket Tights

  • I purchased a never-worn pair of Kerrits Momentum Pocket Tights off Facebook Marketplace.
  • I’m pretty picky about riding tights, and I was down to one pair of Ariat tights that I liked. Picking these up relatively cheaply (in new condition) seemed smart.
kerrits momentum

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INSURANCE

$14.58 // Liability Insurance

  • I have a liability policy in case my horse ever (accidentally, of course!) causes injury or damage. My Equisure policy covers $300,000 per occurrence and $600,000 aggregate.

$74.75 // Mortality & Major Medical Insurance

  • I also have a mortality and major medical insurance policy through Berkley Equine & Cattle Insurance. It covers up to $10,000 in major medical expenses and the cost of my horse if he were to die.
  • The cost changed this month since I switched to a different underwriting company. It gives me better coverage for less cost. 

STABLING

$525 // Board

  • Board is currently $500 per month, and I prepaid my barn account for awhile to get a 10% discount.
  • This includes a temporary (???) “hay surcharge” of $75 per month. Our area experienced extreme drought this year, and hay is in short supply. Supply costs have nearly doubled, and we all need to pitch in to cover the difference.
  • Board includes outdoor paddock, feed, blanketing, turnout, deworming, and access to the facilities. Boarders also get a discount on lessons.
  • (Adjustment: I traded clinic marketing services in exchange for this month’s board.)

TRAVEL

$107.52 // Fuel for Barn Visits

  • This figure is an average. It’s calculated by taking the IRS mileage rate for 2021 (56 cents) x 4 visits per week x 4 weeks per month. 

$325 // Gas and Food to Wyoming

  • My friend and I drove 4 hours East to Wyoming so I could try two Thoroughbreds.
  • Unfortunately, neither one was “my ride,” and I decided not to even vet them.
  • It cost me hundreds of dollars in fuel to do the trip, but it helped solidify that I preferred smaller jumping horses with a different type of movement.

$1,218.19 // Oregon Trip Flights, Hotels, & Rental Car

  • Once the Azteca vetted well, I booked yet another trip—this time to Oregon.
  • My father (and Horse Rookie editor) agreed to come with me, so I purchased two flights, two nights of hotels, and a rental car.

TOTAL (Before Adjustments) = $5,079.04

TOTAL (After Adjustments) = $4,314.09

Over-budget by $3,314.09

Money Well Spent

What am I particularly glad I spent money on this month?

  • Though I’m not “glad” to have spent more than another $1,000 on vetting, at least the Azteca didn’t have deal-breaker issues like the last two horses!
  • I’m really happy that my mini horse is now fully vaccinated. At six months old, his immune system is far from robust. Having these extra layers of protection is critical for his health.

Wonder how expensive horses are where you live? We break down the average horse cost in all 50 states

horse rookie guide to jumping

Buyer’s Remorse

What do I regret spending money on?

  • The trip to Wyoming ended up being a “waste,” at least in the sense that I didn’t end up purchasing either of the horses I tried. It’s hard not to view that day as an expensive mistake. In reality, though, I learned more about what I am looking for in a horse—and what I’m not.
  • I regret not clarifying that having a local vet consult on a PPE costs money. Had I known, I likely would have only asked one vet (not two) to take a look.

Tips for Reining in Expenses (Pun Intended)

How could you save some money?

  • Barter, barter, barter: Consistently trading for things like board and lessons helps lower my bills a lot. Bartering is what allows me to take 3 lessons per week and ride in so many clinics. If you want to get 7 ideas for how you can trade for some of your expenses, subscribe to our email list!
  • Watch for price drops: If you have a product you use often, keep an eye out for sales on Amazon or in your local tack stores. Apps like Honey can help you do this automatically by applying coupon codes and checking prices for you. Click here to try Honey for free.
  • Compare costs before you buy: Much of the time, I make my horse-related purchases on Amazon. I love the selection, expedited shipping, and competitive prices.

On the Horizon

What’s on my wish list for the future?

  • Trip to Oregon: Though I’m paying for most of the trip in November, I won’t actually be going to try the Azteca until December. It’s possible that I’ll end up with a new pony!  
  • Sports Psychology Coaching Call: My best friend (and lesson partner) heard about an equestrian sports psychologist who does 1:1 coaching calls. We both have our own struggles with mindset, especially after a tough year, so we may schedule a combo coaching call to see if we can learn some helpful tools. 

As I wrap up November expense tracking, I’m still surprised at the high costs of horse shopping. My personal horse already lived at my barn when I met him, so I didn’t have to do any of the outreach efforts, trips, or trials that I’ve been doing this time around. Given that, I had no idea how quickly costs would rack up just trying to find the right horse. Fingers crossed that this next one works out so I can stop throwing money away on vetting!

Remember, if you’re surprised how expensive horses are, remember that there are plenty of other ways to get your horse fix besides ownership.

Happy Trails!

P.S. If you hate buyer’s remorse too, check out our Horse Rookie Must Haves on Amazon for equestrian gear that’s worth every penny!

P.P.S. Buying your first horse? Check out 60 Questions to Ask When Buying the Horse of Your Dreams and our Beginner’s Guide to the Best Equine Insurance

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About the author

Horse Rookie

I began riding horses at age six, and I'm just as infatuated (OK, more!) with the sport decades later. My AQHA gelding exemplifies the versatility of the breed -- reined cow horse, reining, roping, ranch riding, trail, dressage, and jumping. We're also dipping our toes (hooves) into Working Equitation!