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Cost of Owning a Horse: October 2021 Expense Report

How-Much-Do-Horses-Cost-2
Written by Horse Rookie

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

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.)

If you read September’s update, you know I had planned a trip to try two prospective jumping ponies. I’m now acutely aware of just how much planning, research, and money you can spend just looking at horses—whether you buy them or not. It’s hard to find any information about the costs of horse shopping, so I’ve been completely transparent about my expenses below.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t purchase a new pony… yet. 

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

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 3 western flatwork lessons and 2 jumping lessons.
  • (Adjustment: I traded clinic management services in exchange for all 5 lessons.)

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$50 // Ranch Riding Class

  • I participated in our barn’s monthly ranch riding class—the last of our 2021 season.
  • (Adjustment: I traded clinic management services for my spot.) 

$295 // Cow Work Clinic

  • I participated in our barn’s monthly ranch riding class—the last of our 2021 season.
  • (Adjustment: I traded clinic management services for my spot.) 

$29.99 // Ride IQ Trial (1 Month)

  • I decided to try out the Ride IQ mobile app after one of our contributors wrote a review. It seems like a great way to get all the benefits of a structured lesson—between lessons. 
  • Though I haven’t been able to use it yet, I am excited to give it a try soon!
rideiq mobile app

Click to see the full review on Horse Rookie

HEALTH

$160 // Farrier

  • This was a routine appointment, and it included a trim plus new shoes.
  • We took off the sliders on his back feet since they can be dangerous during slippery winter months. We won’t be practicing many reining sliding stops until the Spring, and safety comes first.

$75 // Fall Vaccines

  • My barn does Fall vaccines in October, so my gelding got the standard RC-S, Flu/Rhino, and Rabies vaccines.

$93.06 // SmartPak Daily Supplements

$1,605 // Pony #1 Pre-Purchase Exam

  • After doing a lot of research, and having many conversations with the seller, I flew to Reno, NV to try a 4-year-old pony. He was 14.2hh, very sweet, and lightly started over jumps. He was already schooling lead changes, and I enjoyed my test ride.
  • A typical PPE exam includes a basic health check, neurologic exam, and flexion test.
  • You may also elect to add 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, and it may double (or triple!) your exam cost. 
  • I decided to do x-rays, and I’m glad I did. There were signs of early arthritis, which shouldn’t be there in a horse this age. He also “flexed positive” one leg, which suggested he might not be holding up to even the light jumping he was doing.
  • When I had 3 vets in my area review the exam results and x-rays, they were all concerned and recommended I not purchase the pony as a jumping prospect. UGH. 
pony

This was the first pony I tried.

$1,305 // Pony #2 Pre-Purchase Exam

  • On the same trip, I drove to Sacramento, CA to try a second pony. He was a 5-year-old, 14.2hh pony with about 60 days of training under saddle. I wasn’t sure I’d like him, especially since he was twice the price.
  • As soon as I jumped him, though, I was in love. He gave me the BEST feeling, and I was surprised how confidently I rode. I’m normally a nervous person, but I felt bold and capable on that pony.
  • I decided to get a PPE on the second pony the following week, once I returned home. The Sacramento vet did the exam, then called me to chat through her findings. 
  • Though the feedback sounded pretty positive, my local vets disagreed. He had a tiny bone chip on one of his fetlocks, and it was located exactly where his joint would hyperflex landing from jumps. Even though the pony had been totally sound, and the chip didn’t seem to be causing an issue, there was a potential that it’d need $4,000 surgery to remove in the future. The opposite leg also had some bone malformation that worried my vets. 
  • It was a heartbreaking day when I had to let the seller know I wouldn’t be moving forward. I had been so excited about the possibility of bringing this pony home. Instead, I had spent thousands on a trip and two PPE exams—and left empty-handed 🙁
pony

This is the second pony I tried.

Curious to learn more about PPE flex tests? Here’s a great video from SmartPak:

FUN

(-$800) // Pony #1 Deposit Refund

  • Though it was really disappointing not to have either pony clear vetting, I was able to recoup my deposit on the first pony. I had the forethought to have the seller sign an agreement saying it would be refundable if the PPE results showed the horse was unsuitable for my intended purpose. 
  • Getting $800 back felt like a drop in the bucket, but it somewhat lessened the financial sting.

$14.95 // Peppermints

$600 // Appaloosa Mini Horse

  • Wait… WHAT?!
  • I know, I know. A mini horse was not part of the plan—at all. My friend actually saw the 5-month-old Appaloosa Miniature Horse online and sent me his ad the week before. Over the past few years, we had talked about me adding a mini to her herd of 4 minis.
  • When I got the news that the second jumping pony didn’t pass vetting either, I made an admittedly-impulsive decision to buy the mini colt and bring him home. I mean, look at that face. How could he not cheer me up?
  • He’ll “board” at my best friend’s house, and her husband will kindly trim his feet. I didn’t vet him, as his only job is to be a smilemaker!
bug

Meet Love Bug, my new mini horse!

last day

GEAR

$224.92 // Power Pants!

  • Don’t laugh. Before leaving on my pony trying trip, I was really nervous. I’ve only ridden a handful of young horses, and I worried whether I’d be up to the task. 
  • So, on a whim, I headed to my local tack store to buy some breeches that would help me look (and feel) confident. 
  • I tried on a bunch of breeches, and I ended up with Ariat Halo Denim KP Breeches and Irideon Courdelay Knee Patch Breeches. 
ariat halo breeches

Click to see them at Amazon

$70 // Kerrits Vest

  • As so often happens when I go to the tack store, I leave with more than I planned to buy! On this trip, I found a new-with-tags Kerrits vest from a few seasons ago. It was on consignment, and I decided to add it to my riding apparel rotation. 
  • Even though the exact style is discontinued, it’s very similar to the current Acclimate Quilted Vest. It has a slimming silhouette, stops wind in its tracks, and features a high neck that keeps you warm even on blustery days.
acclimate vest

Click to see it at Amazon

(-$12.50) // Sold Consignment Fly Sheet

  • I sold a fly sheet on consignment at the same tack store, so that made my grand total slightly less grand.

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. 

$840.92 // Reno Hotel and Checked Bags

  • This is the cost of the hotel for my trip to try the two jumping ponies. I stayed three nights. 
  • It also includes the cost to check baggage on the way back home.

$150.48 // Food and Gas for Trip

  • This is the amount spent on gas for the rental car and food on the road.
  • (Adjustment: I made a sales page for a friend’s horse, and I used her payment to cover these items.)

$100 // Gift Card

  • A dear friend agreed to pick up my mini horse (several hours away) and bring him to town when she came for a clinic.
  • She offered to do it for free, but I wanted to give her a gift card to say thank you!
  • (Adjustment: I made a sales page for a friend’s horse, and I used her payment to cover this item.)

TOTAL (Before Adjustments) = $5,748.67

TOTAL (After Adjustments) = $4,403.19

Over-budget by $3,403.19

Money Well Spent

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

  • Um… my adorable mini horse, of course!
  • While I *hate* coming home without a pony, I did find the experience of trying two of them very insightful.
  • I now understand what’s involved in a visit, which questions to ask, and how much PPEs and travel can cost. It was also helpful to learn more about what I want (and don’t want) in my next jumping horse. 
  • My Ariat Halo Denim Breeches are super comfortable and fashionable. I’ve worn them around town, not just to the barn, which makes them a versatile purchase.

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

last day

Buyer’s Remorse

What do I regret spending money on?

  • Failed vettings are at the TOP of my list this month. Nearly $3,000 down the drain with nothing to show for it. The issues discovered weren’t visible to the naked eye, though, so I guess it’s good that I did my due diligence. Both ponies were sound and appeared healthy, but sadly the x-rays showed a different story.
  • I should have waited to sign up for my Ride IQ trial until a month when I wasn’t traveling so much. It’s not a huge investment, though, and I hope to try it out in November instead.

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?

  • More Trial Horses: I anticipate trying more horses in the near future, and my fingers are crossed that something will work out. I’m not sure if I’ll do another out-of-state trip or try to stay closer to home.  
  • Mini Horse Vaccines: Bug will need his first vaccines in November.

As I wrap up October expense tracking, I’m already far more knowledgable about the costs involved in horse shopping. All too often (I’m also guilty of this), equestrians set a budget for the new horse’s purchase price alone. You have to factor in all the work it takes to find, try, and vet horses too. At this rate, I’ll probably spend what I had planned to spend on the price of a new horse before even purchasing one. Yikes!

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!

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