Budgeting Horse Care Riding Tips

What it costs to buy a horse (and care for it!)

first horse and girl
Written by Allison G.

What you can expect when buying your first horse

Buying your very first horse is one of the most exciting times in your life and it’s a moment you’ll never forget. Riding someone else’s horse (even leasing) is not quite the same as signing the papers and forking over your money in exchange for your own horse.

  • And that first ride? Exhilarating.
  • And your free time? Replaced with horse time.
  • And all that extra money? Well…

Buying a horse can be pretty expensive, depending on what you want or need in a mount. Even more costly is what you’re going to pay to keep them healthy and happy. Have we mentioned the cost of supplies yet? If you’re not careful, things can add up really fast.

*Cover photo courtesy of Emily Harris from Sisters Horsing Around

Is owning a horse expensive?

Woman brushing a horse

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Owning a horse can be expensive, depending on where you live. Someone that lives on a farm in a rural, midwestern town will probably end up paying a lot less than someone in the middle of a big city who has to board at an upscale stable.

Plus, the further you get from ample, fertile hay fields, the more you can expect to pay for forage.

Of course, some parts of horse ownership are as expensive as you make them.

There are certain supplements, grooming supplies, and equipment that are not actually necessary and are more of a luxury. If you can afford it, go for it.

If not, don’t worry that you couldn’t buy your horse that limited edition gold-plated and diamond encrusted bit. She honestly won’t care!

Check out our monthly horse expense reports, then watch a second perspective from Stephanie Moratto:

Factors influencing horse cost

The cost of the horse itself can vary wildly depending on a lot of different factors. The biggest variables include age, training, show experience (and earnings), athletic potential, bloodlines, and health.

This means a senior, grade mare that can maybe do light trail riding and requires daily medication will be cheaper than that 7-year-old imported warmblood gelding that is trained to Fourth Level dressage.

No surprise.

Here’s an eventer from Australia sharing what she spends every year:

Identifying needs versus wants

When you start out looking for that first horse, you’re better off asking for help. Your trainer or instructor should know the ideal sort of horse for you and can be a great help keeping you in check.

When it comes to buying equipment or other supplies that same person (or people) can help.

Individuals that have worked in the equine world for a while have seen a lot of what’s out there and they can tell you if something is actually unnecessary.

Try to avoid impulse purchases the best you can and instead step back and think of the pros and cons of whatever you’re looking it. Your bank account will thank you!

Our friends over at Savvy Horsewoman Headquarters have a lot of helpful budgeting tools and information to help you prepare your pocketbook.

What does a horse cost on average?

Horses can cost anywhere from $0-70,000,000, but luckily for us the average horse doesn’t cost millions of dollars. Most recreational mounts only run about $3,000, which is pretty reasonable.

Once you start looking into competition horses, however, the costs can start to rise pretty quickly.

  • Jumping horse—If you are looking into show jumping and want a decent starter horse to win you ribbons, you should expect to pay around $10,000. These horses need a certain level of athleticism, training, experience, and need to be bred for it. To really compete, expect to spend in the mid-to-high five figures.
  • Barrel racing horse—Like jumping horses, barrel horses are carefully bred and trained athletes and their value reflects that. Expect to pay at least $10,000 for a decent one, but don’t be surprised if you see more going for $15,000-20,000.
  • Miniature horse—Miniature horses are quite unique, but also quite trendy! You can probably find one for $1,000, but the top examples of the breed can run you $200,000. Luckily, most minis cost less than $4,000 since they are a niche breed. It may not bring in a lot of winnings, but a cheap mini is still pretty cute.
  • Racehorse costRacehorses are generally incredibly expensive due to the potential to make a lot of money. There are a lot of different numbers floating around out there, but you can probably expect to pay around $50,000-60,000! The most expensive horse ever sold, Fusaichi Pegasus, went for around $70,000,000. That’s right – 70 million dollars!
  • Polo horse—Polo horses are par for the course when it comes to buying a competition mount. A lower-level polo pony can run you around $5,000, but the higher-level ones can be around $30,000, or more.

Another option to consider is buying a horse at auction. Here’s a video from Elphick Event Ponies about her experience.

Costs to feed a horse

The cost to feed a horse depends on their size, level of work, genetics, health requirements, and your location.

Many recreational horses that go on casual trail rides can be perfectly fine with just hay and/or pasture, but those can be borderline expensive in certain regions.

If you need to feed a concentrate for extra calories or need to balance forage that is missing something, you’ll have to expect to pay even more.

Supplements can also get very expensive, so if your horse turns up with a unique medical need you might be very unpleasantly surprised.

Overall, you can expect to pay between $60 and $230 a month for just hay and then you can add on any concentrate or supplement costs.

Cost to board a horse

Like feeding, boarding can vary based on location. If you’re in a big city or other area with hard-to-find acreage, you’ll have to pay a lot more than in rural areas.

Since boarding often includes feed and hay, a barn that has to truck hay in from other regions is going to have to charge more for boarding.

Most of the time you can find a decent barn for $400-500, but don’t be shocked if you see places that charge $750-$1,000+.

horse bible book

Click to see this comprehensive horse care guide at Amazon

Average horse health expenses

Luckily, most veterinary care isn’t actually that bad. The more horses in your area the easier it is to find veterinarians and the easier it is for them to charge a bit less.

You can probably count on budgeting $500 for the vet every year but keeping an emergency fund is important.

If your horse needs colic surgery, you can expect to pay between $5,000 and $10,000.

Frequently Asked Questions

Horse and rider

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Q: What does a Quarter Horse cost?

The average (registered) Quarter Horse costs between $5,000 and $10,000. They’re easy to find and pop up everywhere, but for good reason! Expect a quality show horse to run between $10,000 and $30,000. Top horses can go for six figures.

They’re usually pleasant to be around and adaptable to a lot of different activities. They race, jump, go on trails, do dressage, work cattle, and more

Q: What does a Friesian Horse cost?

Friesians are super popular right now and one look will be enough to understand why. They’re gorgeous!

They were originally used for carriage driving but are now switching gears and have been making a splash in the dressage world.

Expect to pay around $25,000 to get your hands on one.

Q: What does a Gypsy Vanner cost?

The Gypsy Vanner is another trendy, beautiful horse breed! They are decent at many different activities and have been popping up in everything from jumping to driving and even trail riding!

You can expect to pay at least $10,000 for one.

Q: What to do if you can’t afford your horses anymore?

Consider leasing your horse. A full lease means another person would take full financial responsibility for board, the farrier, and routine vet bills.

If you’re worried about a lessee not taking good care of your horse, you can always do an onsite lease (the horse stays where he is), or only let the horse be moved somewhere close by, where you can check on him regularly.

Leasing not for you? Consider changing your type of board. Self-care is the cheapest option, though it usually requires more work.

Lastly, you can sell your horse to someone who will love him and is in a better financial situation.

Q: How can I make extra money with my horse?

If your barn offers lessons and needs a new horse, consider offering the use of yours. You can negotiate with the barn manager for a discounted board.

You can do a partial or half lease on your horse for two-three days a week of riding. If your horse is show-level trained, you can offer him for a show lease, which can easily be worth $10,000/year, plus the leaser pays for board and the horse’s continued training.

Finally, if you own a mare, you could offer her as a recipient mare or do a breeding lease for a year (if you’re OK with not riding for a while).

Parting Thoughts

Horses are a pretty big expense no matter where you live, but some areas are just going to cost significantly more. With such a wide range in purchase costs for different horses and an even wider range in the cost of care it can be very difficult to come up with an average.

Expect to pay around $3,000 for a recreational mount and at least another $3,000 a year in care. Worth it? Totally!

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About the author


Allison G.

After earning my B.A. in Animal Sciences, I went on to work for an equine vet, volunteer at a therapeutic riding nonprofit, and dabble in equine photography. I now keep two horses at home on my small farm and ride them English and Western. My writing has also be featured on FEI.org.