Should I buy a horse?
Point 1: I strongly recommend you borrow, share or lease a horse for at least 6 months before leaping into buying your own.
This article is tailored to those who have had very little to do with our equine friends, and may be considering purchasing or leasing a horse for the first time.
I am not going to try to talk you out of your dream, but I am not going to sugar coat the realities of horse ownership. So let’s give you some areas to consider when you are posing the question – Should I buy a horse?
Horses are a BIG commitment
The dream of galloping around the countryside or competing in a National event are all worthwhile goals, but the reality of owning a horse is that for the majority of the time you will be caring for the horse, not riding it.
If your horse is stabled or yarded you will have a routine much like mine, if you have access to a very large paddock it can be less time-consuming. I’ll give you a snapshot of my normal working day so you can see the ratios of work to play.
I get to the stables at 6.30am – hard feed, muck out, fix hay, top up water, unrug, groom, tend to any ailments. This will take upwards of 30 – 45 minutes per horse.
Then I might tack up and ride, or do groundwork for 30 – 45 minutes.
In the afternoon I repeat the morning schedule. I’ve only got one horse in work at the moment I don’t ride in the afternoons.
So about 1 hour each day I look after my horse, and then for 30 minutes I ride or exercise his mind.
This is twice a day, 7 days a week. Come rain, hail or shine my horses need to be fed, mucked out and looked after.
On the weekend I’ll do a bit more – I might clean tack, repair fences, clean out the tack/feed room, clean out water troughs, maintain my float, fill in holes or top up yard footing. The list of jobs when you have horses is endless.
Then there are the regular visits by the farrier, the chiropractor, the vet, the dentist etc. All of which you should be present for. You need to know what’s going on with your horse, don’t fob this off to another barn mate because they will be there anyway, YOU need to be there.
Don’t be fooled by the glamourous adverts for equestrian clothes, having a horse is heavy, hard, dirty work which never ends.
If you are the type of person who regularly starts things but doesn’t follow through – don’t buy a horse.
This is why I suggest borrowing or looking after a horse for at least 6 months first. The fantasy of owning a horse is a lot different to the reality. By being the primary person for the horses day to day care you will soon know if getting up in the dark and the cold, in the rain on a Sunday morning every week is going to work for you.
If at some stage in the 6 month period you stop bouncing out of bed, looking forward to getting down to your horse even if it is for morning chores, and instead you find yourself regularly rolling over to turn the alarm off and going back to sleep – don’t buy a horse.
And there is no shame if having given this a go you decide that horses are in fact not for you. At this point you haven’t forked out a substantial amount of money for the horse, the gear, the stabling etc.
Speaking of which …..
How much does it cost to keep a horse?
This unfortunately I can’t answer specifically as there are so many variables, plus of course there are location costs. What I pay for stabling in a small country town in Australia will be very different to what you might pay for a full-service barn in Colorado for example.
Horses are not just for the super wealthy though. There are ways to reduce the overall costs of horse ownership.
The only study I could find was by the US by the American Horse Council back in 2005, which indicated only 28% of horse owners had an annual household income of more than $100,000; nearly half earnt $25,000-75,000; and 34% earnt less than $50,000. You can read the full report here.
To give you at least a starting point so you can go and seek out your own local costs you will need a price for:
- Agistment – either a stable, yard or paddock. Check if there are extra offers and at what cost eg. owner will feed your horse, unrug, turn out etc. Decide if you are willing to pay or you will do these things yourself.
- Feed – this will be difficult to price until you know the horse, but perhaps speak to another local horse owner for some advice and a price range
- Farrier – again depending on if your horse goes barefoot or has shoes the price will be different. Get both prices and factor in having a farrier visit every 6 weeks.
- Dentist – this is usually an annual fee unless your horse has problems
- Worming – depending on the program you choose every 6 – 12 weeks
- Known veterinary care – this is vaccinations, a good first aid kit including stethoscope, thermometer and some basic wound care. What you can’t factor in are the emergencies which seem to crop up eg. colic, major wounds but it is wise to be putting aside an amount each week for these.
- Travel – how will you get there if you do not have your own property and need to agist?
- Tack & Equipment – initial outlay for saddle, bridle, halter & lead rope, saddle blanket, grooming kit, helmet & boots for yourself. After that the list is endless – boots for horse, rugs, stick/string, show gear, horse float & suitable tow car, float boots etc.
- Clinics – of course you don’t have to attend paid clinics, but take my word for it they are heaps of fun and you will progress quicker and be safer.
Do you have knowledgeable help?
It’s not that you can’t learn everything you need to know from books or educational websites like this one, but often you don’t know what you don’t know. What this means is you might not know to look for advice on what type of wormer to use if you don’t know that horses need to be wormed regularly.
If you have a knowledgeable friend or other people around your agistment that are happy to help you then they will likely suggest areas you need to consider. They may also be able to help you if something medical or health wise is going on with your horse.
Do you still want to buy a horse?
If after reading the above and doing your research you still think you should buy a horse, please go back to point one and consider borrowing, leasing or lending a horse for 6 months.
Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love the time I spend with my horses and I couldn’t imagine life without them. I do not begrudge getting up early each day to feed them or the money it takes to keep them in the lifestyle they are accustom to.
I look forward to every minute I can spend with them, I spend hours of my spare time playing with my horses in one way or another and you may be just like me.
Horses are majestic animals with a heart and soul, horse ownership is not something you pick up and put down at will like tennis.
Owning a horse is a privilege and comes with responsibilities and commitments, but it will define you as a person and bring out the very best in you.
Should I buy a horse? It’s a question only you can answer!
If you have any questions or perhaps need some extra information on what to consider please comment below and we will be glad to help you out.