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 Alarmtake 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 Piggy Bankhorse, 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.

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Horses are my passion. And while not everything in horses is black and white, and there are many choices you will need to make for your horse, I hope to explain things in a way that helps you make informed decisions, so you can provide the very best life to your horse.

  • Ches says:

    You’re welcome Heidi and keep up the good work. It is time consuming but rewarding to be able to give readers valuable information. It does make it all worthwhile when your information can possibly positively change the course of a reader’s future.

  • Troy says:

    You probably need to add a bit about having a supportive husband or wife that can either enjoy your hobby with you or is independent enough to share their partner with the horses.

    • Heidi says:

      Indeed Troy horses are a big commitment in time and energy. A supportive other half is definitely a prerequisite when introducing a horse to your family, although I sense you maybe speaking from experience.
      Thanks for your comment.

  • oliver says:

    I really like your article here
    after reading this I can say that you really broke it down to the nitty gritty as to what’s involved in owning a horse
    I will look at horses in a whole new light

    I may have to settle for a smaller less cost effective pet…

    • Heidi Yates says:

      Thanks for your comment Oliver, really glad you enjoyed the article. Yes horses certainly are not for everyone, but for those of us who couldn’t imagine life without them they are a pure joy. Thanks again.

  • ches says:

    What a great picture of the two eyes! I have commented on this site before, I find it brings back memories for me when I owned quite a few horses and did some teaching as well but I’m a bit long in the tooth now!
    This post is ideal to keep those grounded who are thinking of buying one of these wonderful creatures. They are a joy to have and ride but as you rightly say, they are a huge tie.
    I always remember someone saying a horse is 90% caring and 10% riding. If you want to go on holiday, who will look after your horse/s for you. It is quite difficult to get a responsible carer and it can be expensive unless you have a very good horsy friend.
    You’ve covered everything here I think, including worming, the importance of which cannot be overstated. I have known a few horses that have succumbed to worms, including my own favourite mare. I bought her as a 4 year old ‘hatrack’. She was so thin and weak she couldn’t get into the horsebox. She was not wormed until I had her and her life was cut short as the worms had migrated to her brain. She did produce a world class long distance horse though. Great post!

    • Heidi Yates says:

      So sorry to hear about your mare ches, we can only do the best for them while they are in our care and try to fix any problems they arrive with. I have a retired standardbred and he had ulcers when he came to me, we have fixed them but he has a delicate stomach because of it. 

      Funny you should say about them being such a tie, I’m looking after my friends racing stables this Easter weekend while they go away, it’s only about the 3rd time they have been able to go away together in about 2 years because of the horses.

      Happy Easter to you and your family. I’m so glad you enjoy the articles, it makes it all worthwhile. 

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