Horses are expensive. Between board, farrier visits, routine and non-routine vet calls, grain, and supplements, the costs add up. Since it is tax season, I am combing through all my expenses and added up every single cent I spent in 2020. If you want a complete picture of a horse owner’s expenses, I’ve broken out how much it cost to own a horse into sections below.
Please note that expenses do vary widely based on where you live, the type of accommodation (stall, run, pasture), feed requirements, shoeing requirements, and training needs. For reference, my horse is retired, barefoot, and boarded on someone else’s property.
From the most expensive category to least here is how much it cost to own my horse in 2020.
Board || $6,855
Since I do not own land and was working full time, I chose to board my horse at a full care facility. Board included housing in a box stall, shavings, mucking, turnout, hay, water, blanketing, and feeding grain (provided by me) twice daily.
Full board ran $560 a month, which came out to $6,720 for the entire year.
Unfortunately, at the beginning of 2020, my horse only went outside 5 hours a day and was taking his frustration out on his stall door. He proceeded to break it, and the replacement cost $135. After this, and some paddock reconfiguring, his turnout increased to 12 hours a day, which stopped the damage.
Veterinary || $3,655 (Routine & Non-routine)
Like most of us, 2020 was hard on my guy. In late February, right before the pandemic rolled in, Indy stopped eating entirely. Since he wasn’t running a fever or in outward discomfort, my vet determined he likely had stomach ulcers.
This left me wondering: what caused them? Where is Indy feeling stress in his life (he is retired after all)? My hunch was on pain management medication and food frustration. A little back story.
Indy has arthritis and had been on Previcox since 2016 for pain management. Continued medication use like this can be hard on a horse’s stomach. Also, after breaking his stall door, the barn owner suggested I try a slow feeder so Indy would occupied longer. More time eating meant less time to cause damage. New to the slow feeder world, I purchased a slow feeder net with a mesh that was too small (see this article for more information about mesh size). Indy’s frustration with the new hay net combined with long term exposure to Previcox increased his risk for ulcers.
Nevertheless, let me tell you, treating ulcers is EXPENSIVE.
After 4 house calls, 4 tubes of gastroguard, 3 omeprazole injections, 1 tub of omeprazole powder, and MANY sucralfate bottles, I spent a whopping $2,373 on treating the ulcers. This was only over the course of 2 months, so I was spending ~$1200 a month on vet bills alone! YIKES!
Besides the ulcers, I also had two non-routine barn calls for colic and a swollen sheath. These other non-routine visits cost an additional $660. This brought unanticipated veterinary costs to a total of $3000. Other routine costs captured in the $3,655 total include vaccinations, sheath cleanings, and purchasing arthritis medications.
Feed and Supplies || $1,208.69
One of the recommendations my vet gave me after we started ulcer treatment, was to put my horse on Purina Outlast Gastric Supplement. After the cost of treatment, I was onboard for purchasing grain to prevent another episode.
A Purina outlast bag typically runs for $37 at local feedstores and generally lasts a month.
While also treating the ulcers, my vet ran some blood samples and found Indy’s albumin levels were low. Essentially, he though there was a protein leak, formally known as protein losing enteropathy (PLE). He recommended I put him on Nutrena Empower Topline Balancer because 30% of the blend is crude protein.
A Nutrena empower bag typically costs $27 at local feedstores and lasts me over a month.
In addition to this feed, there were other things I needed throughout the year to care for my horse. These included SWAT, fly masks, antibiotic ointments, fly spray, blanket leg straps, and psyllium. Since I pick up these items at my local feed store when I get the grain bags above, any miscellaneous supplies are rolled into this category.
SmartPak Supplements || $1,061.23
At the start of 2020 I had my horse on SmartPak’s SmartDigest Ultra Pellets and Fluid Action Hyaluronic Acid (HA) powder. Back in September I dropped the HA powder, so the average cost for SmartPak supplements each month, with shipping, was $89.
Farrier || $398.30
Thankfully, my guy has been barefoot most of his life and only requires a trim rather than shoes. The farrier trimmed him 7 times in 2020, which put him on a cycle of about every 7.5 weeks. The cost is $55 if you pay via check, but I pay my farrier through PayPal, so after the fee, each trim came out to $56.90.
The only thing I didn’t include here was the amount of money I spent on gas to drive to the barn. When I was treating Indy for ulcers, I would be driving to the barn 2-3 times a day, for up to a total of 2 hours in the car.
Common expenses I don’t have
Since my horse is retired, I do not have any riding costs. Other owners may invest in training for their horse, lessons for themselves, or competition fees for shows.
There are other equine services available including chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, and joint injections to name a few. Due to all the unexpected veterinary costs this year, I did not invest in these other areas.
I also do not own a trailer for transporting my horse as there are many mobile vets in my area. If I did own a truck and trailer, there would be fees for maintenance, storage, and registration.
Total Cost ~$1100 a month
|Horse Ownership Costs 2020|
|Feed & Supplies||$ 1,208.69|
Averaged monthly, I spent $1,100 on maintaining my horse. Costs were especially high this year due to all the unexpected vet bills. Normally I would expect to pay about $800 a month.
No matter what why you slice it, owning a horse is a significant financial commitment.
If you are looking to getting to horses, hopefully this level of transparency will give you a good idea on how much you may need to budget. Please keep in mind that I have owned this horse for 15 years, so I already own all the basic vet supplies, grooming supplies, and tack. This breakdown is simply for maintenance and is not representative of the very first year of owning a horse.
Also note that my costs are neither the minimum nor maximum an owner can expect to pay. Costs can be reduced if you keep your horse on your own property, keep your horse at a co-op or share facility, or keep a lease on your horse. Costs can increase if you live outside an expensive urban area, compete your horse, or invest substantially in training and equine therapies.
If you are interested in a more specific break down of veterinary expenses, the supplies needed once you purchase a horse, or anything else, let us know. I would be happy to provide more information.