Tuesday, August 30, 2011

HK 101: Costs

Horses are expensive. They are expensive and accident prone, and if you do not keep up with the small routine things you will cause huge problems down the road. Every short-cut when it comes to horses, leads to big money down the road. 

How much does a horse cost? 
The purchase cost of a pleasure-mount is always the least amount of money you will pay for that animal.

A well trained, older horse can be purchased for between free to a good home, to a few thousand dollars. It is never a good idea to purchase a green or un-trained animal when you are new to horses. Do not be scared of aged horses, having 5 years left with a wonderfully trained 20 year old, who will teach you to love this sport, is far better then a terrifying 3 years (or 20 years) with an untrained baby.

If you are new to horses it is not a good idea to take on a “rescue”. Frequently they need specialized care or training to make them safe and sane riding horses. Adopting from a reputable rescue is a great idea.

How much does it cost to stable a horse?
Outdoor boarding at any reputable facility starts at $200 for very basic care and goes up from there.

Indoor boarding (where the horse has a stall to come into) starts around $400 and goes up from there.

There are many factors that influence the price of board. Most are dependent on the facilities the stables offer (indoor arena or outdoor or none) but labour is the largest cost for any boarding operation.

What are the recurring costs?
Horses need their feet trimmed every 6-8 weeks $40
Some need shoes every 6-8 weeks $120+
Some need special shoes because of health problems $$$+

Vet costs for the year are around $300 including dental and routine vaccinations. $50 more for a coggins if you'd like to show.

Emergencies can run from a few hundred to the thousands of dollars. A colic can run between $300-500 if you can get them through it with just drugs.

Wormer is $20 every 3 months, depending on your property/worm management. If you board your stable should deal with this themselves, if you have your horse at home you must educate yourself.

A bag of feed is around $15-30, depending on what you buy them.
Meg hasn't gone through 1/2 a bag of 14% sweet feed in 3 months because she is an easy keeper and way too fat. Maddie has gone through almost 3 bags of feed in month because he's a big Thoroughbred.

Horses eat pasture in the summer, which is free, provided you have good grass and lots of space for them to move around on. The amount of space you need depends greatly on your management.

How much hay your horse eats also depends greatly on both your management and the size/amount of work your horse does. A horse should be eating 3% of their body weight in hay during the winter. So if you've got a 500kg horse, that's 33lbs of hay, or about 2/3s of a bale of hay a day.

A small square bale can be $3-7 depending on who you get it from/in what quantities/what type of hay it is. Alternatively you can get round bales which can be $25-45.

You should never feed horses moldy hay or feed. Hay which is suitable for cattle can kill a horse.

Then you can either bed your stall with shavings $5+ a bag, or straw $3+ a bale.

Stall mats are a good idea because they save on bedding costs, one 4x6 mat goes for around $40 on sale.

If you are not going to be cleaning your own stalls expect to pay at least minimum wage plus travel time. You will probably need to offer a good incentive to keep your labourer if you've only got a few stalls that need cleaning.
What are occasional Costs?

Fly spray is about $25 a jug, i would probably use 2 jugs a season (it would be less for a small pony) and spray twice a day.

Blankets go from $80 - $$$$. They don't need expensive ones, but they do need them depending on how wooly they get or what shelter is available. The most dangerous weather for horses is late fall/early spring rain when it is cold and the horse gets wet. This is why you at least need a rain sheet. Horses fair far better is dry -35C then they do at 5 to -5C soaking wet.

Tack runs around $500 for a full set of cheap stuff (bridle, saddle, girth, etc.), a cart is a few hundred to a few thousand.

A grooming box should run around $100.

When purchasing a halter you should always buy a leather or break-away halter if you plan to turn the horse out in it. If the horse get's it's halter hung up on the fence you want the halter to break (even if it means the horse escaping) because otherwise they can hang themselves.

What about one-time costs?
Horses can live out 24/7 365, but they need to have shelter for when the weather gets really bad (we always get a few really nasty storms a year). Trees make an okay shelter (they need to be facing the correct direction & be quite tall) but a real structure is much better. You can have a stall in a barn for them, or build a shelter outside which should run a $$$.

A feed bin/water bucket/etc. $40-a few hundred. They need to have access to clean water at all times, like any other animal. A running stream is not access to clean water.

Proper fencing is an absolute must, and it can be very expensive. Never rely on just electric to keep the horses in, you need to have an exterior fence. Never use barbed wire in a small paddock. Always keep the fencing wire very tight.

End of Life
 Don't assume you can just sell your horse if you have to. With the current economy, the cost of horse keeping, and the drop in interest in equestrian sports, there are many people who are currently unable able to giveaway nicely conformed & well trained horses. Check out Camelot Horse Weekly for a list of very nice, often well trained (sometimes neither) horses looking for homes where they would otherwise go to slaughter.

Putting a horse to sleep can go from the cost of a bullet to a few hundred for the vet, plus you need to know if it's legal to bury on your property or somewhere near by. Having them hauled off property can be quite expensive. This is something you need to look into before you ever consider purchasing a horse, unpleasant as it may be.

These are example costs in my area, they vary widely from place to place. Generally you will find where there is a large equestrian population you will have more variety of care options and pricing.

Horses are beautiful, fun, just wonderful to be around; but they are not cheap. There are all sorts of ways to keep any animals. There are ways to keep them for less money, and there are ways to take care of them properly.

A pony can live up to 40 or 50 years, but a typically larger horses can reach 25.

The best book for bringing a horse home for the first time is Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage, most libraries have a copy.

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