8 ways horse caretakers can save money

When you have a horse, managing your money can be challenging. Here are a few tips to help you cut costs without sacrificing quality care.

Caring for horses is an investment, regardless of how you use your equine partner. However, there are ways you can save money and spend more frugally without affecting your horse’s health and well-being.

To buy or lease?

Before making the decision to buy a horse, leasing or half-leasing one can help you determine if you’re ready to handle the costs and time involved, says Christy Landwehr, CEO of the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) and a CHA Clinician and Certified Master Instructor.

Once you bring your horse home, the following eight tips will help you with money management.

1. Create a budget and stick to it.

Budgeting is crucial. It’s a good way to know what your expenditures will be, to determine when you can set money aside for emergencies, and to keep an eye on every dollar going in and out.

2. Beware of impulse buys.

“The tack store is very fun to shop at, but you really might not need that extra set of reins or that purple fly sheet,” says Christy.

Tammi Gainer, a CHA Certified Master Level Instructor and CHA President, sees owners running from booth to booth at Equine Affaire every year, looking for the “next best thing that will fix it all.” But these frivolous purchases often aren’t necessary, and they can suck up funds that could be put to better use down the road.

3. Do your research.

Tammi recommends researching feeds and supplements to know exactly what your horse needs nutritionally. “Less expensive isn’t always the best in the long run,” she adds. “Many may be mostly fillers and not much of the actual ingredient you are looking for.”

Meanwhile, Christy suggests calling around to price hay, as it’s very expensive – but don’t skip on quality. And of course, make sure you’re comparing the prices of products that are of equal quality and features…you want to compare “apples to apples” and not “apples to oranges.” There may be a reason one hay grower is selling such cheap hay — it may be of much lesser quality or a different kind altogether.

4. Find professionals you can trust.

Veterinarians and farriers are excellent sources who can help you figure out your horse’s needs. Tammi advises caretakers to look for professionals with education, extensive training and certification, because quality health care professionals will save you time and money over the long run.

“Trusted and honest advice can not only save you money, but also heartache,” she says. Tammi trusts her own veterinarian to explain his advice and to give her good, better and best options so she can make an educated decision.

5. Have your horse live as naturally as possible.

“Lots of turnout with quality grass and hay will save on feed and supplements, and also your horse’s mental state,” says Tammi.

She adds that if you need to board your horse, ask the boarding stable specific questions about turnout – e.g. for how long and how many days per week, whether horses are fed on a schedule, and if they are turned out in a herd to promote socialization.

If you are up for farm ownership, Christy shares that she saves money on board by having her horses on her own ten-acre property. She keeps them on grass during certain times of the year to save money on hay.

6. Put your horses to work.

As a certified equine professional, Christy is able to give riding lessons with her horses. “So they actually pay their own bills,” she says.

Another option to get help with bills, and also the exercise schedule, adds Christy, is to lease your horse for part of the year so that the lessee takes on part of the expense and work involved.

7. Put yourself to work.

“Check with the barn where you board to see if you can clean tack or stalls, groom, braid manes for shows, etc., to work off the board,” Christy suggests.

Bartering can also include doing those odds-and-ends tasks that boarding barn staff may not be able to get to, adds Tammi, such as de-cobwebbing the barn, cleaning the tack room and/or lounge, brushing down arena walls, pulling weeds from under outdoor arena rails, etc.

8. Make things last.

Taking care of horse equipment, tack and riding clothes can help make things last longer so you don’t need to spend money on replacing items as often.

Can I afford to buy a horse?

Some people may find themselves being offered a free or low-cost horse and think they are saving money — but the purchase cost is just the start. Buying a horse comes with many follow-up expenses for upkeep and any health issues that may crop up.

Crunching numbers to determine whether or not you can afford a horse can be tedious… but it’s important! The Certified Horsemanship Association provides the following annual ballpark figures to help get you started. Keep in mind that these costs are for a single healthy horse, and will vary by location and other factors. Talk to local horse owners and service/product providers to get specific annual costs for your area.

  • Feed and bedding: $1,000–$2,400
  • Health care: $120–$600 or more depending on the horse’s needs
  • Farriery: $200–$1,200
  • Full-care boarding: $2,400–$7,200
  • Supplies: $200–$1,200
  • Tack and equipment: $1,000–$5,000
  • Lessons: $1,290–$7,200
  • Training: $3,600–$10,000
  • Transportation: Depends on the mileage the horse is transported
  • A health crisis (e.g., colic surgery, fracture, etc.): Unknown

In spite of the expense, it’s impossible to put a true price on the rewards of having a horse. But smart money management can mean more greenbacks in your pocket!