It’s no secret that horses aren’t the cheapest pets to own. They are incredible creatures that will give you a huge amount of pleasure and enjoyment, but you will need to budget wisely. Before you head to the nearest stables and start looking for a horse, it may be a good idea to put together a rough idea of costs. If you’re new to horse ownership, you may be wondering how much does it cost exactly to own a horse in the UK? Well, we’ve done all the hard work for you and put together a rough idea of the things you need to factor in.
The principal costs involved in owning a horse
Perhaps the most important thinking you can do before buying a horse or pony is to inform yourself of the costs incurred. The list below details the average regular costs involved in keeping a horse.
1. Livery yard or field rent
Unless you have a patch of land at home to keep your horse, you’ll need to rent a field or look for a livery yard where the horse can be kept.
Your first port of call could be local farmers. They may have fields available to rent for horses and these are usually the lowest cost – around £10 per week. Before you commit, though, check what facilities the farmer is offering as you might be responsible for things like maintenance of the field and muck removal.
Most horse owners keep their horse at a livery yard because these often have a range of facilities; these include tack rooms, schooling arenas, muck heap, jumps and so on. Livery yards will also take care of any field maintenance so you don’t have to.
As to the costs for keeping a horse at a livery yard, these vary according to the type of livery offered.
- Grass Livery can be expected to cost around of £20-£25 per week.
- DIY Stabled Livery can be expected to cost roughly £30-£40 per week.
- A full livery service can cost up to £100-£150 per week.
- Any extra care of the horse or tasks carried out by staff at the livery yard costs extra.
2. Hay, straw and shavings
If you keep your new equine friend on grass livery, it only needs to be fed hay in winter when there isn’t much grass. How much you need will obviously depend on the type and size of horse or pony. Some hay for feed will be needed for around 5 months of the year, so around £10 a week would be added to the grass livery costs during the coldest winter weeks when grass is totally unavailable.
For stabled horses, hay is needed all year round to compensate for the lack of access to grass so this can add around £10 a week to the costs over the year. Additionally, stable bedding is required, and this is usually straw or shavings, which can add £10-£20 per week to the livery costs over the twelve months.
The amount of feed a horse requires depends very much on the type and size of horse, its exercise routine and whether it it is stabled or feeding on grass.
A ‘hardy’ horse or pony living out all year with only light exercise may not need much more additional feed, if any. However a horse which receives regular exercise may require some hard feed. A stabled horse, which will have strenuous exercise on a regular basis will almost certainly need extra feed throughout the year, which will cost around £5 to £10 a week.
4. Vet's fees and insurance
A horse or pony has to have annual vaccinations against the flu and tetanus and these can cost around £70 a year – £35 for the vaccination and another £35 for the vet’s call out charge.
In the event of illness or accident, vets’ fees can quickly mount up, so many owners prefer to buy horse insurance to protect them against such eventualities.
Horses’ feet continually grow, so even if he is unshod (without horseshoes), the horse or pony needs regular visits from the farrier for trimming and/or balancing. Shod or not the horse will require attention from the farrier every one and a half months approximately, and this can cost up to £25-£30 for trimming and balancing and £50-£85 for shoeing (per visit).
A horse should have its teeth checked by a vet or equine dentist annually to make sure that there are no sharp edges or other tooth problems that could cause pain and discomfort to the horse. If problems reoccur, there may be a need for more regular visits. An equine dentist’s visit can cost around £50-£70.
Horses and ponies can get worms. These parasites live as eggs or larvae and can be found in grazing pasture, feed, on horses' coats and throughout the horses' living quarters. Symptoms are diarrhea, fever and colic. As such, horses and ponies need to be wormed regularly whether they are stabled or at grass. A wormer usually costs around £10-£15 and as to how often it may be needed, that very much depends on the type of wormer used and which worms the wormer is targeting.
The above are the main routine costs, but of course there are always unforeseen costs that might crop up. Your horse may cast a shoe and need an extra farrier visit. It may suffer an injury or contract an illness requiring urgent veterinary attention as well as extra stabling and feed while it is recovering. You do need to buy medical products for everyday care; minor cuts, shampoos, repairs to or replacements for tack and rugs.
When calculating the overall cost of owning a horse or pony, it’s probably best to budget for another £1,000 per annum for these ‘incidentals’ so that you aren’t faced with unexpected costs.
So is it expensive to own a horse? Well, it’s all relative. However, as we said, there are always unexpected costs with a horse, so it’s better to be prepared and over-budget rather than under-budget. It will be expensive if the horse falls into ill health due to lack of care and treatment. The British Horse Society advice leaflet The Cost of Keeping a Horse or Pony will provide you with a useful guide to the level of financial commitment that owning a horse involves.
Other factors to consider before you buy a horse include:
Never buy unseen
Recently, there have been many problems with internet sales, so always try before you buy. We have seen a case of a parrot mouthed Shire going through three owners, all of whom bought horses unseen off a website run by a dealer. Unscrupulous dealers will sell horses based on false descriptions and getting a refund is a fruitless pursuit in many cases. Going to see and try the horse may take time in the beginning, but it’ll give you a much better chance of finding the right horse.
Get the horse vetted
Vetting is a series of checks a vet carries out to ensure ‘fitness for purpose’. It can save you a great deal of heartache and expense in the future. Your potential purchase should be vetted regardless of its value or cost. Get the vet to thoroughly check the horse against its passport and description. Vetting comes at varying levels, determined by what you want to do with the horse. Use an experienced equine vet (recommended by someone) and don’t let a seller talk you out of vetting, or strong-arm you by saying there’s another buyer waiting and (s)he wants a quick sale.
Always consider the commitment
The purchase really is the cheap part. Livery, insurance, vets fees, shoeing, tack and feed all add up. Can you afford it, because this creature could well be with you for the next three decades! If in any doubt whatsoever, consider whether it’s better to take a horse on loan initially. That way, it can be returned if you’ve thought twice about the whole idea.
Buying a horse or pony for the first time is a wonderful experience. They are big, beautiful and majestic creatures with warm eyes and a coat as smooth as silk. However, the wrong horse in the wrong hands can ruin the fun of horseback riding and may be positively perilous. Here are some of the most avoidable mistakes that new horse buyers can make. Click here for the complete list.
- Buying an untrained horse
Training can take months. It can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Young or inexperienced mature horses are not reliable.
Identifying a good horse at auction needs a keen eye and expertise. Horses often appear docile at auction because they are so confused they ‘freeze’. Horses can be drugged so they appear calm and significant ailments like heaves and lameness can easily be masked with drugs.
Never ever buy a horse on first sight. Try the horse out, try it again and ask lots of questions. Go home and think about it for a few days. Look at other horses besides the one you’ve fallen in love with. Make comparisons. Be lead by your head, not your heart.
- Not asking for a trial period
Ask a dealer for a trial period, or ask them to help you find another horse if the one you are looking at doesn’t work out. If you get a ‘no’ when you ask, probe to find out why. There may be a valid reason, but equally, there may not.
- Buying “Champion the Wonder Horse”
The type of horse required for high-performance sports may not be the one suitable for safe learning. Buy a horse to match your skill and fitness level, not one to match a dream that may not even come true.
- Not taking on board the real time, cost and commitment of horse ownership
Horses don’t stop eating and drinking when you want to go away on holiday. And you can’t put them in a kennel! Be honest with yourself about the time and money you can (or want to) spend. You love horses, but would it be better to spend £30 on the occasional trail ride or riding lesson and leave all the other work to someone else?
More information about buying horse
This guide from the National Equine Welfare Council is very helpful in filling you in on the highs and lows of horse ownership. It will show you how to plan for the future and reduce costs without compromising your horse’s welfare. It will also tell you what to do if the worst comes to the worst and you think you can no longer afford to care for your horse. The British Horse Society is the largest horse charity in the UK. Every month, it receives a multitude of calls from desperate horse owners pleading for advice on alternative homes for their animals. However, with over one million horses and donkeys in the UK, resources and the spaces for re-homing are limited.
Insuring your horse
Getting insurance cover is as important as registering with a vet. As soon as you have your horse, make sure you put equine insurance in place.
Insurance will help you to sustain the financial hit caused by vet’s bills and third party incidents. Additionally, it helps you to protect yourself from the financial implications of illness, injury or even theft.
The essentials when buying horse insurance are:
- Vets bills
- Liability of your horse
- Injuries and accidents
- Loss of use
- Trailers and horseboxes
Statistically, it’s highly probable you will need to make a claim at some point during your horse’s lifetime. You never know when an unfortunate event will happen and unforeseen vet bills can quickly spiral out of control. It’s more than wise to be prepared by getting horse insurance.
Why not get a quote for your horse insurance with Equesure today?
Related Article: Top Tips for Breeding Horses