How much do horses REALLY cost?

As horse owners, we accept that our horses cost us a small fortune and we try never to actually calculate how much we really spend on them. However, if you are considering buying your first horse, asking horse owners is the best way for you to decide whether or not you can afford a horse.

The biggest issue with asking horse owners is that it varies so much between horse and owner. Someone else could keep an exact clone of Scottie at the same yard and easily spend an extra £100 a month on basic costs. It’s not just about what suits your horse, but your own preference.

So to try and combat this issue, I have decided to create this post, talking you through some of the cheapest forms of livery (excluding having your own land) to give you an idea of the basic costs of owning your own horse. Obviously, everything you add on top of this will increase the cost.

In this table I have included Grass livery and DIY livery. For the purpose of this table, grass livery is being turned out in a field 24 hours and day all year and DIY Livery is going out in a field during the day and in at night. Again, these can change from yard to yard, but for the purpose of giving you a basic idea of costs, this is how I have classified them to calculate! Read on to find out how I calculated all the costs.

Grass Livery DIY Livery
Lowest Highest Lowest Highest
Monthly
Livery £50 £150 £90 £200
Hay £0 £65 £0 £150
Bedding £0 £0 £0 £100
Feed £0 £70 £0 £70
Other
Farrier (yearly) £180 £1,170 £180 £1,170
Back Lady £45 £45 £45 £45
Saddler £45 £45 £45 £45
Wormers £20 £20 £20 £20
Vaccinations £50 £300 £50 £300
Teeth £35 £90 £35 £90
Year Total £1,085 £5,960 £1,565 £8,780

Now as you can see, for each type of livery, I have given the option of Highest or Lowest. This refers to the cost of the different things you will need to pay for over the year. Chances are, your cost will be somewhere in the middle of these two.

Monthly Costs

Livery cost changes drastically depending on the location and the yard facilities. I think you would be hard pushed to find a space for grass livery for less than £50 a month unless you got some fantastic mates rates! I would also be surprised if they had an arena to ride in on site. I would also be surprised to find a yard asking much more than £200 a month for DIY unless it had some amazing facilities and was a busy competition centre and/or included hay and bedding.

If your horse is living out (grass livery) you won’t need bedding. If the yard also has good grazing and you have a good doer, you might not need to give them any hay or feed at all, keeping your costs nice and low. However, realistically, most yards in winter you would need to be putting hay out and probably giving a small feed.

Depending on the size of your horse, over night they could need anything from a few sections to over half a small bale of hay. Since having Scottie I’ve paid everything from £3-£5.50 for a small bale of hay, with 3 bales lasting us roughly a week. But some yards include hay in your livery cost, so although you are technically paying for your hay, I have entered this as £0 in the table.

They type of bedding you choose, how messy your horse is and how you keep the bed all affect your bedding costs. Whatever type of bedding you decide to go with, you are probably looking to pay £4-£10 per ‘bale’ and I would say the average person uses 1-2 a week. But as with the hay, some yards include specific bedding options in their livery, which is why there is a £0 in the Lowest column.

Other Costs

Now the non monthly costs don’t vary between type of livery as these are more down to whether the horse has a problem and the owners personal management preference. So let’s start with the farrier costs.

If you have a barefoot horse with good strong feet, you might only need to see the farrier/trimmer every 8-9 weeks. Maybe even less depending on what they say. So this would mean you might only see the farrier 6 times a year for a trim, with the cheapest trim I have come across was £30, which comes to £180 for the year. Now you could easily end up paying less than this, a lot of the time horses wear their own feet down so they don’t need a trim, but I think £180 is a good baseline to expect and anything under that is a bonus!

Now, lot’s of horses have bad feet, struggle to keep shoes on, need more frequent visits from the farrier and special shoes, even if only for part of the year. In the end I decided to go for the cost of having a horse shod every 4 weeks at £90 for a set. But to be quite honest, if your horse developed a problem, these costs could be even higher…

Now as you can see in the table, the costs for back lady, saddler and wormers don’t change between the columns. This is because the basic cost for these things is the same, it’s the frequency which changes and it is the frequency I used to work out the final yearly total. The numbers in the columns are the average price I would expect to pay per session/dose. For the lowest column, I calculated the saddler and back lady to come out twice a year and for the horse to be wormed twice a year.

However, if your horse is regularly changing shape, competing at a high level or has underlying back issue which need regular checking, well I have known people to have their horses backs and saddles checked nearly every month. So for the highest column I said that these people were visiting 10 times in a year and that the horse would be wormed 4 times a year.

Finally we have vaccinations and teeth. Most horses only need this doing once a year. Obviously prices vary between vets and call out fees etc, but I would say that the average flu and tet vaccination costs around £50. However, if you missed a year and need to start the vaccinations again, or you need/want more vaccinations, such as strangles and other diseases, then these costs can easily stretch into the hundreds.

With group call out, a dentist/vet with no sedation will probably cost at least £35 and that will be them done for the year. However, if your horse requires sedation, more frequent visits and more work done, these costs quickly increase.

Conclusion

So as you can see, the basic living costs of keeping a horse can vary massively. And this doesn’t include insurance, lessons, competitions, replacing equipment, unexpected vet fees or any of the extra things we probably buy for our horses.

While doing this, I entered Scottie’s basic upkeep costs and I was pleasantly surprised with it coming to roughly £1350. I was shocked at how low this was and was questioning where all my money is going! But once I added on our insurance, travel costs and days out (shows, lessons, etc) it very quickly became clear as to where all my money is going!

 

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