The cost of buying a horse or loaning a horse goes way beyond the initial purchase price. Costs of care are ongoing and should be realistically budgeted for before you decide to take on responsibility for a horse.
Unless you are in the lucky position of being able to keep your horse at home, livery charges will be one of the heaviest regular monthly costs of owning a horse. The cost of keeping your horse at a livery yard depends on the services you need. Prices range from around £80 a month for DIY livery, where you just hire a stable and/or field and you are responsible for all the horse’s care, to £320 upwards for full livery, where all your horses needs are the responsibility of the livery yard.
If you are considering DIY livery, you will need to budget for hay/haylage, feed and bedding, whereas full livery includes all of these, plus caring for the horse and in some cases exercising the horse as well. Some DIY livery yards have extra services available that can be tailored to suit your needs, but add to the basic livery costs.
Feed and forage
Hay/haylage is likely to cost in the region of £45 a month, subject to price fluctuations, and how much forage your horse requires. Horses that are kept turned out 24/7 will not need hay in the summer, but will need it to supplement their grazing in the winter. Stabled horses will need hay all year round.
Stabled horse will also need bedding in the form of straw, shavings, paper, hemp and/or rubber stable mats. Straw is the cheapest option at around £3.50 a bale, but can cause coughs and some horses will eat it. In the long term, rubbers mats (approx £30 each) combined with shavings or hemp (£7- £9 a bale) can prove cheaper, but the initial investment is considerably more.
In addition to forage and bedding, most horses will need additional hard feed. On average this will cost £30- £40 a month dependent on the type, size, weight and exercise regime of the horse. This is does not include additional specialist feeds or horse feed supplements that the horse may also require.
Welfare and insurance
The most cost-effective worming programme is a ‘targeted’ plan, using worm egg counts (around £7.25 each) and wormers tailored to the horse. Annual worming packs are available at around £50.
Some horses are able to work without shoes, but most horses will require new shoes every 4 to 6 weeks. A full set of shoes costs £60-£90 and horses without shoes will need to be trimmed regularly by a farrier at around £30 a time.
Regular dentistry care should be undertaken by a vet or qualified Equine Dental Technician every six months and the equine vet will also have to visit for annual vaccinations for equine flu and tetanus.
Following a legal case which ruled that owners are responsible for any damage caused by their horses, all horse owners should be insured for third-party liability. The cheapest way to do this is to become a gold member of the BHS at £57 a year. If you wish to take out additional horse insurance to cover death, straying, theft, vets fees and more, then a horse in light work will cost a minimum of £25 a month.
And because horses are horses and always throw up unexpected bills, it is important to have sufficient funds to cover any emergencies that may arise.
NB: All prices given here are approximate and are based on prices correct in April 2010.