The Only Cheap Thing about A Horse is the Cost to Obtain One.
A Word of Caution to be Shared:We understand, unfortunately, for some reason,because horses are easily obtained for free or extremelycheap these days, it somehow makes people falsely believethey are cheap to care for, as well.This is a very bare break down of equine needs. We are not saying this is the level of care we advise by any means, but this will show those looking for basically the “cheapest” route in WV, Ohio and Ky to keep a horse, what the very basic needs being met means financially to the potential owner.Costs are much higher in other parts of the USA.
The “Hay” Route
A horse needs an average of 3% of their body weight in food each day. Most of these will need to be forage / aka grass or hay.A single horse needs about 3 acres of exceptional grass that is well managed to sustain through the fall, summer and spring without hay. This needs to be a field, not 2 acres of mountain side or overgrazed, weedy land. This cannot have 2 horses on it and work for both to meet all their forage needs.
Having the right land costs money, as well. You purchase it, fence it, repair the fence, pay taxes, fertilize and mow. That amount of money is hard to factor person to person, but it is very high. If you have the right land for grazing most of the year, then for about 4 months, you need to plan to have good quality, dry bales and dry kept hay stocked up for winter. You will feed about 1/2 a bale daily in winter. This means you if you buy that hay for $7 per square bale, you will need $420 of hay for the year, each year, per horse.
If you do not have 3 flat, well maintained grassy acres for each horse, you will need at least $1,277.50 of hay each year per horse you own. You will have to buy this hay early in the season and be able to store it in a nice, dry area. Under a tarp will not work well.
Even if you can get dry rolled and stored round bales, you’re looking at $100 or more a month per horse, at least. Cow round bales of hay will not work. Round bales do not work for seniors or harder keepers, either. Sorry.
You will need to have access to a flat bed trailer to haul this hay. If you cannot buy one or rent one, you are looking at an $1,000 plus purchase. It you need to pay for hay to be delivered, you will be paying about $10+ per bale.
Grain. . .if you feed 3lbs twice a day of run of the mill textured feed at $16 per bag, you will have approximately $672 in grain purchased per horse each year. This price will double if you need to buy senior feed, need to feed more grain or better grain.
Then your horse will need a farrier at least 6 times in a year. That is $35 per trim, (can be much higher), if your horse doesn’t need shoes. $210per year.
De-Worming just twice a year with Quest Plus is $35.
Having the horse’s teeth done once a year, which is a must, is around $225 by a vet including farm call. Vaccines, if given yourself, at the basic level: $75 a year.
Basic Mineral and Salt blocks through the year: $50
None of the above factors in fencing, bedding (if needed), blankets, tack, a horse trailer or any injuries or special needs the horse may have.
Total per horse for the most basic care?
$1,685.00 – if you have access to quality, well managed pasture per horse and feed square bales only 4 months of the year, do not need a horse shod, never maintain fence, fertilize, need fuel to mow, etc. . . and this pricing is if you live in the lowest priced areas of the county, like much of Appalachia. It can easily double, even for this bare nesseccity stuff, in other parts of the USA.
If you need to board (rate at $450) and provide farrier trims, coggins, dental, worming and vaccines at average local rates?$5,950.00 per horse.
We haven’t even started to talk about having a trainer, taking lessons, good tack, chiropractors. . .So think about that free horse posting you see online. Do you have thousands of dollars to spend yearly?
This also applies when someone has used a horse up and has a senior horse they want to “give away.”
Please pause and consider what you’re asking others to invest in the horse you’re tired of caring for, please.
They are a luxury.
Many owners make serious sacrifices in other areas of life to afford them, and they are worth it, but you DO NEED to be able to afford basic care, folks.
The good news is, you can volunteer at a rescue or take lessons and find ways to have horses in your life no matter your budget!
This is what happens far too often when people do not realize what their “Free Horse” really costs to care for properly: