Is horse ownership right for you?
Have the Triple Crown races inspired you to consider horse ownership? You’re not the first to watch thoroughbred racing and decide you want to get a horse of your own. In fact, America’s love of horses dates to a time long before organized racing.
Brought to our shores by explorers more than 500 years ago
Horses lived on the North American continent in pre-history but died out. They were reintroduced into North America by European explorers in the 15th century. The impact of horses on the formation and evolution of the United States has been immense. Today, horses are beloved animals associated far more with recreational pursuits than the many services for which they were once essential.
Horses are not just for the wealthy
As testament to the popularity of our equine friends, 2.6 million American households own a total of 7.6 million horses. Such ownership is widely considered to be a pursuit of the wealthy, but the fact is, people of more modest means can and do own horses.
When you look at the thoroughbreds running in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or Belmont Stakes, those, indeed, are horses that are almost always owned by very wealthy people. Those three-year-olds are valued in the millions of dollars. For most of us, these animals are strictly to admire, not purchase. But that does not mean you can’t have a horse of your own.
Horses can be purchased for a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and there are rescue horses that you might be able to get for free if you can demonstrate the ability to provide a good home and life for the animal. If you do want to purchase a horse, there are loans available to complete the transaction, so you might not have to hold off on ownership as long as you may have expected.
Know that the purchase price is only the beginning
A word of caution: The cost of purchasing a horse has been described as the “tip of the iceberg.” Once you have obtained a horse, the cost of upkeep can be quite significant.
Horses eat, well, like horses, and over the course of a year you could spend a fairly significant amount on hay, grains, fruits and vegetables.
You’ll need to shelter the horse, which means you need a barn or to hire the services of a boarding facility. Horses require regular veterinary examinations, including hoof care, dental care, deworming, and vaccinations, and those are just the basics.
Horse tack, which includes saddles, stirrups, bridles, halters, reins, bits, harnesses, straps, etc. is essential and can be quite expensive. If you got a great price on a horse, you could spend more on “tacking up” than you paid to acquire the animal.
If you want to train your horse and take riding lessons (highly advisable for your safety and that of the horse) your expenses will mount, and that doesn’t take into account riding attire and associated costs.
The American Humane Society encourages people to understand and consider all factors of ownership before acquiring a horse. They note that the purchase price is usually the cheapest part of having a horse.
If you love horses and are prepared for the upfront and ongoing expenses, happy trails to you!
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