The Costs You Never Thought About
It’s said that the cheapest thing about horse ownership is the cost of the horse itself.
Truer words have rarely been spoken!
In addition to the cost of boarding, your budget must include many other things. Your tack and kit, for example. Saddles, bridles, saddle pads, halters – these are necessities, and the cost for them quickly adds up. Buying new is tempting, but check out consignment shops and tack exchanges and sales riding clubs often hold in the spring. Western riders get a break with clothing since jeans are everyday wear. English riders need breeches, but online shops like SmartPak carry many reasonably priced brands. Everyone must wear a helmet. For western riders who find the look of the traditional hard hat, check out HellHats. You can find them on Facebook. It’s a DIY hybrid of a hard hat fitted inside the brim of a western hat.
Then there is the equipment you need around the barn: muck buckets, pitchforks, feeding buckets, hoses, fly spray, sponges, grooming supplies and totes, hay nets, no-fly leggings, barn fans, shampoos, sweat scrapers… the list never ends.
You can melt your credit card in a tack shop with the other things you ‘can’t’ live without—bags and totes, gloves, saddle seat cushions, jewelry, tack trunks, and stall nameplates.
You must also factor in your professional support team, the experts who work to keep your horse healthy and sound. Number one is your veterinarian. If you are lucky, you will see her only a few times a year when she arrives to give the recommended vaccinations, draw blood for the Coggins test, and work with the dentist to sedate your horse for its oral maintenance. On average, that will cost several hundred dollars a visit for the routine calls, more for the calls with the dentist.
How often your horse needs to see a dentist is something of a debate—six, nine, or twelve months – depending on the horse and its needs. Don’t try to stretch the time beyond the recommendations. Many ‘behavioral’ issues are caused by a horse with a painful mouth. Neglected dental hygiene also leads to infections that are guaranteed to be more expensive to treat than a routine dental checkup.
An equine chiropractor or bodywork professional should also be on your list of those who see your horse regularly. Some veterinarians are trained in those fields, but more often, you’ll find someone who has specific training and certification. Keeping our partners’ muscles and skeletons properly aligned and flexible goes a long way toward maintaining their health and comfort. As with dental issues, a horse that hurts is a horse that often shows ‘bad behavior.’
“No hoof, No horse.”
Hoof care is vital for balance, mobility, and general health. In general, your horse needs a trim every six to eight weeks. There’s an ongoing debate over whether horses should be shod or barefoot, with studies supporting both sides. Your farrier has training and experience. She should be willing to explain what she thinks is best for your horse in its situation.
Don’t forget a saddle fitter. An ill-fitting saddle is as uncomfortable for your horse as a lousy pair of shoes is for you. In the longer run, it can lead to back and leg injuries, not to mention ‘behavioral issues’ as he deals with the pain. For Western saddles, most fitting issues can be solved by carefully using saddle blankets. English saddles are a different matter. The padding of the saddles shifts and compacts over time. And as a horse develops muscle through conditioning, the saddle must be adjusted to reflect that. Riders should meet with a saddle fitter at least twice a year. Your fitter should see you more often if you’re in a serious training program or ride daily.
This just touches on the actual costs of horse ownership. What expenses surprised you, and how do you balance your equine budget? Join the discussion on the Riders of a Certain Age Facebook page.
You can find more details on my website: www.ridersofacertainage.com. Or in my book (which you can order on the website), Riders of a Certain Age: Your Guide to Loving Horses Mid-Life and Beyond.