Is Horse Ownership for You?

Is Horse Ownership for You? June 20, 2012–Little girls and ponies go hand in hand. Walk through the toy aisle and you will find an assortment of ponies with long, flowing pastel manes and tails, just waiting to be brushed and styled.? If every little girl who loved horses clung to that passion, half of our population would be horse owners!? Most find new loves and eventually leave the pretty ponies for the next generation of young girls to enjoy. But for those of us who just can’t shake the horse bug, we have to decide how to best fill that space in our lives.? Horse ownership seems like the right fit, but as anyone who owns a horse will tell you, ?It is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle.?? Horses are time consuming.? They are 24 hours/7 days a week/365 days a year–a full time commitment. Unlike snowmobiles that you can start up in the winter and store the rest of the year (can you tell I live in Michigan?), horses can’t be put away until it is convenient or fun to take care of them.? Rain or shine, you have a horse to contend with, plan for and take care of.? If you are part of a family, then the whole family will experience horse ownership in some form or fashion, whether it is helping with the chores or going to another horse show. Can you Afford a Horse? So let?s imagine a world where you have the time, discipline and desire to own a horse.? Can you afford one?? Horse expenses come from your discretionary income.? In these rough economic times, discretionary income, or the ?mad money? that you can spend at will after all of your bills are paid, food is bought, retirement and savings are met, may be pretty tight. Thanks to a shaky economy, horse prices are rock bottom, and there are good horses that can be bought or rescued at unbelievably low prices ($2000 or less).? However, that initial purchase price is only the first drop in a very big bucket.? After paying the sales price, you have:

  • daily expenses including feed ($2.50/day X 365 days)
  • monthly expenses including board and hoof care ($250 board X 12 m+$50 X 8 shoeings/yr)
  • annual expenses including dental care and vaccinations ($250/yr)

While prices vary greatly with product choices, locations and equine professional service charges, you can bank on spending at least $2,500 annually and easily twice that much if you live in a an area where hay prices are high and/or you board your horse at an elite establishment. While boarding seems expensive, having your horse in your back yard also costs a pretty penny when you calculate costs of shelter, fencing, bedding, utilities and maintaining these facilities.? Go ahead and include $30 plus/day if you need someone to farm sit while you take a business trip or vacation.? You may also want an arena to ride in, so chalk up another $3K–$10K. The above expenses are just the baseline. Consider your needs and wants for riding equipment, truck and trailer and riding/training sessions.? If your horse requires emergency treatment and care, factor in another $500-$5,000–usually at the worst time possible.? We’ll save the expense of showing for later. By now you may be thinking, ?Dr. Skelly, why are you trying to scare me out of owning a horse?? I want everyone who can realistically own a horse and is prepared for that responsibility to have that wonderful opportunity.? But I have seen too many people jump into horse ownership, only to burn out fast.? That scenario is no good for you or the horses we all care about.? The good news is, if you can’t make the time or monetary commitment to horse ownership, there are other fulfilling ways to enjoy horses and hang around with other people who love them as much as you do. I would love to?get your take on time and money management when it comes to horse ownership.? What do you sacrifice to own a horse?? What is your best advice when someone is considering buying their first horse? Coming up, I will discuss riding lessons, leasing options and volunteer opportunities that might fit your current circumstances better than horse ownership. Dr. Christine Skelly is an extension specialist at Michigan State University where she founded and directs My Horse University, an online horse management education program.? Dr. Skelly developed the free online course Purchasing and Owning a Horse 101, in partnership with Discover Horses. Follow My Horse University on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and take the free online course Purchasing and Owning a Horse 101.

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