Sunday, April 13, 2008

So How Much Does That FREE Horse Really Cost?

"2 Quarter horses one Red one Dark Brown 1 Mix W/ Quarter,& Arabian Needs work, very loving and friendly, good with people, but hasn't been rode in a while, reason for wanting to give away is due to daughter going to college and doesn't have allot of time to look after them anymore."
I found this ad on Craig's List. These "free" horses are located in North Carolina. Unfortunately, in today's declining market, these ads are becoming more and more common. So how much money will this "free" horse really cost you?
1) First thing to consider is the cost of boarding this free horse or if you have your own property and enough acreage to keep a horse on it, the cost of building a shelter and putting up proper fencing and having a place to store hay and grain. In my area, board is anywhere from $125 for strict pasture board only on up to $300 a month for full board, which includes a stall and feed and daily turn out. So for board alone, lets take an average of $225 a month, so annually on average for board we can safely say $2,700 to $3,000 and that's probably on the conservative side.
2) If you do decide to keep the free horse at home, at least a lean-to to shelter your horse costs about $2,000 on average. Again a conservative figure. Mine, big enough to house two to three horses, cost me about $1,500 eight years ago. I've had a look on line and the price range is big. Anywhere from about $1,300 to $6,000 for a solid built shelter that doesn't blow away in the wind, including delivery. That is if you buy one built already, unless your extremely industrious and are experienced and capable of building one yourself in which you may save a few bucks.
3) Now on to fencing. Proper fencing for this free horse is a must. You have a lot of choice for safe fencing and it greatly depends on what you use and how much acreage you plan on fencing. I don't even think I can come up with a ballpark figure as that is so individual. I can tell you how much I payed to fence an acre and a half, with gates and paddock area fence to and around a placed shelter. I used electric equine tape with vinyl covered and capped t-posts, using a straight vinyled board at the road side. This was eight years ago and that cost was $6,000 and not mention upkeep of this fence and since I've had to pull the tape on one side and place a non-climb horse fence to the existing t-posts and re-cap those posts and top with electric braid. About $1,000 for that three years ago. I've also added training pen panels to where my electric comes to an end to re-enforce that area to the tune of $300.
4) A riding arena and/or training pen. I have 20 panels with a gate panel that I have butted up to the paddock to stretch this area to a larger riding arena. At about $70 per panel, that adds up to $1,400.
5) A separate dry place to store hay and feed, which for me is an awesome "Royal" brand vinyl shed with floor that cost $1,500. I can keep 60 bales of hay in there, no problem.
6) Water troughs, I have two, one 75 gallon and one 100 gallon, the total $150, not including the cost of heaters for winter, at about $40 per heater and that doesn't include the cost of electric to the fence year round and to the heater from October through April in my area.
7) Feeders. An awesome hay feeder, to prevent wastage of hay, $250. There are cheaper ways to feed hay out there. Feed buckets, $10 each.
8) I know down south and out west, hay is at a premium! I pay $4.00 a bale. A 50 to 70 pound bale will last me two days for two horses and three goats. This is fairly decent hay a 50/50 alfalfa grass mix. Not a perfect hay, but not bad either. A trust worthy farmer neighbor in which I've been buying from for years now. Grain? About $10 per 50 pounds and my girls don't get but one taste of grain per day. About 1/2 pound 11% sweet per day each, so my grain goes far. Remember dieting these days, but I'll feed more throughout the winter in both grain and hay to keep up with nutritional needs in frigid cold weather. About $1,000 a year for hay and about $200 a year for grain.
9) Vet Bills! Last year the spring visit for two horses was $200. This included the service call, two annual coggins tests, the spring shots which were, West Nile/EWT(tetanus), Flu 1 & 2/ EHV-1 & EHV-4. I usually do Strangles as well, but last year I didn't. And three emergency vet calls to the approximate tune of $800. I give my own shots in the fall and that cost is total for two is about $30 for Fluvac Innovator 5. Worming two horses for the year is $100.
10) Farrier every 6 to 10 weeks at $25 each horse which is cheap these days. I think average is about $35 per horse for trim without shoes. Annual cost per horse $200. Conservative.
11) Poop removal! I can get winter poop removed from loafing shed myself and spread it on our neighbor's field, but I rent a bobcat every other year for $300 that year and in between, I hire a poop removal company that cost me $150 per year to remove a truck load. Also the cost of grading paddock and laying limestone for proper drainage, about $500 that year.
12) Tools of the trade, brushes, curry combs, hoof picks, halters, riding equipment and the cost of keeping equipment in good shape. Who knows and cost really depends on your equipment choice. Other equipment needed as well for example, we use a heavy duty ATV for farm maintenance, seed spreader for pasture maintenance, now a new tool that just cost us $1,500 for riding arena maintenance and fly spray, two bottles per year at $20 per bottle and this year Fly Predator for 7 months $150.
The point is this.........That free horse is not Free! I surely didn't include things like teeth floating, trailer and truck and maintenance for those and probably many other things that just go along with horse keeping that is a part of my everyday life that I don't think about because it's just done as second nature. Also what it could cost you in training, which is a whole other post!


I'm Mikey said...

I'm chock full of "free" horses here. One guy last year chased me down to my home to beg me to take this mare. I would use her, he said. And love her. She was too much for him (5 yr old OTTB)
Then turns around and gets a 2 yr old, not broke to ride!!! For the record, we do think he's really on drugs.
So I have this critter, amongst the other "free" horses. Least she's rideable. We won't talk about the 17 yr old only halterbroke Peruvian Paso mare...
This economy though, I think it's going to get WAY worse...

Rising Rainbow said...

And then that free horse might have major problems that can end up to be even more expensive.

Callie said...

Mikael, Oh indeed you are right! This is everything goes well!

Callie said...

Good advice, Mikey, and I totally agree. Over the past year, I see more and more free horses advertised in our local paper and the rescues are getting overloaded with more.

Midlife Mom said...

I think this is the way it's going to be now with prices so high for hay and shavings plus all the other stuff that goes along with keeping horses. As you said the rescuers are having a hard time as there are so many needing to be rescued. We need to support our rescue people whether it's with volunteer work on the weekends or with money sent regularly to help with feed costs. Great post, I hope people take your good advice.

Callie said...

Thanks, Midlife Mom, I think sometimes people do not realize the "real" cost of keeping horses. And I think we'll more and more of these ads!

Grey Horse Matters said...

In my opinion there is no such thing as a free horse. Good post Callie, nice points of fact for everyone to think over before taking the plunge on a 'free' horse.

Pony Girl said...

I love this post, I couldn't agree more!! People are giving horses away around here too....even though I know better, it is tempting to pick up a free or $400 horse. But I know my budget is maxed on just ONE! The purchase price of a horse is the cheap part, it's the care and maintenance costs after that which are hard!!

Callie said...

GHM, Thanks, It is true, the cost of purchase is most times less than the cost of care.

Don't do it , Pony Girl, I feel ya, It is tempting, but I'm at my max with just two horses and the economy is only going to get worse!

billie said...

So glad you wrote and posted this. There is nothing "free" about owning horses.

Callie said...

Thanks, Billie, glad you liked it.

Diane Moller said...

Hi, How funny, I just wrote a book, What a "Free" Horse Really Costs-A Guide to Expenses and Responsibilities of Horse Ownership, everything you just wrote about and more is in it. It's so true that so many people don't know what they're getting into when that take on a project like a horse! Hopefully we can spread the word and help horses get the proper treatment that they deserve. Enjoy your horses! Diane Moller