I ran across an unusually written ad on Craigslist last week. As a long time horse owner myself, I found it humorous and enlightening at the same time. Read it below and then I'll point out some things.
For Sale-1000 lb breakfast sausage (10 yr old bay mare) - $300 (southeast Nebraska) I have for sale a nice bay mare. She is 10 years old and is half Arab and half paint. She is easy to catch and gentle to work with. Lifts all feet for cleaning. Very pretty perky ears. Tame and leads and loads easily. No biting or nipping. Teeth in good shape. Recently wormed. Bucks like a rodeo bronc. Nice disposition. Good with other horses. Bucked off my daughter and will be turned into sausage if she is not sold. I will not sell her to someone who is not an experienced horse person. Would consider selling her to someone with a bad mother in law. She does not just give a couple bunny hops, she gets good height and leg extension. If you know a good rodeo contractor, let me know. Would make a nice pasture pet like a lot of other horses are, just not in my pasture. She might make someone a nice brood mare. Very gentle to handle. Just bucks like a banshee. Get some PETA buddies together and save this horse from the sausage grinder!
The author of that ad sounds like he might know a thing or two about horses, but it's clear that his purchase of that particular horse was a mistake from the get go. His frustration, however humorously he expresses it, is very apparent and scenario he describes is a good illustration of how much can go wrong when the right person buys the wrong horse.
Being human, most of us get stuck on that passage in Genesis that says God gave us dominion over all the beasts of the field. Trouble is, most of the beasts have never read Genesis. That's where our innate intelligence comes in. We are (most of us) smarter than the average beast, but we also lean toward being egotistical and self-impressed. We forget that God's other creatures (in this case, the horse) don't automatically know we are smarter and therefore expect us to prove it.
Learning to ride and handle a horse is not like learning to drive a stick shift or a motorcycle. Horses are living, thinking beings with personalities and dispositions as varied as the people who choose to own them. Since the average full-grown horses weighs around 1000 pounds, it's really important that the horse and the horse owner are a good match on all levels ...riding ability, skills and yes, even personality.
If you have never owned a horse before, there are some things you should know going in. Horses need more than food and water to remain physically healthy. We keep all our horses barefoot (no shoes) but their feet still need to be trimmed by a qualified farrier every 6 to 8 weeks. The cost ranges from $20 to $40 per horse for a trim, depending on where you live. If you put shoes on the horse, $60 and up. But shoes only last 6 to 8 weeks too and they will have to be pulled or reset. There's a old saying, very simple but very true, "No feet, no horse." What good is a lame horse ...to anyone? So plan on taking good care of your horse's feet.
Some people have their horse's teeth tended to by a vet or even an equine dentist once or twice a year. There are several schools of thought on taking care of a horse's teeth. I've known people that think it's down right neglect not to have a horse's teeth tended to at least once a year at a cost of around $100. They argue that we have our own teeth tended to, why shouldn't our horse? I am at the other end of the spectrum. I adhere to the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' philosophy. I don't have my dogs and cats teeth cleaned either. If any of my animals have a tooth problem, I get it taken care of. But unless and until there is a problem, I don't see the point.
Just like your cats and dogs, horses need annual vaccinations. Rabies is required in some states and advisable (in my opinion) in every state. It's a $10 shot, but in most places it is required to be administered by a licensed veterinarian so if all you got was Rabies, it would end up about $75 including the barn/office call. We also give our horses VEWT (Venezualan East-West Encephalitis plus Tetanus) and West Nile which cost a total of approximately $35 and can be administered by anyone. So if you order the vaccinations in single-dose syringes, you will have invested approximately $50 including overnight shipping ...which is about half what the vet will charge you. There are other vaccinations out there but you will have to weigh the risks and make your own decisions. As far as I know, all 50 states require an annual Coggins test. Blood is drawn and sent off to a lab to determine if a horse is infected with what the old-timers used to call 'Swamp Fever' ...more properly known as Equine Infectious Anemia. There is no vaccine and no cure for this mosquito-borne disease. Once a horse tests positive, they are allowed to be retested ONE TIME and if there is a second positive, the choices are euthanasia or permanent quarantine. The cost of the Coggins is about $20.
Other than that, a horse's basic needs are simple. Water, food, forage (hay or pasture) and room to move around. A run-in shelter, usually a two-sided or three-sided shelter where the horse(s) can come and go at will is nice. If you have woods in your pasture, you really don't have to have a man-made shelter . A horse just needs a place to get out of the more extreme elements. Our place now consists of an 8-acre pasture that is approximately 1/3 wooded. The woods provide a wind break, relief from a hard driving rain in the winter, and shade in the summer. There is a catch pond (not spring-fed, but collects rain water) that they prefer over the troughs for drinking water and open sandy areas where they can enjoy a good roll. We have a smaller (approximately 1 acre) paddock in the front of the house that we use when we want to school a horse or if we have rookies over to ride. It has a few trees, a tiny pond (spring fed because it has water in it even now) and a round pen set up in it. Between those two areas is what we refer to as the side yard. It's a sacrifice area meaning the horses have eaten it down to nothing because it's only about half an acre in size. But it is where we keep the horses at night in order to give the pasture grass a rest. We keep a round bale in there for them at night and one round bale lasts our six horses two weeks. These are big rounds, 5 x 5, approximately 1100 pounds each. Horses are not called hay burners for no reason. A horse quality round bale is running about $85 these days because of the ongoing drought. In addition to providing forage and round bales, we feed our horses a pelleted feed twice a day. The amount we feed them varies according to their individual needs. But we spend about $100/month feeding six horses.
Now, in summary, you can expect to spend approximately $1000 caring for and maintaining one horse for one year. It's pretty obvious that owning a horse is an expensive undertaking and the term 'horse poor' might have some basis in truth! But even with the expenses and the physical labor involved in their care, the rewards of horse ownership are indescribable. Take the time to work out all the details so you can provide proper care for a horse and arrange your schedule so you will have time to invest in a true relationship with a horse. Then, and only then, should you start shopping for a horse.