Pet Horse Guide: What You Need to Know

Published: May 16, 2022

This post may contain affiliate links to our partners like Chewy, Amazon, and others. Purchasing through these helps us further the A-Z Animals mission to educate about the world's species..

Before Buying a Horse

Owning a pet horse is a goal for many people. It is important to prepare for the costs and responsibilities of owning any pet but particularly so before purchasing a large animal, such as a horse.

Preparing yourself for the responsibility includes things like finding a spot to keep your horse, learning how to handle one properly, and being sure that you have a financial safety net for the pet.

Individuals who own property can keep their horses at home if that is something they are interested in. Doing this puts all of the responsibility of ownership on you. This means sourcing feed and making sure you or someone else is available to care for them daily.

Keeping your horse at a boarding stable ensures that there is always someone available to care for your horse and removes the responsibility of sourcing feed, but the cost is higher than caring for your horse on your own.

How Much Does a Pet Horse Cost?

The cost of buying a horse is incredibly variable. From receiving a horse for free to tens or even hundreds of thousands for top-level competition horses, there is no one right price to pay.

One thing to consider when setting a budget includes the fact that the initial cost of the horse is only a small percentage of the price of horse ownership. The ongoing costs of feed, vet and farrier care, and paying for the horse’s accommodations quickly add up.

Pet Horse Guide
The cost of stabling a horse can add up very quickly. This includes stabling, exercise, and feeding, among others.

New Owner Shopping List: What To Buy

Accumulating the things you need before you bring your horse home ensures that the first days are not spent frantically gathering items that you need.

  • Halter- A halter is the piece of equipment a horse wears on its head while you are working with it. It is similar to a collar on a dog. When you are first getting to know your horse, having a halter on it anytime you are working with it is important for both you and your horse’s safety.
  • Lead Rope- A cotton lead rope allows you to lead your horse wherever you need. A soft, round lead rope is ideal because it is easy on your hands if your horse pulls and is also easy to tie and release.
  • Hoof Pick- Cleaning out your horse’s hooves each day is important to keep them healthy and disease-free. On days you ride, pick out the hooves both before and after you ride.
  • Grooming Kit- The components of your grooming kit depend on where you live and the time of year. A few basic brushes will help you keep your horse looking good. Additions include fly spray during warmer months and a rubber curry comb for brushing through heavy winter coats or removing thick mud.
  • A Place to Stay- Whether you are keeping your horse at home or boarding them somewhere else, it is important to have these details worked out before you bring your horse home.

What you will notice missing from this list are a saddle and bridle. It makes sense to wait until after you purchase your horse to purchase these items. Each horse’s conformation varies greatly, and the saddle needs to fit properly without pinching. Making the purchase, with help from an experienced equestrian, after you bring your horse home, ensures the riding gear is comfortable for both you and your horse.

Ongoing Needs: What You Need To Care for Your Pet

Once you bring your horse home, there are several things you can count on being ongoing expenses, such as farrier care. The cost of these can add significantly to the price of horse ownership, so it is important to take them into account before adding a pet horse to your life.

  • Housing- If you board your horse, you will have a regular monthly expense, just like rent or mortgage, to pay.
  • Farrier- Your horse will need regular care for his feet to keep them healthy and strong. This is not an area where you can skimp. If your horse wears shoes, he will need a visit from the farrier every 4 to 6 weeks. If he is barefoot, he may be able to wait a little longer, but will still need regular care.
  • Vet Care- Plan to have the vet out each year for a routine exam and vaccinations. Your vet will also recommend a deworming program that is customized for the area where you live.
  • Replacement Items- Plan on replacing items used regularly, such as the halter, lead rope, and the contents of the grooming kit, at least every few years.

RELATED: Why Do Horses Need Horseshoes?

Pet Horse Guide
A farrier works on a horse foot to clean it before creating a horseshoe for the animal.

Exercise and Ongoing Care

If your horse has daily access to turnout, he will not necessarily need separate exercise. If, however, he spends most of his time in a stall, daily visits to ride, hand walk, or otherwise get him out and moving are important for both his physical and mental health.

Bad weather is always a concern, and, if your horse is kept up for several days in a row due to ice or other dangerous conditions, it is important to spend time with him each day. While you may not be able to let him exercise, you can help his mental health. Horses who are kept in stalls all day, every day often pick up bad habits such as chewing on wood, cribbing, and weaving.

Feeding Your Pet Horse

Horses have a very sensitive digestive system. Because they cannot regurgitate their food, they can quickly become ill if they eat the wrong thing or simply eat too much. Colic, which is basically a bad stomach ache, can be deadly.

Overeating or eating food that is too rich for your particular horse can also lead to laminitis, a hoof condition that can lead to severe pain and permanent disability.

It is best to feed your horse what he was eating before you brought him home. If, over time, he needs to gain or lose weight, or you feel his diet is not working for him, make any changes gradually, over a period of at least a week.

Pet Horse Guide
Horses have a very sensitive digestive system and their diet should be monitored closely.

How Long Will Your Pet Horse Live?

The average lifespan of a horse is around 25 years.

RELATED: How long do horses live?

Common Health Issues for Pet Horses

One of the more common health concerns in horses is parasites. Horses can pick up parasite eggs when grazing, which make their way into the digestive tract. The parasite moves through its lifecycle in its host, the horse.

While parasites are not harmful when attended to promptly, when they are left untreated, or when a horse is young or already in poor condition, they can steal vital nutrients from the animal. Your veterinarian can perform a fecal test to check for parasites and give you recommendations for a deworming program.

Other common health issues for horses that are more dangerous are colic, which affects the digestive system, and laminitis. A horse who is colicing will seem visibly uncomfortable and may repeatedly turn to look at his stomach. If you suspect your horse is colicing, contact the vet immediately. Try to keep him standing up and hand walk him if possible while you wait.

A horse experiencing laminitis, or founder, will seem uncomfortable with his feet. He may stand in a peculiar manner, rocking back on his heels. Prompt attention from both a vet and farrier can reduce complications and help restore your horse to soundness.

Where to Buy Your Pet Horse

You can purchase your horse from advertisements online or in print ads, by attending an auction, or through word of mouth. If you are taking riding lessons, let your instructor know you are interested in purchasing a horse. They often know of animals that are for sale that would be suitable for your skill and experience level.

One thing to keep in mind is that a free or very cheap horse is often not the deal you think it may be. The cost of care will be the same whether you pay a little or a lot, and people often give away horses that have problems that make them difficult to sell. These problems can be physical, leaving you with expensive vet bills, or mental, leaving you with a horse that is not safe to ride.

RELATED: 10 Prettiest Horses in the World

Special Considerations With Pet Horses

The most important thing to keep in mind before buying a horse is that these animals are large and expensive. Vet care is more expensive than that of a smaller pet, the cost of housing them is more than that of a dog or cat, and, if they are injured, you are left paying for an animal you may not be able to ride.

Certainly, you can rehome your horse if your financial or scheduling circumstances change, but that can be a challenge as well. Ensuring that your horse goes onto a loving home is an important part of responsible horse ownership.

Pet Horse Guide: What You Need to Know FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Is owning a horse worth it?

Whether or not owning a pet horse is worth it depends on many factors. If you will be able to ride and spend time with your horse frequently, then having a horse of your own can be very rewarding. However, if school, work, or other lifestyle factors mean that you are not able to spend much time with your horse each week, you may want to explore other options.

Weekly riding lessons are a good way to spend time with a horse and strengthen your riding skills. If and when your situation changes later, you will be prepared to take care of a horse on your own.

If you can spend more than one day a week at the stable but aren’t sure if full-time horse ownership is right for you, consider a lease. Many horse owners are in the same position as you and are unavailable to spend time each day at the barn. Many are looking for another individual to take a partial lease on their horse. In exchange for a monthly fee, you can spend time riding and working with their horse. Partial lease arrangements often allow you to schedule at least two to three riding days a week, and often more than that.

What is the cost of owning a horse?

When purchasing a pet horse, you need to take into consideration the base cost of the horse, which can range from free to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, as well as the cost of providing a home for the horse.

Unlike a dog or cat, unless you live on a large property, you will not be able to keep your horse at home. This means you will pay money each month in boarding fees. This cost is highly variable as well.

Some boarding facilities allow you to cut costs by providing your own supplies and cleaning up and taking care of your horse yourself, while other facilities include all feed, bedding, and other supplies, and do all of the feedings and cleaning themselves.

Is owning a horse hard?

Owning a horse can be very challenging. Horses are large creatures with delicate digestive tracts and legs, making them prone to both illness and injury. To make horse ownership easier, do some research before making your purchase.

Take lessons and spend time around horses so you are comfortable working around them. If you are inexperienced, keeping your horse at a facility that has an experienced instructor on staff is beneficial.

What are the benefits of owning a horse?

Horses are wonderful companions. They are sensitive and responsive. Owning a horse is also a great way to spend time outdoors. Finally, riding is wonderful exercise, working the muscles of your core and lower body while spending time doing something you love.

More from A-Z Animals