How to Budget Horse Expenses
By April D. Ray
Creating and keeping a budget for your horse-related expenses can be a daunting exercise, but once you break it down it’s not so scary, and it’s part of responsible horse ownership. Without a budget, it’s difficult to manage your money and balance your expenses. Creating one will help you set a realistic limit on spending for your horse and horse-related activities, and may even help you find a way to reduce costs.
When it feels as if you’re hemorrhaging money from the last stall on the left, taking a good hard look at exactly where all your money is going can be incredibly helpful, even if a little depressing. Although worth every single penny, you might be shocked to find out just how much your horse habit is costing.
There are many budgeting apps and templates available, but a simple Excel spreadsheet can also be used to create your budget and track expenses. I have provided an example of my current budget, which can easily be adapted to your situation, and includes both monthly and annual costs since many expenses aren’t monthly. Simply divide the annual costs by 12 to get a monthly number. My horse has a separate bank account and each month I deposit money for future expenses according to my budget. That way, when it’s time to buy supplements for example, the money is available and I don’t have to scramble. I also keep diligent track of actual monthly expenditures, so I can tell if I’m sticking to the budget. This can be set up to auto-calculate in Excel, and if you need to brush up on your Excel skills there are plenty of online tutorials available.
To start, break down your basic monthly expenses. Depending on your personal situation this might be as simple as your boarding costs, but if you keep your own horses be sure to include all costs including feed, bedding, labour, waste removal, repairs, etc.
Your horse’s health care expenses are one of the most important budget items. Photo: Wikimedia/Pete Markham
Most barns offer a basic feed program, but your horse may need additional supplements. I buy two supplements for my horse, one that lasts three months, and one that lasts about six months. Take the annual supplements expense and divide it by 12 to get the monthly amount. Watch for sales and special prices on the products you buy regularly, and stock up.
Training – Lessons, Clinics, Horse Shows
In addition to budgeting for the number of lessons you plan to take each month, include a monthly amount to cover clinics you may decide to take later in the year. As you can see from my current budget, clinics are not in my plans this year, but I have left the line there in case things change.
Related: How to Afford to Ride
Horse shows may be in your plans, and since show season is shorter than a full year, your horse show fund should be budgeted monthly. Costs of trailering, coaching, entry fees, and accommodation can add up quickly, and a horse show nest egg will help make those shows possible without breaking the bank. My current plan does not include horse shows, but again, I kept the line in there in case things change.
Although show season is typically shorter than a full 12-month period, create a horse show nest egg by budgeting show expenses on a monthly basis all year long. Photo: Soul Touch Photography
Even regular vet care expenses can sneak up on you. Budget for the usual costs such as annual exams, vaccinations, deworming, and dental care, and put the money aside each month to avoid the panic that a reminder from your vet can cause. Health care includes regular farrier visits, and if your horse is like mine and lucky enough to see a chiropractor, massage therapist, and any other type of alternative therapist, add a line for that as a monthly expense, too.
I have my horse insured and pay for it monthly. Fortunately, my insurance company offers several helpful payment options. Insuring your horse gives you peace of mind in the event of major medical/surgical expenditures, and also protects your significant investment.
Tack & Gear
When something wears out, or the supply runs out, a trip to the tack store can derail your entire budgeting efforts. Budget a monthly cost for everyday expenses.
Plan well ahead for larger purchases such as a new saddle or horse trailer. Photo: iStock/Terry Kelly
If you will need a big-ticket item like a saddle in the future, plan ahead for larger expenses by amortizing the costs monthly over a longer period of time. For example, to save $5,000 for a new saddle, you’ll need to set aside $208.33 per month for 24 months. If you put that saddle on your credit card now at 12 percent interest, and plan to pay it off in two years, the payments will be $235 per month, and you’ll pay a total of $5,649 including interest of $649. Plan ahead to prevent a saddle-sized hole from suddenly appearing in your bank account or budget.
For the first time this year I started to set aside money for an emergency. I look forward to watching that account grow, and at the same time, hope I never have to use it. Calling the vet for an unexpected visit can be scary, so planning ahead to cover this expense means one less thing to worry about. A little advance planning goes a long way!
Photo (left): Canstock/Cybernesco
They say the most expensive part of owning a horse isn’t the actual purchase price but the ongoing upkeep. I couldn’t agree more. By taking a long, hard look at the money galloping off to the barn, creating a realistic budget, and sticking to it you won’t have to go and take up residence with your horse when your bank account runs dry.
This article was originally published in Canada’s Equine Guide 2019, the January/February issue of Canadian Horse Journal.
Main article photo: “I like to keep my money where I can see it… running around in the pasture and hanging in the tack room.” – Anonymous. Photo: Shutterstock/horsemen