What Makes a Horse so Expensive?

ArticleHow to - General Equine AdviceFriday 20 January 2012
Expensive horses

When shopping for horses, it can be scary how expensive they can be.  But what makes at $10,000 horse so different than a $1000 horse?

Price reflects many aspects of a horse’s value.  Sometimes the difference in price is upheld by standards such as training, bloodlines, and performance history.  Other times the difference in price is purely a product of the owner’s situation, and how badly she needs to sell.

Let’s start out with the basic cost of raising a young horse.  First of all, you need to have a broodmare.  This broodmare could cost any amount, so instead of building that cost into the foals, we will just assume the costs of her upkeep.  A mare is in foal for 11 months.  She then needs to nurse that foal an additional 4-5 months.  This makes about 16 months of mare-care a part of a foal’s cost.  Let’s assume a cost of $200 a month for basic mare care, bringing the total to $3200.

You need to pay a stud fee to produce the foal.  Stud fees range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.  An average stud fee for a decent, but not spectacular stallion is around $1000.  The costs of breeding a mare usually works out to around $500 a cycle, and most mares average 2 cycles to conceive.  This makes the breeding cost $2000.

Once the foal is weaned, the basic cost is a minimum of $5200.  This does not include any extra fees related to the vet, farrier, or other emergency costs.

Let’s move forward a few years to a three-year-old, ready to be started under saddle.  By three years old, a young horse has 31 months of care on its own, plus the initial breeding costs from its dam.  So at $200 a month for its care, we are looking at $6200 basic care, plus $5200 breeding costs.  A three-year-old’s value is now $11,400, without any training or emergency costs.

Training averages $1000 a month.  So, if we add three months of training to a young horse, we have just raised its value to $14,400.  So, now we have a green youngster, who goes walk/trot/canter and has not been shown.

To show a horse, it needs to be kept in training.  There are also the additional costs of memberships, passport, entry fees, trailering, show grooming, etc.  In no time at all, the actual costs of raising this show horse has grown to well over $20,000.

So, now it is clear that raising a young horse is very costly.  Sadly, it is rare to get those costs back when selling.  There are ways of cutting costs to make the margins a bit smaller.  For example, skipping vaccinations saves on vet fees, leaving the horses out on pasture without handling saves on grain, bedding and labor.  Sticking the mares out in the field with the stallion and skipping ultrasounds and other veterinary care for foaling also saves a bundle.

When considering a horse that is for sale, it is important to keep in mind the costs of getting that horse to where it is.  An inexpensive horse may have had crucial aspects of its upbringing neglected.  On the other hand, it could merely be inexpensive because the owner is desperate for money and needs to sell.

Horses are very expensive animals, and it can be very difficult to understand the differences reflected in price.  Be sure to ask the owner many questions about their horse, and keep in mind that a higher price often reflects better training, better care and generally a better upbringing.

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