For beginners and experienced riders alike, horse ownership can be an inspirational and exciting prospect that tops annual wish lists. But, the reality of this particular dream is that owning a horse is a huge financial responsibility that acts as a barrier to most horse lovers.
According to Equine World UK, the average cost of field access and stabling, bedding, vet and farrier fees, insurance and feeds can amount to anything between £3,000 and £10,000+ per year, and that’s without factoring in additional costs for transportation, tack and kit or unforeseen extras.
Fortunately, although the cost of ownership can be prohibitive there are some alternatives to buying:
If riding is your real love then an annual equestrian holiday, or indeed a series of them, could satisfy your desire to ride horses or ponies in a variety of locations worldwide and at a much lower cost per annum than ownership.
The advantage of riding holidays is that they give you opportunities to ride horses of different breeds, temperaments and abilities across a variety of terrains. You could drive cattle across the States, climb mountain trails to Machu Picchu in Peru or take a tour of some Spanish vineyards.
Search online for travel companies that specialise in equestrian holidays and explore some of the options available.
This is especially suited to young, aspiring owners as it gives them the opportunity to learn about everything that horse ownership entails and develop valuable equestrian skills and strong animal welfare and work ethics.
Most liveries appreciate an extra pair of hands and may offer riding lessons or a chance to observe grooms and vets at work as a reward for anyone who gives up their time for free.
Contact The Pony Club or your local farms, equine shelters and liveries to see if they have any volunteering opportunities available.
Some owners, who are already well aware of the time and money it takes to care properly for a horse or pony, will advertise their animal for lease or shared ownership.
This kind of arrangement means that some or all of the responsibilities of ownership are shared and this has obvious benefits for everyone involved, however it’s not without its pitfalls.
Beware of entering into any sort of lease or shared ownership arrangement, even with close friends, without a proper written agreement in place.
Think carefully about the day-to-day practicalities of sharing a horse in terms of its accommodation, health care and all the associated costs of looking after it including everything from farrier fees to nutritious varieties of horse feed, and make sure the terms are understood and agreed by all parties before getting involved.
If you’re confident and experienced with horses, have spare time on your hands and access to a vehicle then becoming a horse or farm sitter can be a great way to spend more time with horses and ponies and you could even earn a small income too.
The tasks you’re expected to complete, such as mucking out, replenishing food and water, turning out or grooming, will define how much you can earn, but you can expect to reasonably charge around £30-£100 per day for your services.
Place cards advertising your horse sitting service at local farms, shelters and stables or in local newspapers and equestrian magazines and ask anyone who uses you to recommend you to their friends and associates.
Don’t let the costs of ownership prevent you from enjoying a horse-rich lifestyle, try some or all of the above for now. One day, the costs may be manageable and when they are, you will have all the skills and experience you need to be a fantastic horse owner.