How to Decide if Owning Horses is Right for You

Horse and girlThe other day, two of my favorite co-workers stopped in my office to suggest a blog topic. They had recently worked together at a health fair and were approached by several people looking for information about how to afford large animals like big dogs and horses. My co-workers came to me knowing I’m on the blogging team, and that I have personal experience since I have 2 horses and 2 German Shepherds. So, after giving it some thought and reviewing our budget for animal-related expenses, I plunged right in.

A WORD OF CAUTION

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to be honest – owning large animals is expensive. Certainly, horses cost more than dogs but either one is a life-long commitment. I’m unsure everyone would agree but my general rule is the larger the animal, the more it costs. So be sure you can financially provide for your pets and companions BEFORE taking on the responsibility. And be doubly sure this is what you truly want because spending lots of money is just the beginning – you’ll also be devoting plenty of time to your new friends!

TYPICAL EXPENSES

Not to scare anyone off but I looked over my 2013 and 2014 budgets for some numbers. I decided to limit my discussion to owning horses since there’s plenty to say. We easily spend an average of $250 a month including the cost of hay (400 bales a year), senior horse chow, supplements, riding lessons, hoof trimming, vet care and vaccinations.

In addition, your horse may need medications, training, or boarding somewhere else if you can’t keep it at home. Horses also need dental care periodically so they can chew properly. Please don’t ask how wild horses survive without all this care because I don’t have a clue!

Just so you know, I have not factored in the cost of tack, blankets, and miscellaneous items your horse may need because we bought ours over time. And other horse owners may notice some glaring holes in my list of expenses but this should give you the basic idea.

WILL IT CRAMP YOUR LIFESTYLE?

Caring for animals takes time – lots of time! Just think about the requirements that come with having horses –feeding, watering, grooming, shoveling manure, and exercising them. In the winter, add in blanketing, picking snow out of hooves, fighting with frozen water buckets, and soiled bedding. Summer brings checking regularly for ticks and insect bites, applying bug dope, picking out hooves, and bathing.

And of course you want to make time for the fun things like riding or just playing with your horse. As you can see, all this basic care can become a HUGE time commitment. If you’re thinking what a great idea for the kids – just remember, if they don’t take care of the ponies, you’ll have to because it MUST be done by someone!

SAYING GOOD-BYE

Anyone who has had pets knows the heartbreak of losing them when their time comes. It makes no difference whether your pet succumbed to disease, injury, old age, or an accident – for me, nothing else has ever left such an empty, aching hole in my heart. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get better as I age, or the more animals I lose.

But the end of life also means more financial costs. I hope I don’t offend anyone but this is a difficult topic that should be discussed. There are 2 options to end your horses’ suffering and bring them peace.  We have always chosen euthanasia over a bullet to the head. Euthanasia involves calling out the vet for her services. And since the horse’s body is filled with chemicals, we can’t just leave it for the wildlife to find. Therefore, we’ve also had to call someone else to haul out a backhoe to bury the horses. While the bullet method may be cheaper and more efficient (euthanasia takes time), I shudder at the thought of such a violent end for my beloved friends.

SOME SUGGESTIONS

  1. Think about why you want a large animal, and talk to others you know that already have them. What are the pros and cons about having large animals? And ask about ideas to make this a smoother transition for all concerned if you decide to go forward.
  2. Regardless of whether you want a dog, horse, or other large animal, I encourage you to do some research. Get a realistic idea how much those expenses will be so you can determine if they fit your budget.
  3. Also, do you have a vet available who’s willing to come out to care of your horses?
  4. And think about if you’d really rather spend that money on something else (your kids’ college educations, your retirement, travel, etc.)

Having horses or large dogs can be a very rewarding experience when it fits your lifestyle and budget. If you’d like some help looking over your budget to determine if this is right for you, just give us a call at 888.577.2227. We’re here to help, and would be happy to be a part of making your dreams come true! Want  more information like this? Visit our website at www.ConquerYourDebt.org for more resources. Also, check out a “Can I Afford to Adopt a Pet“, written by Ashley Hagelin.

Author Barb Miller is a Financial Counselor at LSS Financial Counselling and specializes in Bankruptcy Education and Student Loan Counseling.

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