A Primer for the First Time Horse Owner:What to Expect

Being a first time horse owner is both a thrill and a challenge! There is nothing more rewarding than becoming an owner of such a magnificent creature. Horses become a part of your heart, soul, and life. When you buy or adopt that first partner it may be the realization of a life-long dream!

It is an exciting new journey, so get ready for the ride!

What is Your Perfect First Mount?

My first taste being an equine owner was a beautiful gray Arabian. She was very small, which suited me fine. As a first time horse owner I was just 12 years old. All I could think about was long, flowing manes, soft brown eyes, the clip-clop of shod hooves, and of course, riding horses!

What does YOUR first mount look like?

Do you have a specific breed in mind? A certain discipline you want to try? What are you going to do with your first new buddy? Are you a beginner with horses? Or are you getting back into riding after a long absence?

These are all important things to think about. Be honest with yourself about not just what you WANT your partner to look like, but what you NEED in that first relationship.

  • Often, a first horse isn't the flashiest one in the barn. More often they should be an older or experienced been there-done that kind of horse.

How Much Does It Cost To Buy?

Before becoming a first time horse owner you will need some horse buying tips and information. Equine ownership is a large commitment of time and money.

You may ask

“How much does a horse cost?”

Horse purchase prices vary dramatically based on age, training, discipline, breeding, soundness, and other factors. You can expect to pay generally anywhere from $1000 and up. A solid trail partner may cost $2500, and a show jumper may cost you $10,000 or more.

Horse Upkeep

When you look at buying, the purchase price or adoption fee is just the initial cost. You can get a “free” horse sometimes, but “free” isn’t really free because of all the other costs to maintain the horse.

Let’s explore these costs so you can be informed before buying a horse for the first time. The last thing you want to have happen is to become a new owner, bring him home, and then realize you can't afford him.

Board and Feed

Before becoming a first time horse owner you will have to know where you are going to keep your horse. Not everyone has their own land or horse property. If you don't you will need to check out local barns to see how much board for the horse is.

Board is charged on a monthly basis and generally starts at $150/month for pasture board. Pasture board means the horse is outside only usually eating grass. Sometimes hay is fed in the winter depending on pasture conditions.

Full board is anywhere from $200- $600+/month. This generally means the animal is kept inside, fed hay and grain, his stall is cleaned and he is turned out according to the barn's turnout schedule. Blanketing and fly masks according to season may cost extra.

If you don’t mind working with the horses mucking stalls, turning out, watering and feeding reliably, you may want to ask about working at your stable. You could reduce your board bill each month by the number of hours you work.

If you keep your mount at home you will need to calculate how much hay is, and also account for any costs for projects needed to bring your horse home. Some considerations are horse safe fencing, a barn or shelter, seeding, and pasture management.

Training and Lessons

As a first time horse owner you are probably a beginner rider or returning rider. Plan on investing some money into at least a few lessons to get you the basics. Also check out my horseback riding tips to get you started on the right track. If your horse needs training beyond your abilities, you will need to factor horse training prices into your budget.

Veterinarian Costs

As a first time horse owner you probably won't realize at first the amount of ongoing care your new mount will require. Horses require vaccinations twice a year. You will need to check with your veterinarian for a complete list required for your area.

In the USA horses require a yearly (or sometimes twice yearly) Coggins test. This test checks for EIA or Equine Infectious Anemia. Without it you will be unable to go to shows, trail rides, horse camping facilities and clinics.

In the USA if you plan to travel across state lines or buy a horse that is out of state, you will have to have a veterinary health certificate. The certificate is issued by a licensed Veterinarian upon examination of him in person and is good for only 30 days.

Horse's teeth also need to be floated (filed) at least once a year.

In addition to fees for the services they provide, veterinarians charge a farm call fee. This fee covers the vet's travel to the farm where he is located. This fee can generally be split with another owner if their horse is seen at the same time. You can avoid this fee if you have a trailer and can take your horse to the vet's clinic.

Farrier Fees

Horse's feet are constantly growing. In the wild they naturally wear down over the many miles they travel to find food and water. Domestic horses require a farrier to trim and/or shoe their feet every 6-8 weeks to stand the rigors of being ridden. Shoeing costs vary widely based on your region and type of shoes, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $150 for regular shoes, more if special shoeing is required.


A first time owner generally doesn’t have equipment. Sometimes your first partner may come with a saddle or some other tack. That tack may or may not work for you. It won’t take long until you have accumulated a lot of horse stuff! Check out horse riding gear to learn about the essentials!

The Importance Of Mental and Physical Exercise

Time Commitment

Far too many horses sit under exercised and overfed due to the owner having significant work, family, and school schedules. If you want to be a responsible first time owner, please exercise your horse's mind and body.

Not much time? Do some quick groundwork!

It will make him much happier and will help build the bond of trust you have with him. This is especially true if he is stall boarded and/or has a small turnout available.

Daily exercise beyond turnout is not only smart it is necessary!

A large animal sitting in a stall up to 23 hours a day is the equivalent of you sitting in a normal sized (not walk-in) closet for 23 hours of your day doing nothing. Doesn’t sound fun, does it? If you don’t work or play with your stall kept buddy enough, don’t expect him to be quiet and cooperative when you show up once a week.

Most horses are happiest on pasture board or with limited stall time. As a first time horse owner unless you have a heavy show schedule this a lower maintenance, kinder and more natural option. Lots of turnout is not always possible. You will need to become aware of what makes him happy.

In the wild horses travel many miles daily in search of food and water. He will be much happier if you have taken this need into consideration.

  • If you don’t have enough time to own, leasing is a great option!

Where to Find the Right Horse For You

So you have a place to keep your first partner and are educated on the amount of time and money your mount will require. As a first time horse owner you either already have your new friend or are researching how to find a the right one so you can join the ranks of happy equine lovers everywhere.

There are tons of places to look for horses from tack shop boards to online classified services. Some of the best horses you can find will be through word of mouth.

  • Check with local trainers, reputable horse breeders, and other owners. Another great option is to adopt through a local rescue.

Remember, inexperienced riders should not buy an inexperienced mount!

Look for a first partner that is suited to your ability and your budget.

Go out and enjoy being a first time horse owner! The thrill of their breath on the back of your neck, their soft fuzzy lips, and the warmth of their neck under the mane is the best thing ever.

It is even better when you know that finally, he is all yours!

Go from first time horse owner to the main page where you can read all sorts of great articles about horses.