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  1. #1

    Default Advice on making my first horse purchase, please!

    Hello COTH. This is my first post, although I am a long time discussion board reader. I grew up eventing horses, and have owned 3 different horses in the past, however my parents paid for everything horse related. I sold my horses to finish my last year of nursing school, and took a year off from riding. Of course I couldn't stay away and have been leasing a PSG schoolmaster for the past year. She will need to be retired soon, so I am thinking that I need to purchase a "first" horse on my own. I am working as a registered nurse now with a steady income. My family tells me I should wait until my fiancé finishes his doctorate before buying a horse so that we can be more financially secure, but NOW is the time I need a horse. I am extremely nervous about making this huge financial commitment. I am blessed to have an inheritance and could afford a nice horse but the monthly upkeep is what scares me. Any advice? Was it scary to buy your first horse? What is your first-horse buying story?

    ((I have looked for other discussions about this so please direct me if I am repeating a recent post about this same topic or need to repost on another board.))

    Thank you!



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan. 6, 2013
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    313

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    I was terrified! However, I made a budget, I got insurance, and I came up with a plan for what to do if everything goes to hell - I found a nice barn that is very affordable that will be my back up just in case. I have been surprised by how few expenses I have. My start-up costs (blankets!!) were a bit high, but aside from predictable training board, the farrier, insurance, and routine vet expenses, nothing has come up. The thing that does worry me is what will happen when I need another horse - I will have to figure out retirement, split my time, and budget for two horses. Even thinking about it is overwhelming.

    I have no particularly useful advice, but I do know that even if I worry about potential colic surgery, bankruptcy, accidents, tragedy, spending retirement living in a tent, never being able to own a more advanced horse because I will take care of this one for the rest of his life, and every horrible thing that could possibly happen, every single time I see his head pop up to greet me I think it is all worth it. And as someone who could win worrying awards, that is huge.

    Only you know what owning a horse would mean for you emotionally and practically and what sorts of trade-offs you will have to make. Think about what your long-term plan is for this horse, budget for different scenarios, think of all the other things you could do with your money and consider which you will regret missing out on right now. And remember that there is no reason to rush into anything. There will always be horses.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar. 14, 2010
    Location
    Earlysville, Virginia
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    I am new to paying for everything for my horses. My parents have paid for everything up until about a year ago.

    I have my retired hunter (had him for 13 years and he'll be with me for life) as well as my show hunter. Unfortunately, I didn't budget as well as I should have and have leased out my show horse (to a wonderful girl who loves him!)

    My main expenses are: HAY (ouch on the wallet), insurance, farrier and vet bills. I don't feed grain or supplements anymore and I keep my horses at home (for now). I would highly recommend insurance. For medical and mortality, mine is around 600 per year for my show horse (mortality is for high 4 figures).

    Good luck and have fun!
    Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
    White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)

    Mystical Moment, 1977-2010.



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb. 22, 2012
    Location
    MS Gulf Coast
    Posts
    639

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    I've been paying for a horse since 2007 or so. I actually have two right now, but one is on lease to my trainer in PA and I no longer have to pay for him. But anyway, here's what I did last year when I bought my new horse.

    Like inne, I made a budget. I looked at all of my current expenses to see how much I had left over each month. Make sure you take into account board, farrier (usually every 6 weeks for me), and vet expenses (twice a year for shots). Don't forget about start-up costs either. I spent a decent amount of money getting everything I needed for my new horse.

    I self-insure, but that's because I am able to stay within my monthly budget and put money towards my savings. I have contemplated insuring my new horse, but right now I feel like I'd be wasting money.

    Bottom line, you don't have to listen to your family. They're just looking out for you, but you know yourself the best. If you feel that the time is right, start looking! Good luck!



  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb. 24, 2011
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    What does your partner say? If you are serious about your relationship and future together, then he needs to be on board with this type of decision.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb. 3, 2013
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    SC
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    Quote Originally Posted by TickleFight View Post
    What does your partner say? If you are serious about your relationship and future together, then he needs to be on board with this type of decision.
    My fiance is totally supportive. He has been telling me to just DO IT and start seriously looking. I have been riding horses since we met 5 years ago, and i'm sure he's sick of me showing him internet ads of horses for sale. He also has some expensive hobbies and we both agree to live modestly to enjoy our passions. He has a realistic idea of how much horses cost and has no problem supporting me if needed in the future.

    To my family I say- if not now, when? Life is going to keep happening- i'll be getting married, starting a family, getting my nurse practitioner degree- but horses are essential to my life- Seriously- If i wait until a "perfect time" it will never happen.

    Thank you all for the advice and stories! I feel much more confident.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb. 3, 2013
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    SC
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    5

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    The biggest struggle will be getting through the next two years of paying for the horse completely on my own. I can make it work if nothing unexpected comes up- but knowing horses- they like to surprise us sometimes. I have found a wonderful nearby boarding facility with a dressage arena that is half the price of my trainer's facility- I already have a truck, trailer, and most of the tack- I guess that is what insurance is for!!



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr. 10, 2012
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    49

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    Quote Originally Posted by inne View Post
    I was terrified! However, I made a budget, I got insurance, and I came up with a plan for what to do if everything goes to hell - I found a nice barn that is very affordable that will be my back up just in case.
    I cannot say enough how important this advice is. I did not have a back-up trainer & barn in mind with my first horse. What I'd thought was an ideal and stable situation quickly became otherwise, and identifying when/how to get out of it was enormously emotionally and financially draining. The way barns are managed can change fairly rapidly, trainers get injured, change careers, aren't the people you thought they were etc. Always have a Plan B.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb. 16, 2012
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    159

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    When I finally bought my own horse about a year & half ago, the day-to-day routine of horse ownership was actually easier than I expected. It was a bit of a transition for my husband. I moved my horse to a nicer (albeit slightly more expensive) stable 5 mins from my house about 2 months after I bought my horse and it helped a lot just to cut the commute to the stable down by half an hour a day.

    One thing I will do different next time before I buy - focus on feet, feet, feet. I will definitely have a farrier I trust look at any prospects. I love my OTTB and his hooves have improved a lot, but there have been rough times trying to correct a lifetime of bad "track" shoeing. I had a very thorough vet check prior to buying but there was never an inkling at the scope of the issues we would have to deal with.

    My husband still gets cranky about vet costs, even though we've managed to keep those to a minimum, but he's always cool about all the gear I seem to accumulate.

    Good luck and please share your new guy (or girl) with us when you find "The One". It is so exciting to buy your first horse. I was very devoted to my past lease horses, but my own horse is definitely a full fledged member of the family. He may have given me a few worry lines, but the joy he brings to my life is immeasurable.


    1 members found this post helpful.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug. 28, 2007
    Location
    Triangle Area, NC
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    6,723

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    Pssht, I got my first horse while making $8 hr. you sound sensible enough you'll be just fine. Go get yourself a horse.
    Easy budgeting tip: take your board payment, double it, and that's a healthy horse budget that includes the typical upkeep plus showing, clinics, lessons, and vet emergencies.
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble



  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb. 16, 2012
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    159

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    Quote Originally Posted by fluffilly View Post
    To my family I say- if not now, when? Life is going to keep happening- i'll be getting married, starting a family, getting my nurse practitioner degree- but horses are essential to my life- Seriously- If i wait until a "perfect time" it will never happen.
    You are so right! I rode as a teenager and it took me 10+ years to get back in the saddle, due to budget at first and then just fear of taking the first step back. So glad I did but I kick myself for waiting so long.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug. 21, 2012
    Posts
    667

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    One of the best ways I have found to manage costs is to be 'very' hands on on all aspects of my horses care. I monitor everything as it is cheaper to catch or prevent a problem then is to fix a problem after it has occurred.



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug. 6, 2012
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    177

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    You might consider buying a less expensive horse and sticking some of that inheritance money back for an emergency fund. Lumps of cash like that are hard to come by! My senior mare wiped out my vet fund with an illness in December and my colt developed ulcers.....you'd probably be more comfortable knowing an unexpected emergency could be handled without becoming a financial disaster.

    Good luck!


    2 members found this post helpful.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jun. 24, 2005
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    595

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    Quote Originally Posted by West End Girl View Post
    I cannot say enough how important this advice is. I did not have a back-up trainer & barn in mind with my first horse. What I'd thought was an ideal and stable situation quickly became otherwise, and identifying when/how to get out of it was enormously emotionally and financially draining. The way barns are managed can change fairly rapidly, trainers get injured, change careers, aren't the people you thought they were etc. Always have a Plan B.
    Yup!!!! In mid-2012, I jumped into horse ownership after several years out of the saddle, and in a new city where I knew nobody, and in retrospect I should have taken more time to get the lay of the land (and get back in shape) before taking the plunge. I lucked out with the right horse and it is all working out in the end, but the experience of having her has been more stressful than it should have been due to some poor decision-making on my part.

    Logistically, the biggest lesson I've learned is the importance of having "plan B" for everything -- trainer, barn, vet, farrier, everything -- and to develop a network.

    Emotionally, I've put a lot of pressure on myself to have the whole first horse experience be Magical and Perfect and that's actually made some things harder than they needed to be. The biggest lesson I've learned emotionally is to be flexible and give things time.

    Financially, the lessons I learned are that the PPE costs way more than I estimated, and that my "start up costs" budget was way too low. Part of that is because I bought a young horse in the middle of a growth spurt.

    I think I did well on the medical side of things. In addition to insurance, I always make sure I always have access to $10k for major unexpected medical things PLUS at least $1k per month that I can spend on minor unexpected medical things without dipping into credit or savings, or defering other expenses, or deferring contributions to future savings. That may be excessive to some people but I'm a nervous nelly and that's the cushion that gives me peace of mind right now. Long-term, I'd like to double the major medical savings budget. I think the key here is understanding who you are and how much risk you are comfortable with, and planning accordingly. Extremes aside, there's not necessarily a "right anwer" -- assuming risk is a personal decision.

    One thing that helps me feel better when I start getting overwhelmed with fear is remining myself that I will not go to hell if I at some point have to sell my horse. I plan to keep her for the rest of my life, I love her with all my heart and will do everything I can to hold on to her forever and be the owner/rider she needs, but life can be unpredictable. If at some point I cannot provide what she needs, I'll make sure I get her to somebody who will. I seriously hope that never happens, but if it does, I'll do right by her, always.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr. 15, 2008
    Posts
    1,549

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    Keep in mind that the purchase price of the horse is not the big cost driver, it's the day to day, month to month expenses. It costs as much to keep and feed a 3 legged lame horse as it does a sound horse that you can ride and enjoy. First and foremost, figure out what it will cost to keep a horse in your area. Budget for board, insurance, vet bills, shoes, emergency fund. Then see you if can afford it. Also, consider whether you will need help with the horse on days that you are working/at school and can't get to the barn (it all adds up).

    Whatever your price point for purchasing, do everything you can to stack the cards in your favor regarding soundness. Inquire about ongoing maintenance (it really adds up).

    Once you know if you can afford to keep a horse, then you can figure out how much horse you can afford to buy.

    Good Luck.


    3 members found this post helpful.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar. 16, 2003
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    Wet and Windy Washington
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    To my family I say- if not now, when? Life is going to keep happening
    Life does keep happening and worse case scenario if all fell through you can sell the horse and move on, not ideal I know, but you're not stuck for life.

    That said find a barn you like before you find the horse IMO. Keep enough money aside so you can handle an emergency and insure the horse if its worth alot of money (or even if its not!).
    I have horse to sell to you. Horse good for riding. Can pull cart. Horse good size. Eats carrots and apples. Likes attention. Move head to music. No like opera! You like you buy.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    May. 16, 2008
    Posts
    467

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    [QUOTE=J
    That said find a barn you like before you find the horse IMO. Keep enough money aside so you can handle an emergency and insure the horse if its worth alot of money (or even if its not!).[/QUOTE]

    Absolutely get a trainer and barn set up BEFORE you get the horse. Spend time lessoning with said trainer to make sure the barn environment/teaching style is what you want. I'd say 80+% of your horse experience is dependent on the barn atmosphere/your training support system. A toxic barn is miserable, and a subpar trainer will have you and the horse sitting at a plateau (or worse)... As someone who has boarded horses for over 20 years, I can speak to how critical a drama-free, positive and rigorous environment is.

    Also, bargain hunt for the horse, even if you do have money. You'll want that money for gear/clinics/lessons, so make your purchase money stretch. I bought my first horse as an adult(my parents got me my old horse at 14) on an extreme budget (the horse was unbroke), but I had a great setup ready for us in terms of barn/trainer support. I now have a coming 6 year old who is safe, sound, sane and really fun. I couldn't have done it if I were at a barn with a poor trainer, bad facilities, or distracting barn drama.
    2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
    Our training journal.
    1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
    I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.


    2 members found this post helpful.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Apr. 1, 2003
    Location
    Cocoa, Fla
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluffilly View Post
    The biggest struggle will be getting through the next two years of paying for the horse completely on my own. I can make it work if nothing unexpected comes up- but knowing horses- they like to surprise us sometimes. I have found a wonderful nearby boarding facility with a dressage arena that is half the price of my trainer's facility- I already have a truck, trailer, and most of the tack- I guess that is what insurance is for!!

    So why not lease a horse for 2 years and if it goes lame, has major issues, etc... you return to owner. That means insurance with owner as receipient but alleviates the risk of being unable to handle really high vet bills.
    Sandy in Fla.



  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov. 2, 2006
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN
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    Quote Originally Posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
    Pssht, I got my first horse while making $8 hr. you sound sensible enough you'll be just fine. Go get yourself a horse.
    Easy budgeting tip: take your board payment, double it, and that's a healthy horse budget that includes the typical upkeep plus showing, clinics, lessons, and vet emergencies.
    I think Petstorejunkie has the right idea. Take your board amount and set it aside in a savings every month. That will give you a nice cushion for expenses, planned or not. Depending upon where you live, you may need to increase or decrease that based on cost of living expenses in your area.

    I bought my first horse in 2003. What I didn't anticipate when I bought her, an OTTB, was how difficult it would be to find a boarding situation that was acceptable for my horse. She needs a lot of turnout and it took 5 barns in 2 years to find a place where I was not just comfortable boarding her, but felt safe boarding her there and not checking in every day. We've been at the same barn since 2007 and I'm thankful to be there. Your life will evolve. I was single when I bought my horse, now I am married, have a toddler and one on the way, so I'm just not riding as much as I did before. This pregnancy has been really tough too, so there are weeks when I don't get out to the barn, but I trust the barn owner/staff implicitly and I know they take care of my mare like she was their own. That kind of boarding situation is hard to find, but its worth really searching for.

    Something to go along with that is don't always judge a barn by its appearance from the road. I had been past the place where I currently board and 1) didn't know it was a boarding facility and 2) didn't think it looked like the kind of place I would want to board. As it turns out, (and this has been my experience -- I'm not speaking for everyone or every barn), the fancier barns were a LOT less accommodating and personable. Because I'm one of just a few boarders at the barn I'm at now, my horse gets a lot more personalized attention. And, I still have amenities that were important to me (indoor arena, private tack locker, hot water wash rack, etc.). If I hadn't been in a situation where I HAD to get my horse out of the barn she was in, I wouldn't have even considered this place. Now, I'm thankful beyond measure to have a stall there.

    Anyhow, as almost everyone else has mentioned, the upkeep is the expensive part. I spent $1700 on my horse in 2003 when I bought her right off the track. Since then, she's had colic surgery (thank god for insurance) and a couple other major injuries that required small investments. Those alone far surpassed the purchase price and then you add on board, farrier, lessons, clinics, shows, etc.

    With the way the market is these days, you can get a nice horse for not a lot of money. Of course, you can always go out and spend a bunch if you want, but that seems unnecessary to me. Good luck!!



  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jan. 29, 2013
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    Greensboro, NC
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    I got my first horse when I was 17, right after. I rode her for about a year before my trainer talked me into purchasing her. My parents bought her for me and after a year, I was responsible paying for board. It was a rough road getting to where we are now. I almost sold her at one point but am so glad I didn't!!



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