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“Inheriting” 3 horses, never owned a horse

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  • “Inheriting” 3 horses, never owned a horse

    My MIL has 3 horses, ages 28, 26 and 16. Her health is declining, she doesn’t ride (needs a walker or cane to get around). She is probably going to move cross country to live with us, or near us. She wants to bring her horses. Land is expensive where I live and she has a tight budget. There’s a possibility we may need to have her live with us, but she refuses to give up her horses, so we will need to buy a new house with land.

    -how much does a horse cost per year?
    -how long will they live?
    -is moving them harmful? They have lived the same place their whole life.
    -is this in the best interest of the horses?

    I love animals but have young children and work so the horses would not get attention from me. My MIL enjoys watching them (of course, who wouldn’t enjoy looking at horses) but is unable to care for them. She tells me it’s easy.

    -how much effort goes into caring for 3 horses?

    There are neighbors of hers currently that are happy to take the horses, where they would get more attention. She is very attached and it’s almost non negotiable. Not having any knowledge of caring for a horse it’s difficult for me to figure this out or even know if finances would allow it.

  • #2
    You will NOT go into debt/buy land to accommodate someone else's wishes.full stop.

    Perhaps share in a general sense where you are, and locals can recommend pasture boarding options. I can't possibly comment on other areas of the country, there are a zillion variables.

    Welcome, and please protect your own family unit. Everyone else is just relatives.


    • #3
      Horses can be kept relatively cheaply by experienced people. They always cost a lot more for inexperienced people. If you have your own land expect to spend at least $300 per month per horse, averaged out to include vet and farrier and equipment costs per year plus feed and mefication. So bufget $1000 per month for your horse retirement home. That's in addition to the cost of the land, fencing, building barn. And who will do the daily work?

      Expect to pay from $500 to $800 per month per horse to board out, more like $1000 per month in Southern California. So anywhere from 1500 to $3000 a month for board which does not include vet, farrier, meds.

      Horses live to 30 or 35 years, but in their later years often need expensive meds or vet care. Horses almost always die from euthanasia these days so that is a decision you will probably have to make and pay for.

      But what worries me most is that you have no time, no interest, and no experience. You should not have to take this on. You should not buy an expensive farm so your MIL can sit in the house and watch her horses.


      • #4
        Welcome to COTH LearningTheRopes123!

        Not to be a debbie downer. but I would NOT recommend a non-horse family to take on three aged horses. Horses are a LOT of work, even when they are pets - doubly so when they are old. I have three - oddly similar in ages to your MIL's horses (mine are 19, 25 and 28). I have my own farm and spend an average of 2 to 3 hours a DAY to feed, water, put out hay, groom, dispense meds, pick poop, clean/fill water troughs, etc. etc. etc.

        Since I don't know the area you are in (and whether it would be comparable price wise), just for giggles, my three cost about $175 a month JUST for food. In winter, its $350 a month (due to increase in hay). Factor in all the necessities you need to have on hand and replace (grooming supplies, halters, medications, fly spray, etc.), add another $25 a month. Then there is annual medical exams and vaccines, worming several times a year, teeth exams/floating once a year and farrier visits every 6-8 weeks to trim their hooves. That adds another $150 a month.

        So, just for essential basics, for three horses, you are looking at $500 easily a month (assuming they are on your property - so no boarding fees) to properly look after them. And we won't even get into all the farm equipment, fencing and fence maintenance, water troughs, frost-free water sources, and all that having a farm entails.

        You can't just throw three horses in a pasture and call it a day, unfortunately. As much as I am sure your MIL loves her horses, I highly recommend you re-think and re-evaluate the options you have before you. Re-homing the horses prior to her move would be my suggestion. I wish you luck with your situation.
        ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


        • #5
          Best to give horses to those neighbors.

          In other words .....

          NO ! Do not even consider accepting this horse ‘challenge’ !!
          Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


          • #6
            I agree with what has already been posted.
            In a word: Don't.

            If your MIL is any sort of horsewoman she should understand that her version of "easy" means nothing/nada/zero to anyone without the experience of caring for horses.

            How long has it been since she did any of the daily care, or (as I suspect) are they boarded where someone else does the feeding, cleaning, etc?
            Could those someones be the neighbors you mentioned?

            Why do you feel obligated to change your entire lifestyle for what comes across as a selfish, entitled person?
            "Non-negotiable" because????
            Is she expecting you & her son to take on the added expense of the horses?
            If she cannot (will not?)afford the long distance relocation of her pets they will be better off left with these neighbors.

            Have you spoken to these supposedly willing neighbors?
            Leaving horses with new caretakers is nothing like leaving a dog or cat.
            Could MIL have misunderstood them?
            Unless they own & care for horses and have deep pockets, I find it unbelievable they would take on 3 more.
            Especially the seniors.

            And where does her son/your husband stand on this potential Trainwreck?
            *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
            Steppin' Out 1988-2004
            Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
            Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


            • #7
              Wow, that is a big ask from your MIL. It sounds like you are already HER financial safety net if she still will not have enough funds to pay for their care after moving in with you. On top of that kindness, she wants you to also support her three horses? In a high COL area, hay is likely going to be expensive, as well as hoof care, veterinary, etc.. The cross country move is likely to be hard on the older horses, not to mention costing thousands of dollars. Older horses often need extra care, meds, supplements, etc. and it will be hard to know when to draw the line, and will undoubtedly be a point of tension, to say the least.

              On top of the direct horse costs, a horse property comes with more expenses in terms of property tax, mowing, irrigating and maintaining facilities. I'm pretty sure I come out well ahead by boarding and letting someone else deal with all of that, and the headaches that come with it.

              This is a sad situation, but just... no.


              • #8
                Where i live having horses is relatively cheap. I spend roughly $200-300 per month on hay year round for a herd of 4. $1000 is my budget for vet bills per year (low end barring any catastrophe).

                Having old horses is expensive. Old horses need medication, extra care to maintain their weight, need their teeth checked more often etc. Also plan on how to bury them when they pass. Can you bury them or will you need to cremate?

                My suggestion: buy 2 acres and a small house or house trailer. Just find out how many horses per acre are allowed first. If it's one horse per acre, you will need 3 acres. You will need to feed hay year round, but if land is expensive, it's works out cheaper.

                Find out hay prices where you live. Assume they eat 25lbs per horse per day. Hay here is $50 for 700lbs. My 4 horses eat 700lbs in a week. That's 36,400lbs a year. Of course during the summer this drops because they are on pasture.

                Grain is $22 a bag. Mine don't get much grain except for the old horse. She eats about 400lbs per month during the winter. That's 10 bags a month. Because her teeth are poor, she is more expensive than everyone else combined to feed. $220 a month for feed for her plus $40 per month on medication. A little more than that for her hay.

                Since these are older horses, i would budget $300 per horse per month. Plus a couple thousand for vet bills or farrier.

                Taking on horses is very expensive. It may be better to move your MIL to somewhere within an hour or two drive with cheaper land. More land is usually easier because you have less manure, and better pasture.

                If you only get a few acres, you need to hire someone to muck and have a dumpster hauled off with your manure.

                28 is pretty old for a horse. Not many make it to 35 years old.


                • #9
                  Around here, many people have 20-50 acres. They turn their horses out to eat grass and don't have very many expenses. If you have one horse on ten acres, you don't have to feed very much. I doubt those pasture horses get much medical care other than the farrier. Perhaps that is why she says they aren't much work. With that life style, you can get away with going out once a day with a feed bucket and if you use a automatic water, you only need to check that it is working properly.

                  That is totally different than managing horses on a small acreage. Small acreage = much more work.


                  • #10
                    No no no no no!
                    I think you will seriously regret taking these horses on.

                    If keeping them at home: are you willing and prepared to spend 2+ hours a day taking care of them? Feeding them, throwing hay, mucking stalls, treating injuries? In the heat, freezing rain, snow, sleet, storms, wind? On birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, after a long work day? 365 days a year? Do you go on vacation? If yes, are you prepared to pay someone to take care of the farm?
                    I board, so I don’t have to worry about day to day care but I still provide my own feed. For three horses I was spending $350-$450/month for feed and quality hay in the winter, a little less in the summer due to reduced hay needs. That doesn’t factor in farm maintenance costs they you will have. Utilities, farm equipment, bedding for stalls, fencing, reseeding pastures, etc etc.

                    If boarding: Depending on where you live I would expect to spend $200-$500 per month per horse for pasture board or $400-$1,000 per month per horse for stall board. Near the DC area for example, you could put them on stall board for $600+ per month per horse (maybe less if you move them farther out, but I don’t think MIL will want to drive 1-2 hours) or $400 per month per horse for field board. Not all horses can tolerate field board.

                    Then you have vet bills. I spend $200 per horse every spring and fall for vaccines and an exam. Then add about $150 per horse each year to have their teeth floated. Farrier costs me about $50 per horse every 6 weeks for barefoot trims. If your horses need corrective shoes you’re looking at $125-$300 depending on the shoes and the condition. My old mare has arthritis and gets meds each month that run us about $90/month. A farm call and exam for illness or injury is $110. That doesn’t include diagnostics, medication, treatment. I spent $600 when my horse choked and needed an emergency vet visit. $500 for assessment and antibiotics when my horse has a puncture wound close to his stifle joint. You will have to decide what type of vet care you are willing to provide. Vaccines/teeth/feet only? Treatment for punctures or other somewhat minor injuries? Long-term meds?

                    For board, vet bills, and feed for three horses in the DC area I spend about $32,000/year. Last year it was more because of a large $2k+ vet bill. That’s a year of college for your kid. Or a new car for the family. Or a lot of things. Are you prepared to take that on or does MIL have the funds? When looking at keeping them at home I estimated my cost to be about half that to do it to my high standard. If you live in a cheap area of the country your expenses will certainly be less, but it’s still a lot of money. Your MIL should be thankful you are opening your home to her. I know it’s heartbreaking to rehire animals but it’s incredibly selfish to ask you to take on the expense and responsibility of three horses when you have never experienced what it’s like to care for a horse.


                    • #11
                      OP- it would be helpful to know where you live. DC? New York? Montana? California? Texas? Cost estimates are going to vary widely depending on where you live. I pay $6/ bale for an ok quality hay, but would rather feed good quality hay so I spend $8.25-$10 per ~50lb bale. A 120lb bale of nice Alfalfa is about $40. Board out west where you can throw them out on acres and acres of land is going to be significantly less than board near DC, CA, NY, etc.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you everyone for your responses so far. Understanding the financial aspect is exactly what I needed.

                        I’m in a major suburb in Texas. Due to my MIL needing help on a daily basis she can’t be far from us (most likely needing to live with us) so relocating her to cheaper land isn’t an option. I have talked to her neighbors and they are happy to take her horses, even if they are split up. Yes her neighbors help with her farm currently (unsustainable), as well as people who live there for free in exchange for help with the animals. She’s near 80. She currently lives on 20 acres. In my town land goes for 100k/acre.

                        These insights into finances are eye opening, especially due to their age. The land in our town, which we would need to stay in due to schools, I’m told is bad for horses (rocky and not much to graze) so that would make all the quotes on the high end for care. My MIL says her horses don’t wear shoes but I’d assume they would need to if the land wasn’t consistently soft.

                        And having to hire someone for 2-3 hours a day to care for them would run expensive as well. This seems like it would cost around $20,000 just to have horses to look at, not including the costs to get a barn set up. I’d love to have the horse life, and wish I could! I hardly have time for 3 dogs!

                        Basically the advice here also seems to be if we are not willing to take this on ourselves as well don’t do it. We aren’t and have demanding jobs and we do travel. My MIL has made it very clear that she never wants to leave her horses, but I see no way that this makes sense when she can’t care for herself anymore, and I will also be caring for her on top of this.

                        Horses are a labor of love and passion. Wow. Maybe one day...


                        • #13
                          Helping your MIL on a daily basis is going to eat up any possible time you could spend on horses.

                          If neighbors and helping and tenants are bartering barn work for rent of course MIL will think it's not much work.

                          I bet she also hasnt been keeping up with teeth, feet, innoculations, etc and you might have some medical surprises waiting for you.

                          For the cost of caring for the horses you could hire a part time care aid to spell you off.


                          • #14
                            Another don't do it. If your kids were older and beginning to be interested in all things equine, therefor willing to help, I still would hesitate based on the increased cost. And don't get me started on feeding and caring for them.

                            She's got people living there taking care of them, you'll have to take care of her and the kids and the horses too, I can't imagine a better way to get to hate your MIL and stress yourself out.
                            Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                            Incredible Invisible


                            • #15
                              If finances allow, maybe just keep one horse - but boarded at a barn, not kept at home. The 16 yr old probably doesn't have maintenance issues, and might be the cheapest of the three to keep. You might call around to local boarding barns to check prices for full board for a single horse. Still won't be cheap - but you don't have to worry about moving, or providing direct care for the horse. Still have to factor in vet bills, farrier, dentist, etc. (And yes, horses need their feet trimmed even if they don't wear shoes.). But depending on what your MIL has to contribute to keeping a horse, swinging full board for a single horse might be doable - and that might ease her pain in having to get rid of all three of them. But don't forget that the cost to ship the horse might well be $1,500+.

                              It pains me to think of a day when horses will no longer be a part of my life. I savor every day that I can walk out in my pasture, have them run up to me, give them a hug and a scratch, talk to them, etc. I will definitely miss that when the time comes...
                              ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


                              • #16
                                Sounds like keeping them at home is not an option, so this will be expensive. Pretty much agree with everyone above. My horses are at home and they are work. Not hours and hours a day, but it would be a lie if I said they are "easy" - someone has to feed, clean stalls, mow pastures, check fences, buy hay (and organize delivery), etc. etc. etc.

                                What is the health of the older two? It seems like a hard, difficult conversation needs to be had with your MIL.

                                My recommendation would be....board the older two with the neighbor until they die. Actually the right thing to do would be to give them to the neighbors - with MONEY to cover their expenses for a few years - and that will allow them to make end of life decisions when they need to do that.

                                Possibly sell the younger one if it is sound and rideable.

                                There is no way for your MIL to bring the horses with her to your home. And I'm sure she KNOWS this. I am guessing this is her way of saying she's not going to move.


                                • #17
                                  As my wise mother used to say "When in doubt, don't."

                                  You've been given very wise counsel above, so I don't need to restate it all. Listen to them and your gut: don't.
                                  <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


                                  • #18
                                    OP, we recently had a thread in the Hunter/Jumper forum where we talked about how much we spend on horse-related costs in a year, from keeping the horse to lessons and showing.

                                    I have one semi-retired 24-year-old horse. I board him at a facility that costs less than the area average. Because he’s semi-retired, all the money I spend on him is care-related, not related to training, competition, or riding equipment. On my one senior horse, I spend $18k a year.

                                    If the suggestion about moving to horse property came from your MIL, maybe it sounds like she wants to have her cake and eat it too, but she also sounds scared to me. She’s facing a major life change and probably having to admit some things about her health and mortality that she hadn’t confronted before. To you I’ll say you would be nuts to consider moving to horse property and taking on the care of two seniors and a teenager. But I also wish you strength in what sounds like it will be a very difficult conversation between someone who needs more help than she wants to admit and who will find the cost of that too high.
                                    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden


                                    • #19
                                      Personally, I would never ask an elderly family member who has had her same horses for 20+ years to ever separate from them, nor would I ask her to leave her home and move across the country.


                                      • #20
                                        Best case scenario here is giving the horses away to the neighbors who are willing to take on their care. Presumably MIL can keep in touch with them and still get to hear about the horses and see pictures of them, etc.. Your MIL is really lucky she even has that option.

                                        I agree with others that have said she's probably very scared of these major life changes and wanting to hang on to her horses is a way to hang onto the life she used to have. It's really quite sad but there isn't any reasonable outcome for your family to take on these horses as well as the care of your MIL unless you've got a LOT of disposable income to throw at this.