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First horse shopping budget

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    First horse shopping budget

    Long-time lurker, finally made an account to post. Then chickened our for a couple weeks. Here it goes.

    I am about 12-18 months out from buying My First Horse! I’m trying to do this right (I’ve read enough horror stories to learn a few what-not-to-dos) and especially be as financially prepared as possible.

    Other than the actual horse itself, I’m trying to get a good sense of the total amount of cash I should have on hand for purchase-related expenses. I will be shopping through my trainer so there will be a finder’s fee I’m sure, but I’m not sure what the industry standard is (percent of sale price, flat rate, is it normal to charge for finding/visiting a horse I don’t wind up buying, etc). Shipping from sale barn to my trainer’s barn as I don’t have a truck/trailer.. guess that depends on distance. I will need to pay for potentially multiple PPEs if Horse1, Horse2, or Horse3 don’t work out, not sure how those run in terms of cost (other than the somewhat unhelpful “it varies”).

    I’m also trying to get a good sense of what a reasonable emergency vet slush fund should be. Obviously nothing prevents my horse from sustaining some catastrophic injury on day 1, so I want to be financially prepared for that. How would you determine what a too-much-money amount would be for this (ie, if I buy a horse for $7500 today, would I be foolish to spend upwards of $5000 on colic surgery tomorrow)? Of course this number could grow over time, I’m just thinking of what would be responsible for literally the first days/weeks/maybe month-ish if I don’t immediately grow that pot.

    Also, anything else I might need on day 1 that wouldn’t be immediately obvious? Of course I need tack- I have some which may fit or I can resell when The One is selected. Time of year of purchase would determine how quickly I need an arsenal of blankets (zone 2). Basic grooming/first aid supplies are no problem, probably would just refresh my current stock.

    About me, in case it’s relevant: looking for a broke/safe but not fancy horse I can pop around the local 2’6-2’9s with (in no particular timeframe). Showing is fun as a social event but not really important to me competitively. I prefer OTTBs which I guess helps my shopping budget go farther (also mares, and I’ve heard the same if true for that). I’ve had plenty of leases and was a groom all the summers of high school/college (now years ago) so I know the basics of first aid and horsemanship reasonably well. I’ll be working with my trainer plus might have some additional trainer help closer. I think the max I would be comfortable paying for The Horse itself would be around $10k, so just want to know what the additional cash in the bank should be looking like.

    Thanks for reading this far!

    No advice here on costs as I haven't owned in a while, but I wanted to say welcome, and glad you finally posted! I think if you're looking towards OTTB and depending on how much restarting/training, you may come in well under that $10k budget for the actual purchase. Kudos for wanting to do ALL the purchasing math before jumping in. So many people only look at the cost of the horse without factoring in expenses. From the last time I helped a friend shopping, take into account that you may need to have farrier work done ASAP as well. It seems to be a thing with horses coming off the track, or even sales horses that aren't actively showing for owners to stop being as timely with trims and shoeing. Also, teeth... when you're shopping around ask when the last time teeth were done was.


      Kudos for being so well-prepared!

      My point of view....others can chime in with their own experiences:

      Trainer commission - 15-20% of the horse's purchase price. Trainer should not charge you for time or expenses to look at horses within a reasonable distance. If, however, you have to get on an airplane to see potential horses, expect to cover those type of trainer costs. If paying a commission, you should only pay when you purchase a horse.

      You'll pay for all shipping, including to the barn and, if the horse is on a trial and doesn't work out, shipping it home.

      Speaking of trials, if you get to take one on trial, expect to pay board.

      PPE's can very depending on how much work you want done. It's not a bad idea to be there for the PPE and ask the vet to start with the cheapest work first, then stop if there's anything significant. For example, do if the horse flexes badly, don't bother getting X-rays. I like to do a lot of X-rays, including the neck, just to know what I'm dealing with. So, $1000 upwards of $3,000 per PPE.

      Consider buying insurance which will help cover unexpected vet expenses. Prices vary significantly. I've typically paid around 5% of the horse's pruchase price as an annual insurance premium, for surgical, colic & mortality.

      Regardless of insurance, you're smart to think about an emergency fund. Having $5k - $10k is not unreasonable.

      So, doing some quickie math:

      $2,000 - commission
      $200 - shipping
      $3,000 - PPE
      $500 - insurance
      $5,000 - emergency fund

      = $10,700

      So a rule of thumb is have an amount approximately equal to the purchase price.

      Then, if you're like me, you'll want to buy and monogram enough stuff to set up your own tack shop.

      Have fun shopping!!!
      ~ Citizens for a Kinder, Gentler COTH...our mantra: Be nice. ~


        Congrats on your first horse! AFAIK, few things are more exciting.

        What I did (and recommend to you) when I bought my last horse (who was a few states away) was insure the beast for major medical before she was shipped to me (I insure all my horses, but wanted to make sure she was covered as soon as I paid for her!). Too much can go wrong with too many unknowns in that situation. Insurance also helps in case of any major medical issues later in the year, so you don't have to check your bank balance if the horse colics the first week - just take them to surgery! Generally speaking, my worst-case scenario is an emergency colic, which I'm assuming would be around 15k right off the bat (assuming no/minimal complications)... hence the insurance :-)

        Shipping costs vary wildly by distance (obviously) and how much space you want the horse to have (single vs box stall, etc). I paid $3k to ship across the country in a box stall with a big shipper 18 months ago (and ~ $1200 to ship Seattle to SoCal with a small shipper ~ 3 yrs ago).

        Depending on where you are in the country (low vs high cost of living), assuming at least $1000 per PPE (closer to $1500 more likely) and up (depending how many rads you want to do).

        Ask your trainer what kind of commission they are expecting (that definitely varies).

        As far as tack/blankets etc., I think you're right on about just buying whatever fits The One, so you can't plan too far in advance now, but consider buying a lot of what you need used at first, until you get to know your horse (i.e., xxx brand rubs his neck, so i have to spend $yy on wugs, instead). Especially if you're getting an OTTB - consider how the horse's weight and muscle will change over the next year or two before you spend 5k on a saddle!

        Congrats again and good luck in your search!!


          Your appreciation for OTTBs buffs up your budget a bit! I'm a fan (and totally biased because of my wonderful OTTB mare).

          Having $5000-ish in reserve for unexpected expenses is very responsible and (if I were to hazard a guess) more than most of us do. Hubby and I have very healthy credit, so I don't worry much.

          Know what your board is and what that covers. Feed? Hay? ALL of the hay? (OTTBs vary, but most need at least unlimited good forage, possibly grain) I like to stay one month ahead on board when possible.

          From there, teeth and yearly vet stuff. Call it a grand unless you're in an expensive area. And feet every 5-8 weeks. Could be all-around shoeing at $500 or a trim at $40. Really varies a lot.

          Training/lessons. At least once a month lessons are almost necessary. Any time I skimp too much we go backwards.

          Best wishes to you! There are never any guarantees, but getting my mare changed my life for the better, forever


            The way I have always had commissions work is said to pay 10,000 for the horse. You don’t write trainer a check commission, the seller pays your trainer a portion of the sale my industry 10% is very standard, but I also know of trainers marking up horses to their clients to they get a bigger piece of the pie. ie; seller wants 10,000, your trainer says the horse is 13,000 and when you buy it your trainer collects $3,000 which is significantly more than 10% of the 10,000 sale price.


              Congratulations! (Even if it's over a year away) You've gotten great advice info here already. One thing to add to help you plan costs, for shipping I usually plan about $100 per hour of travel if in a regular trailer stall and $200-300 an hour if in box stall in a trailer!


                $1,500-$2,000 PPE. Get hocks done and I'd say neck too, which may increase the cost but neck issues can cause a lot of lameness issues.

                Most trainers commissions are 15%, make sure to ask your trainer about this ahead of time, and make sure she knows your "all in" budget (ie I have 15k to spend and that needs to include PPE, hauling, commission, and purchase).

                Hauling depends on how far away the horse is, assume at least $1/mile

                I did not insure my first horse because she was $16,000, lucky for me I never had any medical problems with her. The big cost of insurance is mortality, so if you stick to vet and colic you and low mortality you can probably get a policy for about $100-$150/month.

                I'd say to have $2,500 as a vet fund.

                You should be able to get a horse for 10-15k that suits you. Be okay with trying a lot of horses and taking your time. PPEs are expensive, so really make sure you love the horse before you do the PPE, and don't be suprised when the PPE isn't perfect. There is always something, you just have to know what you can live with. be there, ask the vet questions.

                You need tack, feed, and a place for the horse to be housed. This is an exciting time--enjoy it!


                  Originally posted by TheHunterKid90 View Post
                  The way I have always had commissions work is said to pay 10,000 for the horse. You don’t write trainer a check commission, the seller pays your trainer a portion of the sale my industry 10% is very standard, but I also know of trainers marking up horses to their clients to they get a bigger piece of the pie. ie; seller wants 10,000, your trainer says the horse is 13,000 and when you buy it your trainer collects $3,000 which is significantly more than 10% of the 10,000 sale price.
                  That's for the person selling the horse.
                  Say I have a mare for sale for $27,500, I have the commission for my trainer who would be selling the horse worked in to the 25k I already want for the horse. Whatever the person buying the horse's trainer takes is their responsibility. I would balk at a trainer asking me to tell a client the horse is priced differently to hide their commission.

                  Common practice in the industry today is a 10-20% commission for a trainer in the situation. As a seller I pay my trainer their share, and the buyer pays their finding fee.

                  Everyone else has given amazing advice but here's something I always do when I buy - have a farrier I trust look at any foot photos/xrays, etc. ESPECIALLY on an OTTB. They are rampant with foot issues and are sometimes very hard to keep together depending on genetics. (My family had one mare who was an amazing stakes winner but every. freakin'. baby that thing had had feet that makes our farrier question his life choices just to keep them pasture sound.)

                  If you're getting a fairly green OTTB, I'd say make sure you save up a lot of patience, kindness, and deep breaths, too! They're quick learners and amazing partners, but sometimes retraining them off the track is hard work and can make you question yourself.

                  And hey, if you're in Florida when you're ready to buy next year, I'll have you sit on my lovely little gal after she gives me a baby this year! She honestly sounds like your match made in heaven!
                  Savannah College of Art and Design Equestrian


                    Ask your trainer about the commission/expenses bc, as you’ve seen here, there’s some variation. Also ask about what triggers paying it. My trainer told me that as soon as she looked at a video, that constituted an agreement to pay a commission. Sometimes trainers will have you pay upfront for individual services and then take that off the commission if you buy one. And always write the commission check directly to the trainer.
                    The Evil Chem Prof


                      First and foremost, since your trainer is helping you - get a written agreement outlining the commission and any additional costs/fees. Horse shopping can take some time, so it might be your trainer might charge X amount because they cancel their lessons to look at horses with you.

                      As far as insurance, you can't have major medical without mortality but you can just get mortality, or some places will have mortality and a surgical only policy.

                      Other posts have outlined expenses pretty well. I wouldn't go crazy on x-rays - if the horse is already questionable, it might be best to walk away. PPE's can eat up your budget so make sure you love, really love the horse before agreeing to vet

                      Tack - you might find yourself needing (or wanting) new tack - some sellers will throw in their blanket or turnout sheet and an old halter.

                      if you're considering an OTTB (or any young horse) factor in training board or training fees. It is well worth it to put a green horse in some sort of training program - also discuss with your trainer so you're aware of what your monthly boarding fees will be. This may also be a factor in your choosing a green horse vs an older horse that may have some maintenance issues.

                      Vet and farrier services. Some vets have health programs set up with barns where there's a standard fee for when they come to do the yearly vaccinations, and some will do a overall look-see. Do you pay for these services directly or does the barn bill clients?

                      Be patient, Don't be in a hurry, think about what qualities are most important to you and stick to them, there are some things that you don't want to compromise on - and we all have different qualities that top our list.

                      Enjoy the shopping experience, don't get discouraged, and let us know what happens!


                        Original Poster

                        Thanks everyone for the welcome and the advice! The PPE sticker price was.... definitely more than I expected which is exactly why I wanted a good sense up-front. I’m still a lo(oooooo)ng way away from shopping but at least I will be prepared when I get there! Hopefully I can update this thread in 2022