It won’t come as news to the estimated 451,000 private owners of horses in Britain, but the upkeep of a horse or pony is not cheap.
According to the latest figures from the British Equestrian Trade Association, indulging in this much-loved horsey hobby will set you back a whopping £3,105 per animal per year, not including the cost of associated kit such as body protectors, saddles, bridles etc. So how does the average horse owner make it work?
Catriona Fursdon, who runs holiday accommodation from Fursdon House in Devon, bought her Welsh chestnut mare Ruby in 2008 for £4000 (including a good saddle, bridle and some rugs). By no means cash rich, Catriona says: “I sort of fell into horse ownership, made possible only because I am lucky enough to live on a farm with grazing and stables, but I do, nevertheless have anxious moments about the cost.”
She spends between £1,300 and £2000 per year on Ruby, which covers the cost of six weekly shoeing at £75+VAT, an annual visit to the equine dentist at £45, £55 a year to the vet for the flu jab, around £400 on food – plus hay and bedding on top, about £75 a year on worming and £45 on clipping.
She spends between £1,300 and £2000 per year on Ruby, which covers the cost of six weekly shoeing at £75+VAT, an annual visit to the equine dentist at £45, £55 a year to the vet for the flu jab, around £400 on food – plus hay and bedding on top, about £75 a year on worming and £45 on clipping. Transport with her own four wheel drive vehicle and trailer and riding lessons are additional costs.
For Catriona, the pay-off is in the quality time she has with Ruby. “I have great times riding on the moors with friends, I’ve learned so many new skills (not just equine), it keeps me fit, I meet local people when I’m out that I normally wouldn’t see, and it gets me away from the office and work. Maybe it is a vice, but it keeps me fitter than certain other vices!”
Bridget Grieve, a former nurse and midwife, who learnt to ride in Yorkshire, bought her mare Katie eleven years ago. She has a three year old foal from her now and agrees that owning a horse is “the most amazing thing to do.” She says, “I’m in a different position to some people because we don’t own land and we don’t have stables, so everything I do, I have to rent. It makes keeping a horse a lot more expensive, but Katie has helped me mentally through lots of ups and downs in life and I can’t tell you how happy she makes me.”
Bridget reckons that, in terms of annual expenditure, “you’re talking more like £5000 per year”. As she is no longer working, her husband, she says, is happy to foot the bills from his pension. “I don’t demand lots of other things,” explains Bridget. “Yesterday, for example, I spent £189 on two rugs for the girls. I would no more go and spend that myself on a coat than I would fly. The girls are my priority and that’s my choice. You have to be prepared to forfeit other things.”
For anyone thinking of buying or renting a horse, Catriona advises caution. “You are in it for the long-haul and you need time, energy and a certain amount of support. At the end of the day, it’s all consuming and expensive but also wonderful. I don’t know where I’d be without it.”