AUBURN, Ala. – Growing up, it seemed as if every girl wanted a horse, and if they didn’t want a horse, they wanted to ride one. What many eight-year-olds didn’t realize, however, was how much time and effort goes into keeping a horse. Between feed, vet bills, boarding and time spent working with the animal, owning a horse is a big commitment. Unfortunately, life doesn’t slow down or get easier when college rolls around, in fact, free time is rare.
So what about those dreams of owning a horse? If you weren’t lucky enough to own one when you were younger does that mean you completely missed out? Not necessarily. Owning a horse in college is definitely a possibility, but there are a few factors a potential owner should consider before investing.
Depending on what kind of horse you plan on purchasing, prices will vary, but the initial cost of your new companion is only the beginning of a lifelong friendship. If you are going to own a horse, you are going to need somewhere to board it. According to Courtney Holland, an Alabama Extension animal science specialist, most Auburn animal science students board their horse at a local barn or rent land.
“Boarding varies depending what level of care you would like to receive, the quality of the facilities and available shelter/pasture,” said Holland. Pastures tend to range anywhere from $75-$300 per month, and a stall from $250-$1,000. So, an owner can expect to spend anywhere from $900-$12,000 a year on board.
A clean stall or a green pasture is only the beginning of meeting your 1,000 pound best friend’s needs. Nothing says I love you to a horse quite like feed, and a lot of it. Horses can be expected to consume 2.5 percent of their body weight in feed on a daily basis – this can be made up of concentrate – commonly known as grain – or forage. “For example,” said Holland, “a 1,000 pound horse should consume about 25 pounds of feed per day, with 10-18 pounds of that being forage.” Forages, which include pasture and hay, should make up most, if not all, of a horse’s diet. The minimum range of forage to be fed is 1 – 1.5 percent of their body weight. A potential owner can expect to pay $100-$250 for feed on their horse per month.
Although the proper feed will keep your horse happy, trips to the veterinarian and ferry will help keep them healthy. Much like other animals, horses require biyearly vaccines. According to Holland, vaccines can range from $75-$125 and can be administered by you or a veterinarian. On top of vaccines, horses will also need a coggins test, which will run from $50-$75 per year. Whenever you own any type of animal, you must always take into consideration the possibility of unexpected veterinarian care, surgery and medicines.
Whether you own a dog, cat or horse, all animals require time and attention – some may just require more than others. “In terms of students owning horses, it works out just fine for our Animal Science students. It is not recommended for students to take this on if they have never owned or cared for horses before,” says Holland. If owning your own four-legged friend seems like too much of a responsibility, there is always the option to go to a local barn, take lessons and spend time learning about equine management. The 1,000 pound creatures may require time and money, but they offer a bond and companionship that makes all other bonds pale in comparison.