Every kid, especially little girls, seem to want a horse at some point in their childhood. I’m here to tell you, don’t buy a horse… yet.

buy a horse

Here are my reasons why:

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love riding horses. It’s my passion. It’s my thing. It’s what I’m good at. I’ve been riding for over 30 years and I hope to never stop. But let me explain my reasons why you shouldn’t buy a horse, plus I’ll tell you what you SHOULD do instead.

Horses are expensive.

To start with, horses are expensive. On average, a horse can run anywhere from $2,000-$100,000+ depending on the horse, it’s breed, it’s age, it’s mindset, and it’s athletic ability. There are horses that are less expensive, and there are some that are more.

Now, a wonderful kid’s horse is worth their weight in gold! They’re safe to be around, great for kids to earn on, have an easy-going personality, and sometimes are called “babysitters” (although, always supervise your kids around horses- of course).

My very first horse was named Tigger. He was a gift from my parents for my 8th birthday. Did they go out and spend a lot of money on a horse I could take to the shows and win?

No. They went to the Horse & Pony Orphanage and rescued one. Tigger was by far the oldest one there and it was obvious he had to fight for his food. He was about 200-300 pounds underweight. They paid $450 for him.

We fed him a lot, and he gained weight. I was able to ride him in lessons, down the road or trail, I worked cows on him, and I took him to horse shows! He did great!

I even won my very first 1st place ribbon on him!

Now, horses have a lifespan of about 25-30 years. Some live longer, but this is the average. We didn’t get Tigger until he was in his 30’s and we had him well into his 40’s when he had a stroke and we had to have him put down.

He was stubborn and hard headed but he never did anything that would hurt me, or where I could get myself hurt. He was extremely food aggressive and would try to bite people as we walked passed him. However, since we knew his history of having to fight for his food, we adjusted and adapted for him. We just gave him his space. He deserved to eat his meals in peace and not to worry about us taking his food. We left him alone.

If you don’t want to spend money to buy a horse that could live for 30 more years, don’t buy a horse.

The upkeep is EXPENSIVE.

Although Tigger was only $450, most horses cost much more. That being said, the horse is the cheapest part of the entire process! It’s the upkeep that will getchya!

Start with the tack you’ll need to be able to ride:

  • Saddle $450
  • Bridle $50
  • Bit $50
  • Saddle pad $30
  • Girth $40
  • Halter $25
  • Lead rope $10
  • Grooming supplies $50

These are just the very basics of what’s needed to ride and it adds up to $705. Plus these costs can vary SIGNIFICANTLY. I’ve seen USED saddles go for close to $10,000. No, I didn’t accidentally put an extra 0 in there.

Now, the feed. Let’s look at the basics.

Horses need some sort of roughage, also known as hay. Most horses can thrive off of alfalfa hay which is available almost anywhere. Here in the western US, we have 3 string bales which weigh about 100 pounds and range from $12-$20 depending on the time of year. In the east, 2 string bales are common and weigh less. I’m not sure how much those cost since I live in the west.

An average 1,000 pound horse is going to need to eat about 15-20 pounds of hay each day. That makes that bale of hay go pretty quick.

Now, add in any grain or supplements your horse may need. You’re going to add about $20+ per 40-50 pound bag of grain and about $15+ each, per month for supplements. An example of supplements may be electrolytes for hot, humid locations or a joint supplement for older or arthritic horses. Honestly the sky’s the limit for supplements and the prices vary greatly.

*You can reduce the amount of hay fed by the same number of pounds of grain fed to still give them the same poundage per day. For example you can feed 10 pounds of hay and 5 pounds of grain.

Now do horses need grain? No, but there are tons out there which offer different benefits for different desired results.

“What about just having them live in a grassy pasture?” you ask. Yes, that will work too, if you have access to that. They’d still need access to about 15+ pounds of grass a day. Out here in Arizona, a green, grassy pasture is hard to come by. Most of our “pastures” are mostly dirt.

And this is just the feed. There’s a lot more that goes with this such as fly repellant in the summer, blankets in the winter, if you decide to do that.

Veterinary care is at least twice a year for basic vaccinations and checkups. You can plan at least $100 per horse per visit. For emergency care, it’s significantly more expensive.

A farrier, or horse shoer, needs to be out every 6-9 weeks depending on your horses needs. Some horses can get by with a basic hoof trim which may be $40-$60. A full set of horse shoes in my area are about $120.

Veterinary care and farriers are NOT the place to save money. You get what you pay for. There’s a famous saying in the horse world- “No hoof no horse.” That means, if your horse has bad/sore/unhealthy hooves, your horse will not be able to perform at their best, or sometimes at all. Sore feet can absolutely cripple a horse.

If you don’t like to spend money, only to wonder where it went, then don’t buy a horse.

It’s hard work.

Now, for the actual work.

Now that you have a horse, the basic tack you need, and some feed, you need to get to work. Horses should be groomed and ridden a few times a week, however, they take work every. single. day.

They will need to be fed twice a day. Their water bucket needs to be checked and filled daily. They should have their stalls cleaned daily to remove manure.

Now, where are you going to put all manure? Are you going to spread it in your area or have it hauled off by a company (which is an added expense)?

When you buy your hay and grain, are you going to have it delivered, for an additional fee, or do you have a truck or trailer that you can use to bring it home? Are you physically able to unload it all yourself? If not, delivery may be a great option for you as they’ll unload into your storage area.

If you don’t like hard work, with blood, sweat, and tears, don’t buy a horse.

You will be dirty and stinky.

It’s inevitable. Horses stink.

The good news is you’ll get used to it. Eventually, you’ll barely even notice it and it probably won’t bother you anyway.

The bad news is that everyone else will notice it.

Even just walking into the barn for a few minutes, you’ll pick up the smell on your clothes and, maybe even more so, your hair. Hair holds on to everything- good and bad.

You’ll have clothes and shoes that are only worn with the horses, and some that are “not allowed in the barn.” I have “good” clothes that eventually get demoted to the barn and the current barn clothes usually get thrown away when they wear out. They’re beyond donate quality.

If you love your clothes being perfectly clean and fresh, don’t buy a horse.

Riding horses hurts.

I’ll be honest with you, riding horses sometimes hurts.

Even after a short ride, it will remind you of muscles you had forgotten you had. You’ll walk funny for days. You know the phrase “saddle sore”? Yeah, that’s a real thing.

You’ll have blisters on the sides of your fingers and sometimes those tear open. If you’re not wearing the right boots and pants, you will get sores on the inside of your calves where the skin is literally rubbed off. You’ll have bruises on your seat bones (you know the bones you can feel when you sit in a hard chair).

At some point you’ll fall off. It will happen. Even if you don’t actually injure yourself, you will hurt. You’ll be sore. You most likely will get your foot stepped on at some point. It’s happened to me several times. It never broke my foot, but to be honest, I have no idea how it didn’t. I’ve realized how amazingly flexible your feet actually are. It hurts. A LOT.

At some point or another, you’ll physically hurt in one way or another. This is where people decide if this is the sport for them or not.

If you don’t like working out or getting hurt occasionally, don’t buy a horse.

So don’t buy a horse. Let me tell you what you should do instead

If you or your child is interested in getting a horse, find a local stable that offers riding lessons. Start doing that on a regular basis.

I’d suggest taking weekly lessons for at least two years to ensure that the interest, and more importantly, the dedication is there. I’d also try to get involved in the day-to-day, mundane chores that have to be done daily at the stable. This way, you or your child won’t be surprised with how much work it actually is.

If you don’t like this time commitment, don’t buy a horse.

Don’t buy a horse, at least not right away.

Lease one.

Yes, you can lease a horse.

This is what I was able to do for a majority of my riding career. I had a lot of friends who had very expensive horses. And guess what? They lost interest. They didn’t want to ride any more.

Now they had these amazing horses and no one interested in riding them.

That’s where I came in. I was lucky enough to get to basically take these horses and treat them as my own without the upfront purchase cost.

We paid for my riding lessons, the vet visits, horse shoes, boarding, and horse shows. The owners still owned them, but I was able to ride them as if they were my own.

I was able to take riding lessons several times a week and even showed these horses monthly.

I leased enough horses that, after Tigger, I never OWNED another horse until I went to college!

I rode horses that were great for me at the time, however, eventually my skill outgrew their ability. Did I have to do the work to find them a good home and sell them? NO! I just returned them to their owners and found another to lease who I could grow into.


There are several different types of leases and the terms & conditions will vary. I was allowed to take the horses for no additional cost than my basic expenses. Some owners will want a monthly payment to use the horses, in addition to the regular expenses.

If you decide to board your horse at a local stable or ranch, although the overall cost may be a little higher than if you kept them on your own property, a majority of the work is done for you. Most stables provide the food (with the exception of grain and supplements- which you’d provide for them to feed), stall cleaning, sometimes they provide turn-out time or light exercising of your horse, and often, they’ll schedule a vet and/or farrier to visit the facility. You just need to write a check or leave cash to pay for your horse to be looked at.

This can be a great option for those who don’t have the time and/or property which would be conducive to having a horse. It also allows you to go away for a weekend or longer without worrying about who will take care of the horse for you.

It’s quite convenient.

If after two years of lessons, you are still thinking of buying a horse, great!

Go for it! Go ahead and buy a horse!

Ask your trainer, or someone with horse experience that you trust to help you. Just like any other item for sale, the owners aren’t always 100% truthful. They may not mean to deceive you, but they do have a goal of selling the horse.

Please beware of words such as GREEN, NOVICE, JUST STARTED, A PROJECT, and SPIRITED, among others. These are words to describe a horse who is not beginner friendly. I’m sorry to say it, but even after two years of consistent lessons, you’re still a beginner, or GREEN rider. A green horse and rider combo isn’t a good thing. Don’t buy a horse like this.

Also, please, please, PLEASE don’t discount the old, underweight, underdog horses. They have a lot of life experience they can pass along. They’re the ones who will teach you and your kids the most important lessons. I highly suggest to buy a horse like this.

Can you take a senior horse to a horse show? YES!

Can you do cow work with an old horse? YES!

Can you still get years of enjoyment from a senior? ABSOLUTELY!

What do you think?

Do you have any other advice for first time horse buyers? Any other questions that I didn’t cover? Did you ever buy a horse? What was your experience?

3 Replies to “5 painfully honest reasons not to buy a horse and what you should do instead”

  1. This is the best advice that you could put all together for someone. I love horses have ridden for years. I’m finally at the point I can spend more time but I think a lease option would be the best. I fell in love with these horses and there’s some that are for sale that I would love to have but I think by myself it could overwhelm me at the beginning. I’ll take your advice and start slow.

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