Fantasy vs Reality when buying a horse
written by Salt River Horsemanship

"Mostly every week I get a phone call or an email from someone looking to buy a horse –“ The Perfect Horse”

The first question I ask them what is their goal with the horse they are seeking and ask them to tell me what they want and what they don’t want

Then lastly I ask for the budget.

What I mostly encounter is:

“I want horse that is ridden – about 5 to 8 years that has done everything, is bombproof and can be ridden any where and not have an issue – it must be safe for the kids to or other family members to ride”

“I'm looking for a horse I can compete on and win. Something that has been trained and has competed and has already won something – I just want to be able to get on go and compete – no issues.”


“It must have these bloodlines or be this breed– I’m only looking for a registered horse with this or that in its pedigree”


“I don’t want a mare – I don’t want something that I am going to have to train, it must pass a vet check, have no blemishes and cant have any confirmation faults.”

And most of all the price:

“I only have $3,000 – $5,000 to spend”

This is no exaggeration; every week we hear these requests.

So lets look at some actual facts in the costs associated with horses and the cost to breed, raise, start and train to sell them.

To get a horse from inception:

You have to start with:
Cost of buying and running a broodmare
Breeding costs – the costs of insemination, or natural breeding
The stallion service fee
Feeding and board costs for mare during gestation
Hoof and dental care of mare
Any incidentals along the way
Cost of foaling down the mare and feeding the mare post parturition
Most don’t consider these costs just as human babies require tests and care during the neonate period so do foals
IgG test
Now if your IgG is low you will require plasma and most likely antibiotics.
Getting a healthy foal is not something we take lightly it is done with a well planned out process and management, and top notch vet care to ensure the foal is alive – so for this it is easy to spend in excess of $5000 to get a foal live on the ground.

So now the foal is out and alive postpartum 3 weeks, what’s next? – Well: feeding the mare till weaning time, then the foal needs to be fed and farrier work, if it’s a colt you probably will have to geld it, as not many people want a stallion.

Then there is the weaner handling and halter training.

So now the foal is about 8 months old, will it most likely be sold now? – NO- not many will buy a foal at weaning stage as remember the list above of what is wanted.

We are breeders that usually have the foal until the age of 4 or 5 – so now what have we spent – 4 years of feeding, care, vet, starting under saddle and most likely showing, training the list goes on – what are the costs now – well if you add it up to include all of the above you are now looking at approx. $10,000.

So where are we now –up and over $15,000.00!

YES that’s right – but hang on you can easily see those expenses right?

What about the ones you don’t easily see?

Really there are more so lets look at those:

The pasture we have to feed, weed and slash, the fencing and the countless times we have to check the electric fencing is working to keep that foal or horse from injuring itself in the fence. The power to run the fence, the cost of upkeep to fencing repairs when a tree fall on them, paddock cleaning of dead wood and branches the fire breaks to ensure safety during fire season, Arena’s, yards the cost of water and troughs, that need cleaning on a regular basis by staff, the staff costs of wages, superannuation, workers compensation, and the costs associated with having staff- weekends time and a half and double time even though horses have no clue about weekends and after hours, sick days, holidays.

Then there is the costs of the purchase and maintenance of farm equipment and infrastructure, to care for all of the above. (Tractor, feed wagon, spray unit, quad bike, super spreader, truck, vehicle, horse float, gooseneck)

Not to forget the Stables – the cost of power, shavings, replacing kick boards, or broken gates –The stocks/horse crush’s, feeding equipment, the feeders that need purchasing and replacing over time due to horses pawing at them or picking them up and throwing them around.

Please don’t forget to add in the incidentals – like clippers, rugs, halters, brushes, saddlery, hoses, washing, rubbish disposal etc etc.

Oops not to forget the mortgage payments for the property, the administration costs, the insurance for the buildings on the farm and the public liability insurance – because we know horses can be dangerous

Are you starting think now – mmmmm WOW!

But hang on there IS more:

What about the time it takes to catch horses from pasture, or prepare for a show, show and travel costs to the show, training time and then time at a show.

If you are a trainer and at a show there must be staff back at the ranch to continue operations – you can not simply – walk out the door 5 pm on a Friday turn out the lights and hope every thing will be fine when you return 9 am on Monday morning – Horses do not work that way!

Now you have to factor in that perhaps the horse is still sound and has not had an injury along the way that required treatment, scans, x-rays or rehabilitation.

Most of our horses are treated like athletes – and athletes require chiropractic, massage and physio care to maintain a sense of a balanced state of mind and body – for you the consumer, that wants that sound, well trained horse with out issues.

Then we have to factor in the losses – it is a fact of life stock losses – horses do die.

So not forgetting here this we are a professional horse breeding and training operation, that does this full time, this is our job, our business, our livelihood, so at the end of the day we can go home eat, pay our bills, go on the occasional holiday, feed the dogs (we don’t have kids), and put some money into savings for future!

Any other business factors in all the costs of manufacturing a product and business operating associated costs and prices the product accordingly.

Why should it be any different for horses?

So when you are considering buying a horse – consider the reality of the costs that go with making your end product – we would like to have the perfect horse for $5,000 but that is a fantasy.

So when we ask $25,000 – $30,000 for the horse we have bred, raised, started trained and shown more than likely we are still making nothing for it , but we are just trying to pay bills to survive and do it another year – to keep the consumer happy with the product we develop.

Yes! We do question why we continue to do it!

So next time you consider buying a horse from a full time professional operation please consider the costs involved before you offer $3,000.