“I want to buy a horse!!! I have 10 thousand, and I must have the following:
No mares, mares are mare-ish. I cannot tolerate a mare. I want at least 16.3 or taller. I don’t like the short horses, I look too tall on the shorter horses. Yes, I realize I am only 5′, but my leg hangs on anything less than 16.3 I need it trained and safe. I don’t want anything that might run off with me…at the walk. Nothing older than 7, nothing younger than 6. It MUST pass a PPE. (Pre-Purchase Exam) That means it absolutely can have NOTHING wrong with it. And by nothing, I mean NOTHING. I don’t care how many times it has raced since age 2, it must have NO blemishes, bumps, etc. It must jump 3’6″, even though I have no plans to go above Beginner Novice. It has to have leads and they have to be automatic. I prefer warmbloods to Throughbreds. I prefer a bay with 4 high whites, or better, a true black with 4 high whites. Must be bomb proof and stand on the cross-ties even if a bomb (crazy dog running around) comes into the barn isle, and bites it on the legs. Must be a schoolmaster, teach me how to jump 3’6″, and be forgiving of all my mistakes. It must have the scope to go Preliminary or above, even if I have yet to event, and have the movement to score in the 20’s.”
While the above may indeed, be a bit exaggerated, it is in fact, not far so. It pretty much sums up several inquiries that I have had this week on horses for sale. So let’s talk about sales, and the costs associated with horses, and the cost to sell them.
I live in an area where the above horse, really, would probably sell for 35 to 65k. Maybe a bit more, depending on the level they are competing at, and the breed. Basically, if the horse has the ability to jump, is sound, has a good heart, and decent movement, without a show record, many are asking 25k. Seems pricy huh? Until you start figuring it all out from the sellers view.
So let’s look at what goes into the price of a horse, and what it costs for a professional to bring them along.
They have to buy or breed the horse. If they buy the horse, say an OTTB, can it go to work right away? Did it require down time? What medical issues, like ulcers, had to be fixed, before the horse could go to work? If they bred the horse, there is the costs of maintaining a mare when not in foal, while in foal, and after foaling. So minimum, this is 18 months of mare care. There is the stud fee, and associated Veterinary fees. Then the foal has to be fed, and the feet need done, etc. etc. Multiply that by the age of the horse. Is the foal just a weanling? Maybe a yearling? How about the breeder who keeps the foal, starts it, and gets a small record on it. You are talking 4 years minimal. Of feed, care, vet, showing, training, etc. etc. etc. What has it cost you for a year for the horse that you just had?
Or then the OTTB. Many need a down time, 3 months minimum. Usually a month of Ulcer Guard to fix the ulcers that most come off the track with. Then there is the farrier, correcting the shoes to non-racing condition. Most come off needing HUGE amounts of feed. There is the training, feed, and vets, the cost of showing the horse to get that little record so many buyers require.
It is easy to spend 5k getting a mare in foal. A good sire starts at $1500 for fresh semen, you can pay double that for frozen on a good sire. Then there are the vet costs. Believe me when I say, I paid $3500 to the vet for one mare. (I was uninitiated). Then the costs of the mare care pre-, during, post-foaling. Say another $200 a month. You have another $3600 from insemination, to weaning. If you are lucky, you got the mare back in foal quick. If not….multiply multiply multiply.
There are the losses. Often horses don’t work out and won’t meet the criteria to be sold. I have given many horses away, horses that just weren’t going to work out as something representing MMC. I lose money on those horses. We weed them out, so the buyer can buy something with as little risk as possible.
All of those expenses are easy to see. RIGHT. Easy. But what about the costs that are not as easy to see. So let’s discuss those. You know that bright green pasture, with the beautiful white rail fence you saw the mare frolicking in? Did you know the costs to keep it that way? Boards snap all on a regular basis. The costs per acre to weed/fertilize would surprise you. Dragging the pasture to keep the worms down, pests down takes fuel. Cutting the grass, to keep it appealing for the horses to eat, and appealing for the consumer to look at…fuel, maintenance of farm equipment, purchase of said equipment. TIME. Bringing the foal/mare in for feeding, time, labor.
The barn: shavings, electric, labor to keep it clean, boards that they kick and break, repairs repairs repairs. Even the water hose usually gets replaced every few months which adds to the tally.
Then there is the time commitment, and energy expanded on this horse. I don’t show a horse that looks like crap. They have to be kept clean, labor, they have to have baths, shampoos, towels that need washed. Clipper blades. Show Sheen. And that list can go on and on and on.
Then there is training. Many breeding operations do not have a live in trainer, and thereby have to hire a trainer. They don’t get a break. They pay the same that you would for a trainer. Or in the case that the seller is also the trainer, again, time. TIME. A very valuable commodity. Trainers don’t have much of it.
Want a show record. There is that can of worms. You must go to shows. Entry fees are not cheap. The trailer, the truck, a groom. Stalls. Shavings at shows. It all adds up.
Soundness. OH to have a perfectly sound horse. I can’t tell you how many times you go to get a horse, have a vet come do x-rays, and they see a slight roughening, that has been there for years, never caused a day of lameness, and after everything, the buyer offers half, and walks away angry when we can’t accept it.
So we covered the costs of the horse. BUT, often something is forgotten….the pro. THAT is his job. So at the end of the day, he can, are you ready for this? Go home, eat, lay down in his bed, provided he has one, turn on his lights, that are part of his electrical service, watch a bit of cable TV and have a beer. Send his kids off to school the next day with lunch money, in shoes that don’t have holes, and make his car payment. Because like all people, the pro has that to pay too and those costs are part of why horses are priced as they are.
When you are figuring out a budget on a horse, realize, we all would like to have a perfect horse, for 10k, and go our merry way.
So that 25k that the pro is asking for the horse that they bred, trained, raised, and developed a show record on….more than likely, they are making nothing for it, and just trying to pay some bills, survive to do this another year, and make you happy. So next time you see a PRO, remember, they too have a house payment, car payment, kids who need things, and an electric bill to pay. And they would REALLY enjoy sitting down and eating if there are a few dollars left.
Happy Horse Hunting!!!