Thursday, June 13, 2013

Doing the Math

If you follow the COTH forums long enough, you'll see multiple threads about horse budgeting - and in every single thread, at least one person says that he/she never actually looks at how much it costs to keep a horse.

I don't understand that attitude at all. When I first got Tristan, I was making just under $20,000 a year. I knew where every single penny went - most of them into him. I am doing better now, but I work in nonprofits. I'll never make so much that I don't know how much I spend on him.

With that in mind, here is the end result on a project I've had in my head for a little while: start to finish, how much Tristan's coffin bone chip cost. The period in question is June 8, 2012 through May 16, 2013, when he got his fancy glue-on shoes. I've broken it down by categories:

Veterinary Care - vet calls and treatment (hands on care)
Farrier Care - shoeing, which he would not have had had he not gone off
Diagnostics - x-rays, mostly
Medications - bute, antibiotics, sedatives, specific supplements
Supplies - epsom salt, vet wrap, duct tape, and the like

I could also do a category called opportunity costs - for the scratched Valinor and King Oak entries, for the 7-8 lessons I pre-paid and left behind when I moved to Vermont, and I'm sure for other things if I thought about it. Easily around $500 or so.


  • Veterinary Care - $2,037.59
  • Farrier Care - $990
  • Diagnostics - $1,070.75
  • Medications - $1,313.70
  • Supplies - $688.05
Total: $6,100.08

Some of my separations were silly; I split the surgery up several ways (vet care, board, diagnostics, medication) when the two days of hospital care, surgery, and drugs cost $2,189.20, which is DIRT CHEAP if you ask me. I am also certain that I missed a few epsom salt and duct tape purchases in reviewing my budget numbers, so that category may be off by $50 or so.

The medications column ended up being the longest, and it was mostly sedatives for his farrier issues. The big ticket items under supplies were his EasyBoots, the two regular sizes and then the third larger size he had to get at the vet clinic. The diagnostics were entirely x-rays, four different sets of them and the one radiologist consult.

Out of all the vet visits, if you look at each visit as a cohesive cost unit, the surgery cost the most, obviously, but after that it was that first visit, the one on June 8 for the first abscess diagnosis that was the most costly. (In more ways than one, since that was the one that sent us down the wrong track!)

In conclusion, this seems astoundingly low to me. In my head it was closer to $10k. Paying for it has still emptied three savings accounts (Tristan's, my farm down payment, and my tax return) and put a serious dent in my emergency fund. Still, it's a testament to those early days living on noodles and sleeping in all my winter gear on the couch in front of the wood stove because I couldn't afford to turn the heat up that I was able to cover it all and that I could pursue the problem to its final solution.


  1. It's foolish to not know how much we spend on our horses! I think it's a great idea to track (more or less) what we spend on our horses. We budget for everything else in our lives (mortgage, car payments, etc.), why wouldn't we do the same for this part of our lives as well?

    In 2012, I decided to track EVERY SINGLE PENNY that I spent for an entire year. I had a pretty good estimate (I ended up being $3,000 short of my original guess), but knowing exactly how much I spend was an eye opener. Each month I wrote a blog post and published a financial spread sheet. At year's end, I did an overall total.

    By 2013, I was tired of keeping such meticulous track, but I still have a pretty good idea of where I am. Here's the link to those posts if you're interested in what it can cost to own and show two horses in California:

    1. I think the people who answer that they don't know are the type of people who don't budget generally in their life. Either they have the income that supports that, or they live much more dangerously than I would be comfortable with.

      I'm still amazed at this number - which was for the diagnosis and treatment of one injury in one 12 month span. Had I pursued it in a higher-cost area - or more aggressively - it could have been double or triple that much easily.

      Thank you for the link - those are utterly fascinating! I am a bit of a finance & budget geek, and it's always really interesting to see how others compare.


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