Discussion: The Cost of Horses

The United Kingdom’s National Equine Welfare Council has released worrying results from their latest cost of living survey. But how’s the USA and the rest of the world doing? Sound off in the comments!

Elevated inflation and interest rates continue to weigh on the economy. Now, I’m not even remotely savvy on this subject; my interest in economics and politics began and ended when Ann Romney was interviewed about her dressage horses, but I certainly notice when normal day-to-day expenses increase. And as equestrians, we have not only ourselves to worry about, but also one or more 1200-pound family members to feed and care for. And lately, things are starting to get a bit painful.

In the UK, over 6,000 horse owners from across England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland filled out a survey on the impact of the cost of living crisis on their horsekeeping with 38% of respondents reporting that cost increases have had a ‘medium impact’ on their ability to provide basic care to their horses and that they have had to make additional sacrifices to meet their horse’s basic care needs.

The top two services where owners reported increases in charges were veterinary services (80%) and farrier services (65%), with many owners noting they’ve already made changes to save money.

One respondent commented, “Horse is not right, loss of performance at end of eventing season. I would normally get vet to do full work up but choose to turn out until spring & see what he’s like then.”

Many respondents noted, though, that they weren’t willing to reduce veterinary and farrier costs.

“I won’t compromise on his care — would rather go without myself than not have him up to date with everything he needs.”

However, 40% of owners had already or were considering changing to cheaper feeds or brands; 35% had already implemented or were considering using less bedding; 37% had already changed or were considering changing the type of bedding they used (e.g., shavings to straw); and 38% had already increased or were considering increasing the amount of time their horse was turned out.

Looking toward the future, just over 80% of respondents were concerned (66% slightly concerned, 15% extremely concerned) about the continued pressure of increased costs. The majority (68%) of owners think it will be harder to care for either themselves or their horses over the next year.

A respondent said, “I have less money than ever, I didn’t know I wouldn’t be able to work when I got my horse, now I’m going without food/heating/diesel to provide for him. I have a life limiting illness which has brought on pretty severe mental health problems, as well as dire financial stresses, if I didn’t have him, I’d have no reason to live but I can’t afford him.”

But most respondents would not consider selling their horse as an option, with upwards of 50% acknowledging that their horse greatly affects their mental health.

One person’s survey, though, noted that they’re seeing an increase in stress among their fellow equestrians. They state, “I’ve noticed the mental health of fellow liveries has severely declined, wondering how they’re going to afford their horses that are supposed to help relieve them from stress in the first place.”

On the business end of things, a striking 60% of owners had already reduced or stopped attending lessons, clinics, and events, with a further 30% considering doing so. Declines in equestrian memberships were also noted.

One respondent said, “Don’t have lessons or go to competitions at the moment because I can’t afford these ‘luxuries’.’”

So, Horse Nation, how have you been affected? Let us know in the comments and on social media.

Go riding.

Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian, and wanna be race car driver. Follow her on Instagram @amanda_uechi_ronan.