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How Much Does a Horse Cost? Buying and Ownership Guide

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I recently met a horse owner trying to sell her proven barrel horse for $100,000. This surprised me because I know you can get registered quarter horses with good bloodlines for under 10K. The huge price gap made me wonder what the average horse cost.

The average horse, one used for pleasure riding and local events, costs between $4,000 and $8,000. However, performance horses with exceptional skills and proven performance can sell between $80,000 and $90,000. Prices also vary depending on the horses’ age, pedigree, and breed.

The following table lists the average prices of horses by breed.

TypeAvg. CostComments
Quarterhorse$5k – $7kIdeal for beginners and short-distance racing
Thoroughbred$70k – $80kBest known as a racehorse but suitable for many competitive disciplines
Arabian$10k – $20kStriking breed valued in endurance racing
Pleasure Riding$3kSuitable for trail riding and general equine activities
Grade$4kUnregistered and can vary a lot in conformation and personality
Friesian$15k – $20kAn exotic breed with a short lifespan and friendly disposition
Barrel$25k – $30kHas to have the right combination of conformation and training
Dressage$50k – $60kAn expensive horse that requires excellent balance and schooling
Draft horse$3kMuscular and often tall horses fit for general horse riding and pulling.
Picture of a thoroughbred stallion.

How much does a horse cost?

When it comes to horse ownership, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “How much does a horse cost?” The price of a horse can vary depending on a number of factors, including the horse’s age, breed, and training.

For example, a young horse that has not been broke to ride will typically cost less than a mature horse that is already broken and trained. Similarly, a grade horse will usually be less expensive than a purebred horse.

There are many horse breeds in the world, each with its own unique history and set of characteristics. Perhaps the most popular horse breed is the Quarter horse, which is known for its speed, agility, and versatility.

They were originally bred in the American colonies for racing and working on farms. Today, they are often used in rodeos and horse shows. Well-bred and trained quarter horses typically cost between $5000 and $7,000.

Another popular horse breed is the Arabian, which is one of the most popular in the world, and for good reason. Not only are they incredibly beautiful, but they’re also intelligent and versatile, making them ideal for a wide range of activities.

But with all of this comes a high price tag. Arabians are usually one of the more expensive horse breeds, with prices ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. This isn’t surprising when you consider their pedigrees and the fact that they’re often used in horse shows and endurance racing.

Thoroughbreds are the most popular horse breed for racing. They’re known for their high level of intelligence and athleticism. However, they can also be expensive to purchase and maintain.

A top-quality thoroughbred racehorse can cost upwards of $100,000. If you’re looking to buy a thoroughbred racehorse, it’s important to do your research and work with a reputable breeder.

By doing so, you can ensure that you’re getting a healthy horse that has the potential to be a successful racer. That said, there are also less expensive horse breeds that are suitable for racing.

Ultimately, the best way to determine the cost of a horse is to consult with a reputable breeder or go to horse auctions. I’ve found some really good deals on horses this way, plus it will give you an estimate on how much the specific horse you’re interested in sells for.

In addition, when considering how much a horse costs, you need to consider how much it takes to keep a horse, such as the cost of food, hay, bedding, horseshoes, saddle, and other horse supplies.

Horse owners must also be prepared to pay for occasional vet bills. The bottom line is that owning a horse is a significant financial investment. However, for many horse enthusiasts, the rewards far outweigh the costs.

Picture of yearling colts in a pasture.
Horses for sale

Factors that affect the cost of a horse:

Horses are not cheap animals to buy or keep and should be researched thoroughly before you buy one. For example, the breed may not matter as much to some people, but other factors, such as its training or temperament, could make all the difference in how much you will pay for the horse.

Many people think you have to spend a lot to buy a horse, but this is not always true. In fact, there’s a market for reasonably priced horses. Some factors impact the price of horses more than others- so let’s look below at what goes into the pricing, so you get an idea of how much a horse costs.

Age

Young horses in their prime are typically more expensive than senior horses. However, a 2nd level dressage horse in its prime won’t sell as well as a well-bred three-year-old dressage horse because the latter has better training and earning potential.

The prime age of a horse is between 5 and 15 years. Elite jump horses are usually between 6 and 10 years old. As horses enter their late teens, their physical prowess decreases. However, if their lifestyle has been active and healthy, a 20-year-old horse can be a nice riding horse, and some are still competitive at this age.

On the other hand, racehorses typically race when they are still young and often are retired by six or seven years old. There are many reasons for this, such as the prevalence of injuries. To learn more about why racehorses are so young, click on the link to read an in-depth article on the topic.

In the picture above is a yearling quarter horse heading to the auction ring, its body language suggests it’s not looking forward to action inside, but it likely still sold for a good price.

If you find yourself at an auction in search of your next horse, it’s important that research be done ahead of time. Each year across the country, there are horse auctions; if you do your research ahead of time, you can find good deals.

Training

Training or breaking a horse also plays a part in its price. It will be more expensive if a horse is trained for a formal discipline like dressage or polo. In my experience, owners will often raise the price when a well-recognized instructor has trained the horse.

We trained a few successful barrel horses and soon had people offering us top-dollar for young prospects in training. I can’t imagine how much a trainer of a winning NFR barrel horse can demand for their young barrel prospects.

Picture of a thoroughbred (hot blood)

Bloodline (pedigree)

Recently we bought two yearlings, both with good pedigrees. However, the first was from a mare that won close to $200,000, and the second was from an unraced mare. We paid much more for the first one because of its breeding; however, there is really no surefire way to tell which will turn out to be the better horse.

However, horse breeding is a big business, and the price of a horse is affected by its pedigree. A horse’s pedigree is a record of its ancestors and can provide valuable information about the horse’s potential.

A horse with a pedigree that includes champions is likely to be more expensive than one without any titles in its ancestry. Pedigrees can also provide information about a horse’s health, temperament, and conformation.

As a result, they can be used to predict a horse’s future performance and potential value. For all of these reasons, a horse’s pedigree can have a significant impact on its price.

Experience and competitive record

When it comes to horses, their price tag is often determined by their competitive record. A horse with a successful career is going to cost more than one that hasn’t had much success.

There are a few reasons for this. First, horses with a winning record are generally more sought after by breeders and trainers. This means that there is more demand for them, and thus they can command a higher price.

Second, horses with a winning record are often seen as being more likely to produce offspring that are also successful on the track. This makes them especially valuable to breeders who are looking to produce the next generation of champion horses.

Finally, horses with a proven track record are more likely to be a winning investment than horses with no competitive record and are riskier bets, so they tend to cost less.

Picture of yearling colts in a pasture.
Yearlings for sale

Health

It’s vital to assess the health of a horse before buying it. Horses with health difficulties or even past surgeries can sell for a much lower price, depending on the condition.

You can find great deals if you know what to look for. I once bought a well-bred mare cheap because it favored its foot, and the owner didn’t want to spend time on rehabbing, so she practically gave me her horse.

Right away, I noticed she had an abscess, so I treated her foot, and after a few weeks, she recovered fully and successfully returned to competition.

Conformation and Temperament

Horse conformation affects horse costs for a variety of reasons. First, horse conformation can affect the horse’s musculature, which in turn can affect the horse’s ability to perform certain tasks or sports.

For example, a horse with good conformation for racing will typically be worth more than one with poor conformation because they are less likely to break down. An example of undesirable confirmation is long pasterns or turned-out feet.

Second, horse conformation can affect the horse’s symmetry and balance, which can impact the horse’s health and well-being. Horses with good conformation are less likely to experience health problems, so they typically command higher prices.

Third, horse conformation can influence the horse’s appearance, which can make the horse more or less desirable to potential buyers. A horse with good conformation is often considered more aesthetically pleasing than a horse with poor conformation and, as such, is often worth more money. Ultimately, horse conformation is an important factor affecting a horse’s price.

Picture of a quarter horse.

The average price of a Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse is a popular and versatile horse breed. It’s well-suited for many western riding events and is often the first preference for everyday riding activities.

The average price of a quarter horse is $5,000 – $7,000. Some ranch horses may be as low as $2,000, while elite horses can be higher than $50,000.

On average, stallions registered to the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) with a good pedigree cost at least $15,000 – $20,000. However, stallions with a good track record and training can sell for up to $100,000.

Quarter Horse mares sell for $4,000 – $6,000 on average. Older mares are less expensive, while younger mares with good earnings can sell for more than $30,000.

Quarter Horse foals (less than one year old) sell for $3,000 – $5,000 on average. Colts with a good pedigree are more expensive. Besides that, if a colt isn’t gelded, you may expect it to be cheaper.

The Quarter Horse is remarkably versatile and can be trained for Western pleasure, ranch riding, halter classes, working cow horse, and many English disciplines. So if you know what you are looking for, it’s pretty easy to find the perfect Quarter Horse.

Picture of a dapple gray girl horse

The average price of a Thoroughbred Racehorse

Thoroughbreds are renowned for being graceful and spirited racehorses. They’re hot-blooded, sensitive, and comprise a vast price range.

The cost of racehorses varies greatly depending on their pedigree and conformation. The median sales price for a two-year-old thoroughbred in training is $94,247, with an average starting bid at just over $76k. The highest price paid for a two-year-old colt was for the Green Monkey, a descendant of Secretariat and Northern Dancer, who sold for $16 million in 2006.

Yearlings start out cheaper, though; the median asking price stands at only 84 thousand dollars per animal – that’s not including breeding fees either. A superior pedigree also guarantees a premium stud fee. For example, Northern Dancer, a Thoroughbred sire, earned his owners $160 million over 22 years, thanks to his 174 offspring.”

The price mainly depends on the pedigree and conformation of the horse. A superior pedigree also guarantees a premium stud fee. For example, Northern Dancer, a Thoroughbred sire, earned his owners $160 million over 22 years thanks to his 174 offspring.

The average price for a registered Thoroughbred stallion is around $100,000. That’s just the average, though, and the reason it’s high is that most elite horses in North America are Thoroughbreds.

It’s pretty normal for Thoroughbred stallions to sell over $200,000 at the Keeneland Sales. In contrast, I’ve personally known owners willing to sell some great mounts for less than $10,000.

The 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Thoroughbred Fusaichi Pegasus was the most expensive horse ever sold. He was sold to an Irish stud for more than $70,000,000.

On average, a Thoroughbred mare sells for $60,000 – $70,000. Broodmares tend to be cheaper than stallions as they have an 11-month gestation period and, thus, a lower earning potential. Many owners also consider male horses physically superior to females. I discuss the difference between male and female racehorses in a previous article.

Thoroughbreds are the most expensive horse breed, and paying too much for an ordinary one happens way too often. You can check out this article to learn how to get the best price for a racehorse and the cost involved.

Picture of a white Arabian horse

The average price of an Arabian horse

Arabian horses are some of the oldest and more exotic horse breeds out there. Their alert and energetic temperaments demand their riders’ respect. They are generally highly athletic and are an excellent breed for endurance riding.

The average cost of an Arabian horse is around $10,000 – $20,000. However, it’s common to buy unregistered Arabian horses for less than $1,000, depending on the bloodline, training, and gender.

Elite show horses and sires can easily cost up to $150,000 and higher. The most expensive Arabian stallion, Marwan Al Shaqab, sold for over $20 million.

Arabian broodmares may sell for $25,000 or higher. An Arabian foal with a winning pedigree will usually be more expensive than an unregistered member in its prime. But foals bought as pets or for recreational purposes are available for less than $10,000.

The Arabian horses are a highly intelligent and playful breed and often have exceptional pedigrees reaching back several generations.

Though their hot-blooded nature may appeal to experienced riders, I wouldn’t recommend them for beginners because they can easily recognize abusive or rough practices and become nervous.

People riding horses on the beach.

Riding horse: average price

There are over nine million horses in America, and most of them are used for general riding practices or kept as pets. If that’s all you have in mind, then an ordinary horse with a good disposition is perfect.

The average price for a riding horse is $3,000. Horses used for recreation or everyday purposes are commonly available for $500 – $1,000. Cheap horse breeds include the Quarter Horse, Paint Horse, and Mustang.

If you want to purchase a registered horse with above-average conformation but without an extraordinary track record or pedigree, your budget should be $10,000.

One potential drawback of green horses is that you have to spend a lot of effort to train them for an equestrian sport like show jumping, and professional trainers can charge hefty fees. Without a notable pedigree, you also won’t make as many bucks breeding your stallion or mare.

If pleasure riding is your priority, the horse’s breed or pedigree doesn’t particularly matter. If the horse’s temperament sits well with you, you should buy it. However, if you are a beginner, don’t go for an inexperienced horse because training a horse can be complex and is best done by experienced riders.

Geldings are generally more docile than mares and aren’t prone to as many “mood swings.” Finally, sitting on the horse should feel comfortable – the horse’s size should match the rider’s size.

horse on the Irish plain

The average cost of a Grade horse

A grade horse is a mystery because you can’t confirm its parentage through breed registries. You may be able to see traces of a breed in a grade horse, but it’s impossible to be sure of its bloodline. With any luck, it’s an amazing prospect waiting to be discovered.

The average price of a grade horse is typically lower than comparable registered horses. Sometimes you can find a nice one for under $1,000. So you can get most grade horses for a reasonable price, and there’s no fuss involved about the value of the horse’s bloodline.

Most breed organizations don’t allow you to enter some competitions with a grade horse. But as long as the grade horse is sound and gets the job done, there’s no reason not to consider buying one.

They are also different from crossbred horses, whose intermixing bloodlines are known, and who are bred intentionally to take advantage of particular traits in the parents.

Most grade horses are hard, safe, and good riding companions. However, because you don’t know their lineage, they could have some undesirable genetic traits that aren’t obvious.

However, grade horses may not have predictable traits. It’s been shown that horses’ personalities vary between breeds. So, with a purebred or registered horse, you may be able to predict their instinctive behavior. In unfortunate cases, grade horses with “negative” traits like anxiousness or dominance can bother a beginner rider.

On the flip side, grade horses come in all sorts of colors and patterns. They can be narrow and light like the Appaloosa or enormous like a Shire horse.

When I watched my daughter compete in local barrel racing competitions, I noticed this rider would dominate with her grade horse. The fact that an unregistered horse could outperform their purebred counterparts isn’t uncommon at all because grade horses often have good genetics, even though they don’t have papers to prove it.

Friesianhorse1 edited

Cost of a Friesian horse.

The Friesian is a well-regulated Dutch horse breed. Their solid black coat, endangered status, and average lifespan of 15 years make them a rare and exotic breed.

The average price for a Friesian horse ranges from $15,000 to $20,000. Many purebred members sell for well above the $100,000 mark. Low-end Friesian horses typically sell for at least $3,000.

You can expect to pay a minimum of $40,000 for a breeding Friesian stallion. A broodmare or mare trained in show-horsing will come for around $25,000 – $50,000. Friesian foals sell for about $8,000 – $15,000.

Breed members are intelligent, friendly, and generally great to be around. They perform exceptionally well in dressage and are also popular as riding and carriage horses.

Friesian horses often require special care. They have high rates of dwarfism, their feathers need to be tended to regularly, and they mature late and age early (14 – 16 is the peak age). To learn more about the Friesian breed and how to care for them, I suggest you read an earlier article I wrote about Friesian horses.

Picture of horses

Barrel horse average price

A barrel horse is agile and has a responsive mindset to make powerful turns. The measures of athleticism in barrel racing are intelligence and training, though the physical conformation like the bone structure and joint angles are also important.

The average price for a barrel horse is $25,000 – $30,000. One of the highest-selling barrel horses was Guys Famous Girl, a two-year-old who sold for $68,000. There’s no one best breed of barrel horse. However, the Quarter Horse is the most popular choice.

You should expect a high price when buying a barrel horse because, by definition, these horses have to meet strict physical criteria and be trained rigorously.

There’s also the option of personally training your horse for barrel racing. However, you should know how to recognize a good barrel horse breed and consult a professional trainer before working your horse at barrels.

dressage.training

Dressage horse average price

While most breeds can perform in dressage, some are better than others. For instance, the Dutch Warmblood, Westphalian, and Oldenburg are some of the highest-competing dressage breeds.

The average price of a dressage horse is $50,000 – $60,000. The price depends on the age and dressage level of the horse. Upper-level horses often come for well above $100,000. And if you are careful and looking for a lower-level dressage horse, you can get one for $30,000.

Some world-class yearlings sell for around $50,000, while older horses sell for significantly more.

It’s tricky to get a dressage horse for a reasonable price. Firstly, prices are affected by the market’s supply and demand ratio, which is constantly shifting. Secondly, a horse’s cost is determined primarily by its estimated future value.

For instance, a horse past its prime and in the 2nd or 3rd dressage level will sell relatively cheap. You can start a horse in dressage training from as early as three years of age, and it usually takes four to five years of systemized schooling and conditioning to reach the Grand Prix level.

So, a seven-year-old 4th-level horse is ideal and going to cost a lot. If you want to pay less, you can look for older horses or horses with lower dressage experience.

Other factors that can affect the price of a dressage horse include the temperament, quality of each gait, rideability, and potential for breeding. If you suspect the buyer is asking for an undue sum, you should validate the price by assessing the horse’s earning potential and analyzing the comparative market rates.

Picture of an Irish Draft horse.

Workhorse (draft) average price

Draft horses (workhorses) have been around humans for thousands of years. They’re calm, patient, and powerful animals, and even today, they help us pull loads, plow, and do hard farm labor.

On average, draft horses cost about the same as riding horses. You can expect to find a suitable work horse for $1,000 – $10,000. The price rises and falls based on the horse’s experience, breed, and build.

Larger draft breeds like the Shire or Clydesdale that stand 18 – 19 hands high can cost up to $20,000. These breeds have incredible strength feats. A single Shire once pulled 29 tons!

Though draft horses aren’t frequently used to carry weights nowadays, they can make excellent companions to novice riders and are trainable in various disciplines. Pulling competitions, trail riding, dressage, carriage, and jumping are some of the activities draft horses can participate in.

Picture of a two year old in training

The cost to keep a horse.

I had a coworker purchase a striking Arabian gelding for a little more than $10k. Though the deal seemed great then, he was fairly disappointed by how much he ended up spending on extensive endurance training and grooming expenses. Generally, the upkeep dramatically exceeds the initial purchase price of a horse.

The average cost of caring for a horse is about $4,000 – $6,000 per year. However, the cost of training horses in specific equine disciplines varies significantly, and regular vet bills or emergency treatment will increase costs.

You need to pay for transportation, boarding, stable accessories, feeding equipment, sales tax, and a thorough pre-purchase veterinary exam. These are just the initial first-year costs that add up to $10,000 on average.

You will also need to set aside an annual amount for riding lessons, insurance, feed, bedding, healthcare, and miscellaneous expenses. I wrote a helpful article about the cost of keeping a horse; I suggest you read it before buying your first horse.

Below is a YouTube video that offers buying tips.