Many people have asked me "How much should I expect to pay for a horse?". It is impossible to give a hard answer to this question, but I think exploring the cost involved in producing and caring for a horse from breeding to 3 years old is a good way to determine a realistic starting point. The figures below represent only "hard dollar" amounts and do not consider many uncompensated hours of handling the foal during the first 3 years of its life to give it a good start in its early education which always translates (good or bad) to its under saddle training. Nor does it cost any less to properly care for a horse of low quality than it takes to raise a horse of outstanding quality. Both deserve the best from us humans who are responsible for bringing them into this world:
conception to delivery-(median costs; semen can range from $650-$5000 per dose)
cost of semen (assuming mare takes on first dose) $850.00
cost of insemination (assuming mare takes on first dose) $500.00
cost of mare care for 1 year (at $375.00/month on breeders farm) $4500.00
TOTAL TO LIVE FOAL $5850.00
weaning to 1 year old ($375.00/month on breeder's farm) $2250.00
TOTAL TO RAISE TO 1 YEAR OLD $8100.00
So, let's pause here for a moment. If you buy a yearling, on its birthday, the breeder will have invested AT LEAST $8100,00 to that point. That means, if they sell the foal for $10,000.00, That is only $1900.00 profit for the entire year. That is an income of $158.33 per month. And doesn't account for their time.
If you pay less than $8100.00, that breeder has lost money.
Let's say the breeder keeps the foal for another year. (and it doesn't receive any injuries or illnesses) Now the baby is 2 years old, and let's say that the cost to keep the youngster doesn't go up. So another year of $375.00 per month on the breeder's farm. they now have an investment in this young horse of $12,600.00. And the baby is still too young to be started, so there is no significant value added. BUT, to even get that measly $158.33 per month profit margin, they would then have to sell the 2 year old for $15,444.00.
So, then the breeder invests another year of no significant value added, and the baby is ready to start on its 3rd birthday. If the breeder were to sell the horse before starting, and assuming cost of care has not changed in 3 years, they would have $17,100.00 invested in the young horse. So, carrying forward that $158.33 per month benchmark, they would have to sell the young horse for $21,849.90.
If you buy an unstarted 3 year old horse of ANY quality, good, bad or ugly, for less than $21,000.00, SOMEONE lost money. If you pay less than that, you can expect that the horse has either been injured, has some health, temperament, or quality issue, and the owner has given up the possibility of profit, or even "breaking even", and is willing to negotiate the loss of income.
If they put 6 months of training into the horse (which will barely get it started!), that means another approximately $7200.00 has been invested in the horse. And maybe (hopefully!) they will have invested in a couple of competitions to get the horse acclimated to its professional life, so add another $2000.00.
So, you can see that it costs approximately $26,300.00 to provide care and training to a young horses life to get it raised, backed and introduced to competition.
So, for a 3 1/2 year old horse, you should expect to pay between $30-35,000.00 MINIMUM. And once this horse has proven him-or herself in the competition arena, you can expect the price to increase exponentially. By the time they are competing at 3rd level (usually by their 5th year), expect to pay in the $50-75,000.00 range, and that is for an American-bred horse of fairly good quality and gaits and a good temperament. Those who show the scope, phycial ability, and temperament for international competition can be well over $100,000.00.
All the other aspects of pricing horses are abstract, and therefore impossible to assess in any quantifiable way. This is the definition of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. There is always the cost of training, and feed, vet, farrier, dentistry, competitions, etc. along the way which are fairly quantifiable, but "profit" becomes less and less achievable the older and more trained a horse becomes.
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