Question of the Week: How to Become a Horse Owner

Looking for an affordable way to enter the world of horse ownership? Here's what you need to know.


Q: I have ridden a few times and have developed a true love for horses. Now I’m contemplating taking the next step: buying a cheap horse so I can train and care for it myself. I realize it’s a major decision, but it is something I would really like to do. I’d like some advice on the easiest and least expensive ways to become a horse owner.

A: Welcome to the world of horses! It’s a wonderful lifestyle where you’ll meet plenty of like-minded folks. Yet those of us who struggle to provide the best care possible for our equine family members become concerned whenever someone asks for cost-cutting tips on buying and maintaining a horse.

Woman with horses

To put it bluntly, horse ownership is not something to consider if you’re already pinching pennies. While it’s true that cheap horses are readily available in this economy, feed, farrier and vet bills cost just as much as those for a more expensive horse. In other words, it’s not the purchase price you need to worry about; it’s the everyday maintenance fees.

So rather than buying your own horse at this point, I’d encourage you to continue your introduction to riding. Since you’ve ridden only a few times, you’ve got plenty to learn about basic horsemanship. There are several major riding disciplines as well as dozens of breed associations, each with their own set of ideals and long range competitive goals. You have so much to explore and appreciate! The kind of horse you ride—in fact the type of saddle you sit in—may change in another year or so as you discover new yearnings.

While you continue in your riding lessons, ask your instructor to give you pointers on basic horse care and grooming. Combine earning money for lessons with advancing your knowledge by offering to muck stalls, bathe school horses and clean tack. At some point, try leasing a horse (lesson horses are often available for lease at large riding schools) just to get a true feel for what it’s like to be responsible for a horse’s welfare.

All of this preparation will help you decide when—and if—the time is right for you to buy your own horse. In the meantime you’ll ride a lot of wonderful horses and make a whole bunch of barn buddies.


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Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.


  1. If you’re just starting riding, I wouldn’t recommend buying a horse at all, let alone a greenie. If you really had your heart set on a horse, but an older, more experienced horse first. Being overhorsed is never fun.
    Good luck in this wonderful world of horses!

  2. Good for you for falling in love with horses, but I agree, they are not cheap to keep. Like the article mentioned, lease a trained horse, and see if you are willing to work to pay for up keep, as well as the enjoyment. Because you will never have “just one”, sort of like potatoe chips.

  3. I completly agree! there is a lot of cheap horses out there. I myself am a recent horse owner and i learn something new everyday! try leasing and continue riding. GOOD LUCK!

  4. Congratulations on one of the best loves of all HORSES. When I first started thinking about buying a horse I wasn’t sure if I could handle it so I pestered my cousin who is a dealer to let me borrow one of his horses for awhile. I kept him for 6 months before he found a new home but I taught me some very important lessons. The biggest one was to hang on. It worked out great for the dealer he didn’t have to feed his horse for 6 months and I got a lesson on riding.

  5. I agree with the writer of the answer. Horses are amazing creatures, and although you may think you have learned enough to have your own-sorry, but- you probably havent. I’ve been taking lessons for several months, and just last week-my horse reared. Granted, it wasnt huge, but it still scared me. And trying to train your own horse when you’ve only had 3-4 times of riding experinece-it’s just not enough. Iv’e gone riding 15+ times in my life and would NEVER try to train a horse right now. Maybe after i’ve gone riding 50+ times-or more! So, maybe consider leasing a horse with an option to buy! Take lessons, and you don’t have to go once a week! the more intense the lessons, the sooner you can get your own horse! I realize they can be expensive (the lessons) but im taking lessons for 20$ for a whole hour-and i can choose group or seperate! So you can find cheap lessons. Your new horse (eventually) will thank you.


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