SOUTH DAKOTA HORSE
There is a common perception that owning a horse in South Dakota is expensive, and unrealistic for most. It is also seen as almost logistically impossible if a potential horse owner lives in cities and towns that don’t have easy access to a barn, riding space, or if the owner just doesn’t have time for daily care of the horse. So, what do city slickers like me do if we want to own a horse but face financial and logistical obstacles?
Let’s start with the purchase of your horse. The amount of prior training and a horse’s demeanor will definitely affect the purchase price. Assuming you’re like me, having limited experience riding, you’re going to want a well-trained, patient and calm horse.
The American Quarter Horse is likely the most common horse in South Dakota. These horses are intelligent, calm, sturdy, easily trained and a good horse for all riding levels. But, as with everything, it depends on the individual personalities of both the rider and the horse, so make sure you know all you can about the horse you’re considering.
How to pick the best horse for you?
Let’s assume you want to have a horse that you ride occasionally to a few days per week at most. The rest of the time, your horse will spend its days in a pasture. If you're riding experience is limited, you probably want to get an older horse that is already "dead broke" and doesn't buck. Be sure to take an experienced horse owner with you to look at any horse. Most importantly, never buy a horse without seeing it in person, and keep in mind that you do not have to purchase the first horse you see.
How much to spend on your first horse.
You can usually find a really good horse for $1500 to $2500. South Dakota has many quality horses for sale on various sites. One of the goals of South Dakota Horse is to centralize horse buying and selling through a classifieds page. We’re not there yet, but right now you can advertise your horse in our forum!
An alternative to purchasing a horse through traditional personal sales, is to reach out to our state’s fine horse rescues and adoption nonprofits. Give a second chance to a really good horse that has been rescued from extreme and unfortunate circumstances. Adoptions cost around $450, but there are limitations and requirements for these programs. Transportation cost may be separate.
Buyers should definitely bring along an experienced horse owner to look at these horses. And be sure to ask many questions. See our list of adoption programs in South Dakota.
What to be cautious of.
Always buy from someone with a good reputation of selling quality, healthy horses. Ask for references from the seller or a local horse owner. Ask questions about the horse’s medical history. Remember that horses can be dangerous, and they should definitely be handled by an experienced trainer before you ride them.
Boarding options and food costs:
As is with most things, cost of boarding your horse may vary depending on your network of friends. Basic pasture boarding can cost around $100 to $200. Be sure to check out our list of boarding options. Check the boarding stable’s website for all options.
If you're going to keep your horse on land of your own, or of a friend or family member, be sure to keep your horse in a fenced in area. A good rule of thumb is an acre of land per horse. If you have good grassland you can save hay expenses in the summer because horses will be fed on pasture grass. This is actually good for them because there are nutrients they will get from fresh grass as opposed to dry hay. Older horses may require grain supplements like Triple Crown Senior to help keep weight on and give them additional nutrients that their bodies may not be absorbing naturally. Between feed and hay, you could see costs around $100 per month for food, salts, etc. We are still building this list, but see our hay suppliers list.
Gear for Riding:
A helmet is the most important item for horseback riding. As for the rest of your attire, long pants (jeans or Jodhpurs) and boots (cowboy or English) are recommended. At the very least, closed-toed shoes are the next best thing if boots are out of the question. Cost varies depending on the type and quality of gear you purchase. An average cost per helmet is around $50 and boots average around $50 as well. We are still building our list of apparel retailers, but here is our retailers page.
Routine annual shots are a must for the health of the horse; add in annual teeth floats, and sheath cleanings for males, hoof care from a farrier every 6 to 8 weeks. Shoeing your horse is only necessary if you intend to ride on roads or hard ground. Deworming is also required about every 6 months, but that can be done on your own by purchasing dewormer from a local farm supply store. Search our vendor directory for a list of veterinarian clinics, farriers, and supply stores. On average, you can expect to spend an average of $800 to $1000 per year on vet and farrier costs, given your stays healthy.
Also, if keeping the horse on your land, you will need one stall per horse or at least an outdoor shelter (one for about every 6 horses) in case of inclement weather.
Where to ride:
There are many places to ride your horse if you live in the city limits of any South Dakota town. Here is our list of riding opportunities. If you need to transport your horse to places to ride, there are often times horse owners with open spaces in trailers willing to allow your horse to hitch a ride, possibly for free. Otherwise, contact us or reach out in our forum for a ride. You can also join one of the Facebook groups listed on our equine associations page to post your request.
So, is owning a horse in South Dakota expensive? Startup costs can be as low as around $600 and then around $200 to $300 per month, equaling a car payment. But don’t just look at the cost. Ask just about any horse owner and they will tell you that the bond you form with your horse and the experiences you will have are worth every penny.
In the future, we will explore other options to purchasing a horse. Stay tuned...
A special thanks goes out to my friend, Jocelyn Doan, program coordinator at HorsePower in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for her input and guidance in writing this article.