Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Horsing Around in a Recession

This article about the costs of horses is strangely fascinating, even to someone like myself who has never been on a horse. MSU Economist Tim Fitzgerald has a cool topic on his hands. Here's an excerpt:

The cost of maintaining one horse in Montana is typically $700 a year when owners have large acreages, $1,060 a year on small acreages and $1,575 a year when a horse is stabled, Fitzgerald said. That includes feed, veterinary costs and services. Add in fixed costs, rent and monthly boarding costs, and the cost rises to $1,900 per horse per year for large acreages, $2,260 a year for small acreages and $2,775 a year for stabled horses.
According to Yahoo Answers, $1000 to $3000 will buy a basic horse who is seven to 15 years old. For the average horse (which lives to 25 to 30 years old), the maintenance costs discussed in the article represent a great majority of the costs of horse ownership.

This division of costs runs counter to what I have always thought. Before I read the article, I would have expected a procurement cost of approximately $10,000 to $20,000, and I had not thought about maintenance costs.

Maybe I should have known better. My closest real life experience to owning a horse was owning a dog. The cost of owning a dog, like owning a horse, is mostly maintenance costs -- though owning a horse is a lot more costly and involves a lot more responsibility than owning a dog.

During a recession, horse maintenance costs can really hurt. Just think of what you would do with $2500. I think the article does an interesting job of describing where these costs come in and who they affect. Owning a horse isn't like owning a yacht. My impression is that rich people own yachts to show that they have money, whereas horses can actually be functional. According to Tim Fitzgerald in the article, the top four uses for horses in Montana are:
  1. Cheap transportation about a ranch (i.e., a four-legged four wheeler)
  2. Competitions like show rings and rodeos
  3. Hunting transportation
  4. Love for the Equine
One last thing that I couldn't help pointing out. According to the article, there are an estimated 130,000 to 150,000 horses in the state of Montana. That's approximately 13 to 15 percent of Montana's human population. No wonder people from Chicago think I rode to school on a horse!

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