What Does a ‘Free’ Horse Cost? Part 1

Here’s what you need to know before acquiring a free (or nearly free) horse.

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What Does a Free Horse Cost? Part 1
The key to being a successful horse owner is to choose an appropriate horse for your goals. | Photo: iStock

Here’s what you need to know before accepting a free (or nearly free) horse.

It sounds like a little girl’s dream come true, all smiles and eyes twinkling: Here, have a free horse. These scenarios do exist, and you might be tempted to say, “Yes, please! Give me all the free horses!” But first, know that a free animal might end up costing you much more than you ever imagined. 

You can find horses that are free, or close to it, in a variety of places. Some people look online, on classified sites or Craigslist, while others wander auction grounds. Some adopt from a nonprofit organization or rescue, while still others network with trainers to find retiring racehorses in need of second careers. Or they might end up meeting owners facing life-changing situations (e.g., divorces, moves, job losses, deaths in the family, etc.) who have to give their horses away.

But no matter how good the deal seems, the truth is you’d be remiss not looking a literal “gift horse” in the mouth. We talked to two veterinarians and a rescue operator to learn about the true cost and care of a free horse

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Written by:

Sarah Evers Conrad has a bachelor’s of arts in journalism and equine science from Western Kentucky University. As a lifelong horse lover and equestrian, Conrad started her career at The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care magazine. She has also worked for the United States Equestrian Federation as the managing editor of Equestrian magazine and director of e-communications and served as content manager/travel writer for a Caribbean travel agency. When she isn’t freelancing, Conrad spends her free time enjoying her family, reading, practicing photography, traveling, crocheting, and being around animals in her Lexington, Kentucky, home.

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