My Horse’s Vet Bill is How Much?

Understand the costs of veterinary care before you’re faced with a sick or injured horse.

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Determine your equine financial limit before you're in an emotional decision-making position. | Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt/The Horse

Understand the costs of veterinary care before you’re faced with a sick or injured horse

Over the last 20 years I have owned eight horses. Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with serious injuries or illnesses with three of them. My first horse required arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone chip from her ankle. There went $1,500. She later contracted the potentially fatal neurologic disease botulism while in foal. After maxing out my $5,000 in major medical coverage to treat that condition, I made the difficult decision to euthanize her and her unborn colt simply because I couldn’t afford to continue treating a horse that my veterinarian gave only a 20% chance of survival.

My next horse suffered from a rare bile duct blockage that caused recurring infections and damaged part of her liver. We did all we could for her, and again I used every dime of my $7,500 in major medical coverage. As happens with insurance, the pre-existing condition was excluded when it came time to renew her policy. I continued to spend my own money to treat her, but as her conditioned worsened, I knew I was spending hundreds of dollars a month just to prolong her life, and to what end? Eventually I made the difficult decision to euthanize her, as well.

Then came a talented gelding who was in training as a dressage horse. He was progressing nicely but started to become very resistant to my aids, along with showing signs of hind-end lameness. Turns out he had injured his right hind suspensory ligament. Fortunately, it was not a complete tear, so six months of stall rest and about $2,500 worth of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and shock wave treatments brought him back to soundness. Again, the major medical policy covered much of the costs

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Written by:

Stephanie Ruff received a MS in animal science from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. She has worked in various aspects of the horse industry, including Thoroughbred and Arabian racing, for nearly 20 years. More information about her work can be found at She has also published the illustrated children’s story Goats With Coats.

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