Callie King and her horse | Photo courtesy of Callie King

If you yearn for an equine pal to clippity-clop out in the fields with, you’re not alone.

There are about 4 million horses in the U.S. that are owned just for fun. And providing you’re not looking to buy the likes of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, the price on your 1,000-pound pet may set you back only a few thousand dollars.

A recreational horse could cost from $2,000 to $8,000, says horse owner and trainer Callie Rae King, owner of Honey Brook Stables in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

RATE SEARCH: Find the lowest rates on a personal loan to buy a horse.

If you’re interested in a horse suitable for dressage, hunting and jumping, the price jumps to $20,000 to $50,000, she says.

Paying for your 4-legged friend

People pay for their horses in a variety of ways. There’s good old cash, loans from parents and other family members, lease-to-own deals, whereby you rent someone’s horse and those payments go toward the purchase price, and personal loans from banks.

Banks will give you an unsecured personal loan, meaning that they won’t consider the horse as collateral. Depending on the lender, they’ll want to see credit reports, check your debt history and definitely evaluate your credit score.

Excellent credit scores are the governing factor for personal loans at LightStream.com, the online consumer lending division of SunTrust Bank. You can get up to a $100,000 loan for your hay-burner at a starting interest rate of 5.99% that can range to 10.29% for a 2- to 7-year term, says LightStream business development officer Todd Nelson.

A horse loan, and not just for the horse

The average horse loan is about $20,000, he says, and the money also can be used for all-things equine, such as a trailer.

But Nelson acknowledges what horse people will tell you anyway. Personal bank loans for horses aren’t common. In fact, attorney Julie Fershtman, a lawyer in Foster Swift Collins & Smith in Farmington Hills, Michigan, whose specialties include equine law, says she doesn’t know of any horse owner who has taken a personal loan from a bank nor does she know of any lenders who offer such loans.

She figures banks would have reservations about horse loans because the animals tend to depreciate in value. Liens by people who provide boarding or care for the horse, called stablemen’s liens, could take priority over a lender’s lien, and there are costs involved with foreclosure on an unpaid loan.

Horse loans a niche product

At LightStream, equine personal loans are a “niche product,” Nelson says. While he declined to discuss default rates, he says they are manageable.

Further, as HorseChannel.com puts it, “The initial purchase price is often a drop in the bucket compared to the everyday costs of caring for a horse.”

And, King says, that is why personal loans aren’t common. They scare people.

“The concern is that bank loans will be too complicated and interest rates too high,” King says. “People I know who are buying horses do it as a hobby, and there are expenses to keeping a horse.

“And horses can get hurt, so then you’ve got those maintenance or vet expenses and a bank loan to worry about,” King says.

What kind of additional costs would you have besides a personal loan for the animal?

Loan costs are only a small part of expenses

HorseChannel.com lists boarding, vaccinations, Coggins test (a blood test that checks for Equine Infectious Anemia and is especially pertinent if the horse is taken across state lines), dental, deworming, farrier (the people who fit a horse’s hooves with horseshoes), other vet expenses, hay, grain, bedding, possible supplements, training or riding lessons, tack and tack repair, horse insurance, truck and trailer, truck fuel, and truck and trailer insurance.

If you have space on your own property to keep the horse, you’ll also face costs for:

  • Manure removal.
  • Water.
  • Electricity.
  • Property maintenance.

If you venture into horse shows, expenses also will include:

  • Accommodations and food for yourself and the horse.
  • Show fees.
  • Show apparel.
  • Transportation.

In King’s area, boarding alone can range from $300 to $900 per month. She also recommends budgeting $200 per month just for health care and a farrier’s service.

Medical and mortality insurance

Buyers who want a bank personal loan should consider medical and mortality insurance on the horse, King says.

Then again, attorney Fershtman says that lenders who think such insurance will pay off the bank loan on the horse are misguided because the policies carry various conditions, requirements and exclusions that may prevent that.

To be sure, if you really want to be saddled with a personal loan for a horse, be sure you do your homework. And walk, don’t gallop, into the deal.