NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Serious hobbies can be expensive, and few are quite as costly as horseback riding. Before you buy the farm -- or at least part of it -- check out these seven expenses that catch many first-time horse owners by surprise.
1. The "free" horse that isn't free
People who have enjoyed the occasional riding lesson may be lured into ownership when they see a cheap horse on the market. In some cases, a friend may offer up a "free" horse, which may sound like an amazing deal, but a free horse costs just as much to maintain as a $500,000 one, cautions Jackie Dwelle, instructor of equestrian studies at St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, N.C.
"I have had horses given to me before, and they cost an arm and a leg," Dwelle says. "People may think they're getting a great deal -- and it may be a great deal right now -- but it's the long-term cost of a horse that you have to worry about."
Also, remember that if the deal seems too good to be true, the horse may have problems.
"You really need to find a trainer before you find a horse -- if you want to be able to ride your horse or compete with it one day, then you need a professional assessment of the animal. It may look beautiful, but unless you're an expert, you don't know if it's Black Beauty or Black Devil."