Feeling the pinch? Top Tips for Cost-Effective Horsekeeping

First in this multi-part series... Horse ownership requires a significant investment of time, effort, and money. Managing a horse on a limited budget is challenging. Fortunately, there are numerous frugal horse care tips that will allow you to save money without sacrificing quality care for a healthy, content horse. Here's some to help you get started…

Feeling the pinch? Top Tips for Cost-Effective Horsekeeping


1. Always choose the highest quality available feed. Feeding inexpensive, low-quality hay is ultimately wasteful because, due to its lower nutrient content and inferior digestibility, greater quantities must be fed to maintain the horse's condition.

2. Buy in quantity. Purchasing in bulk allows you to obtain higher-quality hay, feed, and supplements at a lower price. Share the order with a friend, fellow boarder, or neighbour if you lack the space to store hay in bulk or if you're unsure whether you'll be able to use up perishable feed before the expiration date.

3. Early purchase of winter hay is recommended. Throughout the autumn and winter, hay prices rise steadily, so the earlier you purchase hay, the more money you will save. Stock up on hay during the summer or early autumn, when prices are the cheapest. To save even more money, buy hay directly from the field and transport it yourself.

4. Properly storing hay and animal feed will minimise spoilage and waste. Stack hay on pallets to prevent mold and moisture accumulation. Grain is best stored in metal or hard plastic bins with tight-fitting lids to maintain its freshness and prevent the entry of moisture and rodents. Keep grain bins away from sources of heat, as high temperatures can lead to the growth of mold and mildew.

5. Feed according to weight, not volume. Feeding by volume frequently results in overfeeding, which not only wastes money but can also cause an overweight horse. Your horse's health and your wallet will benefit from measuring every meal.

6. Prefer forage to concentrates. Hay is less expensive to feed than grains and supplements, and a diet consisting primarily of forage reduces your horse's risk of digestive issues such as colic and gastric or colonic ulcers significantly. In addition, adequate amounts of high-quality hay are often sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the average horse in light work.

7. Consider a ration balancer to supplement a forage-only diet without adding extra calories. Ration balancers generally eliminate the need for supplementary supplements and have reduced feeding rates due to their concentrated amino acid, vitamin, and mineral content. Adult horses can get all the nutrients they need by eating 1 to 2 pounds of ration balancer pellets daily.

8. Consult a professional. Your veterinarian or equine nutritionist should be able to help you formulate a feeding program that addresses your horse’s specific needs, giving you the assurance that you’re satisfying his nutrient requirements while avoiding overfeeding expensive concentrates and supplements.

9. Slow feeding extends hay supply. A slow feeder allows free choice hay access while slowing intake to resemble natural grazing. This reduces the danger of colic and ulcers while increasing hay availability. Slow feeders also prevent hay waste being trampled or used as bedding.

10. Summer pasture forage use. Use pasture grazing to replace some, if not all, of your horse's hay during the months when it is available.


1. Save on veterinary and farrier care. This not only compromises your horse's welfare, but it can also lead to higher costs in the long term. Consider yearly vet visits, dental treatment, and immunizations as an investment that can help you avoid costly emergency veterinarian care for critical health conditions.

2. Insure your horse. You might wonder if buying equine death and/or medical coverage is a good idea, but you'll be glad you did if the worst happens and you're left without a horse or with an unrideable horse that keeps racking up expensive vet bills.

3. Split Call fees. Co-ordinate your vet and farrier appointments with other yard owners to share the cost of the yard visit.

4. Vaccinate for risk. Your veterinarian can offer risk-based immunisations for your horse depending on characteristics like region, age, use, and exposure to unknown horses. It is advised that as a minimum, all horses should be up to date with equine influenza and tetanus vaccines.

5. Deworm smartly. It involves using faeces egg counts to identify horses with high parasite burdens (often referred to as “high shedders”) and then treating only those horses with the appropriate dewormer based on parasite egg count. This method reduces parasite drug resistance and saves you money.

6. Do it yourself. Rather than paying your veterinarian to provide deworming medication.

7. Learn the basics of horse first aid. In the event that your horse develops an illness or injury, this information will allow you to determine if veterinary care is necessary and to care for your horse until the veterinarian comes. Remember that first aid is not a substitute for veterinary care; when in doubt, see your veterinarian.

8. Avoid the needless. If you're paying for your horse's shoes every six weeks, you might consider merely shoeing the front or letting him go barefoot. Sadly, not every horse can go barefoot and be ridden on every surface. Ask your farrier if your horse would be alright without back shoes or barefoot, and expect that costs may not be reduced.

To be continued...