There is no doubt about it – horses can be very expensive to keep. New owners might think that the purchase cost is the expensive part, but the ongoing cost needs to be considered as much as the purchase cost. Sadly many horses and ponies have been abandoned or handed over to charities in recent times due financial hardship and the rising cost of living.

The British Horse Society has produced a useful leaflet that gives details of the cost of keeping a horse.

The cost of keeping a horse or pony
Click on the image to download leaflet.

Can you keep your horse on a budget and are there ways of saving money without compromising your horse’s care and welfare?  The first action to take is to add up all your outgoings – perhaps based on the BHS’s guide above – to see exactly what you are spending. Making a record can help you assess whether or not everything is necessary.

Making savings on forage and feed should be done with care because if you simply cut back you could end up with a problem that is more expensive than the savings made from cutting back. However, choosing carefully and understanding what’s important to the horse can help save you money.

For good doers, late cut, rougher and cheaper hay is fine, but make sure hay isn’t mouldy or dusty because that can cause respiratory problems. Mouldy hay should never be fed but dusty hay can be soaked for half an hour to make it safer to feed. Shop around for hay and try to buy in bulk – perhaps sharing with friends – to get a better price.

If you are feeding very little compound feed – nuts or coarse mix – then your horse could probably do without it and instead increase their forage to ad lib but be sure to add a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement to balance the forage. Mix into a little chaff or any other palatable feed. For horses with higher requirements, on several kilos of compound feed daily, ensure you choose the highest energy hay or haylage you can find, to reduce reliance on the compound feed. Compare compound prices and be aware that nuts are usually cheaper than mixes of the same energy value.

Assess the supplements you currently buy by questioning whether they are necessary and investigating the levels of active ingredients they contain. Unfortunately there are no regulations to ensure that supplements contain useful levels of ingredients so ‘buyer beware’. The first supplement to consider is always a multi-vitamin and mineral product to balance shortages in forage-only diets or those with less than the full recommended amount of compound feed. Then consider therapeutic supplements but always use them with alongside changes in management to ensure you are getting to the cause of a problem rather than putting a plaster over something that could end up costing you more in the long run.

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About Clare MacLeod

Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr is one of the UK’s few registered independent equine nutritionists who also has expertise in health and fitness. She advises private and commercial clients in all sectors of the horse world and is a hands-on horse owner herself. Clare is passionate about correct nutrition as a foundation for good health, without which peak fitness is not possible. She states “Good nutrition isn’t everything, but there’s nothing without it”.