Cost to Feed a Horse: A Complete Guide to Feeding Your Horse

Jessica McDaniel
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Cost to Feed a Horse: The Rules of Feeding

Every horse has different nutritional needs based on age, activity level and other factors. There is no one-size-fits-all feed ratio. A horse in training or a growing horse will need more calories than a retired horse or a horse in light work.

Because there are no set numbers, it's common for horse owners to become frustrated with horse feeding costs and under- or over-feeding their horses. While there are several factors that determine what your horse should eat, here are a few rules of thumb to help you stop worrying about over- or under-feeding.

Lush/Plush Greens and Legumes

1kg of lush greens such as beet tops, mustard, rape, cabbage, or vetch is worth about 50 cents. (Consider the value of fresh hay or other roughage as a comparable roughage source.)

Places that sell manure will often sell dark roughage by the truckload. Depending on your area you may be able to buy it for cheaper than you can grow it.

You do need a good supply of fresh hay for the winter since the legumes tend to fall apart and get moldy.

You can use hay to cut the cost of stored hay. You harvest it in the summer and store it in a covered, well vented shed until you need it.

You can also get your vetch and green clean, dry and ground up at a local feed mill for a small charge.

Cost to Feed a Horse, Hay

Cost to Feed a Horse, Grains

Hay and Supplements.

As a horse owner, it’s important to keep in mind that a horse needs different types of feedings throughout the year to produce a quality of nutrition. Each of these feedings has different prices attached to them and you should be aware of how each of these elements are going to affect your budget.

Grains and hay can be bought in bulk, which gives you a better deal on quantity but can be self-limiting if you own one or more horses.

That’s why it’s better to break down the price of a need into the sections.

Cost to Feed a Horse: Equine Supplements

While it's normal for your horse to eat 30% of their body weight in total feed, most equine supplements are not that simple. This is because all horses are unique and they all require different amounts of minerals and ingredients. For this reason, it is important that you work with your vet to determine exactly how much of each supplement you need to feed your horse.

Just because you have a horse in your barn, doesn’t mean you have to have an automatic budget for equine supplements.

You can start by keeping track of how much of each supplement you're already using, if you have been using supplements, for how long and how often you dose.

Then, compare that with your own horse's needs. If you are only using a few supplements or your own horse doesn't need much, you may be able to get away without having to spend any money on equine supplements – at least not right away.

If you do need to spend money on equine supplements, then know that you can often find good deals on equine supplements – especially if you buy the larger bags to save money.

You can also consider cutting costs by mixing your own supplements. A quick internet search or a quick trip to your local feed store can help you learn how to make powdered supplements that you can mix with your horse's feed.


Alfalfa is a high protein hay that's usually fed to horses who are mares in the last trimester of pregnancy and nursing foals. Alfalfa is also good for horses who need the extra calories to gain weight or who have had a weight loss issue.

Alfalfa is also good for general maintenance of a horse's diet or to give your horse some variety.

The cost of alfalfa hay will vary by state and region, but overall, it is more expensive than other types of hay.

Joint Supplements

Joint supplements are a necessary part of keeping a horse in optimal condition as they age. The main reason for this is that horses age in the same way as humans do. Horses, just like humans, experience the breakdown of cartilage and bone as they grow older; this is something that is very hard to repair and thus supplements are the best way to combat this.It’s important to note that joint supplements are not a cure for arthritis, but a preventative measure for maintaining proper joint health.

One of the biggest mistakes horse owners make is not providing their horses with joint supplements. Just like taking a vitamin daily, maintenance supplements for senior horses are imperative. You should consider introducing a joint supplement as soon as your horse has reached adulthood. This goes for aged horses as well, because even older horses can benefit from joint supplements.

Probiotics and Your Horse

Bacteria is essential for horse health because it is an integral part of the horse digestive system and contributes to the breakdown, release, and absorption of nutrients from food and feed. Fortunately, horses maintain a level of this good bacteria to control the overgrowth of bad bacteria in their gut. One way that veterinarians and horse owners can help keep the good bacteria levels of a horse is by supplementing with probiotics.

Why Probiotics Are Good for Horses

Probiotics are live microorganisms, like yeast and bacteria that are considered beneficial to a horse's health. To be considered beneficial, these microorganisms must be the same as or similar to those already present in the horse's stomach, intestines or vagina. The beneficial microbes should be kept in balance with the natural colonies of microbes present in the natural environment of the horse.

Average Monthly Cost To Feed a Horse

The amount of money you can expect to spend on your horse every month depends on a few factors:

Here are the top reasons for these expenses:

  • Feed type: Bagged, bulk or box delivery.
  • Breed:

Costs of the most common breeds:

Amount and type of riding you do:

Costs of time spent riding:

Size of pasture:

Costs of the average amount of acreage:

How well your horse gets along with other horses:

Costs of keeping multiple horses:

Special supplements or rations:

Costs of supplements:

The number of horses you own:

Costs of horse ownership:

These costs are based on a horse at the mature age of 5.

average numbers

About how much you should feed a horse:

A horse on pasture – 80-100 pounds of hay per day. About 2-3% of body weight in the form of a combination of hay, grain and protein supplements.

If the horse is getting a pasture, supplement is typically limited to salt, minerals, and some training treats.


Here is a basic recap of the items discussed:


If you are in the market for some good horse feed you want to purchase a bag that is balanced.

This means that the food gives the horse the nutrition it needs but is low in sugar and fat.

Keeping your horse healthy at a young age is very important to help him out later in life. When your horse is fat he is much more likely to have a leg injury, and problems with his heart and digestive system.

Laying off the sugar but still giving your horse his treats with a sugar cube will help him get his sugar fix and have a healthy body weight.