The Frugal Café | Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup"</a> | Creative Commons License,
Photo credit: Rebecca Anne, "Flora's Cup" | Creative Commons License,

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Saving Money on Feeding Your Horse: Feed Tips for Horse-At-Home (HAH) Owners

By Mary Santagiuliana


Ms. Santagiuliana has a horse training business in Verona, Kentucky. She has more than 16 years experience with horses and for the past 9-plus years, has been training young horses.
Website: Eclipse Mountain Trainers


Mary with some of her horses | Photo credit: Eclipse Mountain Trainers

Mary with some of her horses | Photo credit: Eclipse Mountain Trainers

If you are a Horse-At-Home (HAH) owner, here are some practical feeding and horse feed-buying tips that will help you save money on your horse and help your maintain your horse's good health.


"Bulk It Up!"

The greatest expenses we HAH owners face is that of buying feed (hay and grain) and bedding. Feeding a horse is not cheap! When at all possible, buy in large quantities, especially bedding, for price savings. Bedding won’t go bad and if you have the room for it, stockpile it. Do not buy hay "by the week." To save money, it is best to purchase enough for two months, if and where possible.

If you have a well-ventilated area that is clean and dry, it won't be susceptible to mold. Buying by the week is potentially dangerous because you cannot guarantee the hay you purchase is the same as what you had the week before, and this could affect your horse's health.

As far as grain is concerned, dry pelleted feeds do not become moldy anywhere near as fast as "wet/moist" feeds (molasses-based, sweet feed). I tend to buy three bags of pelleted feed and use one a week. I try to avoid having my moist feed around for that long. Typically, if you keep it in a dry, well-ventilated environment, it should be fine. However, no matter what you feed your horse, always keep an eye out for mold!


Feed More Hay Than Grain

Horses get more DE (digestible energy) from forages (hay) than they do from grains. Also, grain is one of the last things to be digested by the horse's digestive system. So, to alleviate chances for colic, feed hay first, and then grain. (Remember: Giving your horse small meals, 2-3 times a day, is better on its system than one big meal).


An "Oily" Situation

Rice bran and wheat bran/wheat germ oil are used to help make a horse's hair coat shiny and, more importantly, for weight gain purposes. Corn oil is a safe alternative and costs about half as much since you can purchase it from your local grocery store (4 oz for a shiny coat, 8 oz to 16 oz for weight gain in normal-sized horses).


Hay Issues?

In times of severe drought and/or harsh winters, think about switching your horse to a "complete feed." A complete feed is a feed that has hay (pelleted or cubed) already in it. You can also purchase bags of cubed hay to help supplement your bales and the loss of grass.


WARNING: Always make gradual changes to your horse’s diet; start off by giving a little at a time and slowly increasing it until you reach the desired amount. In the case of feed, slowly increase the new while slowly decreasing the old.

Making an abrupt change to any horse's diet can lead to colic and even ulcers.

If you have any concerns about the health aspects of your horse, please talk to your veterinarian and/or farrier. The listed methods have worked well for me without complications, but I can't guarantee they will work for everyone. After all, things that concern horses tend to always be unpredictable.


Related Reading:
How to Save Money Boarding Your Horse
Taking Care of Your Horse – The Frugal Way, of Course!
Vinegar to the Rescue for Your Pet