5 tips for budget-friendly horsekeeping

Saving money is a good thing. And in challenging times, it might even be a necessity. But nobody wants to cut costs in ways that may put a horse’s health at risk. Here are a few tips on how you can save money without compromising your horse’s well-being. Even better, some of these measures may actually help improve his health while saving money in the process.


For your bookshelf:

Horse Owner’s Veterinary Handbook

Storey’s Barn Guide to Horse Health Care + First Aid

Horse Health Care: A Step-By-Step Photographic Guide to Mastering Over 100 Horsekeeping Skills

The Merck Veterinary Manual

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1. Feed as much forage as you can, and as little grain as necessary. Good-quality hay, along with pasture 24/7, is the healthiest and, usually, cheapest diet for horses. If you have alfalfa hay, feed it from a tub or hay box so the horse can pick up the highly nutritious leaves that drop. You will not save money buying poor-quality hay. At best, your horse simply will not eat it; at worst, he will eat it and develop problems that entail expensive veterinary treatment.

2. Provide as much fresh, clean water as possible. Water is the cheapest and most important nutrient for horses. Lack of a proper, clean supply of water is one of the most common reasons for emergency veterinary calls. Make sure your horses have access to clean water at all times. In northern regions, snow is not an adequate source of water.

3. Follow a sensible vaccination program. Vaccination is always cheaper than treating disease. That said, not all horses require all available vaccines. Horses in “closed” herds and those who never leave home need fewer than do competition horses. Talk to your veterinarian about which vaccines are necessary for your horses.

4. Keep your horses outdoors. A well-built run-in shed is healthier for a horse than a fancy barn. Horses kept outside enjoy fresher air and more room to move. A three-sided shelter, with a depth of one and a half times the length of the open side, will provide adequate shelter in all seasons. It will also save you money on repairs, bedding and labor associated with keeping horses in stalls.

5. Don’t ignore small problems. Putting off a veterinary call today could lead to a bigger bill tomorrow. If a horse seems to be having trouble chewing, for instance, your veterinarian can correct a dental issue before weight loss or compromised health results. And a bit of antibiotics for a wound today can ward off a raging infection. Of course, calling in normal business hours is always cheaper—so be rational about what you declare as an “emergency.”