How Much Does It Cost to Feed a Horse?

Horse food

Are you planning to buy or adopt a horse? Considering the cost of keeping and feeding is essential in making this critical decision because it involves a life-long commitment. And as people often say, it’s not the horse that is expensive. It’s what comes after. Furthermore, estimating the average cost of feeding a horse is a bit tricky because it may vary by region and season. But in this article, we will provide a guide on the costing to help you gain insight into the real cost of feeding a horse. 

So how much does it cost to feed a horse? According to a survey of 82 horse owners, horses’ hay and grain consumption may cost around $1, 214 in just nine months, and adding the pasture maintenance may cost you approximately $1,405 per year. However, these are only part of the figures. If you want to learn about the expenses of feeding a horse before taking the plunge and adopting, join us as we uncover them one by one. 

The Rule of Feeding a Horse

People who are new to horses might think that horses don’t cost that much because their known to be vegetarians, hence their nickname “hay burner.” After all, grass is everywhere, and it’s free. However, according to Julie Wilson of Turner Wilson Equine Consulting LLC, most adult horses consume at least 1.5-2% of their body weight every day grazing on grass or hay. Therefore, in a horse weighing 1,000 pounds, they can consume 2.7 tons annually. 

Furthermore, horses may also require calories to supplement their forage, thus requiring more nutritional expenses. And pregnant mares, growing foals, and horses with metabolic syndrome, geriatric problems, and bad teeth have special needs, which means that they have more significant dietary expenses. Let’s dig into that and have a little breakdown of all the estimated costs of horse feeds below.  

Horse Feeds and Their Estimated Cost


Hay plays a vital role in a horse’s diet because it is said to be the swiss-army-knife in the horse’s world. You can use it to feed your horse, as it provides fiber and low-calorie nutrients that your horse can’t get from greens. Hay has two categories: grass and legumes, but most horse hay comes as a mixture of the two. But just like any other feed, it must be in moderation. 

For adult horses and horses with the lesser workload, the best choice is the grassy hay because it has low-calorie nutrients that can satiate your animal companion. A half bale of hay typically costs around $3-$10 per day, depending on the area, but your horse may need more than half a bundle in a single day. 

Green grass and Legumes

To provide your horse with the most nutrients their body needs, your pasture must be of high quality. Yes, not all green means “good.” Legumes like clover that offer natural protein must be in moderation because too much high protein in their diet can lead to nutrient toxicity that can cause severe problems for your horse. You also need to control the access to green grass because too many greens can lead to problems like laminitis, and if not digested properly, it can cause colic. 


Feeding your horse with grains depends on its nutritional needs and climate. Some owners prefer to give grains during winter to help adult horses restore the calories they lose in keeping themselves warm during the cold season. As for younger foals, hay feeding is usually sufficient because it contains fiber that helps them retain their internal heat. 

Equine Supplements

If you’re a new horse owner and worry that your horse may suffer from nutritional deficiency, you may want to add supplements to their diet. However, it would be best to consult a veterinarian before coming up with a decision. Here’s a guide that you can use if your vet decides that a supplement is necessary. 


Alfalfa hay is a high protein legume and a good source of calcium which can meet the nutrient needs of foals with not enough milk, lactating horses, and those who suffer from Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). I can be a wonderful treat for adult horses. It should be occasionally given because it exceeds the nutrient requirements of horses in some stages, and it’s not suitable for overweight or insulin-resistant horses. It’s cost averages at $165. 

Joint supplements

There is much research about joint supplement’s effectiveness on horses. Based on evidence, most supplements that contain hyaluronic acid reign supreme and glucosamine chondroitin sulfate is said to be effective in reducing inflammation in the joints of the horse. It also promotes cartilage growth, which can be beneficial for horses suffering from chronic joint pain. The prices of these supplements vary depending on the amount and brand. Consulting your horse’s veterinarian is recommended before giving a joint supplement for horses to confirm it is necessary.  

Annual Cost to Feed a Horse

As mentioned above, the cost of feeding a horse varies based on your location and the season. A bale of hay usually costs around $5-$10 per square bale. You can expect additional expenses if you’d opt to grain feed your four-legged companion and provide supplement depending on their nutritional needs. 

According to a survey conducted by the University of Maine with 82 horse owners with a total of 470 horses and an average of 6 horses per owner that weighs 1100 lbs, the average amount of hay and grain they can consume in 9 months can cost around $1, 214. And if you’d take into consideration the average cost of pasture maintenance, which is $194 and other additional expenses, it can rise to $1,405 to $2,000 per year. That means an average of $140-167 per horse. 

Money-Saving Tips on Horse Feed

Keeping and feeding a horse can genuinely cost you a considerable amount, but don’t you worry. Here are some tips to help you ease the cost a little. 

  • You can also impose a slow-feeding system. Not only will it save you money, but it will also help teach the horse not to overeat.
  • If you have a land where your horse can access and graze on the pasture, it would be best to live and settle down because it can help significantly trim the cost without compromising the horse’s nutrition.
  • Like any other product, you can typically save money if you can buy it in bulk. However, you need to ensure that the large quantity of hay will be appropriately stored and protected from the weather to avoid ruining it. If you have friends who also own a horse, you can also split the big order to save costs. 
  • Another way to save some bucks is to drive out to the hayfield and get the hay right out of the field if you have the means to do so. If the farmers won’t have to handle and deliver it for you, they might be willing to cut the cost. 


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