Horses are incredibly expensive, even if you don’t train or compete. If you’ve wondered how much it costs to simply keep horses operating at a bare minimum, you’ve come to the right place. I am going to break down the monthly costs of keeping 3 horses on rented property. At the bottom of this post, I’ll share about our super intense budgeting spreadsheet!
Please keep the following in mind: Hay prices change WILDLY when you’re purchasing only 12 bales at a time. Bales are also not all the same weight, yet are sold by the bale – from the ones we have weighed, they can range from 90-110lbs, and the true range is probably even larger than that. Horses do not eat the same amount of hay each day if you offer hay 24/7 like we do, so some days they will actually eat much less than others. On average, ours eat about 19lbs each per day, but 20lbs is the number we use to estimate for our 1100lb horses. We budget for more than we expect the horses to actually eat, so that hopefully our only financial surprise is that we have more to put in savings than expected.
Basic Hay Breakdown
Hay is generally the most expensive, unrelenting cost of caring for a horse. No matter what, your horse needs to eat. Here in California, where we are located, a bale of Bermuda grass hay runs for $27 after taxes. If we estimate each bale as weighing 100lbs (the average weight of a West Coast, 3-strand bale) then that comes out to about $5.40 a day on hay. So that is $162 a month, or 30 days. My geldings need a bit more than Bermuda only though – they always have Bermuda available, but we’re going to look at what it would cost if they were eating 50/50 alfalfa/teff. Alfalfa runs about the same per bale as Bermuda for us, while Teff is a bit more expensive at $35. A horse eating these hays at 20lbs/day, where the bales weighed 100lbs, would cost $6.20 per day, or $186 per month.
Other Feed Your Horse Eats
Many horses need more than simply hay. Supplements and additional feedstuffs are usually needed for horses to maintain great health, especially if in heavy work or for older horses. Lots of people feed hay balancers, which are intended to fill the nutritional gaps that hay lacks. There are also concentrated feeds, pelleted feeds and grains.
I personally add a pelleted complete feed that is forage-based and comes out to about $0.49/lb. My eldest horse, Tucker, currently gets 2.5lbs of that feed daily, which comes out to $1.23 a day. His other supplements total about a dollar more. Roughly, his bucket plus hay comes out to about $250 a month! During winter, Tucker gets a bit more expensive as I feed him more to keep his weight on. Last year I essentially doubled the amount of pellets, giving him an extra breakfast bucket. I also add beet pulp, so his feed total goes up to about $308 a month. All the horses tend to eat more hay during wet weather, too, to stay warm, and adding warm beet pulp to their buckets is a nice touch that I think they enjoy!
Other Equine Costs
When budgeting, I also like to factor in farrier visits since those are on a cycle! If my horse gets trimmed every 6 weeks at $50, that comes out to about $35.71 a month. This is not what I’m paying each month, but if I budget for it then I am ready to pay the full amount each visit. Another smart thing to add to your monthly budget is an amount that you can put away for savings for your horse in case of emergencies. Your horse will have one, that is a guarantee, you just don’t know when or how expensive. So put that money away in a high-yield savings account as often as you can! You can also save money each month for annual vet expenses like vaccinations, dewormer, teeth floating, and annual exams. If you pay for insurance for your horse, that is something you would add in as well. I would like to put away at least $50 a month per horse for vet care…that’s the goal right now, at least!
Total Costs for the Basic Needs of One Horse
The estimated total monthly cost for feeding Tucker all his hay, pellets and supplements is around $250 a month, but with hoof care that comes out to about $285. The other two are about $235 each to feed, $270 with trims, because they eat less extra pelleted feed. So to feed our 3 horses, the total is about $720, and another $107 to put towards trims every six weeks. We also pay extra rent fees to have the horses with us, but we have an unusual situation so I did not include that! You may also want to add in an amount to spend on consumables like treats, fly spray, or other grooming/care items.
AGAIN – these numbers are very rough, and don’t tend to be totally accurate every month. One big reason is that horses vary how much hay they eat based on several factors, and we provide hay 24/7. In addition to having constant access to a full bale of Bermuda grass hay, one day the trio might consume 40lbs of extra hay, while another day they might consume 63lbs. We also mix 4 different hays, and the estimate above is for a 50/50 split of alfalfa and teff, which are generally the cheapest and most expensive we buy, respectfully.
On average, our horses consume around 19lbs of hay each based on the data we gathered in summer! Spring time is another weird one though, where they might eat very little hay if they have access to grazing. We didn’t weigh our hay last winter, but we will be weighing it this winter to get more data to compare seasons. We have built out a very comprehensive spreadsheet that allows us to calculate and compare costs based on what the horses are eating seasonally, to help with budgeting projections!
Henry, a 22 year old retired & rescued German warmblood, stayed with us for about 70 days, and had a separate area the whole time. He would sometimes eat 15lbs in a day, and other times eat 23lbs. We fed him a ton of extra forage in the form of alfalfa pellets & beet pulp to help put weight on him, so the hay he consumed was in addition to those twice a day buckets. We estimated that he would consume about 600lbs of hay a month (20lbs a day) of 50/50 alfalfa and teff, and also filled his bucket with a total of around $85 of extra feed for the month. The hay estimate was $186, so without any extra supplements or meds his total estimate was about $271. For the one full month we had him here, his “true” total for hay was about 572lbs, which came out to about $180 at the current prices, so his total for feed was actually about $265.
Another example with 2 horses is when we had the Fjord mother & daughter duo staying with us. The pair of them had a ton of variability in their diet thanks to having some grazing at times, and other times being confined in a smaller area due to weather. The most they consumed in a 24 hour period in the 3 months we weighed all their hay was about 45lbs, and the least was not even 4lbs. The average was about 25lbs total, and the mama weighs about 990lbs while her daughter weighed about 800lbs.
Calculating Your Own Equine Budget
Money cannot buy happiness – but money pays for the horses who make us happy. Do you know exactly how much you spend on your horse each month? If the answer is no, would you like to know? How much do you budget each month for your horse’s needs?
If you’d like an easy way to calculate your own horse’s monthly expenses, Brian has put in some work to make our spreadsheet super user-friendly so that anyone can use it! He put in a lot of time perfecting it so that even I couldn’t break it (I’m notoriously great at breaking tech) so I’m positive you will find a lot of value in it too. If you’d like to support our herd & purchase this powerful template, you can do so below! You’ll receive a link to a Google Sheet, and then you’ll just have to “Make a Copy” (under File>Make a Copy) to have your own that lives in your own Google Drive! If you’re more interested in learning about budgeting in general, I also have an e-book available here.
Here’s how the spreadsheet works:
Use discount code “early” for half off if you purchase from this page!