How Much Does It Cost To Feed a Horse?


Written by:  Howmuchisit.org Staff
Last Updated:  August 8, 2018

The actual cost of caring for a horse is quite steep, especially if you do not have an area for them to roam in a pasture.  Horses are grazing animals, and most, as long as they have the fields to roam, can survive on grass and plants alone.

Depending on the purpose of your owning a horse, you may need to purchase horse feed in order for the horse to have that extra nutrition.

Oats by wallygrom, on Flickr
Oats” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  wallygrom

How much does it cost to feed a horse per month?

Depending on the size of your horse and the type of feed that you choose, the average horse will eat anywhere from $1.50 to $6 per day worth of food.

According to Back in the Saddle Project, weather slightly plays a role in the volume of feeding.  Horses are fed more in winter to keep them warm, and they will not eat nearly as much in the summer.  They also mention that horses have a certain amount of food to eat depending on their size and breed. Usually, a saddle horse weighing about 1100 pounds and involved in light work needs to be fed, on the average, at least 2.5% of their weight on a daily basis.  If this is quantified in numbers, the same horse is estimated to eat 27.5 pounds of hay per day.

In Northern California, an average 50 pounds of bale Alfalfa hay costs $8 on pickup basis and a dollar more if you have it delivered.  If you buy it at the feed store, it will cost $2 more.  Basing it on pick up price, Alfalfa hay will come out $0.16 per pound multiplied by the weight of the horse, and its daily consumption will cost around $4.40 per day for hay.

Horses also need to feed on grain, which can cost anywhere from $12 and $22 50-pound pound bag on the average.  Daily cost for grain can be between $0.75 and $4.80.

For instance, daily feed for a horse in the Northern California area, for both hay and grain, will cost around $4 to $8 per day. Monthly expenses can run to $130 to $275.

In one engaging forum thread at Horsetopia.com, many active members discuss cost for feeding and their figures greatly vary depending on location, kind of horse, size, and if with or without pasture.  Members who resided in Ohio, Maryland, and Arizona, for example, spent about $100 to $150 per month per horse, while members from Florida spent about $200 per horse.

If the average cost per day is between $1.50 and $6, then the average monthly cost will be $45 to $180 per month.  

Factors that affect the price

The feeding cost is highly proportionate to the amount of work your horse is given.

The breed also greatly matters as thoroughbreds are known to need more volume of food given their weight which is always heavier compared to easy keepers.

The place where you raise your horse also influences prices on hay and grain.  Hay prices can change quite often and are dictated by weather and other factors.

If you have a pasture or property on which the horse can freely roam, your feed costs will probably be less.  The horse will naturally graze, which means he will need less feed.

Horse feed overview

Horse feed will be a mixture of hay and grains as well as some other fillers for things such as the horse’s coat.  One ingredient that you may find in horse feed is beet pulp, which is the dried pulp left over after making sugar from sugar beets.  This is often used to put weight on the horse.  Other ingredients you may find in horse feed are soy hull and oat hulls, which are the outer shell of the soy bean and the oat kernel respectively.  The main goal of most horse feeds is to provide the horse with plenty of fiber to keep its digestive tract healthy.

What are the extra costs?

Almost all horse lovers say that veterinarian visits account for a bigger chunk of the expenses.

As noted above, certain feeds are going to cost more than others.  If you have to have the feed delivered rather than picking it up locally, additional delivery charges may apply.

A six month supply of mineral supplements can cost about $20 to $40, or around $0.15 to $0.25 per day.  This is the same concept as a multivitamin for humans; it provides those essential vitamins and minerals you may not be getting from everyday nutrition.

A salt block, while optional, can cost around $10 to $20.

If you use your horse for hard labor on a daily basis, you will most likely pay a lot more to feed him.

How can I save money?

You may be able to cut costs by asking around for the cheapest but best quality hay and getting hay from the field by yourself.

If you have a pasture area, you can definitely save on hay and other feed.


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Average Reported Cost: $100

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How much did you spend?

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  1. Amy (Pleasantville,  New Jersey) paid $100 and said:

    I pay out about $250-$300 a month per horse @ five horses ranging from a mini to a 1400lb horse. Of course the mini (36″) eats about $75-$100 a month. Hay runs about $6-$8 per 40-50lb bale. A 50lb bag of better quality grain is $19.99. I feed 20-30lbs per horse of hay a day. 5-8lbs of grain per horse per day. Mostly depends on time of year, activity level, age and health of horse. Wouldn’t take a 15 year old horse on a 30mile trail ride if he hasn’t been conditioned to do so, right? I wouldn’t.

    Was it worth it? Yes

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