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Hay burners: What it costs to feed a horse

Just before the big recession hit, feed prices skyrocketed in our area. People began cutting out grain for their horses, switching to lower-quality hay, or selling their horses altogether. As the recession continued, people began giving horses away, and many off-the-track Thoroughbreds were shipped off for dog food because nobody would take them. Suddenly, the cash consumed by a horse’s feed needs became critical. At our stable, we have always supported feeding horses what they need, and will not tolerate low body scores (skinny horses). However, we needed a way to accurately project what a horse required, which in turn would give us a way to assess costs. Research into the Horse Industry Handbook, Feeding and Care of the Horse and the Colorado 4-H Horse Project Manual revealed that:

  1. Larger horses eat more hay (up to .025 percent of their body weight)
  2. Active horses eat more (a horse’s work schedule can increase hay consumption by 50, 100 or 150 percent)
  3. Nervous horses eat more (horses that pace or play a lot are voluntarily increasing their workload)
  4. Metabolism varies among horses, giving us the “easy keepers” v. the “hard keepers”.

We developed a spreadsheet to price hay by the pound. Our clients can request hay feed changes any time and get a pretty good idea of what their orders will cost them. Finally, we have a way to fairly price hay so that people pay for what their horse uses. Try our cost-of-feeding-a horse spreadsheet and plug in your own numbers. (We hope to expand this at some point to include grain – stay tuned.)

Read also:

'It’s difficult to care for a horse for less than $1,000 a month' - Stable Value: Putting Your Horse in a Trust

Grain storage: Just file it!

Buying a horse: 14 questions you should ask