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How Much Does it Cost to Feed a Horse: Equestrian Answered

How Much Does it Cost to Feed a Horse

Horse ownership is no casual endeavour. It’s a commitment that involves time, care, and a significant financial investment. The costs associated with horse ownership can be quite steep, and one of the largest expenses is feeding.

But exactly how much does it cost to feed a horse? This question isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. Horse feed costs vary widely based on several factors, including the horse’s weight, age, activity level, and the geographical location where the horse is kept.

In this guide, we’ll break down these factors and provide a comprehensive overview of the costs associated with feeding a horse.

The Importance of Forage in a Horse’s Diet

Every horse’s diet starts with forage. Whether your horse is grazing on the pasture or munching on hay, forage is the primary component of their diet. Providing adequate forage is crucial to maintaining the health of your horse’s digestive system.

Pasture vs. Hay

The costs associated with the forage portion of your horse’s diet will depend on whether your horse is out on pasture or is being fed hay (or both). Pastures, once established, tend to be the most economical way to provide forage to your horse. However, maintaining a pasture isn’t free. You’ll have expenses such as fertilizer, labor, fuel, over-seeding, and other considerations.

If your horse is being fed hay, costs per day are relatively straightforward to calculate. Specific costs will depend on which type of hay you are feeding. Costs will also vary depending on your region, quality of the forage, as well as unforeseen events like drought, time of year, and other factors.

Cost Analysis

Let’s break down the costs associated with pasture maintenance and hay feeding. Yearly pasture maintenance can run from $50 to $150 per acre per year. Since the general rule of thumb is to provide 2 acres of pasture per horse, yearly costs for a single horse on pasture can be as low as $100 (or $0.27 per day) up to $300 (or $0.82 per day).

When it comes to hay, let’s assume we’re feeding a 1,000-pound horse at 1.5% of its body weight per day in forage. This equates to 15 pounds of forage per day. Depending on the type and cost of hay you choose, feeding hay can cost anywhere from $2.10 to $4.20 per day, or $767 to $1,533 per year.

Equestrian Emma feeding a horse hay in a stable.

The Role of Concentrated Feed

In addition to forage, many horses also require concentrated feed, especially those involved in sports, seniors, broodmares, foals, or horses with special dietary needs. The cost of feed, like forage, varies depending on the formulation, quality, and the amount your horse requires.

Standard Feed vs. Premium Feed

When it comes to concentrated feeds, you can generally divide them into two categories: standard, lower-quality feeds, and premium, higher-quality feeds. While the cost of premium feed is higher, these feeds are typically fortified with added nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and probiotics, offering a balanced diet for your horse.

Depending on the type of feed and the amount your horse is fed, feeding a standard concentrate can cost anywhere from $511 to $1,022 per year, while a premium feed can cost between $584 to $1,168 per year.

Cost Analysis

While these costs provide a good starting point, they don’t account for any additional supplements your horse might need. For example, if you choose a standard, lower-quality feed, you might need to supplement your horse’s diet with additional vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, which can increase costs by an additional $2.00 per day, or an extra $730 per year.

A horse eating concentrated feed from a bag.

Ancillary Costs and Considerations

Beyond forage and concentrated feed, you may also need to consider other costs associated with feeding your horse. For example, you might need to purchase hay nets or bags to minimize waste, or you may need to invest in a water trough or heaters to ensure your horse has access to clean, fresh water at all times.

How to Keep the Costs Down

While feeding a horse can be pricey, there are ways to keep costs down. For example, if you have access to good quality pasture, this can significantly reduce your feed costs. Buying hay in bulk can also be more cost-effective. Additionally, feeding a balanced diet that meets your horse’s nutritional needs can prevent health problems down the line, potentially saving you on veterinary bills in the future.

Three German horses eating hay.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

On average, feeding a horse each month can range from about $63 to $126 for hay alone. If you add concentrated feed, this could increase by an additional $42.58 to $97.33 monthly. However, these costs can vary based on the type of hay, the quality of feed, and your horse’s specific dietary needs.

How much does it cost to feed a horse for a year?

Annually, the cost of feeding a horse primarily depends on your choices of forage and concentrated feed. You might spend between $767 and $1,533 on hay. If you use pasture, the yearly cost could be about $100 to $300. Adding concentrated feeds, the annual expense can vary from $511 to $1,168. Remember, additional supplements or special diets will increase these costs.

How much does it cost to feed a horse a week?

Feeding a horse weekly generally costs between $14.70 and $29.40 for hay. If concentrated feed is part of your horse’s diet, expect to add about $11.82 to $22.46 per week. These estimates can fluctuate based on the type and quality of feed, and your horse’s individual needs.

A white horse with a feed bag.


Feeding a horse isn’t cheap, but understanding the costs involved can help you budget effectively. It’s important to remember that while the upfront costs might seem steep, investing in quality feed and forage can pay off in the long run by keeping your horse healthy and happy. It’s not just about the price of horse feed, but also about how much feed for a horse is needed and the quality of that feed. So, while the answer to “how much does it cost to feed a horse?” varies, the importance of a nutritious diet for your equine friend remains paramount.

A headshot of Equine Emma sitting on a horse.

Hello! I am Equine Emma

"Real freedom is found in the saddle, and true wisdom in the eyes of a horse."

The horse. Here is nobility without conceit, friendship without envy, beauty without vanity. A willing servant, yet never a slave.

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