Many horses adapt well to and even prefer 24/7 outdoor living, and pasture board can save you money on your board bill. Photo: Leslie Potter
Purchase hay off the field
If you live in a rural area and are able to purchase hay locally, consider asking your hay supplier if you can purchase hay “off the field.” This means that you pick up your hay on the day it was baled, saving the farmer the trouble of putting it up in his barn and then taking it back out to deliver. Many farmers prefer this, and you can usually secure a lower per-bale price. Be aware, it can be a lot of work, and you’ll have to have access to a vehicle and trailer suitable for the task. If you don’t mind using your muscles, buying hay off the field can be a valuable money-saver.
Allow your horse be used as a lesson horse
If you’re the lucky owner of a quiet, calm, and reliable horse and you stable him at a boarding facility, you might be able to get a discount on your board bill by allowing your horse to be used for lessons. It can be a great way to save money and get additional exercise for your horse—especially if you don’t ride frequently yourself. Plus, you’ll have the added bonus of knowing that you and your horse are helping others learn the pastime you enjoy so much.
Try ponies! (or a smaller horse breed)
There’s no denying that small equines are less expensive to care for than large ones. Their smaller size means they consume less hay and grain, and most pony breeds are naturally “easy keepers.” Many pony breeds are quite athletic, and perfectly capable of carrying children, teens, and even some adults. Ponies are also great for driving! Small horse breeds offer similar benefits. Of course, small equines aren’t right for everyone, but they’re certainly worth looking into.
Try pasture board rather than full board
Pasture boarding (in which horses are turned out 24/7), is typically cheaper than full board, and this can be a money-saving option for some horses and horse owners. As long as your horse is healthy and has access to adequate shelter (such as a run-in shed) and 24/7 water, it can be an acceptable choice in some situations.
Do chores in exchange for a discount
Your barn manager might allow you to do chores around the stable in exchange for a discount on your board bill. This can be a great way to save money, especially if you already love being around horses and don’t mind a few extra stalls to clean, buckets to fill, or aisles to sweep!
Keep at home, don’t board
You may also be able to save money by keeping your horse at home. You’ll need property and buildings suitable for the job, and you’ll also need to consider that you’ll be fully responsible for your horse’s care. While having your equine buddy at home can mean more time spent together, it also means you’re solely in charge of the daily feeding, cleaning, and general chores. But if you have the space and time and are up to the task, keeping your horse at home can be a money saver.
Don’t cut the wrong corners
Don’t forget: there are some areas of horse ownership in which should you never try to cut corners. Don’t cut back on farrier visits, vet checks, vaccinations, and parasite control. Not only could limiting these areas be unsafe for your horse, they really won’t save you money in the long run, as avoiding or going too long between these items can lead to health issues that might be far more costly to fix then they are to prevent. So stay on a regular health care schedule, and enjoy your happy and healthy horse!
Daniel Johnson is a freelance writer and professional photographer. He’s the author of several books, including How to Raise Horses: Everything You Need to Know, (Voyageur Press, 2014). Dan’s barn is home to Summer, a Welsh/TB cross, Orion, a Welsh Cob, and Mati and Amos, two Welsh Mountain Ponies. Follow him at www.facebook.com/foxhillphoto