pastureI think one of the real cost-savers when it comes to your horse’s feed and nutrition is pasture. Unless your horse is young and growing, pregnant or lactating, or in strenuous work, his nutritional needs can easily be met with a simple forage diet of good pasture or hay (plus water and some free choice salt). The hardest part then becomes providing the highest-quality grass and managing your pasture to get the most out of it.

One common practice to best utilize pasture space and avoid overgrazing is to implement a rotational grazing program for your horses. This can be done by dividing existing pasture with inexpensive fencing or a portable roundpen. It’s suggested that large groups of horses be sectioned off into sizable areas where they can graze for approximately two weeks and then be moved into another pasture section. Some horse owners will even rotate their horses’ grazing space every three to four days. How have you best managed your pasture? featured an informative article from the University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources which states: "Increase your management inputs into your pastures. Horses are designed to eat small meals on a frequent basis. Properly-managed pasture could meet almost all of your horse's dietary needs. The initial outlay in money to renovate a poor pasture may be expensive, but once you get the management in full swing and can keep up with mowing, fertilizing, and rotating the animals, you'll find that you need to buy very little hay."

It was mentioned about a month ago in the Alpha Mare Speaks blog that horse owners should consider sharing/donating pasture to those in need. I think this could be a good idea, but it could also be a way to save money. If you do have ample pasture space, lease it out. If you don’t have a lot of good pasture, consider leasing a few acres from someone who does to allow your horses to graze all day rather than racking up high hay bills. Chances are you will save in the long run with reduced hay and grain expenses. Read more about good pasture management and its financial benefits in this week’s excerpt of Thrifty Horsekeeping.