Sure, an owner won’t need to buy as much hay if he or she houses a horse on pasture, and Martinson notes that maintaining pasture forage costs just a third of what hay does. However, in the pasture-kept horse scenario, other expenses can mount. Camargo sums up the situation: “First, it takes money to purchase property (plus taxes and insurances) where you can turn horses out on pasture. Then it needs to be made horse-livable, if not already–this includes safe fencing. If you don’t have sufficient pasture for year-round forage, you’ll have to supplement hay. This means needing a hay storage shed. Depending on the size of your operation and stocking rate, you’ll likely need a tractor for mowing and reseeding pastures and for manure management.”
In many climates horses also need shelter, which can range from a run-in shed to a full-scale barn. These buildings and structures add a category of expenses. “A barn with stalls needs cleaning, which adds in time demands as well as expenses for bedding and disposal,” Camargo adds. “And, you may want to build a riding area.”
Besides the maintenance that comes with normal wear-and-tear on horse facility buildings, it’s important to keep in mind that fencing, paint, automatic watering systems, tank heaters to prevent water troughs from freezing, stall edge stripping and flooring, and tractors and other equipment all require constant upkeep.
“Horses like to eat wood and lean on perimeters, so fence and stall boards need replacement,” Camargo explains. “In cold climates, waterers often freeze. During thaws, muddy areas require gravel, concrete, or repeated plantings of grass to reduce slippage and mess.”