For everything: Board, Feed, Bedding, Vets, Farriers. You would be surprised how much you can save by shopping around. Call, don’t drive, to your area feed stores, compare brands and price. Most feed brands are comparable. Blue Seal, Poulin, Nutrena, Purina. Some feed stores will deliver right to your home, saving you gas money. Some offer discounts if you order quantity. Some feed stores will give you a break on bagged shavings if you order in bulk. Also, when looking for medical supplies like cotton wrap or epsom salts, the grocery store or department stores tend to be less expensive than the tack store. Lastly, don't be afraid to take advantage of coupons or special offers! It might not seem like much, but every little bit counts.
2. Bring Back the Barter System
Maybe you can give a few riding lessons in exchange for something. Clean out your tack room or tack trunks. Sell your used equipment. People are always looking to buy used horse equipment. Barter your manure composting in the backyard with someone who may have a trade you need.
3. Re-Think Your Boarding Arrangements
Instead of paying the high price of board, horse owners can rent a barn and all take part in the horses' care. The feed and bedding is bought in larger quantities to keep the costs down and the cost split. Everyone takes turns cleaning, feeding and turning out. Weekly or monthly meetings are good to work out any issues. Put everything in writing and have everyone read and sign agreements.
You can also considering changing the type of board you are paying for. If you’re paying for full board, consider pasture boarding or self-board, which is must cheaper. Or, if you are in an area with lots of horses, try shopping around for cheaper boarding facilities. Make sure not to scrimp on safety though just to cut costs!
4. Take Advantage of Pasture
If you have access to pasture, turn your horse out to graze instead of feeding hay and grain. If you don’t have pasture ask or look around for a field that is not being used, rent it. Use portable electric fencing and solar charger. Make sure you can get water there some how. I bet you would find plenty of fields or pasture that are sitting idle that the owner may rent to you. If you're on pasture board or have access to pasture, switch your horses to pasture board and, if the weather is good and the bugs are not too bad, leave them outside. This makes the horse much happier than if it is kept in a stall and there are no stalls to clean, saving the cost of shavings/bedding, and no one has to pick out stalls every day.
Remember that any change in feeding, ie: from hay to pasture, should be done slowly. It is always important to remember that grass in the Spring is packed full of nutrients and horses who aren't used to that may founder on it. Take the time to let your horse adjust and you will both be happier!
5. Grain and Feed
Cut back on concentrates unless there is a very good reason to be feeding them. Most horses stay happy and healthy on good quality hay alone. I stress 'good quality'. You can also look into bulk purchases of grain, which can be cheaper than buying by the bag. If you have a way to store loose grain, check with your local farmers’ co-op or feed store and compare prices. You can also feed ‘generic’ feeds from your local feed mill rather than name brand. Compare prices, ingredients and quality.
Buy hay in bulk. This, of course, requires the ability to store it. Most dealers won't say "If you buy 100 bales, it's less money." Like all things, the price can be negotiated -- it doesn't hurt to ask. In an area where hay is premium, they know that they can sell it to the next person, so they are typically very strict on their price. Some dealers let you get it out of their fields for less money.
7. Consider Part-Leasing
A very good way to reduce costs is to part-lease your horse. Offer a half lease where the cost and use of the horse is shared. You would have to share your horse but the good part is so are the costs. You each pay half the board, shoeing etc. Just make sure the person you agree to lease to is a knowledgeable and responsible horse person. Put it writing, read it and sign it. Make sure you talk about veterinary costs, what is going to happen if the horse gets hurt?
Horses don't need blankets. Blankets make humans feel better. However, if you clip your horse, then, yes, put a blanket on him when it gets cold. Also consider blanketing if you haul during cold weather.
9. Farrier Care
If you shoe your horse ask your farrier to reset your horses' shoes instead of new ones every time he comes. Better yet, do some research and explore barefoot as an option for your horse. It is cheaper than shoes. Learn to trim your own horses’ feet. A rasp is inexpensive, and you get better at it the more you use it. Also, if you must shoe, consider putting shoes only in the front, where the horse bears 60% of its weight. Remember that every hoof is different and you should be sure to take the time to understand your horses feet. Watch your farrier a few times and educate yourself so that everyone comes out better in the end.
10. Be Vet Smart
Get your horse’s teeth checked at least once a year and serious injuries need immediate attention. Otherwise, learn to check your horses’ heart rates, temperatures and capillary refill time to determine the extent of any injury. You don’t need a veterinarian for every scrape, scratch, limp, bruise or sniffle. Horses heal very well with little human intervention. This is a HARD thing for us humans to do, though. Two or three weekend emergency vet calls where the horse is not seriously injured and the vet charges are $500 or more will cure most horse owners of the desire to put the vet on speed dial. If you must go to the vet, take your horse to the vet. This will save the vet's trip fee. Another way to be vet smart is to get your horse neighbors and community together and share annual vaccines cost. Split the farm call and meet at one barn that is close to everyone.