Hopeful signs say the economy is improving, but for many of us it's still tough financially. But there are ways to economize without jeopardizing your horse's health. let's look at the essentials:
Vaccines: Talk to your veterinarian about vaccines your horse truly needs (see January 2012). If your horse is a home body and only goes for trail rides down through the neighboring fields, your necessary vaccines will differ from a horse out campaigning every weekend.
Check your state law on Coggins testing. No need to have that expense on an off year, or if your horse isn?t traveling or planning to be sold. And you only need a full health certificate if you plan to travel across state lines.?
Deworming: In this case, you may have to spend money to save money. Drop a manure sample off at your veterinary clinic for a quantitative evaluation so you know what parasites you need to deworm for and how often (mailing the sample risks it drying before it arrives at the lab, skewing results). If you can cut back on a worming medication or two, the sample testing will pay for itself (see February, March 2012).
Feed: Skimping on feed will often cost you more in the long run. Stick to the protein and fat content your horse does well on. But consider a local feed mill brand in place of a more expensive national brand. Our local mill has great feed at equally great prices.
Look at supplements you're feeding and evaluate if your horse truly needs them. (Talk with your vet or nutritionist, not the supplement seller!). Watch for sales and coupons. Go in on an order with friends to purchase a larger container to share, if you use the same products. Open supplements are best used up within 30 days.
Search out sources of fresh grass. You might find a vacant field nearby you could ?rent? for grazing. If so, look at your local freebie listings for inexpensive movable fence. If your horse isn?t likely to be contained easily, fit in time to hand graze him.
Look at how you're feeding your hay. Loose hay on the ground may be ?natural,? but how much is wasted' A hay net, especially a ?slow feed? net, can pay for itself in a short time with a messy horse.
Bedding: You don't want your horse dealing with excess manure or smells, but you can be more efficient. If you pick out manure multiple times a day (even twice is better than once), you can often save bedding, as your horse hasn?t scattered his manure all around.
Wet straw can be spread outside on hot sunny days and will gain a day or two of added use. (it's a lot of work, but if you're pinched it might be worth it.) It doesn't work as well with damp shavings or pellets.
Frequent stall cleaning and looking at placement of your manure pile can help cut down on flies. you'll save a bundle on fly spray if your farm invests in fly parasites (see June 2010). Fly traps are also cost-effective in the long run, but they take more effort on your part.
Hoof Care: You might be able to save a few dollars by combining a visit with other horse owners nearby, but don't stretch the time between visits. If you have a farrier school nearby, sometimes student visits can be arranged at a discount. If you have a horse with unusual shoeing requirements though, stick with your regular farrier!
Contributing Veterinary Editor Deb Eldredge, DVM.