Boarding question: Providing own Hay

I’m in kind of a sticky situation at my current boarding facility; I normally would just use the barn hay to feed my horse but my horse is starting to have dental issues, so he’s wasting/not eating normal hay. I have him on track to get two problem teeth removed but was told even after he may still have issues eating normal hay. I’m currently in the meantime feeding him chopped hay (TC Safe Starch) and soaked hay cubes (TC Safe Starch) until the surgery, but I am concerned about the cost of paying for full board (which would include the cost of hay that i’m not using) and paying for this extra forage, which is manageable, but not cheap. I have a few options and wonder if any of you had been in this situation:

Option 1: continue buying my own hay and see if my BO will reduce my board since i’m not using her hay; the only thing i’m concerned about is she’ll say no and then cause issues I asked, take offence in someway etc. I don’t want to come across like I don’t respect the work they put in, but i’m not buying my own hay because I don’t like the quality, he just literally can’t eat it.

Option 2: Same as option one, but just don’t ask about the board reduction and just pay for my own hay. Now until March/April will be rough, but come spring I think I won’t have to really worry about hay at all because he’ll be on grass.

Option 3: I know you can DIY chop your own hay, so I could do that with the BO’s hay. My only hesitation is I know its very time consuming, doesn’t always chop fine enough, and just overall a PITA. I also work full time and usually overtime, so going out all the time to chop hay seems less appealing then just forking out the money to buy the bagged stuff/cubes.

I know I could also compromise and buy chopped hay and mix some of the DIY stuff so I don’t have to spend as much $$…which may not be a bad idea. I’m also worried as in the field he won’t be able to eat the hay out there, so i’ll have to provide my own out in his field, but he has buddies out there that will definitely eat what is meant for him, when they have their own hay they can eat. So that’s going to be frustrating if i’m paying like $28 a bag and/or spending hours chopping hay in the cold. I’ve also asked about moving him to a different field but there isn’t really a good solution at this farm to accommodate.

Anyone have a good solution to this? Or any tips to feed a horse in this way to make it as easy on barn staff as possible? Have a better diy hay chop solution? The only thing I’ve seen is a mulcher/leaf shredder but you have to put handfuls of hay at a time, and i’ld probably want to do multiple bales, so I can’t imagine how long that would take.

Before anyone asks, i’m also looking into retirement board for him that would likely include all of this for about the same price as my current board or a little less, but I would likely not be able to move him for a few months while I deal with getting the issue fixed.

It will take hours to chop your own hay. Plus it is loud and messy. This is how I know:

(With that setup, I was running it through twice to get the equivalent of what’s in the Safe Starch bags.)

However… with the cost of the Safe Starch you will have to balance time and money. It’s not cheap. (Nothing is, anymore…)

And no, I don’t think you should ask for a board reduction. You’re about to ask them to do more work to feed your horse something different than everyone else gets. Unless that is a service the barn normally offers (separating all the horses to make sure everyone eats exactly what they’re supposed to) then it’s a wash as far as I’m concerned.


I would let the BO know about your situation and ask for solutions in a collaborative manner. Bring all of these suggestions to the table and see where the conversation goes. Good luck with your guy!


Are BO’s so unapproachable these days? What BO could possibly take offense or in good conscience charge you for hay they are not feeding? AND expect you to pay the full cost and have to buy all your own forage??

I would at least bring it up and hope the BO doesn’t go off the deep end.

This is crazy. In my way of thinking the BO should be coming to you and telling you that your board will be reduced by x amount since you no longer can feed the barns hay. I guess I am in a different world.

In the long run it may not amount to much but it sure would be something toward your out of pockets expenses buying what you are.

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Noone here can tell you in advance what your particular barn owner will say. Their response will be based on their inherent flexibility, their business plan and cost margins, and other things having to do with storage space, staffing, workload.

I doubt chopping hay in quantity is going to be cost effective if you factor in time spent.

But you need to ask, politely, and abide by the answer. We don’t know your BO, we cant predict.

Realize that hay is a tiny part of your board cost. I’m in Canada, in self board, and my monthly hay costs started out about $ CAN 120/month 10 years ago and are currently about $ CAN 225 a month maybe a bit less. And full board around here would be $800 to $1100 a month.

If you are in the US and your BO is buying 15 tons at a time their hay costs are likely lower than mine.

You can compare hay prices easily. Divide the price per unit by the weight, for cost per pound. Then multiply by pounds fed per day for daily cost. Multiply that by 30 for monthly cost.

Hay cubes are generally more expensive than hay bales but often not that much more. You can also do the math to find out which local source is cheapest. But if you are feeding 20 lbs a day, and buying 50 lb bags, you will need a lot of storage space. Does your barn have that? Will they soak cubes? The extra bother is probably going to even out the hay cost.

If your horse is eating $150 a month in hay, that’s $5 a day. If a barn worker needs to take extra time to make up his special feed, $5 a day is pretty minimal. Where I live the minimum wage is $15/an hour so $5 gets you 20 minutes labor.


Higher maintenance horses that have to be separated to eat, etc. are more work for BOs. It’s also quite likely the horse is needing a lot more concentrate/Senior feed than the average horse, given it isn’t eating hay well. There are plenty of reasons why a BO might not be running to an owner to give money back.

I had one provide their own hay for a senior a few years ago that had to be soaked too. Dealing with the soaking, etc. was a huge hassle and mess, took a lot of water, and was a nightmare in winter. The hassle far outweighed any hay costs and I definitely did not reduce my board! This owner pitched in a LOT with the extra work or I would have charged more, not less.

OP –
As a BO – if there isn’t another turnout situation, the remedy is going to be getting your horse’s hay to him first thing in the AM, and having him going out last thing of AM chores so he has as much time as possible to eat his chopped hay. Chopped hay in the field isn’t going to work. Then the chopped hay would be fed at night in a larger amount. Your horse will likely need to get some regular hay in the field just so he has something to chew on and keep a little bit in his stomach during the day, but the predominance of his calories will need to be fed privately. That’s how I would do it, anyway.

It will involve extra effort from the BO, so I’d manage my expectations of any discounts. It will possibly also mess up the “schedule” because if I feed your horse hay, the neighbors are going to be upset so I’d have to move that whole section to the front so they don’t stall walk and fight/yell/kick…but I already have my schedule planned based on all the herd dynamics and efficiency, so it would be an inconvenience. That said, I’m always making accommodations for this and that. It will depend on your BO and how disruptive it is to the routine, likely.


Oh geez. Yeah, it seems like a lot. In your experience, how many hours did it take to do about two bales? just out of curiosity.

Also not all retirement places take horses that can’t eat hay, because it. Is. So. Much. Work! I board retirees and I wouldn’t take a horse that comes in unable to eat hay. I do care for horses that can’t eat hay, but those horses have been here a long time (like, 10 years) so this more intensive end of life care is offset by years of relatively easy care.

For the toothless ones, I keep them together in a 1 acre paddock with any other horses with similar nutritional needs. That’s usually 2, maybe 3, horses. They are out 24/7 with a barn run in close to my main barn. I soak hay cubes in wheeled Coleman coolers, so I can wheel out a half full cooler of wet cubes. I leave the cooler in the shed so they have forage in front of them most of the time. I do this twice a day. I might also soak senior feed in a 0cooler (lots! Like 8 quarts for 2 horses) so they can eat that too, all day. This is in addition to 2 meals they get when everyone else is fed.

Anyway none of this may apply to you, but might give an idea of how much more time consuming care of these horses is.


Not so much unapproachable, I just mean I don’t want to come off as ungrateful/high maintenance, etc. I know board costs are more than just hay and it could be seen as more work since he doesn’t require a different diet than everyone else. BO is very nice but does sometimes get on the defense when things are questioned why they are priced, etc. and I just want to avoid a potential conflict.

Trust me, I know. LOL I’ve been the one basically taking on all of his feeding care since he had this issue and it’s tough. Especially since I don’t live on property and have to drive out to take care of it. I don’t mind paying extra at a retirement facility for it; i’m just already paying premium for riding amenities so if I can find a place a little more affordable without those extra perks, and break even with extra cost of forage, i’d be happy, which will likely be the next step once I can get through the holidays and everything else.


This is what i’m thinking; i’m probably going to ask them if it’s possible for him to take some extra time to eat in the AM so he can get some extra calories and then just chew on hay while hes out. Seems like the least amount of headaches. He is just the type who loves to be out so I worry he’ll just stick his head out the window waiting for his routine to go out and not eat, lol.

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Given that he will be annoyed that all the others went out while he is supposed to stand still and eat his special hay, you have little choice but to talk to the BO and figure out how he gets to eat his stuff in a way that is the least disruptive to the horses AND the people. You don’t need to feed your chopped hay to his turnout buddies because that’s exactly what is going to happen if y’all don’t talk it out, regardless of board rates.

The most I ever managed was a full bale at a time, and I’m pretty sure it took a couple of hours. You can’t just chuck a flake into the shredder, it will bog down and die. So it’s a matter of handfuls at a time, then stopping to change out the bags.

There are real bale shredders that can do it, if I were feeding multiple seniors I’d consider upgrading.


Thanks! That’s helpful, and what I was worried about…makes me feel better about my wariness of chopping it myself. :slight_smile:

If he doesn’t want to eat much before going out, it isn’t the worst thing as long as he will take in enough calories overall.

I have a special hard keeper like this now. He gets 1/3 of his concentrate in the AM, when I know he won’t want to eat in his stall. 2/3 at night. I don’t want a lot of leftovers just sitting there, because in summer it attracts flies. He maintains his weight best with his many special accomodations. :joy:

My boarding agreement specifies what type of hay is included in board (choice of grass or alfalfa) how much (up to 6 flakes total; extra at additional charge), split in 3 feedings at owners specification. It also says if you want to feed different hay it is at your own coast with no deduction in board; and storage is rather limited.


How big is your guy and what is he eating as far as grain right now? Its very possible he could be on a senior feed with some water to soften it and that will make up a good amount of his calories. I think once he gets the teeth pulled he will feel better too. I had my mare toothless for the last few yrs of her life and this was her routine:

AM & PM feed
3lbs triple crown senior, (thr last couple yrs I switched to Nutrena Senior because of cost)
1 or 2 lbs alf/timothy pellets
1or 2 lbs beet pulp pellets, shreds soak faster though.
All mixed in a large wide feed pan, hot hot water to the brim, covered with a metal trash can lid to “cook”. She was usually fed last so it had time to soften good. A quick mix with a wooden spoon and then served.

She was turned out last, at first yes she was all noo I want out! But then after while settled into the new routine and ate more in the mornings vs leaving it and fussing.

Turnout was with 1 older friend, she didnt eat the hay or grass, more like quidded it, sucked up the juices and then spat it out for other horse to enjoy.

PM was same mixed n soaked in a pan, with chopped triple crown hay in a smaller muck tub. We even started soaking it in luke warm water and then left her the water in it to drink and stay hydrated better.

It seems like alot but it really wasnt once the routine was down pat. The barn did give me a break on board since she was eating none of their feed, hay, and even was leaving the grass and hay technically for the other horses to ingest.

As far as chopping your own hay, if you go that route…

I have a worx blower mulcher with the drawstring top for a trash can. I would pop that over a clean muck tub here at home for my second senior, run a couple flakes thru it, put the hay in long ways and let it kinda run thru my fingers so a big wad didnt go in all at once. Then I would dump it all out on the clean concrete floor and that second run went very quickly. It is dusty yes, but I could have 2 flakes done in around 15 min.

Depending on how big your guy is, and if you get him on senior and soaked pellets his hay intake will go down, you could do a bale in a couple metal or even plastic garbage cans on a sat or sun for the week. Honestly buying the chopped stuff was easier for my mare since she was boarded. Chopping it myself on the weekends for my other senior once I had my own place worked better just because I could make my own schedule for it.

Tsc has 50lb bags of the alf tim pellets, only standlee for beet pulp, and they carry both senior options. I am on their member program, would use any and all coupons discounts and price matching they allowed and just do a trip 2x a month and it worked for me for 3 or so yrs.
My mare was 14.2 for reference.

See how he does after the teeth come out. It could be he just needs a decent breakfast and then chopped hay and some soaked pellets at night since he will have more time to eat then. Then again with the hurting teeth gone he may be able to eat hay again a little bit. Jingles and good luck I’ve gotta go feed pony his breakfast now!!

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I think this is a very good point, that is much more obvious described this way.

I agree, this
OP, as long as your horse can safely nibble on regular hay while out with the others (understanding that he is not getting enough to be his needed calories), what is described by Fordtraktor is the best way to handle the turn out situation.


I understand that completely. Maybe my BO was a rarity in that I could go and talk to him about any issue or concern I had and there was no problem.

To me it makes no difference if hay is only a " fraction" of the overall costs to board? You are still being charged for something your horse is not receiving and having to pay for other hay besides. That is not right. I would just politely ask if that is a possibility that the cost of hay be deducted , since you are now having to buy your own and it is costly. Who can’t identify with needing to reduce costs in a budget?

BO can agree or say no. Just accept what they say and make it work if you can. You never know until you ask.

Here to confirm that chopping hay is indeed a pain in the rump. Pieces of the line break constantly and I had to sift through the hay to pick them out. Loud, dusty and messy. Time consuming too.