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USDA Grant Access to Equine

Has anyone had any success with getting your hands on some USDA Grant monies? I’ve been told by many folks running similar operations to us (strictly equine operations) that have said they gotten various grants, cost sharing, ect… on their equine farms. Every time I call them as soon as I mention horses they shut it down, stating that equine is not livestock, which I agree with, but just wondering how others are able to get around it? Are they giving the impression they are operating cattle, or row cropping acres on their property? Does USDA do any follow up on grants/cost sharing?

Have you asked your many friends with grants what program they applied under? That would be a start.


Here the USDA offices have two main departments, the FSA, Farm Service Agency and the NCRS or something like that, the department in charge of all kinds of conservation programs.

Neither have direct grants that I know of, but they have their own approved programs.
You may be eligible for their office’s cost share programs.
They have loan programs to help beginning and young producers.

Some are to help combat invasive plant or animal species, to change land use to a more sustainable use, to preserve certain ecologies, facilitate migratory species paths, etc.

Maybe that is what you have been hearing about, those that participate in those programs.
Ask for more details, if you need to do some conservation type on your land, like protecting existing or adding water sources, they may have a program for you, ask them about it.
Those programs are about how to use and protect the land and wildlife, doesn’t matter if you have horses or giraffes.

Ask your friends for more details?


More details would be needed. As Bluey noted, there are a lot of programs that deal with agricultural land improvement (invasive species removal, riparian buffer development) but are not directly horse related. Many of those grants give priority to prime farmland (a legal classification) so if they have land that qualifies as prime farmland that may have given them an edge.
That being said, horses are in a grey area. For example, in my state we have a pretty good tax abatement program for ag/forest land. Pastures for cows equal ag land; pasture for horses does not. Unless, the horses can be shown to be producing agricultural income. This is not showing or even training (usually). It is breeding horses or using horses to produce farm income, i.e. they are plowing ag fields or hauling lumber. The rules are strict and guided by the IRS. My horses currently do not qualify as livestock for 2022, because they didn’t haul any firewood last year that I could show value for. In 2023 they probably will, and that could change the tax structure for that bit of land if I choose to file that way.
If your friends are getting grants by saying the horses are cows…that is fraud and I would run far away. The USDA and the IRS work together on those grants. The USDA wants to help you, but more honesty is better than less.


If you are trying to “get around it” then you probably don’t qualify. That’s a red flag there. There is a lot of really bad advice out there regarding horses, farm, and agriculture statuses for various grant, tax and employment situations.

I had not considered the land conservation that @Bluey mentions. My suggestion was to seek out a business grant. There are many local, state and federal programs as well as corporate funded grants for small business which doesn’t have the agricultural requirements.

This article was updated August 2022 and seems to have a variety sources! https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/small-business/small-business-grants


The easiest why to take a first whack at whether you qualify as any sort of agriculture status (USDA and IRS) and therefore grant monies etc., is to answer the question: Do I shoot it, shear it, or cut it for monetary gain? IF the answer is “no” to all, there is no way to get around it. If your horse farm has hayable land that you or a cutter comes on and bales for sale, you can be ag (the cutting). If you run sheep or other fiber producing animals that you shear and sell the fiber, you can be ag. If you sell animals for consumption (shoot), you can be ag.

I do know smaller equine facilities that run fiber or meat producing aspects and a few big facilities with hayable acreage.

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Are you certain your colleagues are talking about federal grants and not funds administered at the state level? My local NRCS office has helped me receive state cost-share funds for soil conservation/water quality improvement projects. I seem to recall a discussion about potential eligibility for EQIP as well but for the scope of my projects it wasn’t worth it. The site was inspected before application and after project completion to confirm eligibility and correct use of funds.

YMMV at the state level. I’m in Maryland and horses are considered a major agricultural industry here. Your local soil conservation district should know what your options are.

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Here is a link to the USDA grants and loans web site.

They also have an option to receive regularly sent emails about these programs. I have been receiving them for years.

Our cost shares are done at County level ( govt funded) and we used them ( after being approved) last year to help with fencing, hay field/ pasture planting and installing waterers and water lines etc…

What animals we were installing all that for made no difference (for us it was cattle) just that we followed the procedural requirements. It was a royal PITB but we saved a ton.

They only had so much money for the year.