Trust me, down here in Texas we felt the pain of the drought/wildfires 1-2 years ago. It was $16-20 a bale for 40 lb weedy bales. We were lucky that my two horses had 8 acres all to themselves, but my friend was not so lucky.
That really is bad hay. You said this was the BO that bought the hay? I recall you saying they weren't "horsey"? Maybe they don't know any better? Of course they're going to go for the cheaper hay if they have no idea what the quality difference is. But good on you for going out and getting different hay that is better quality. I'm sure your ponies appreciate it. :)
There on the tips of fair fresh flowers feedeth he; How joyous his neigh,
there in the midst of sacred pollen hidden, all hidden he; how joyous his neigh