Hay for horses: how much to give and why soak
Hay for horses began to use at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD, and this became a significant milestone in the maintenance of maned assistants. After all, before this, horses could be used only where the grass grew year-round. And the introduction of hay into the horse’s diet allowed the use of these animals, for example, in Northern Europe, which means that people could travel great distances and fight effectively.
On the photo: hay for horses
What is hay and how is it prepared for horses?
Hay is one of the most important components of a horse’s diet.
Hay is a grass that is mowed in the summer and then dried and stored until a new crop. The grass is dried to such an extent that it does not mold. Thanks to this, hay can be stored indoors without special packaging.
An important property of hay for horses is the amount of water that it binds to in the digestive tract. About 2.5 - 3.5 liters of water per 1 kg of hay. A similar phenomenon is associated with chewing and mixing hay particles with digestive juices and saliva. This fluid is the horse’s internal water supply.
In the photo: hay for horses
Why soak hay for a horse?
Hay is quite difficult to harvest. It must be dried in the field for several days before being folded into bales or rolls. But in countries with frequent rains, this is problematic, and if the hay dampens in the field, mold fungi are planted in it. They do not necessarily cause the disease, but can provoke an allergy to the respiratory tract, especially if feeding with this hay occurs in the stall, which is poorly ventilated.
Hay, which was stacked moist in stacks, needs increased attention also because the activity of bacteria leads to an increase in hay temperature. It contains molds that affect the airways of the horse, causing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and exogenous allergic alveolitis in humans.
To rid the hay of dust, consisting of mold spores, it is soaked. During soaking, mold spores and dust are either washed out of the hay or, when wet, stick to the grass stalks, so that the horse does not inhale them, but swallows them.
Soaking hay is not easy, for this you need a large tank and a lot of water. And in winter, the water also freezes, so it is very unpleasant to mess with such hay. In summer, water deteriorates quite quickly, since the nutrients that enter it from hay decompose. Therefore, the water used to soak hay cannot be poured near rivers or wells - it pollutes the environment.
As for the time of hay soaking, some people think that 10 minutes is enough, and some keep the hay in water for 24 hours. Studies show that the optimal time is 30 minutes, although sometimes it is necessary to soak hay for evening feeding in the morning.
Keep in mind that as a result of soaking, some nutrients, such as proteins and sugar, are washed out of the hay and its nutritional value is reduced.
Which hay is best for a horse?
Hay is sowing and meadow.
Sowing hay is a mixture of herbs that have been specially sown to harvest this type of feed.The most commonly used are the multiflorous chaff, timothy grass and ryegrass grazing or their mixture. This hay is quite rough, it has relatively few nutrients.
Meadow hay is harvested on special pastures and contains a greater variety of grasses than sown hay. Therefore, the nutritional value of meadow hay is slightly higher than that of planted hay.
Pictured: horses eating hay
How much hay does a horse eat?
The rate of hay is individual for each horse.
An approximate calculation of the amount of daily feed is 2 - 2.5% of the horse’s weight, and the ratio of hay and concentrates varies depending on the load the horse carries. However, this is only an approximate figure.
Some horses eat 10 kg of hay per day, and some eat 20 kg.
Ideally, access to hay should be permanent. However, if you see that the horse eats a lot and is gaining excess weight, the amount of hay eaten can be limited by setting the so-called slow feeders. Thanks to the small cells of these devices, the horse does not remain hungry, but receives hay constantly, but in small portions.
Slow feeders can also be a good solution if the horse does not eat hay as much as trample it.