Soaking Hay

Have you ever noticed how dusty hay can be? Maybe you’ve gotten a particular bale that was dustier than the others – your hands are coated after having separated the flakes, and you might have sneezed a few times. Soaking hay before feeding it to your horse can wash away most of this dust, but it also has many other positive health benefits.

The Benefits of Soaking

Horses with particular medical conditions may benefit from eating hay which has been soaked. Soaking hay cuts down on its dust and reduces the airborne mold spores, which can make eating the hay less aggravating for a horse with heaves or allergies. Horses with laminitis and insulin resistance can benefit from eating soaked hay, because soaking reduces the hay’s sugar content. Soaked hay also contains less potassium than fresh hay, so it can be a great tactic when trying to feed low-potassium diets to HYPP-positive horses.

If those reasons aren’t enough, soaking hay is a great way to get extra water into your horse. Wet hay is easier to chew, so it may be a great choice for older horses, and the increased water intake reduces the risk of colic, impactions, and choke.

How to Soak Hay

How much and how long you soak hay for will depend on your specific purpose. If you’re soaking to reduce the amount of sugar and potassium in the hay, then the longer you soak the hay, the better the end result. If you’re trying to reduce the dust, you can quickly spray the hay down with a hose (being sure to really break into and separate the flakes) just before you feed it. To reduce the risk of impaction, or to feed a horse which is recovering from colic, soaking the hay until it’s very wet is your best bet.

The amount of hay you need to soak will likely determine which method you choose, but regardless of your method, try to find a location with good drainage and which is easily accessible during all seasons. Using an existing wash stall with drainage can work, but be sure that you drain the hay water before putting it down the wash stall drain, so as to avoid clogging the drain. If you live in a climate with cold winters, you’ll need to find a heated area in which to store the soaking or wet hay to avoid freezing. Whatever area you choose, make sure that you can easily access it with a hose.

To soak an few flakes of hay, putting them into a small-hole hay net and immersing that in a tub of water, such as in a clean muck bucket or a large cooler or Rubbermaid container, may be your best bet. Once the hay is thoroughly soaked, simply lift up the entire hay net to drain the hay, then serve.

If you’ll be regularly soaking entire bales of hay, then you may want to create a soaking system. Multiple flakes of hay can be soaked by submerging multiple hay nets in large containers of water, and the presence of a pulley system will make larger, heavier hay nets easier for you to pull up and out of the water. You might purchase a number of large Rubbermaid containers to soak the hay, though get creative with what you have – an old bathtub set up outside of the barn could make a great soaking container. Entire hay soaking systems are available for purchase from equine feed suppliers, as well.

Whatever your method, feeding your horse soaked hay provides him with a number of health benefits. If you set up an efficient hay soaking system, then it only takes you a few extra minutes to prepare your horse’s hay for each feeding.

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