Bale of Tips
The American Association of Equine Practitioners offers 10 tips for choosing the best horse hay.
December 11, 2011
From the American Association of Equine Practitioners, an AQHA alliance partner
High-quality hay is an important source of essential nutrients in your horse’s diet. A horse’s protein and energy requirements depend on age, stage of development, metabolism and workload.
A mature horse will eat 2 to 2.5 percent of his body weight daily, and for optimum health, nutritionists recommend that at least half of this should be roughage, such as hay. For a 1,000-pound horse, that means feeding at least 10 pounds of roughage each day.
AQHA’s FREE Chubby Horses report examines some of the findings of a study done that show that obesity is becoming a growing problem with horses.
While hay alone might not meet the total dietary requirements of young, growing horses or those used for high levels of performance, high-quality hay can supply ample nutrition for less active adult horses.
Once you’ve determined the best category of hay for your horse, most people select hay based on how it looks, smells and feels. Use the following tips from AAEP to select the best hay for your horse:
- It’s what’s inside that counts. Open several bales to look for consistency. Don’t worry about a little discoloration on the outside, especially in stacked hay.
- Choose hay that is fine-stemmed, green, as leafy as possible and soft to the touch.
Chubby Horses FREE report goes in depth on some of the first signs of Cushing’s disease, so you will be able to spot it quickly and be able to control the onset of this disease.
- Select hay that has been harvested when the plants are in early bloom for legume hay or before seed heads have formed in grasses. Examine the leaves, stems, flowers or seed pods to determine the level of maturity.
- Avoid hay that contains significant amount of weeds, dirt, trash or debris.
- Examine hay for signs of insect infestation or disease. Be especially careful to check for blister beetles in alfalfa. Ask the grower about any potential problems in the region.
- Reject bales that seem excessively heavy for their size or feel warm to the touch, as they could contain excess moisture that could cause mold – or worse – spontaneous combustion.
- When possible, purchase and feed hay within a year of harvest to preserve its nutritional value.
- Keep hay in a dry, sheltered area out of the rain, snow and sun, or cover the stack to protect it from the elements. Check periodically for signs of mold.
- When buying in quantity, have the hay analyzed by a certified forage laboratory to determine its actual nutrient content.
Remember that horses at different ages and stages of growth, development and activity have different dietary requirements. Consult your veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist when formulating your horse’s ration. He or she can help you put together a balanced diet that is safe, nutritious and cost-effective.