How to have a healthy happy horse.
Volume 24, Number 3
In This Issue:
- Do You Know Your Hay?
- More Help For Your Horse
1. Do You Know Your Hay?
Hay makes up the largest percentage of the diet for most horses. Bagged feeds should be a small part of the horse’s diet and yet bagged feeds have detailed nutritional analysis but hay comes with no information at all. Unfortunately, it falls on the horse owner to have the hay analyzed. There are obvious challenges with this plan.
How frustrating it is to buy a large load of hay only to find out it is not appropriate for your horse. I had this happen this summer when drought caused higher than normal sugar levels in the local hay. Our Insulin Resistant horse can’t eat this high sugar hay. Having already loaded 150 bales into my loft, I was faced with soaking this hay to remove some of the sugar. Not an easy task with heavy snow and many nights of temperatures below 0.
Many large horse operations buy hay very frequently so testing is not an option as the hay is gone before results come in. Small horse operations may not have room to store large loads of hay so they face the same challenges as larger farms as the hay load is gone before test results come in.
Unfortunately, you can’t tell much about the nutritional value of hay by looking at it. In all my years of looking at hay and hay analysis I am amazed at how bad the analysis can be for beautiful looking hay. On the other hand, less appealing looking hay can be perfect in its nutritional value.
If you feed a lower nutrition hay, such as coastal bermuda, and your horse is not metabolic, you may be able to fill in for deficiencies by feeding a whole food supplement, such as blue green algae. Algae has a wide range of nutrients and it does an amazing job of filling in for what is not in your hay. Dull hair coats, runny eyes and poor quality hooves can all be indicators that your hay is not meeting your horse’s nutritional needs. Formulated vitamin/mineral supplements don’t give the same results as blue green algae.
On the other hand, if your horse is getting too fat or overly energetic, your hay may be too nutritious for your horse’s needs. In this case, soaking may remove enough sugar to make the hay acceptable. You can remove about 30 percent of the sugar by soaking for 30 minutes in warm weather and 1 hour when it is cold. Make sure you drain the soak water so your horse can’t drink it.
If you have a metabolic horse you will want to rinse your hay before you soak it. This will remove surface iron from the hay. High iron contamination from the soil can aggravate insulin resistant horses by interfering with assimilation of copper and zinc. Non metabolic horses can more easily deal with high iron hay.
Soaking hay will not remove minerals from the hay itself but you can lose some electrolytes. I like to keep Redcal minerals out free choice. You can get these at www.thenaturalvet.net. Horses lick these minerals as needed, especially when the weather is stressful.
If you can test your hay I love www.equi-analytical.com for testing. I use the Trainer test that gives you protein, sugar and starch, digestibility rate, plus macro and micronutrients. If you have a metabolic horse you need all of this information to determine if the hay can be fed safely.
Once you have an analysis of your hay you can work with a company like FeedXL to help you balance your horse’s diet.
Knowing what is in your bagged feed and supplements is of little value if you don’t know what is in your hay. While you can do some actions to work around non tested hay, it is not the same as having the analysis. As horse owners we need to start asking our growers to provide us with tested hay and let them know we are willing to pay extra for them providing this service. It makes so much more sense to have the testing done before the hay is purchased.
2. More Help For Your Horse
Ready to get make this the best year ever for you and your horse? Consider a nutritional consult with Dr. Ward. Or get help from one of our temperament consultants to discover your horse’s temperament type. You might even consider taking the online course and becoming a temperament consultant yourself. Then if you are ready to really get serious increasing your knowledge of holistic horse care, the Mentoring Program with one-on-one instruction with Dr. Ward may be just what you are looking for.
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