Last Updated on February 19, 2022 by Allison Price
Hay of high quality can provide important nutrients for your horse’s diet. Horses’ energy and protein needs depend on their age, stage of development and how much they work. A mature horse should consume between 2 and 2.5 percent of his body weight per day. For optimal health, nutritionists recommend at least half of that roughage, such as hay, to ensure its continued good health. A 1000-pound horse should consume at least 10 pounds of roughage per day.
Hay falls under one of two categories: grasses and legumes. Legume hay has a higher protein, energy, and calcium than grass hays. Although hay alone might not be sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of horses young and growing, or horses that are used for high levels in performance, high-quality, high-quality, hay can provide ample nutrition for older horses. After determining the best type of hay for your horse’s needs, most people choose hay based upon how it feels, looks, and smells. The American Association of Equine Practitioners has the following tips to help you choose the best hay for horses:
1. It is what’s in the bales that matters. Ask to see a few bales opened so that you can inspect the hay in the bales. You should not be concerned about any discoloration, especially if it is stacked hay.
2. You want hay that is fine-stemmed, green, and leafy. It should also be soft to the touch.
3. Avoid hay that has been overcured, sun-bleached too much, or smells musty, moldy, or fermented.
4. Choose hay harvested before the plants have reached their early bloom stage for legume hay, or when seed heads are formed in grasses. To determine maturity, examine the leaves, stems, flowers and seed pods.
5. Avoid hay containing significant amounts of dirt, weeds, trash, or other debris.
6. Insect infestations or diseases can be found in hay. Check for blister beetles in alfalfa. Ask the grower to inform you about any possible problems in the area.
7. Bales that are too heavy for their dimensions or feel warm to the touch should be thrown out. They could have excess moisture which could lead to mold and even spontaneous combustion.
8. To preserve the nutritional value of hay, it is best to purchase and feed it within one year after harvest.
9. To protect hay from the elements, store it in a dry and protected place.
10. To determine the actual nutritional content of hay purchased in bulk, it is a good idea to have it analyzed by a certified laboratory forage analysis. Horses at different stages of development, growth and activity require different dietary needs.
When formulating the horse’s diet, consult your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist. You can get help from your veterinarian to create a balanced diet for your horse that is safe, nutritious, and affordable.
The American Association of Equine Practitioners is based in Lexington, Ky. It was established in 1954 as an independent non-profit organization that promotes the welfare and health of horses. Currently, AAEP has more than 6,000,000 members around the world. It is active in ethics, practice management and continuing education in the horse industry and equine veterinary profession. # # #