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Ask the Vet, Part 3: Why is steaming hay important for my performance horse?

November 24, 2017

Written by Stephanie Davis, DVM 

At this point, we have discussed many ways that steaming hay can be beneficial for your horse.

Why, then, are we now going to discuss the performance horse? How is this type of horse different from any other? This is somewhat of a rhetorical question, but, simply, these horses need to be athletes. They have to be in top condition whether they are race horses, barrel racers, show jumpers, endurance horses or three day eventers. These horses require maximal fitness to perform.

By now, we all understand the benefits of steaming hay. First and foremost, the allergenic and inflammatory mold spores and dust are eliminated from the hay. A secondary benefit of the steaming is an increase in palatability of hay.

This can certainly be beneficial on the road as many horses have a decreased appetite when traveling and at hectic horse shows. When you are stressed, do you reach for a carrot stick or chocolate? Most of us (except for the few extreme health nuts) will choose chocolate! Consider the steamed hay, the “chocolate” of forages. I say this because of course, their concentrate is more of a treat, but their GI tract will not tolerate large amounts of concentrates, which we all know.

When preparing a horse for a competition of any kind, we first all have to pay an entry fee, right? So, before we even get there, we have invested some level of money into this event. In addition, we may have taken more lessons from our trainers to fine tune our horses before the competition (more money) or paid the trainer to work the horse. The horse likely has to travel to the competition, which, again, has its costs. Forget the cost of equipment from saddles, bridles, the right boots, jockey, clothes, food, and hotel! Obviously, it is quite an investment to compete a horse at any sport and at any level.

So, as I am sure you can see my point, these competitions are a great expense financially and emotionally. Additionally, a win or level of success at many of these competitions comes down to a fraction of a second.

If there is a way that you can keep the horse healthy and possibly have the advantage of that fraction of a second, you would want to do it, right? The simple answer is clean and healthy steamed hay. It is, in my opinion, the most natural and non-invasive way to influence and enhance your horse’s performance.

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