As the source of 50 to 90 percent of a normal, healthy horse's nutritional needs, hay warrants careful consideration. Yet, there is a lot of confusion over what, exactly, defines "good" hay quality. Nutrient content and cleanliness are distinct traits often presumptively and wrongly lumped together.
"People need to be more vigilant about hay because it makes up thelion share of their horse's diet," explains Meriel Moore-Colyer, PhD. As an equine science professor at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, England, the feeding, assessing and treatment of hay is an ongoing cornerstone of her work in and study of equine nutrition.
You are not alone in asking this. The concept raised eyebrows when it was first introduced. We all love our horses, but steaming their forage sounded extreme -- even for us horse crazy people.
Today, Haygain Hay Steamers are everywhere on the international competition circuit. Steamed hay is considered the standard of care at that level, and understanding of its benefits is common knowledge.
“It’s a no brainer,” said Tamie Smith, the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky 5* Eventing Champion. “All you have to do is look at steamed hay versus dusty, dirty, dry hay.”
Keep Your Horse Healthy & Happy in the Hot Months Ahead
Made In the Shade: Horses should have access to shade throughout the day, especially during peak heat. The shade of trees can be ideal if it puts your horse in the path of natural breezes, too. And man-made shelters are good, so long as there’s ventilation.
Fresh, Clean Water: Hydration is important all year for digestion and the function of all cells. It’s even more so in summer because of water loss through perspiration. Dehydration can also aggravate conditions on the Equine Asthma Spectrum by thickening the mucus in the respiratory tract that occurs with respiratory conditions.
Monitor water troughs or buckets regularly and refill them as needed. Automatic waterers are convenient, but can make it tough to monitor how much your horse is drinking. In general, horses should consume about 5% of their body weight in water every day – more if it’s hot, they’re exercising, or both. Horses enjoying juicy grass pasture will get more of their water needs met by grass, whereas horses on dry hay will typically need to drink more.
All water sources should be kept clean. Check them when you feed, because horses typically drink the most within a few hours of eating. (Steamy tip: Haygain Steamed Hay can have up to 3X the moisture content of dry hay!)