Soak Away Your Hay’s Hidden Dangers

In some cases, hay needs to be modified slightly to decrease the soluble sugars to maximize the hay’s benefits. Here’s what you need to know.
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Soaking Horse Hay
Soaking can help minimize dust and water-soluble carbohydrate levels in hay, which can be harmful for horses that are obese, insulin-resistant, or have metabolic syndrome or respiratory issues. | Photo: Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

Certain hays and horses don’t marry well; here’s how to modify your forage

Horse owners are familiar with the refrain repeated by equine veterinarians and nutritionists alike: Feed your horse lots of high-quality hay! Recent studies have extolled the virtues of a forage-only diet for horses—even those with high-energy demands, such as lactating mares. Some scientists say that only the most elite athletic horses truly require dietary supplementation with grains or concentrates to meet their daily energy requirements. So with hay being held in such high regard, how is it that veterinarians and nutritionists dare suggest it’s anything but perfect?

Annette Longland, BSc, PhD, DIC, of Equine Livestock Nutrition Services, in Wales, and Cathy McGowan, BVSc, PhD, DEIM, Dipl. ECEIM, MRCVS, of the University of Liverpool’s Department of Musculoskeletal Biology, Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, in the U.K., have both shown that some hays contain so much sugar that they are actually harmful for certain horses to consume

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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