Hay Soaking Tips

What’s the best way to soak horses’ hay to reduce dust and sugar content?
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Hay Soaking Tips
Soaking can be a good way to reduce dust and sugar in hay and is a tool often used by owners managing horses with equine metabolic syndrome or equine asthma. | Photo: Michelle N. Anderson/The Horse

Q. I’d like to soak my horse’s grass hay to reduce sugar and dust content. Do I need to be aware of anything specific when feeding soaked hay?

A. Soaking can be a good way to reduce dust and sugar in hay and is a tool often used by owners managing horses with equine metabolic syndrome or equine asthma. Researchers have performed a number of studies trying to quantify just how much water-soluble sugar soaking removes and what impact soaking has on dust.

Work conducted at the University of Minnesota has shown that soaking a variety of hays for as little as 15 minutes in cold or warm water can reduce nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC) content. Interestingly, in nearly all cases NSC loss was higher when using cold water, although the difference was typically not significant and other studies have shown warm water to be more effective. Across studies though, the longer the hay soaked, the greater its NSC loss

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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