Typically there are 2 reasons people soak hay:
- To reduce dust, particularly for those that suffer with respiratory problems such as equine asthma. Steaming can be a good alternative for reducing dust.
- To reduce the sugars, for those on a weight loss management programme or prone to laminitis, including those with EMS, insulin dysregulation, PPID or other conditions requiring a low sugar diet.
How long should you soak hay for?
To reduce dust, the soaking time can be relatively short, with research suggesting 30 minutes is optimum and will reduce the respirable particles by about 90%.
To reduce the sugars, approximately 8-12 hours is recommended. In hot weather, soaking time may need to reduce to 1 -3 hours to prevent fermentation and ensure it is out of direct sunlight. As a general rule if you see bubbling in the water, fermentation may have started and it is not recommended to feed this to your horse.
Hay should be fed straight away after soaking to prevent mould growth.
What are Water Soluble Carbohydrates?
Soaking hay leaches the water soluble carbohydrates (WSC) from the hay. Put simply these are carbohydrates (starches and sugars) that dissolve in water.
Soaking hay doesn’t just reduce the WSC, it will also leach vitamins and minerals. If your horse or pony is fed soaked hay, it is vital that they are fed a fortified feed, balancer or vitamin and mineral supplement e.g. Every Day Vitamins and Minerals, to ensure their nutrient requirements are being met without the extra calories.
How much water should you soak your hay in?
It is important when trying to reduce the WSC in the hay, to ensure you use enough water. An easy guide is that you can move the hay around loosely within the water and ensure it is fully submerged. If you pack the hay too tight and don’t use enough water, the water will reach a saturated sugar solution quickly and then no more sugar will be removed.
Don’t forget to rinse the sugary solution off they hay once you take it out of the tub.
When should I weigh the hay to calculate how much to feed?
If you are weighing your hay to measure how much your horse or pony is allowed per day, ensure you weigh before soaking.