Poll Recap: Hay Soaking

Poll Recap: Hay Soaking

Thirty-five percent of the respondents said they always or sometimes soak their horses' hay before feeding.

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett, The Horse Managing Editor

Do you soak or steam your horse’s hay before feeding? We posed this question to our readers in an online poll last week. More than 400 people responded and we’ve tallied the results!

Of the 427 respondents, 279 (65%) said they do not soak their horse’s hay before feeding. Another 78 individuals (18%) said they do soak or steam their horse’s hay, and 70 respondents (17%) said they sometimes soak or steam their horse’s hay before feeding.

Additionally, more than 80 respondents left comments about why they do or do not soak or steam hay:

Some readers shared reasons why they do not soak or steam their horse’s hay:

  • “It's too much trouble.”
  • “No, but I'd put hay next to my old guy's water as he loved to dunk his hay. Some don't like it wet.”
  • “I haven't had a need and horses eat outside.”
  • “It wastes a lot of water and it's really messy.”
  • “She's never shown any problems with chewing hay or the sugars/starches in hay.”
  • “It takes too long and I don't have a steamer. I would only soak hay in desperation.”
  • “It’s not necessary for my mare.”
  • “I can't soak a round bale and my horses tend to pull out fresh rained on hay to get to the dry hay.”
  • “There's not enough time and I have too many horses to feed.”
  • “No, because of a lack of time and resources. There’s no hot water in the barn.”
  • “All three of my horses have done well for 20+ years without soaking.”
  • “My horses don't have a medical need to soak/steam, and their intake of water is good.”
  • “I feed good, clean hay outdoors and keep the water clean and close. There isn't any good reason to.”

Several people shared why they do soak or steam their hay:

  • “I do to reduce colic”
  • “I soak hay to get rid of dust.”
  • “I wet it in a bucket to reduce dust and mold spores for my allergy-prone horse.”
  • “It depends upon the upon the hay. If it is super green, I soak it to decrease the sugar content.”
  • “I soak it to take the sugar out.”
  • “I mostly soak hay to reduce the risk of dehydration; my mare loves it on those hot sticky 90-degree days.”
  • “One of my horses has heaves and wetting hay cuts down on dust.”
  • “I soak it to decrease risk of allergy to dust.”
  • “I soak for my insulin resistance horse, but the other two enjoy the 'almost grass' also.”
  • “I think it's easier to digest when it's soaked.”
  • “If the hay is obviously dusty, I soak it briefly soaked to reduce dust.”
  • “I soak it to prevent choking (from pellets).”
  • “We soak it because our pony has Cushing’s disease.”
  • “It gets rid of a lot of dirt and dust in the hay.”
  • “I soak hay for a Mini that is prone to laminitis.”
  • “If I have a laminitic horse or one with metabolic syndrome, I will soak. Otherwise, no.”
  • “My horse has equine metabolic syndrome and has suffered two bouts of laminitis. I soak it to try to control weight.”
  • “I soak all hay in hot water for an hour. This not only eliminate dust, but increases hydration.”
  • “Soaking adds moisture and controls dust and mold. It's a good choice for seniors.”
  • “I soak it to lower NSC for my insulin resistance horse.”
  • “I have an older mare with heaves. It seems to ease her symptoms, even in cold weather.”

A few people commented about when they would soak or steam hay if the necessity arose:

  • “If it is very dusty.”
  • “We steam if a horse has issues or the vet recommends it.”
  • “Yes, in warm weather (spring, summer, and fall), but not in winter in Wyoming.”
  • “I soak it in the summer when it is dusty.”
  • “In the summer or if the hay is dusty I hose it. Some of my horses need it, some don't.”
  • “I soaked my laminitic Icelandic's feed from February through November to help him lose weight.”
  • “I would only soak hay if directed by my vet.”
  • “My horse doesn't need his hay soaked, but I would if necessary for his health.”

And others left general comments:

  • “My horse won't eat perfectly good dry hay sometimes, never mind soaked hay. He's so picky!”
  • “This is done to prevent heaves. If I cough filling the nets, what is it doing to the horse?”
  • “Luckily I've never had a horse that needed his hay soaked.”
  • “My horse soaks his own hay where ever he is eating.”
  • “I look for quality hay that does not require soaking.”
  • “My horses refuse wet hay and I usually buy low-sugar hay and no clover or ryegrass hay.”
  • “I always keep horses outside and feed on the ground or rack.”
  • “I used to soak/steam but small hole hay nets have eliminated he need. No more coughing!”
  • “Pick hay that is not dusty. A horse in the wild doesn't get steamed or soaked hay.”
  • “We board and both our horses happily and healthily eat the hay as it comes delivered.”
  • “We feed hay to 10+ horses. Some soak it themselves in their water bucket.”
  • “I don't soak my hay, but I wet it to eliminate dust.”
  • “I feed a 28-year-old who quids on hay. She can eat grass and soaked alfalfa cubes.”

Interested in learning more? You can find additional information on soaking hay with this free special report, find out why soaking hay can benefit some horses, and learn about the differences between steaming and soaking hay on TheHorse.com! 

This week, we want to know: How confident are you that your horse is getting the nutrition he needs to be healthy? Vote now and share your comments at TheHorse.com/polls!

The results of our weekly polls are published in The Horse Health E-Newsletter, which offers news on diseases, veterinary research, health events, and in-depth articles on common equine health conditions and what you can do to recognize, avoid, or treat them. Sign up for our e-newsletters on our homepage and look for a new poll on TheHorse.com.

About the Author

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer

Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com Web Producer, is a lifelong horse owner who competes with her Appaloosas in Western performance events. She is a University of Kentucky graduate and holds a bachelor’s degree in Community Communications and Leadership Development, and master's degree in Career, Technical, and Leadership Education. She currently lives on a small farm in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

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