Blog Post 10: How can you guarantee your horse is eating enough hay?
It's been a while since my last blog, but this evening whilst sitting in the bath, tired after visiting a few yards, I got wondering about hay. I am more curious with this post than I am keen to get my point across, as I believe this to be a very subjective thing. However, there is one thing that I believe ALL horse owners and carers should do but I will get to that one later.
Anyway, I am curious to find out everyone's methods and knowledge on feeding hay here in Spain, mainly southern.
After having been to several yards now with the shop and as a livery with my two boys, you get a good feelings as to what everyones habits and routines in regards to feeding hay. I have noticed how each way is very different.
Our hay in the region is generally poor quality oat hay, most English would call it straw, however, mostly due to poor irrigation and weather, there isn't much we can do. A lot of the more modern liveries tend to order their hay in huge bulks from Northern Spain or even Southern France, but these bulks usually put off the local liveries due to the cost.
Many liveries, believe in Hard Food before Hay. I was always taught (I am no expert, not yet anyway ;) ) that good pasture or good quality forage lined the stomach prior to any ingestion of straights, so I have always found this method as a little bit odd, considering that when I asked why, none of them could give me a clear answer to any of the benefits to their Hard Feed before their hay.
Something else I find rather disturbing I suppose is that the ''rule'' is 2% hay or forage for their total body weight. Now, I am even asking the modern yards whom approach a more natural way of thinking... By throwing a bale or two square bales of hay on the floor with 5 horses in pasture, how are you guaranteeing the 2%? Do you weigh each bale beforehand? Do you seperate the herd before hand?
Are the field horses fed ad-lib? A constant supply?
Feeding horses on livery whom are boxed either fully or partially; how are you guaranteeing enough hay? Are you factoring in horse that is boxed on straw? Weigh-taping each horse as they come in to factor in their weight and weigh the horses hay accordingly?
Are you also taking into account that the poor quality oat hay may not be giving your horse a decent spectrum of nutrient, therefore are you balancing it out with straights and balancers? Hard feed with liveries is another story altogether, and most likely my next blog. But why do you weigh your hard feed and not your hay? Where is the sense? Are you also taking into account the difference in weight of each bale? That one bale could weigh 10kg and the next from the same delivery could weigh 15kg. The slice you feed one horse, could be different from Lunch to Dinner.
I recently enough had the fortune to be on livery at a yard which for our region, and a ''standard livery'' pretty much got right. Every horse's hay was weighed according to their ''goal weight''. Any horse under, was fed for their ideal body weight for age, exercise etc. It meant, spending a longer amount of time preparing, but when the owners wanted to know (for whatever reason) what weight they were fed, an easy answer of ''X KG'' was given per feed, instead of the standard ''Oh, just a slice''. It also meant that in general, there was a strong consistency in the horses weight as each feed was weighed out, regardless of the weight of the bale.
To be fair, as a livery, I think that was the best way to make sure each horse got what it needed.
So, what's your ''rule''? For such an important factor in the care and owning a horse, it is paid such little mind. Would be great to hear what you think and do, so drop us a message!! :D
I hope it got you thinking... It sure did me!