Feeding wet, washed or steamed hay to horses can have advantages if done correctly.
Washing or steaming reduces dust levels, which is essential for animals with respiratory problems. However, the nutrient content also suffers as a result.
We explain when, how and for how long wet hay can be fed and how to prepare it.
In this article, you will learn when washed or steamed hay is appropriate and what is important when feeding it. We’ll show you step-by-step how it should be prepared and what the potential hazards are.
Can horses eat wet hay?
If properly prepared, wet hay can be useful for your horse and a good alternative to haylage.
On the other hand, incorrect or careless handling can be dangerous. Therefore, you must proceed carefully with this variant of feeding.
When is wet hay useful?
Washed hay or steamed hay is always useful when your horse has respiratory problems.
Dry hay can be downright dusty, exacerbating coughs, allergies or asthma.
Washing and steaming not only reduce this danger, but also the nutrient content.
This also makes it suitable for overweight horses or animals with metabolic disorders.
However, it must be prepared and fed properly.
How can hay be fed wet?
There are several ways to feed wet hay. These are:
All options have advantages and disadvantages, which we will show you below.
- soaking hay before feeding it to the animals
The clear advantage of this method is that it is very easy to do. A watering can, a bucket of water or a hose is enough and the hay can be watered directly in the feeding trough.
The disadvantage of this is that the dust and other impurities that are washed out remain in the water and thus in the trough.
Any nutrients that may have been washed out are also contained in the liquid. This should not be ingested, requiring close observation by you.
- soak hay before eating
The next option is to soak hay in room warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. To feed, remove it from the water and drip it off before eating.
The advantage of this is that dust, dirt and flushed out nutrients are removed directly with the water.
This keeps the hay clean and you only have to pay attention to the length of time the hay is available to your horse when feeding.
The method is a little more laborious at first due to the soaking and draining, but it is still simple and, most importantly, the better choice over just wetting.
- steamed hay as an alternative
Steaming hay is always a viable alternative if your horse doesn’t like wet hay or doesn’t eat it at all.
The best way to do this is to use a hay steamer. This develops temperatures between 90 and 100 degrees Celsius.
This not only moistens the hay and binds dust, it also keeps it slightly longer.
Minerals are lost only slightly with this method and water-soluble carbohydrates are reduced by up to 20 percent.
This makes it suitable for reduced-calorie feeding of overweight horses as well as for respiratory ailments.
Our tip: Use commercial, professional equipment. Do-it-yourself models usually do not produce sufficiently high temperatures, which can increase the growth of microorganisms.
Caution: Here’s what you need to watch out for when feeding wet hay.
Wet, moist or steamed hay is useful for some health problems.
However, when feeding, you must pay attention to the cleanliness and rapid perishability of the hay.
Due to the moisture, microorganisms can multiply and spread very quickly, especially at high temperatures in summer.
In winter, on the other hand, there is a risk of it freezing into ice lumps.
In both cases, it should not be eaten by your horse, as it can cause discomfort in the digestive tract.
Ice is not ingested by most horses anyway. Spoiled hay, however, may be eaten.
Therefore, feed only enough to be eaten within an hour at a time.
Steamed hay will keep slightly longer because of the sterilizing effect of the high temperatures.
However, this also spoils within a few hours or can freeze.
Do horses like to eat wet hay?
This varies from horse to horse. Some horses eat it without a problem, others don’t even try it or are disgusted by it.
You can try offering a very small amount at first and only slightly moistening the hay. This may make it easier to get used to.
If that doesn’t work, but dust-free roughage is essential for health, you can use alternatives.
What are the alternatives to wet hay for the horse?
If your horse is eating a wet or moist hay, this is problematic. This is because a steady intake of food is extremely important for animals.
Dusty hay is then also not an option. However, there are alternatives available. These are:
Adding vegetable oil or molasses to the hay binds the dust.
haylage or horse silage
It is important that you include additions or alternatives to hay in the caloric intake.
Another option is to feed low-dust, high-quality hay or sprinkle lightly with water.
Wet hay for horses
If you’re careful in your preparation and prepare each meal fresh, wet hay makes sense in many cases.
Thanks to the alternatives, you’ll be prepared even if your horse refuses to eat.
Additionally, keep in mind that if your horse has respiratory problems or allergies, moistening the hay alone is not enough to reduce dust exposure. Other measures are required.
My name is Mark and the senior editor
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