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Handy Hay Soaking Tips
Hay soaking in tub
Water tipped off hay
Hay left to drain
hay rinsed

Soaking takes out 20-30% of the soluble sugars and 50% of the potassium. It is beneficial particularly when you are feeding horses/ponies who need to lose weight or who have EMS, laminitis and/or when you are not sure of the nutrient composition of the hay.

There are also benefits for head-shaking/flicking horses and those with PSSM, not from a point of view of weight loss but for reducing potassium intake until they are back to normal.

Surprisingly, most horses take to soaked hay really well.

Soaking is usually a short term measure. There is no need to soak the hay for healthy horses who don’t have any issues...

Here are some pointers to make it easier:

1. Soak a manageable quantity of hay because it is much heavier when it is wet

2. Put the hay in the hay-net ready for feeding post-soaking

3. Station your tub near the hose and somewhere the water can drain away when you tip it out/pull the plug

4. An old bath makes an ideal tub, here we are using half a mussel buoy. Put something heavy on top to help submerge the hay

5. Make sure it is in the shade when temps are on the warm side

6. Leave the hay soaking for 45-60 minutes in cold water (Soaking hay for longer can lead to loss of other minerals)

7. Empty the water out of the tub (it is great for watering plants if practical)

8. Rinse the sugary water off the hay

9. Leave to drain for a few minutes, this reduces the weight ready for transport

10. Place on a tarpaulin and drag over to horse or use a wheelbarrow

It is important not to recycle the same water. The sugars that have leached out will have started to ferment. Fill the tub with fresh water each soak.

Small tubs don’t work as well because the water to hay ratio is too low. You need quite a lot of water compared to hay otherwise the water becomes saturated too quickly and therefore limits how much sugar/potassium can transfer from hay to water.

It should be noted that soaking does not guarantee that the hay will end up less than the 10% sugars recommended for equines with laminitis. But it is very worthwhile to do it especially when it is a challenge to locate suitable low sugar hay.

Any darkening of the colour of the water is due to pigments leaching out of the hay and bears no relation to sugar content

Double Soaking

When the horse is in crises with laminitis, the best strategy is to double soak the hay.
This is far more effective than leaving the hay in the same water for the same amount of time because the water becomes saturated with potassium and the sugars and can’t soak out any more.

Soak it for 1 – 2 hours then change the water and soak again for another 1 – 2 hours

When you take it out of the water – rinse before draining it.

Soaking vs 'Wetting' or Steaming

‘Soaking’ is different to merely ‘wetting’ the hay to get rid of dust or ‘steaming’ which is a sterilizing process for horses with respiratory problems. Neither wetting nor steaming reduces sugars or potassium content.


If you have any great ideas on how to make it easier let us know

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