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Answer Exchange

  • Q:

    I have a 13-year-old Paso Fino mare that foundered two years ago. She is insulin-resistant. What hay is best for a horse like this? We usually purchase timothy grass and orchard grass hay for her, though we can also get timothy pellets. Does soaking hay or pellets help?

  • A:

    The best hay for an insulin-resistant horse is one with a lower nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC < 12%), or more specifically, lower sugar content. It is difficult to give you a definite answer on what type of hay is best because the amount of sugar in the hay can vary even within types. So much more is dependent on harvesting factors, such as what stage of maturity the hay is harvested, what time of day it was cut, how long it laid in the field, and whether it was rained on in the field after being cut. The only way to really know the sugar content is to have the hay analyzed. The hay used in commercial forage products is typically analyzed, especially if the manufacturer guarantees that the product is low-NSC.

    Regardless of the sugar content of the hay, if you can slow hay consumption you can decrease the rate that sugars enter into the bloodstream. There are several types of hay feeders and nets that effectively slow intake of hay. When you feed hay pellets or cubes, chances are the horse will eat them faster than long-stem hay.

    Soaking hay for a minimum of 30 minutes just prior to feeding has been suggested as a way to reduce the sugar content of the hay. It is important to take the hay out of the soak water before feeding because the water will be full of the sugar removed from the hay.  If you soak the hay cubes, then the soak water from that also needs to be dumped if your intent is to reduce the sugar content.


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