soak your horse's hay

How to soak your horse’s hay!


Well, there are several reasons to soak hay in water. Some horses need this permanently, some need it temporarily. Often the reason for soaking will dictate the manner in which to soak.


  • For horses that have metabolic issues, such as Insulin Resistance or Cushing’s disease, soaking your horse’s hay can reduce the WSC (water-soluble carbs). Research tells us that the longer the hay is soaked, the more the WSC content if reduced.


  • You will need to balance this with how your barn operates, and also the climate. Do you want to soak overnight if the temps are well below freezing, giving you a giant hay-cicle in the morning? Conversely, the summer heat could create a nasty stew of hay if soaked for a long time. You will need to experiment with different times of soaking hay.

very green timothy hay stacked in a barn


  • Some folks choose to soak the hay in scalding hot water for an hour before feeding to cook out the sugars. At night, the hay for the morning can sit in cold water. If you go the hot-water route for your hay soaking, please drain and rinse in cold water before you serve on that silver platter.

For horses that have respiratory issues, soaking hay will reduce the amount of RDC’s (respirable dust concentration.)


  • More dust is removed the longer the hay soaks. The RDC numbers will climb up if the hay is allowed to dry before feeding, so be sure to feed wet. With these types of sensitive horses, also be sure to keep the entire environment dust free, especially during feeding times. This means no mucking at meals for that and adjoining horses, keeping the stalls, fans, and rafters dusted, using special bedding, etc.


hay in water trough

A water trough makes a great soaking tub.


You might find that you need to soak your horse’s hay on a temporary basis.


  • Sometimes your vet will prescribe soaked hay following a colic episode or if your guy is dehydrated. For these circumstances, the wetter is better, so you will just have to monitor the soaking process. I’ll bet about 30 minutes or so does the trick for most types of hays.

So what are the best techniques for soaking hay?


  • First, a few tools. A muck tub, big bucket, or maybe even a small wheelbarrow. Hose, and most importantly, a drain. Be sure to fill your container near the drain, so there is no lugging of heavy hay and water concoctions across the barn.


hay soaking in a muck tub

Smaller tubs work well, also. Soak the hay inside a hay net easily scoop it all up. You can let it hang a bit to drip.


  • To make draining and clean up easier, make sure your drain is covered with some sort of mesh catch device. You can do the typical tip the bucket and wait, or you can line your bucket or tub with a haynet, and when you are ready to feed, just pull the net out.


Clean up un-eaten hay quickly.


  • Wet hay on the ground tends to get slimy, moldy, and generally gross pretty quickly. You may want to use a mat under your pile of damp hay.



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These hay nets can be put in tubs or buckets for soaking. Very little mess and hardly any waste.