The importance of testing hay

Lollykay

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Feb 11, 2017
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I have lived with metabolic horses since 2007.

My beloved Duke was easy to manage. Never had a laminitic issue. Never needed a grazing muzzle. Just needed a diet overhaul and shortened pasture time.

Joker is polar opposite. Foundered to where I thought I might lose him and lives with residual founder issue. Wore a grazing muzzle seasonally for three years. Has shortened pasture time and had an even more stringent diet overhaul than Duke needed.

This segways into why testing hay is so crucial. It is rough for folks who can only store one or two months at a time, and for those who board and hay comes in from different directions.

My horses are home, I buy my hay a year at a time. I had an opportunity to round out my hay requirements with some orchard/rye hay that is some of the prettiest and sweet smelling hay one could ask for. It was going to be $1.50/bale cheaper AND they would have delivered/stacked for us! A big plus for us, as we are retired and had to stop throwing bales long ago.

I had a feeling this hay would test high in NSC because my horses liked it way too much, lollol

Sure enough the WSC + starch, which equals NSC, is a bit over 15%. Maximum acceptable for a metabolic horse is 12%. The orchard/mix I buy is in the 8% range.

This means I’m not buying the hay as I would have to soak it and I hate soaking hay.

Its a pain and it’s an expense to keep having to test hay but if a horse is metabolic and has already foundered, it is worth the time, money, and trouble to learn how the hay tests.

For my part, I have too much $$$$ invested in Joker, and I do not want to see him founder so severely again, if he could even survive something like he went thru the first time.

Healthy horses with jobs that keep them active every day, could probably manage hay that is 15% NSC but those kinds of numbers are not safe for horses that are overweight or already have known metabolic issues and/or have foundered. There is no way to know the chemistry of the hay without getting it tested.
 
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Trewsers

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Interesting really isn't it, I had no idea about the differences in hay when I first became a horse owner. I think it's getting more common to get it analysed. It's not something I've ever had to do. I did go through a stage of soaking it but that was for the dust aspect (I have a Haygain steamer and can use that if need be now).
 

Lollykay

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@Trewsers yes it is interesting. My how the times have changed, since I was young. My family has always had horses, dairy cattle, beef cattle, depending which side of the family, but we were all farmers😍. We raised our own corn, oats and Timothy/mix hay was common where I grew up in U.S.

I knew what Cushings was and I was well aware of founder, even though none of our horses ever suffered from it.

I had no idea what insulin resistance was. When my beloved Duke was diagnosed with it in 2007, the vet was barely out the drive before I burst into tears. Tears that would go on for that entire summer because the general farm vet had no idea what to do for Duke except “watch his diet”, and he couldn’t even tell me what that should entail

I spent that entire summer researching my fool head off, trying to shorten a very steep learning curve, in an effort to get Duke’s health back on track.

Thankfully for Duke, his metabolic issues were mild. No laminitis, no grazing muzzle, just changing his feed pan stuff and shortening pasture time. He lived seven more years, to age 27, when hanging lipomas caused a major colic he couldn’t recover from. He is laid to rest on this farm and I still miss my perfect “Mr. Bonafide Genius”, barn name Duke🥰🥰

I was gobsmacked when, in 2012, Joker foundered so bad I thought I would lose him and his insulin numbers were so high Cornell U asked for another blood draw — they even called the lameness vet a second time to ask if the horse was still alive.

Mucho dollars and nine years later, Joker is still putzing around on his own six acres without a muzzle but he does have to have a therapeutic shoeing package to keep him comfortable.

This is why I tend to be in-your-face when people mention the “L” and “I” words in relation to their own horses.

I live with ravages of a worse case scenario. It s not cheap, it IS labor intensive and it is mentally taxing but I love this horse and am so thankful DH is a workaholic and still works full time. It allows me to spend my retirement on my my remaining two horses needs.

I am sorry to those who think I get preachy on this subject but having slogged thru metabolic muck for the last 14 years with two horses, and still hoping to prevent issues with a third horse, I speak from experience and hope I can save at least one horse from the same ravages as Joker has experienced.

Test your hay, test your hay, test your hay and keep excess calories and high NSC values OUT of the feed pan.

The orchard/mix that I have been buying for the last several years consistently tests in the 8% range for NSC value.

The soy free, no added iron condensed vit/min supplement I feed is ~8.8% NSC as sampled, per three ounce serving- three ounces daily is all the horse needs. I mix it with straight Timothy pellets.

Now that Joker is also Cushings (since 2019), HorseTech has a custom mix with increased amount of the three amino acids these horses sometimes need to help with muscle waste.



Here he is - Joker at 26 years; he also lives with a twice fractured sacrum. Joker should not be above ground with all of the things he has to fight. His professional caregivers 18493C24-6254-4F70-A471-8B7209AC0999.jpeg all say he is a fighter and as long as he is enjoying quality of life, they are fine with me spending my money on him:)

He is wet from his shower but he does not look like a horse that almost went ten feet under, not only from founder but from a broken back. I am prayerfully thankful for his professional team and for the privilege of having the means to pay for them and his supplements.
 
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PePo

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I personally don't test my hay as I prefer to soak for my metabolically challenged horse but hope your horse continues to do well :)
 
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Lollykay

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I personally don't test my hay as I prefer to soak for my metabolically challenged horse but hope your horse continues to do well :)

I tip my hat to you in a big way👍😀👍😀

I weighed hay and soaked hay early on. It’s not quite the nightmare in warm weather as it is during the cold months but I still don’t want to have to do that again, lollol
 

Jessey

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I wish I could test hay but I can only store a months worth, and if I tried to get testing done each time they would never save the specific bales I had tested until the tests came back so it would be money down the drain. It should be under 10% for metabolic horses according to Dr Elenaor Kellon.
 
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Jane&Ziggy

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For the first time ever I have been able to buy a whole winter's worth of hay (82 bales). I wonder if I should get it tested? I don't believe either of my current horses have metabolic issues (Ziggy absolutely did) but Sid is a very good doer and I'd be interested.
 
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carthorse

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Like you I dealt with metabolic issues for years, Cushings was relatively easy compared to IR. I wish I'd had the means to source and store my own hay but being on a livery yard that wasn't an option so like PePo I used to soak it very thoroughly then rinse, drain and feed. Back breaking, a nightmare in the winter, and despite having cleared it with YOs first guaranteed to make you unpopular once they realise soaking means soaking not spraying with a hose!

People fret so much about the sugar in the handful of hard feed or a carrot yet often completely forget the forage that's the bulk of the diet - it's like worrying if you turned off the oven when fleeing a house that's on fire!
 

Lollykay

Active Member
Feb 11, 2017
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United States
For the first time ever I have been able to buy a whole winter's worth of hay (82 bales). I wonder if I should get it tested? I don't believe either of my current horses have metabolic issues (Ziggy absolutely did) but Sid is a very good doer and I'd be interested.
I would get it tested because I am one of those “need to know“ people, lollol. It’s one of those times when poking the bees nest might be a good thing for your horses and a bad thing for you if you would have to soak the hay:)

If you do get the hay tested, make sure the company tests for horses NOT cattle. The tests are totally different and cattle results are totally worthless for horses:)

@carthorse , yes Cushings is a lot more black & white than insulin resistance. I am so fortunate to have my horses home. I have tested hay for at least 11 years.

I agree people worry too much about a few treats and not near enough about what’s in the hay but hay is a sticky wicket when one has to board. I tip my hat to you for hanging in there and soaking👍👍
 
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