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  • October 05, 2023 5 min read 1 Comment

    Hey, I'm Looking For Hay! 

    Welcome to part one of our four-part "Hey, I'm Looking For…" series, where we do the research and find the products that might be exactly what you are looking for to help with your horse. This week, we are talking all about hay; the different types, the pros and cons of each type, and which hay would be most suitable to a particular horse. 

    1. Lucerne (Alfalfa) Hay 

    Lucerne hay is a legume, not a grass, and it is a nutrient-dense meal for your horse. It is typically low in sugar, and high in quality protein and calcium. Let's take a look more closely at the pros and cons, below. 


    • High Nutritional Content: Lucerne is rich in protein, calcium, and energy. It can be an excellent supplement for horses that require added nutrition, such as young, growing horses or lactating mares.
    • Palatability: Many horses find lucerne very palatable and prefer it over other types of hay.
    • Digestibility:The fibre in lucerne is easily digestible, which can be beneficial for horses with digestive issues.


    • Caloric Density: Because of its high nutritional content, it can easily cause weight gain in horses if not fed in moderation.
    • Price: Typically, lucerne is more expensive than other types of hay.
    • Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio: The high calcium content in lucerne can pose a problem if not balanced with phosphorus in the horse’s diet.

    Horses Best Suited For: Performance horses, lactating mares, and young growing horses.

    1. Wheaten Hay 

    Wheaten hay is cereal hay and is grown from wheat. Similar to Oaten hay, it can be high in sugar, but a low-sugar wheaten is great for digestive health as it is a good source of fibre. 


    • Fiber Source: Wheaten hay is a good source of fibre, which aids in digestion and promotes gut health.
    • Lower Protein: Its protein content is typically lower than lucerne, making it suitable for horses that don't require high protein.
    • Economical: It is generally more affordable than Lucerne.


    • Nutritional Variability:The nutritional value can vary depending on when it was harvested.
    • Quality Concerns:If not cured properly, wheaten hay can be susceptible to mould.

    Horses Best Suited For: Mature, idle horses or those with lower energy requirements.

    1. Oaten Hay 

    Oaten Hay is another cereal hay grown from oats. Once again, it can be high in sugar, but if you can get your hands on low-sugar oaten, then it is an excellent choice for your horse as it is a great fibre choice, and encourages lots of chewing! 


    • Balanced Nutrition: Provides a middle ground in terms of energy, protein, and fibre, making it a good all-around choice.
    • Digestibility: Easier to digest than some other hays, making it beneficial for older horses or those with digestive concerns.
    • Palatability: Most horses readily accept oaten hay.


    • Sugar Content: Some batches can have higher sugar content, which may not be suitable for horses with metabolic issues, or those with dental concerns.


    Horses Best Suited For: General adult horse population, especially those with average energy needs.

    1. Meadow Hay 

    Meadow hay is a collection of hays, generally rye grass and clovers. It can be low in sugar, and is an excellent source of fibre. 


    • Variety: As it's made from a mixture of grasses, meadow hay offers a diverse range of nutrients.
    • Palatability: The diverse mixture often means horses find it palatable.
    • Fiber Source: It provides good levels of fibre, promoting digestive health.


    • Nutritional Inconsistency: Because it's a mixture of different grasses, its nutritional content can be inconsistent.
    • Quality Concerns: As with wheaten hay, if not cured properly, meadow hay can also be susceptible to mould.

    Horses Best Suited For: Horses with general grazing needs and those that benefit from diverse nutrient intake.

    1. Teff Hay 

    Teff hay, a relative newcomer to the WA scene, is a subtropical grass that is low in starch and sugar. 


    • Low Sugar: Teff hay is known for its low sugar and starch content, making it ideal for horses with metabolic issues.
    • High Fibre: Promotes gut health and aids in digestion.
    • Weight Management: Because of its low caloric content, it’s beneficial for overweight horses or those prone to laminitis.


    • Lower Protein: It might not be suitable for horses needing high protein in their diet.
    • Availability: Teff hay might not be as readily available in all regions as some other hays.
    • Nutritional Inconsistencies: Whilst most of the time Teff hay is low in sugar and starch, sometimes it can be inconsistent. So for horses that need low NSC content, it may not be suitable. 
    • Swabbable: Teff hay reportedly contains Synephrine, which is an illegal and swabbable substance. So, if competing, it is best to avoid teff! 

    Horses Best Suited For: Horses with metabolic concerns, overweight horses, or those prone to laminitis.

    1. Barley Straw 

    Barley straw has become a common feed for overweight horses and ponies. Barley straw is the stem and the leaf of the crop. 


    • Low in starch and sugar: Barley straw has a low sugar and starch content, making it suitable for horses that require a low NSC diet. 
    • Increases Chew Time: Horses will spend more time chewing barley straw, which increases saliva production. This can help keep horses occupied for longer, whilst decreasing the risk of gastric ulcers. 
    • Versatility: It can be fed alone or mixed with other types of hay to balance nutrient profiles.


    • Risk of Colic: Some horses find chewing straw to be quite problematic, which increases the risk for colic. However, various studies have shown that colic isn't a concern when feeding straw. 
    • Variability: Care needs to be taken when choosing barley straw for your horse. Look out for softer straw, with no sharp points. Also, avoid bedding straw. 
    • Grain: barley straw can sometimes contain grain. For horses that require a low-starch diet, this can be problematic. 

    Horses Best Suited For: Overweight horses or ponies, or those that require a low sugar and starch diet. 

    1. Rhodes Grass Hay 

    Rhodes grass hay is a subtropical grass hay that is typically low in starch and sugar. 


    • Low Starch and Sugar: Rhodes hay is consistently low in sugar and starch making it suitable for for horses that need a low NCS diet. 
    • Weight Management: a lower protein and caloric content make rhodes hay suitable for many horses, particularly those that are not in work, or the good-doers!


    • Palatability: Most horses and ponies don't like rhodes hay, and so will often take their time to eat it. 

    In summary, the choice of hay largely depends on the specific needs of the horse. While lucerne provides high nutrition for growing or performance horses, rhodes hay may be more suitable for those with metabolic concerns. Meadow and cereal hays provide a balance suitable for most adult horses. To determine the best type of hay doe your horse, it is best to work closely with equine nutritionists or your vet! 

    1 Response


    January 17, 2024

    This is great!! Thank you so much Oakford SF 😍

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