Horses…Prefer Hay

Turkey Trot Yarrow voting for hay

A Facebook ‘friend’ posted a status recently that brought a smile to my face.  She had visited a doctor’s office and was chagrined to see hay on the floor where she sat; it had fallen off her jacket.  I had to ‘like’ this post, as on town runs I inevitably leave hay at the fuel company, the bank, the post office, and the auto parts store, basically anywhere I stand still for a few moments.  Even when I ‘dress up’ for trips to the ‘big city,’ my chiropractor has been known to pick hay seeds out of my hair!

I read recently about a study done by Cornell University about horses and hay.  The researchers devised an experiment to assess how much and whether horses prefer hay or pelleted feed rations.  “…horses are willing to ‘work’ more to obtain hay when it’s lacking from their diet than to obtain another source of fiber” such as pellets, the study concluded. (1)  I find studies such as this fascinating.  Knowing what I know about equine biology, hay and/or pasture are hugely important for equine health.  So it makes sense to me that horses would prefer hay to pellets.  It’s only ‘natural’ for their biology.  Researcher Jaime Elia, DVM, MS also pointed out that “Horses typically spend 65 percent of their time grazing, and when they spend only a fraction of that eating a pelleted diet, what do they do with the rest of their time?”  The study found that they make up the time foraging for edibles in their bedding.  Elia also said that vices such as cribbing or weaving could result. (2)  This suggests to me that horses prefer hay not just physiologically but mentally and emotionally, too.

I know I’m not alone in having an ability to leave bits of hay wherever I go.  I can understand the attraction of pelleted feed rations that wouldn’t leave calling cards on my clothes. For the sake of the equines in my life, though, I’ll keep feeding hay.  I’ll endure the occasional bits of hay that appear in my bed and in my own meals, as well as the brisk sweeps of countertops at businesses after I leave!

 (1)    Barakat, Christine, and Mick McCluskey, BVSc, MACVSc.  “How much your horse wants his hay,” Equus, February 2011, Issue 401, p. 15.

(2)    Barakat, p. 15.

(c) Jenifer Morrissey

About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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