Soaking hay in winter and summer heatwaves

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Grace and Millie

New Member
Feb 14, 2020
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Mountain ON
Hello there...

I have two very fat minis (Grace and Millie) living on a little track. I was free feeding them in 1" slow feeders and of course they stayed fat.

I looked up how much they should be eating by weight and I put them on a diet. Now they get 4 lbs/day each (1.5% of body weight). The problem is that they are experts with the slow feeders and they are done in less than an hour. I'm feeding 4 feedings a day but that still leaves them with empty stomachs for hours. I even bought a 1/2" haynet that looked impossible but they are so good at it that there are tufts of hay sticking out both sides of their mouths while they quickly empty it.

I really hate them standing around with empty bellies. I believe in free feeding but I'm worried that they would stay dangerously fat.... Grace has a big crest. I read one thing that said restricting food too much can make it difficult for them to lose weight and does something to their metabolism. And that if soaked they could potentially eat free choice. One thing I noticed is that they haven't lost a pound since I started restricting their food and their body condition is the same as when they were free feeding.

I'm willing to soak hay if I can figure out a way to do it well. My biggest challenge would be the weather. We get cold winters where it can dip down to -25-30C. In the summer it's the opposite problem because it gets up into the high 30's with 40 degree humidex. So I'm worried about handling wet and freezing nets in winter and fermented hay in summer.

It says to soak for an hour then feed, but I'd like to do it so that I'm not having to run back and forth to the barn twice for every feeding, or having to stand around waiting for it to soak.

How do people manage this? I'd love to hear how others have dealt with these challenges. I read that some people soak all day or night for the next feeding, but something else I read said to feed immediately because of bacteria. Is there a way I can do this? I'm thinking of going back to free feeding, especially in the winter when they need food in their bellies to stay warm.
I've had horses on soaked hay for years now. It's a pain no matter how well set up you are but it does work. The biggest problem is where to dump the water. If you have a drain you've got it made but if not you have to keep changing your spot or it turns into a swamp or skating rink. Mine soaks overnight and I take it out in the morning, it works fine like that in the summer but any longer than 12 hours after soaking and it get's pretty gross. Even in my barn it freezes some in the winter, as long as it doesn't freeze in the bucket you'll be OK with that. I've never had a problem with them not wanting or not being able to get the frozen hay out. I soak already in hay nets in rubbermaid totes so there's no messing around with wet hay anymore.
I use the wet hay for the ones who've had founder issues to keep the sugar down. If you're worried about their weight but their feet are fine you could just try getting them to go for a good run every day? When I was boarding they fed free choice hay and one of the horses(large pony) was very fat and didn't get much exercise from riding, the owner took her into the arena every couple of days and gave her a good run(on the ground) and her weight and fitness issues got much better.
My old name here was “7 fluffy friends”, and the ‘fluff’ has never been all hair! 😉 Weight management can be challenging, and, as Taz shares, exercise is a great tool!

We do offer free choice hay beginning late Fall through late Spring, but in the milder months I grab armfuls of hay and walk around dropping and scattering it as I go. This doesn’t take long to do and provides the minis with a bit of grazing and walking.

During the winter months the barn door is closed with the minis inside so they aren’t eating 24/7. They are given their evening feed and a good night hug. 🤗

Mary Flora
What kind of hay do you feed? Is there any way that you can test it? Lower sugar/starch hay, is better for them, less calories usually, and sometimes a little less palatable so they don't inhale it.

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