Living conditionsTreatment and prevention

Soaking hay

  • Water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC), can be partly removed from hay (and beet pulp) by soaking and rinsing.
    • Approximately 50% of the WSC drain out in one hour’s time.
    • Soaking for longer is not more effective. However, rinsing in larger volumes of fresh water does remove more WSC.
    • Warm water removes sugars twice as fast as cold water.
  • Unfortunately, soaking also removes important minerals and vitamins from the hay.
    • Soaking for 15 to 30 minutes results in the best balance between WSC reduction and mineral and vitamin retention.
    • Hay soaked for more than 12 hours potentially puts horses at risk of phosphorus deficiency.
  • Ethanol soluble carbohydrates (ESC) wash out more easily than fructans.
  • Starch is not water soluble and therefore remains in soaked hay. ‚
  • Soaked hay will stay in the stomach only for a very short time, allowing bacteria to reach the small intestine and cause abdominal pain or colic.
  • Do not soak more hay than the horse can eat in one day. Wet hay turns mouldy quickly.
  • Keep wet hay clean. For instance, soak in a wheelbarrow, drain the residual water and let the horse eat out of
the wheelbarrow.
  • Needless to say, do not allow the horse to drink the residual water.
  • Soaking hay should be an emergency solution when low NSC hay is temporarily unavailable.
  • Silage and haylage should not be soaked. A second fermentation could set in, leading to an increase of undesirable bacteria. Given the low level of WSC soaking is not necessary.