Soaking hay


Robin Gray
 

How critically important is it to soak hay for metabolic horse? I am working myself to death soaking enough hay, loading nets for 2 horses, since they are turned out together. If I have my EMS mare’s diet dialed in real tight, and only give her soaked hay at night, when she is separated from her pal by a fence, can she tolerate Unsoaked hay and stressed grass (weather dependent) by day? I have a grazing muzzle as last resort, but then she can’t eat any hay by day, which I put in very slow feed nets. Oh, dear goodness, this is so hard. 
--
Robin Gray, in southeast Texas, member since 2021


Sherry Morse
 

Without a case history or a hay test we can't possible answer this question.  




Cindy Q
 
Edited

Hello Robin

Welcome to the group! 

Hang in there, we know it's not always easy being the advocate for your horse.

1) 
Definitely look in to having her hay tested by wet chemistry methods for ESC and starch at a minimum (ask the lab to hold the sample for possible further testing after they send you the initial results). Once you get wet chemistry result that the ESC and starch are less than 10% with starch less than 4%, you do not have to keep soaking hay.

Testing recommended at Equi Analytical. Insist on Wet Chemistry method as this is accurate (vs NIR). You may be able to borrow a hay probe from your local agricultural office, check. This is again more accurate (try to avoid piercing a clod of soil). If you can't do hay probe, 2nd choice (less accurate but better than nothing) is to hand grab samples from several (20 to 25 but some people even grab from 30 bales): https://ecir.groups.io/g/main/message/225509

2) Search forums for tips on hay soaking. eg. are you putting the hay into the hay net before soaking and soaking the whole thing then letting it hang to dry as is before feeding. This would easier/lighter work than soaking the hay, draining it and then packing wet hay into the net.

Bulk soaking hay in a mesh wagon of some sort idea: https://ecir.groups.io/g/main/message/280951
More bulk soaking ideas: https://ecir.groups.io/g/main/message/269380

Are the nets very heavy making it hard for you to handle - buy a few extra nets so you can split up the amount and each net is lighter and easier to handle. Get the right "tools" (setup) so to speak to make a hard job easier. Eg. find a good hook caribiner to hang nets? Soak in a wheel barrow or a few wheel barrows - easier to tip out the water?

Maybe replacing one hay meal or part of the meal with Timothy Balance Cubes which are guaranteed analysis to be below 10% etc and already mineral balanced. A smaller amount of water fluffs it up. You can place a brick or ball in the tub to slow down the eating.

Remember - the horse doesn't need hay in front of them 24/7. It takes about 6 hours for their stomach and small intestines to empty out so just because it doesn't have its nose in hay or food doesn't mean the stomach is empty. https://ecir.groups.io/g/main/message/267251

Any helpful neighour's kid you can tip a few bucks to help you with some of the heavy lifting?

Full details of our welcome letter below. There is more than just soaking hay involved in our recommended protocols. Please take a deep breath (maybe a vodka shot) and take your time to read through - post more questions if you have them.

Have you tested your mare to know what you are really dealing with? Details in the Diagnosis section below. For example if your mare is not insulin resistant but has PPID, medicine can help her and if her numbers and symptoms remain well controlled you could be less strict on diet.

The ECIR Group provides the best, most up to date information on Cushing's (PPID) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)/Insulin Resistance (IR). Please explore our website where you'll find tons of great information that will help you to quickly understand the main things you need to know to start helping your horse. Also open any of the links below (in blue font) for more information/instructions that will save you time.

Have you started your Case History? If you haven't done so yet, please join our case history sub-group. We appreciate you following the uploading instructions so your folder is properly set up with the documents inside. Go to this CH message with info on how to use various devices and forms. If you have any trouble, just post a message to let us know where you are stuck.

Orienting information, such as how the different ECIR sections relate to each other, message etiquettewhat goes where and many how-to pages are in the Wiki. There is also an FAQs on our website that will help answer the most common and important questions new members have. 

Below is a general summary of our DDT/E philosophy which is short for Diagnosis, Diet, Trim and Exercise.

 

DIAGNOSIS: There are two conditions dealt with here: Cushings (PPID) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)/Insulin Resistance (IR). These are two separate issues that share some overlapping symptoms. An equine may be either PPID or EMS/IR, neither or both. While increasing age is the greatest risk factor for developing PPID, IR can appear at any age and may have a genetic component. Blood work is used for diagnosis as well as monitoring the level of control of each.

PPID is diagnosed using the Endogenous ACTH test, while EMS/IR is diagnosed by testing non-fasting insulin and glucose.

The fat-derived hormone leptin is also usually abnormally elevated in insulin resistance but because there are many other things which can lower or increase leptin ECIR is not recommending routine testing for this hormone. Leptin is the hormone that says "stop eating".

In Europe, adiponectin is tested instead of leptin. Adiponectin helps regulate glucose and fat burning, and maintain insulin sensitivity. Low levels are associated with EMS. It has come to be preferred over leptin because it is not influenced by things like weight or exercise, and also because it was the only factor other than insulin levels that predicted laminitis risk

*Before calling your vet to draw blood for tests, we suggest saving time and wasted money by reading these details and then sharing them with your vet so that everyone is on the same page regarding correct testing and protocols.

*Please remember to request copies of the results of all the tests done rather than just relying on verbal information. Your vet should be able to email these to you. If you have previous test results, please include those as well. All should go in your CH, but if you are having any trouble with the CH, just post in the messages for now. 

Treatment: EMS is a metabolic type - not a disease - that is managed with a low sugar+starch diet and exercise (as able). The super-efficient easy keeper type breeds such as minis, ponies, Morgans, Arabs, Rockies are some of the classic examples. PPID is a progressive disease that is treated with the medication pergolide. Some, but not all, individuals may experience a temporary loss of appetite, lethargy and/or depression when first starting the medication. To avoid this "pergolide veil" (scroll down for side effects), we recommend weaning onto the drug slowly and the use of the product APF. The best long term results are seen when the ACTH is maintained in the middle of the normal range at all times, including during the annual seasonal rise. To accomplish this, the amount of medication may need to increase over time. Neither condition is ever "cured", only properly controlled for the remainder of the equine's life. If your partner is both PPID and IR then both medication and diet management will be needed. 

DIET: Almost all commercial feeds are not suitable - no matter what it says on the bag. Please see the International Safe Feeds List for the safest suggestions.

No hay is "safe" until proven so by chemical analysis. The diet that works for IR is:

  • low carb (less than 10% sugar+starch)
  • low fat (4% or less) 
  • mineral balanced  

We use grass hay, tested to be under 10% ESC + starch, with minerals added to balance the excesses and deficiencies in the hay, plus salt, and to replace the fragile ingredients that are lost when grass is cured into hay, we add ground flax seed and Vitamin E. This diet is crucial for an EMS/IR horse, but also supports the delicate immune system of a PPID horse. 

*Until you can get your hay tested and balanced we recommend that you soak your hay and use the emergency diet (scroll down for it).  The emergency diet is not intended for long term use, but addresses some of the most common major deficiencies. Testing your hay and getting the minerals balanced to its excesses and deficiencies is the best way to feed any equine (look under the Hay Balancing file if you want professional help balancing). If you absolutely cannot test your hay and balance the minerals to it, or would like to use a "stop gap" product until you get your hay balanced, here's a list of "acceptable" ration balancers

There is a lot of helpful information in the start here folder so it is important you read all the documents found there. The emergency diet involves soaking your untested hay for an hour in cold water or 30 minutes in hot water. This removes up to 30% of the sugar content, but no starch. Starch is worse than sugar since it converts 100% to glucose while sugar only converts 50%, so starch causes a bigger insulin spike. Make sure you dump the soaking water where the equine(s) can't get to it. 

What you don't feed on the EMS/IR diet is every bit as, if not more important than, what you do feed! No grass. No grain. No sugary treats, including apples and carrots. No brown/red salt blocks which contain iron (and sometimes molasses) which interferes with mineral balancing, so white salt blocks only. 

No products containing molasses. No bagged feeds with a combined sugar and starch of over 10% or starch over about 4%, or fat over about 4%. Unfortunately, even bagged feeds that say they are designed for IR and/or PPID equines are usually too high in sugar, starch and/or fat. It’s really important to know the actual analysis and not be fooled by a name that says it is suitable for EMS/IR individuals.

We do not recommend feeding alfalfa hay to EMS/IR equines as it makes many of them laminitic. Although it tends to be low in sugar, many times the starch is higher and does not soak out. Additionally, protein and calcium are quite high, which can contribute to sore footedness and make mineral balancing very difficult.

TRIM: A proper trim is toes backed and heels lowered so that the hoof capsule closely hugs and supports the internal structures of the foot. Though important for all equines, it's essential for IR and/or PPID equines to have a proper trim in place since they are at increased risk for laminitis. After any potential triggers are removed from the diet, and in PPID individuals, the ACTH is under control, the realigning trim is often the missing link in getting a laminitic equine comfortable. In general, laminitic hooves require more frequent trim adjustments to maintain the proper alignment so we recommend the use of padded boots rather than fixed appliances (i.e. shoes, clogs), at least during the initial phases of treatment.

Sometimes subclinical laminitis can be misdiagnosed as arthritis, navicular, or a host of other problems as the animal attempts to compensate for sore feet. 

You are encouraged to make an album and post hoof pictures and any radiographs you might have so we can to look to see if you have an optimal trim in place. Read this section of the wiki for how to get a hoof evaluation, what photos are needed, and how to get the best hoof shots and radiographs.

EXERCISEThe best IR buster there is, but only if the equine is comfortable and non-laminitic. An individual that has had laminitis needs 6-9 months of correct realigning trims before any serious exercise can begin. Once the equine is moving around comfortably at liberty, hand walking can begin in long straight lines with no tight turns. Do not force a laminitic individual to move, or allow its other companions to do so. It will begin to move once the pain begins to subside. Resting its fragile feet is needed for healing to take place so if the animal wants to lay down, do not encourage it to get up. Place feed and water where it can be reached easily without having to move any more than necessary. Be extremely careful about movement while using NSAIDs (bute, banamine, previcox, etc.) as it masks pain and encourages more movement than these fragile feet are actually able to withstand. Additionally, NSAIDs (and icing) do not work on metabolic laminitis and long term NSAID use interferes with healing. Therefore, we recommend tapering off NSAIDs after the first week or so of use. If after a week's time your equine's comfort level has not increased, then the cause of the laminitis has not been removed and keeping up the NSAIDs isn't the answer - you need to address the underlying cause.

 

There is lots more information in our files and archived messages and also on our website. It is a lot of information, so take some time to go over it and feel free to ask any questions. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don't worry, you will catch on, and we are always here to help you! Once you have your case history uploaded, we can help you help your equine partner even better.

For members outside North America, there are country specific folders in the files and many international lists in the wiki to help you find local resources.

If you have any technical difficulties, please let us know so we can help you. 

--
Cindy and Glow (over the rainbow bridge) - Sep 2017, Singapore
ECIR Primary Response





Robin Gray
 

Thank you, Cindy, for your comprehensive response to my hay soaking question! I actually feel pretty smart and proactive because I am doing just about everything suggested and recommended to make job easier, maintain good health for my horse!! I’m working on the case history today. I know my hay comes from different growers through the year so should I test every bundle? That would involve testing monthly.
I soak in wheelbarrows and lay out on a homemade draining rack, then rigged up a gizmo to load the nets, so that part is fairly easy. It’s just having the hay soaked and ready twice a day every day. What if I want to go be social? Hahaha!!!
Again, thank you, I’m going to go back and really read all the blue tangents in your reply. Knowledge is power!!!
Robin


--
Robin Gray, in southeast Texas, member since 2021


Kirsten Rasmussen
 

Robin,

Can you soak a 24 hr supply once a day?  Just leave the other meals draining in a cool location, or if it's hot and dry you can let the hay dry.  It makes life a lot easier.

--
Kirsten and Shaku (IR + PPID) - 2019
Kitimat, BC, Canada
ECIR Group Moderator
 
Shaku's Case History
Shaku's Photo Album


Cindy Q
 

Hi Robin

I just wanted to share that there is a file on hay storage ideas in case it is helpful and enables you to buy more hay at a time:

https://ecir.groups.io/g/main/files/5%20Core%20Diet/1.%20Hay%20Information/Finding%20and%20Storing%20Hay.pdf

How much hay are you feeding and is your horse stable? 

Some members also feed Timothy Balance Cubes in hay balls: https://ecir.groups.io/g/main/message/277770

--
Cindy and Glow (over the rainbow bridge) - Sep 2017, Singapore
ECIR Primary Response





Robin Gray
 

Yes, I actually do this, so maybe I’m just fussing for no reason and am doing everything to the most efficient possible! 😏


--
Robin Gray, in southeast Texas, member since 2021