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Hay Facts Part 2 – Testing Hay

These tests will help you ensure that the hay you are feeding your horse is not bad for his health.

Bad hay is bad for your horse. In addition to being just plain unappetising, molds and dust in hay or other forage can trigger colic. Some horses have an allergic reaction to dust and mold spores, leading to respiratory conditions such as COPD (also known as heaves).

Therefore, it's very important to be able to recognise good quality hay (and equally, to recognize and avoid bad quality hay).

The following tests will help you ensure that the hay you are feeding your horse is not harming his health:


  • General appearance - Good quality hay will have a leafy appearance and not contain a lot of stalks. It should not contain foreign matter, such as twigs and branches, or weeds.
  • Color - The greener the hay, the better for your horse. Green hay is fresh and contains more nutrients. Yellow hay is older and has probably lost nutrients, although it's still generally safe to feed. Grey or black hay is an indication of mold and should be avoided at all costs. Take a bale apart to check the inside, black sections of mold inside the hay indicate bad baling or storing procedures.
  • Smell - Good hay has a sweet smell - you know the one, that sweet, grassy smell we all love! Stick your nose up close and breathe deep. Remember, your horse's head will be this close when he is eating it. If it makes you turn your nose up, he won't appreciate it either. Any whiff of mold or dust should be a warning that the hay is not the best quality.

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