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How to Choose the Right Hay

A mature horse will eat the equivalent of 2 to 2 ? percent of its body weight a day. For optimum health, nutritionists recommend at least half of that amount to be roughage, such as hay. For a 1,000-pound horse, that means at least 20 pounds of roughage each day.

A 1,000-pound horse will need at least 20 pounds of roughage each day. Use the following tips from the American Quarter Horse Association to select the best hay for your horse:

1--Open several bales to evaluate the hay inside. Don?t worry about slight discoloration on the outside, especially in stacked hay.

2--Choose hay that is as fine-stemmed, green and leafy as possible, and is soft to the touch.

3--Avoid hay that is over-cured, excessively sun-bleached or smells moldy, musty, dusty or fermented.

4--Select hay that has been harvested when the plants are in early bloom for legume hay or before seed heads have formed in grasses.

5--Avoid hay that contains a significant amounts of weeds, dirt or trash.

6--Examine hay for signs of insect infestation or disease. Check for blister beetles in alfalfa. Ask the grower about any potential problems in the region.

7--Reject bales that seem heavy for their size or feel warm to the touch, as they could contain excess moisture that could cause mold or spontaneous combustion.

8--Purchase and feed hay within a year of harvest to take advantage of its nutritional value.

9--Store hay in a dry, sheltered area out of the rain, snow and sun, or cover the hay to protect it from the elements.

10--When buying in quantity, have the hay analyzed by a certified forage lab to determine its actual nutrient content.

More information on feeding from the American Quarter Horse Association:

Body Condition Score

Senior Horse Strategies

Keeping Senior Studs Healthy