5 min read
Is your horse a fussy eater? Try steamed hay!

Is your horse a fussy eater? Try steamed hay!

Is your horse a fussy eater? Feed steamed hay!

Horses like to eat steamed hay…. that’s according to four published research findings and numerous customer feedback. This article looks at each of these independent studies and also what customer have experienced when it comes to switching to steamed hay.. 

Becky James
Technical sales Director, 20/03/2020

1. Moore-Colyer and Payne, The Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, England 

The Royal Agricultural University investigated the palatability and ingestion behaviour of polo ponies when offered dry, soaked or Haygain-steamed hay. They found that steamed hay once tasted was always the first consumed and that although some of the ponies nibbled the dry hay, they would quickly return to the steamed hay until it was all consumed whereupon they chose to eat the dry hay over the soaked. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL STUDY 

2. Brown and co-researchers from Writtle College, England 

Writtle College conducted a comparable study, which sought to determine which fodder was the preferred choice for stabled horses between dry hay, steamed hay or haylage. Seven horses stabled at Writtle College Lordships stud were simultaneously offered 3 haynets with either dry hay, haylage or hay that had been steamed in a Haygain HG600. Intake was determined by the difference in weight of the haynets after a 1 hour feeding period. 

Statistical analysis revealed steamed hay was most often the first forage to be consumed, followed by haylage, followed by dry hay and that steamed hay was consumed the most over the one hour feeding period. The researchers concluded that steamed hay was not only hygienically clean but also a palatable fodder for stabled horses. CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL STUDY 

3. The Kentucky Equine Research Centre, USA

The Kentucky Equine Research Centre in America performed a full 12 week feeding trial using three Thoroughbred geldings which included an assessment of palatability. They investigated voluntary intake, rate of intake, chewing rate and digestibility of dry, soaked and steamed mature timothy hay. Their findings agreed with those outlined above and recorded horses would voluntarily consume more steamed hay than dry or soaked hay when given the choice.

4. Graduate student from the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Most recently Tiana Owens, a University of Guelph graduate student conducted research into soaking and steaming hay along with co-researchers Madeline Barnes, Vanessa Gargano, Wilfredo D. Mansilla, Katrina Merkies and Anna K. Shoveller.

The University of Guelph have investigated, their findings were “horses preferred to eat steamed or dry hay over soaked hay, further supporting a recommendation that steaming is a superior method for treating hay for performance horses. These results, combined with the loss of nutrients when soaking hay, should make performance horse owners consider steaming their hay to better maintain its nutritional integrity”  


Steamed hay is used by veterinarians for inpatients. 

 “At Oakham Veterinary Hospital we have been using a Haygain Steamer since February 2010. It is used for hay fed to all our post surgery inpatients, allergy sufferers and those that are reluctant to eat. Steamed hay is more palatable; it has increased moisture content with no loss of nutritional value and is dust free. Our nursing staff and grooms find the Haygain Steamer clean and easy to use.”  

Oakham Veterinary Hospital, Leicestershire

“For our colic surgeries that are not eating well, we have used the HAYGAIN steamed hay to entice those horses to consume more roughage. The fresh aroma after the hay has been steamed appears to increase many horse's appetite post-surgery”

Nathan Slovis, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, CHT (Certified Hyperbaric Technologist) and Director of the McGee Critical Care and Medical Center at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute of Lexington

What owners of fussy eaters say... 

“This product is very robust, easy to use and very efficient. The hay is palatable and keeps its quality so we don't need to feed as much hard feed. Fussy eaters enjoy their hay far more steamed than soaked.” 

Vanessa Briggs, Worcestershire 

“We had a sensitive mare who was very picky about her hay and this became a real problem especially when travelling to shows in Europe as it was really important she didn’t loose condition. Steaming the hay encouraged her to eat it both at home and when away at shows so it became a useful tool to make sure she would always eat her hay.” 

Tom Reilly, Showjumping

“Haygain is great for those of my horses that are fussy eaters as it smells delicious, so they go straight to it and eat it really well” 

Katie Jerram, Champions show horse producer, UK

“Since using the HAYGAIN-steamed hay, my horses have been clean winded and running well. There is very little waste; even the fussy ones enjoy it. The HAYGAIN is a good investment; it saves on having to scope and medicate the horses as often, so pays for itself soon enough.” 

Andrew Boxhall, National Hunt Trainer, Mid-Glamorgan

“Great customer service and really great pieces of equipment. They are a worthwhile investment. My warmblood began coughing whilst on field rest and he loathed having soaked hay. Haylage wasn't an option so my vet gave me 2 choices; ventipulmin or haygain. So, I went for the HG One and I'm so glad I did! His cough and runny nose went within 2 days and his appetite for his hay improved tenfold meaning he was fighting fit to be bought back into work. After having my haygain for a little under a year, I decided to upgrade from an HG One to a 600 so I could give both my horses steamed hay. Once again, great customer service and another simple, easy to use and effective item.”

Zoe Norton 

"I struggled with maintaining weight and appetite during the competition season on my other top level partner, Arthur. Arthur has blossomed on his steamed hay. A horse that is generally very picky, now dives into his hay. The well-being of all my equine athletes is paramount. The delicate balance between keeping the competitive edge on my horses and ensuring their long-term stability is a big concern of mine. By using the HAYGAIN Hay Steamer I have confidence that my horses are getting the cleanest forage possible ensuring their respiratory health and the hay's nutritional value".

Allison Springer, International Event Rider 


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