How To Soak Hay for Horses

Soaking your horse's hay can be extremely beneficial for weight control and managing horse allergies. Read this article to find out more.

Jeremy Ricketts
Jeremy Ricketts Posted on 7 January 2023
2 Min Read Horse eating hay

Be caution of mouldy hay!

Whether or not you feed soaked hay, never feed moldy hay.

Soaking hay is good for reducing the presence of sugar and dust. This article will look at soaking hay for both reasons.


1. Reducing the Sugar Content

Horses with laminitis, equine metabolic syndrome, equine cushings disease, or insulin resistance benefit from being fed hay with a reduced percentage of water-soluble carbohydrate (sugar). The sugar content of hay is often about 10% but can be significantly higher. However, this level can only be calculated through laboratory testing.

How to Soak Hay

Totally immersing hay in cold water for 60 minutes removes 30 to 40 percent of the sugar without significantly reducing the mineral content. Soaking for longer than one hour removes more sugar, but it also removes more of the essential minerals.

Soaking Hay for longer than 60 minutes

Submerging hay for 10-12 hours in clean cold water significantly removes the sugar content. However, the phosphorous, magnesium, and potassium content will also be removed. Protein and calcium are more resistant to sustained soaking.

Horses fed hay that has been soaked for hours will need additives to replace the lost minerals. The presence of bacteria will also significantly increase and this could affect a horse with breathing allergies.

2. Reducing Dust

Horses with recurrent airway obstruction have an allergic reaction to inhaled particles. These horses benefit from soaked hay.

A five-minute soak will reduce the number of particles by 97%. A twenty-four-hour soak reduces particles by 99%, but the feed value will then be very poor. In addition, the bacteria in the hay is increased through sustained soaking.

Suggested Strategies for Soaking Hay:

  • For dust allergies totally soak hay for 5 minutes
  • To reduce the sugar content totally soak hay for 60 minutes
  • Don’t store soaked hay as it will grow mold
  • Uneaten soaked hay must be discarded
  • Never soak moldy hay as it should not be fed to horses
  • If you soak hay for longer than 60 minutes provide a mineral block to replace lost elements
  • Be aware that hay soaked for a long time will grow bacteria, and this can affect horses with allergies, for these horses, an alternative is to steam the hay.


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Jeremy Ricketts

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Hello, I'm the resident writer here at The Rideout. I've been riding horses for the best part of... well my entire life! Over the years of owning, riding, competing and looking after horses I've built up a small wealth of information.

This site owes tribute to my many hours spent in and out of the saddle learning about the behaviours, needs, and quirks of these amazing animals. From basic care and grooming to advanced training techniques, I've honed my skills through years of hands-on experience.

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