A common question we get at BUCKEYE™ Nutrition is, “Is it OK to soak my horse’s feed?” The answer is a resounding “Yes!” There are a number of reasons one may soak feed, and we’ll touch upon a few of those here.
Typically, feed is soaked to soften it and make it easier to chew. Horses with poor dentition are the primary beneficiaries of this practice. But even if your horse has perfect teeth, you can still soak feed. Soaking feed helps increase the amount of water your horse consumes. Think about the cold winter and the hot summer – both examples of times when it is critical to ensure proper hydration. Lack of water is a primary cause of colic (Leibsle, 2016), so every little bit helps.
Some horses like soaked feed. I’ve witnessed my own horse not only dunk his hay, but also his concentrate feed. I think he just enjoys it, much like many of us enjoy dunking toast in coffee. Why do horses dunk their hay or feed? No one knows for sure, but it is thought that it is a natural response to moisten dry hay to make it taste better and easier to chew (Cymbaluk, 2013). Yes, dunking may make the water buckets a little messy, but they’re very easy to clean and it’s worth the extra minute to clean the buckets if it means extra water consumption by the horse.
It’s common to soak hay, beet pulp, hay cubes and hay pellets, but it is also perfectly fine to soak grain concentrates. Just make sure that any uneaten portions are disposed of daily, and the feed bucket is cleaned to avoid contamination with mold, bacteria or pests. I keep a kitchen scrub brush near my horse’s stall so it’s fast and easy to clean out water and feed buckets.
One note of caution: some horses do not like their feed soaked. I’ve spoken to several customers over the years who say their horses refuse to eat “soup.” In this case, perhaps try adding less water, and just enough to soften food if necessary. Consider adding a small enticement, such as unsweetened applesauce (a few tablespoons should do the trick, you don’t need a lot!) If you still don’t have any luck, give us a call and we’ll help design a program that works for your horse.
Cymbaluk, N.F. 2013. Water. In: Equine Applied and Clinical Nutrition. Geor, R.J., Harris, P.A and Coenen, M., Eds. Saunders Elsevier, London. pp.80-95.
Leibsle, S. 2016. Cold weather colic. American Association of Equine Practitioners website, accessed at: https://aaep.org/horsehealth/cold-weather-colic