Can horses have unlimited amounts of hay?

Endless hay! In technical terms, this means “ad libitum” and is considered ideal for feeding horses. right?

The pro – who talks about feeding ad hay

Lisa Radlin

For well-being and relaxation: Horses can better meet their natural need for food for 16 hours per day with a drink feeding. This also ensures more harmonious groups in the open stables and satisfied stall neighbours because there is no jealousy about food or hunger. Prolonged chewing also relaxes our four-legged friends.

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Protection from stomach ulcers: A horse’s stomach constantly produces stomach acid. the stomach needs food so as not to attack the delicate mucous membranes of the stomach; Around the clock, a maximum of four hours break to eat. Free hay feeding helps achieve this and more: saliva is produced by chewing. The substances and bicarbonates in it also work to isolate stomach acid.

Teeth protection: Horse teeth push 2 to 3 millimeters of the jaw each year because they are designed for constant wear. This happens automatically when the hay is chewed extensively and extensively.

Bowel protection: A healthy gut microbiome (microbiome) is fundamental to optimal nutrient utilization, preventing deficiency symptoms, and also ensuring a healthy immune system to protect against infections and allergies. Free available high-quality hay optimally nourishes the vital intestinal microflora, which quickly becomes unbalanced. The fact that horses do not swallow food prevents improper fermentation – which, like the function of active intestinal motility, prevents colic.

Cons – What speaks against feeding hay with advertising fame

Hay ad libitum

Lisa Radlin

Who speaks against feeding hay with fame.

poor health quality Unfortunately, hay is not always completely flawless, but it does contain more mold or dirt than is good for horses – a result of digestive and respiratory problems. Then rationed hay with uncontaminated coarse supplements (such as Heucobs) is the better alternative.

Risks of digestive problems: If the hay is too coarse (a very drooping grass during harvest), this puts a strain on the digestion process. The high content of woody lignin is difficult for horses to digest, the colon’s flora loses its balance, and the risk of watery stools or colic increases. In the case of fecal water, some nutritionists also recommend rationing hay: because each kilogram of hay binds several liters of water. This can sometimes exacerbate fecal water problems.

The risk of being overweight: Hay has a lot of energy. If you do not work out enough, you may become obese. Small example: a 500-kilogram warm-blooded animal needs about 55 megajoules per day to sustain itself. A kilo of hay provides between 7 and 10 megajoules. If a horse eats commercially, researchers calculate 2.5 percent of its body weight is in the hay. In the example the horse is 12.5 kilos. Depending on the energy content of the hay, a horse takes in between 87.5 and 125 MJ per day – well above maintenance requirements.

Therefore, unlimited feeding of high energy hay is not for overweight horses. Otherwise, they will continue to gain weight.

Beware of metabolic problems: Hay can be a real sugar bomb, depending on the types of grass, timing of cutting and environmental conditions – it can be 150 grams per kilogram of dry matter and more. Animals with metabolic disorders should be given hay with a sugar content of less than 6 percent. Horse owners can only tell how much is in their hay through analysis.


Can you feed hay with advertising fame? This depends on the individual horse. All you can eat is definitely a good solution for heavy eaters, elderly people and working animals on a daily basis.

Things are a little different for horses that are overweight or have metabolic problems: overweight horses should only be given hay as part of a diet, rationing in any case. A mixture with straw (1/3 straw, 2/3 straw) will also be possible here.

If a horse suffers from EMS or Cushing, he needs a diet low in starch and sugar – this also applies to hay. It is best here to divide the roughage and extend feeding times with time-controlled hay nets or racking.

If you want perfect feed for hay, you can analyze the roughage in the lab. Then the amount of hay can be completely adapted to the needs. Barbara Buck, editor of CAVALLO.

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