There are a variety of reasons, as horse owners, our hay supply changes. New hay provider, new cutting, new boarding facility, etc.
Some people wonder why you need to plan for a hay change. The hay makes up typically 75%+ of your horse’s diet, so switching cold-turkey could have ill effects on their health if they aren’t adequately prepared. Would you switch your horse’s grain ration overnight? Probably not!
Here are just a few tips to make your change-over easier on everyone involved:
- A gradual transition from current hay to new hay. Have at least 1 week’s current hay to mix in with your new hay. This will gradually prepare your horse’s palate for the new hay. Rather than a hard switchover where they may go a day plus without eating which can cause digestive and other issues up to colic.
- Start with a 1/2 and 1/2 mix new/current. Be sure to actually mix it though rather than one on top of the other. This will help the horse be forced to eat the new hay rather than pick around it.
- Over the course of 1-2 weeks, gradually make the weight heavier towards the new hay. The horse will get used to eating more of the new hay, so when that is all that is offered, it will not be a shock.
- Keep your feeding time consistent. This will make your horse more likely to eat new hay since it’s at regular feeding times.
- As always, keep a good clean water source available for your horse.
- Consider adding probiotics during the switchover to help keep the gut in a happier place.
- If the new hay isn’t as “tasty” as the old hay, they might pick around it at first, but don’t panic. They will get hungry, and they will eat it.
Just remember, a sudden change in diet of any kind can disrupt the microbes and balance of the gut, which can lead to disgestive upset such as excessive gas, diarrhea, discomfort, colic, etc.