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Roughage for horses: there's more than (unpackaged) hay!

When we ask our customers what kind of roughage their horse gets, the standard answer is: (haylage) hay . And logical in itself, as this is also the largest source of roughage for horses. But there are several types of roughage that allow you to give your horse more variety and make it possible to feed (almost) all horses on unlimited roughage! In this blog, we would therefore like to explain to you what other types of roughage for horses there are, besides unpackaged hay/haylage.

But first: where our preference lies.

Slowly, we are seeing a turn towards unpackaged hay and that makes us extremely happy! Even large stables are increasingly opting for unpackaged hay, which is so incredibly nice to read. In fact, our preference is really for unpackaged hay. This is because haylage/ silage always has a fermentation process because it is wrapped in plastic and this creates a different pH, among other things. This disturbs so much in the body that the overall resistance goes down, minerals are not absorbed as well and many ailments arise. A lot of ailments in horses can be solved by feeding unpacked hay! This is also really the reason why we always go on and on about unpacked hay.

Be critical of your hay!

Over the past few summers, we notice and hear that Dutch hay is more sugary than usual, but also low in protein and that its composition is more monotonous. As a result, many horses struggle with obesity, itching, laminitis and other ailments. And quite honestly, there is currently very little Dutch hay that is really good and that can be fed to horses unrestrictedly. It is therefore hugely important to be critical of roughage for horses. Do not settle for hay whose analysis is not good or which does not come with any analysis. Dare to look beyond the borders, because in Germany/France/Poland you can often get beautiful hay with good analysis. And for a private individual with 2 horses, it might be a bit more difficult, but not impossible! And don't save on hay, because you will pay that back later on in vet costs and/or supplements.

Unlimited roughage for horses is more than hay!

But then, what else can be given as roughage to your horse? Hay is indeed roughage and so is grass. But besides that, there are other foods that fall under roughage:
  • Alfalfa
  • Timothy
  • Esparcette Branches and bark
  • Straw (e.g. barley straw)
  • Grass hay (with analysis) Most horses can do fine on unlimited roughage, provided the roughage is adjusted accordingly. All-day rich hay does not go down well with most horses. But if there are branches or tree stumps that horses can gnaw off the bark. Or there are hay nets filled with barley straw, then roughage is available. Give an amount of hay a few times a day, but make sure there is always something to nibble in addition. And maybe horses are less enthusiastic about that, but that is not a bad thing! The opportunity is there to eat something and since most horses in the Netherlands are overweight, it is not at all a bad thing that they do not eat hay full time (as long as there is something to eat). And if they are hungry, they really do go and eat the straw or very skimpy hay. As horse owners, we can be a bit stricter about that too 😉 .

Conclusion: give different roughage to horses

Unpacked hay should always be the basis, but you don't have to make it available to your horse indefinitely. At times when the hay runs out, you can make other roughage available and match it to your horse's needs. If your horse loses weight easily, you might choose extra alfalfa/esparcette as supplementary roughage. But if you have a horse that is easily overweight, then supplementing with barley straw is a more suitable option. And that way you can still offer your horses unlimited roughage. Branches and tree trunks are a great pastime for all horses and are also very healthy and rich in minerals!

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