After buying two horses, I quickly realized that buying hay may be an issue. This year in Idaho, there is a major drought. All horse owners know this; hay prices have risen dramatically compared to last year. Horses that usually are just fine on pasture alone now need some sort of supplement because the grass isn’t growing fast enough to keep up with the horses.

The pasture that I keep my horses in is only about an acre. Only about half is actually grass (the rest are weeds), so we like to give about a flake a day (a flake is where the hay breaks off easily in about 2 inch chunks). Our pasture in particular may have a hard time this year because, while we usually get irrigation once a week, we now only have it every other week. And, while the irrigation usually lasts until about early October, it is now being turned off sometime in August.

So I began searching for hay. Especially this year, horse owners are stocking up for the winter because, obviously, hay does not grow in the winter. As soon as I looked on Craigslist for hay, I realized that there were a lot more different kinds of hay than I realized. I knew a little about hay, but began searching for a little more detailed information.

One thing I had no idea about was what first, second, or third cutting meant. After asking around, I learned that it meant when it had been cut. At different times of the year, the grass is a different quality. First cutting tends to be coarser, and it tends to have more weeds. Second cutting has less weeds and quite a bit more protein in it. This year, some may not even get a third cutting depending how much water one’s getting.

I knew that I did not want to buy straight alfalfa, because it is rich in protein. Some horse owners prefer it, but I have heard a lot of people say that it is too much for some horses and that they can founder (a hoof condition sometimes caused by too much of something too rich) easily if eaten in large quantities. However, alfalfa is much easier to find this year.

Stack of hay

Here are some things that you want to be careful of: don’t buy any hay that has mold. Mold can cause colic, which is a twisted or clogged gut. However, I know that horses are picky, and will usually pick out the mold if they are not too hungry. I would not buy hay that has mold, because, honestly, if I see any hay with mold, I’ll pull off the moldy part and throw it away.

You also don’t want hay with cheatgrass. If there is any cheatgrass, there is usually a lot. The number one problem with cheatgrass is that it can get stuck anywhere on the horse, including tongue, mouth, and throat.

One thing that some horse owners use are hay cubes. Hay cubes come in sacks and are exactly how they sound. They are hay that has been chopped up and compressed into a cube. Because not as much hay will be available this year, it’s a great option because you always know exactly what you are getting and it is very consistent. Ten percent of hay that is fed by throwing it on the ground is wasted, so this is a great way to save some money. Hay cubes do need to be soaked before being fed to soften them, as some horses may choke or get some stuck in their throats. And the best part is that they are sold at D&B!

I ended up getting a grass/alfalfa mix. It’s first cutting and does have some weeds, but I did know that before I bought it.

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