Hay Replacers

Aside from water, fibre is the most important component of every horse’s diet and for the majority, their fibre needs are easily met through grazing and supplementary hay or haylage. There is, however, a growing need for alternative sources of fibre, most notably for the increasing population of veteran horses and ponies who can have difficulty chewing due to poor teeth.

Why is fibre important?

  • In the wild horses would graze for 18 to 20 hours a day
  • To mimic their need to ‘trickle feed’ – our domesticated horses should ideally have fibre in the form of grass, hay or haylage available at all times
  • Fibre is not only essential for good digestive health, its digestion also provides a good source of calories and body heat as it is fermented in the hindgut
  • If a horse is not getting enough fibre in his diet, he will lose weight, almost in spite of how much high calorie ‘bucket feed’ he may also be given
    Horses that do not eat enough fibre are more likely to develop serious problems, including gastric ulcers, colic and hyperlipaemia
  • A lack of fibre can cause behavioural problems, including aggression, grumpiness and crib biting due to the horse’s inability to fulfil natural feeding and chewing behaviours

Fast Fibre as a hay replacer

  • A soaked, high fibre feed that is similar to hay in terms of its nutritional properties
  • Low in starch and sugar, less than 10% combined levels
  • Suitable for horses and ponies prone to laminitis
  • Balanced with vitamins and minerals
  • Quick and easy to prepare – soaks in 60 seconds!
  • Highly palatable and easy to eat, even for horses and ponies with very few teeth
  • An excellent way of boosting a horse or pony’s water intake, which is especially important for veterans who can be reluctant to drink enough water, particularly in winter

Feeding Fast Fibre as a hay replacer

When feeding Fast Fibre as a hay replacer, 1kg of hay is equal to 1kg of Fast Fibre (dry weight). The quantity fed will depend on whether the horse or pony needs a complete or partial hay replacer, likely to be influenced by the severity of the dental problems, and also the time of year. During winter, for example, when grazing is limited and reliance on long forage is far greater, feeding amounts will need to much higher to compensate for this.

WeightRest-light workMedium workHard Work TotalHay Replacer
200kg0.5 - 1.0kg1.25 - 1.5kg2.25 – 2.5kg3.0 – 5.0kg
300kg0.75 - 1.5kg2.0 - 2.25kg3.25 – 3.5kg4.5 – 7.5kg
400kg0.75 - 1.75kg2.75 - 3.0kg4.25 – 4.5kg6.0 – 10kg
500kg1.0 - 2.0kg 3.5 - 3.75kg5.5 – 5.75kg7.5 – 12.5kg
600kg1.0 - 2.5kg4.25 - 4.5kg6.5 – 6.75kg9.0 – 15kg
700kg1.25 - 3.0kg5.0 - 5.25kg7.5 – 7.75kg10.5 – 17.5kg

As a soaked fibre feed takes considerably less effort and time to eat than the equivalent amount of hay, it is important to try to maximise the amount of time a horse spends eating to avoid long periods when no fibre is passing through the gut. A horse’s feeding time can be extended by:

  • Dividing the horse’s daily ration into as many meals as possible
  • Feeding from a long trough or straight on the floor to spread the feed out and prevent the horse from taking large mouthfuls
  • Placing obstacles such as large, flat stones in the feed so that the horse has to eat around them
  • Splitting each meal into several smaller ones around the stable or field to encourage foraging behaviour
  • Mixing in chaff if the horse is capable of chewing one

Hay replacers – not just for veterans

  • Fussy feeders that simply do not eat sufficient fibre to meet their nutritional needs can often benefit from a fibre ‘top-up’ to supplement their long forage ration
  • A horse or pony that has sustained an injury or undergone an operation that affects their ability to chew – a soaked fibre feed that is easy to eat can be particularly beneficial during recovery
  • Horses and ponies who are prone to colic or recovering from abdominal surgery – again the provision of a soaked fibre feed ensures the horse receives the fibre they need for digestive health and the additional water content helps to keep the gut hydrated and able to function efficiently
  • Horses with a history of gastric ulcers, where providing an additional source of fibre together with their normal hay/haylage helps to maximise fibre intake and promote chewing, which in turn stimulates saliva production to neutralise the ulcer-causing acid