Water is vital for life and is required for every process in the body. In fact, every adult horse is made up of between 65 and 75% water, says Joanna Palmer, nutritionist for Allen & Page.
A horse’s natural diet of grass has a high moisture content of around 85%. When compared to haylage’s moisture content of 60% and hay at just 20%, it’s easy to see that as we head into winter and rely on conserved forage to provide essential fibre, the moisture content of many horses’ diets will drop significantly.
Although a horse may naturally drink more water to compensate for this drier forage, some horses simply don’t drink as much as they need to.
Unappealing icy cold water and frozen pipes and troughs can lead to dehydration, causing serious effects on your horse’s health and his ability to work.
Feeding a soaked bucket feed is an excellent way to boost water intake and help to keep your horse hydrated.
Water is essential for gut health and if there is not enough water in the digestive systema horse is at greater risk of developing digestive issues, such as impaction colic.
A soaked feed helps to keep the gut hydrated, allowing the normal passage of food and subsequent droppings.
A soaked feed that is high in fibre may be recommended by your vet as part of a horse’s post-colic management.
Soaked feeds are not only easy for your horse to eat, but they have the following additional benefits too:
- Veterans: Older horses often have difficulty chewing long-stem fibre because of natural, age-related decline in their dental health. A high-fibre (26%) soaked feed that is fed as a partial hay replacer can be lifesaving, providing older equines with an alternative source of essential fibre.
- Gastric ulcers: Some horses are picky with their forage and do not eat sufficient fibre to meet their nutritional needs. Offering a high-fibre soaked feed alongside normal forage provides an alternative source of fibre. This helps to boost feed intake and promotes chewing, which stimulates saliva production to neutralise the acid that causes ulcers.
- Travelling: Horses who travel and compete have increased water requirements but may be reluctant to drink away from home. Being fed soaked feeds is an effective way to boost their water intake and aid rehydration and recovery.
- Boredom busting: Fibre feeds that require soaking will significantly increase in volume once the water is added, so it takes longer for the horse to eat them. This is particularly beneficial for stabled horses as it keeps them occupied for longer, helping to alleviate boredom and prevent associated vices.
- Warm and flavoursome: Soaking with warm — but not hot —water not only provides a warming meal during the colder months, but also releases more flavour from the feed, tempting fussy feeders to tuck in.
- Hide those meds: The mash consistency of a soaked feed is ideal for hiding supplements and medications.