Horse Care and Feed

Hay Day- Types Of Hay For Horses

Types of Hay For Horses

Haven’t you heard? Hay is for horses. Today we will be learning about the types of hay for horses. As a horse owner or rider, it is essential to know what they eat and what is best for them. One thing we know for sure, is that horses are grazers. All horses need forage, and we are here to help you make the perfect forage find.

It may seem like all hay is created equal, but there is in fact a big difference in the varying kinds. As equestrians, we want the best for our horses, and knowing the types of hay can certainly help us do just that. I know this may seem like tedious topic, but it will be a great asset to you and your horse.

Hay can vary greatly based on your location. Some varieties may be available in certain areas and not in others. The type of hay your horse will need depends greatly on their situation and individual requirements.

Put your barn boots on and come up to the hayloft as we get a birds eye view at the world of hay.

Alfalfa or Grass Hay

There are two main types of hay in which, all varieties can be broken into…alfalfa or grass hay. It is important to know which type you are looking for and what the differences are. By knowing this, you will be much better able to provide just what your favorite pony needs.

As a general rule, alfalfa hay is much richer and higher in protein. This a great a choice of hay for horses who are hard keepers, young and growing, or even senior horses.Types of Hay For Horses

If it is not Alfalfa hay, it is a type of grass hay! Just as the name sounds, all varieties of grass hay include some form of harvested grass. Not all grass hay is created equal.

Whether you choose, grass or Alfalfa hay, there is much to learn. Giddy up!

All About Alfalfa

As you climb to the hayloft, your eyes gaze out across beautiful green hay bales. You sniff the air, it must be Alfalfa. Touted as the king of hay, Alfalfa is the richest variety. Unlike it’s grass cousins, it is actually in the pea or legume family! It is very nutritious and can be an excellent source of nutrients for your horse.

Alfalfa hay has the highest protein content out of all the grass varieties. Surprisingly, Alfalfa also has less sugar content than many grass hays, and is high in fiber. This could be a considered a win-win situation in terms of nutritional impact.

If you own a hard keeper, a yearling, or a senior horse Alfalfa may be a good match. It is rich and can be fed in less volume than it’s grass hay cousins. It is also an excellent choice for the active working horse.

Horses love the taste of Alfalfa, even most picky eaters will be drawn to its taste. This makes it a good choice for those who refuse other varieties. This is much similar to the way we humans love a good piece of chocolate cake.

Grazing on Grass- All About Grass Hay

While Alfalfa may be the king of the legumes, grass hay is extremely nutritious and natural element found in the horse’s diet. There are many types of grass hay with varying nutrients. It is important to find the best type for your horse.

  1. Timothy Hay– is a fabulous grass hay! It is very nutritious, and often has the most nutrients when compared to other grass hay varieties. It is very easy for the horse to digest, and can be an excellent choice for sensitive stomachs. According to Sweetwater Nutrition, it contains around 6.00% to 10.00% protein and around 30.00% fiber. This hay is the highest in fiber. It also has a well-balanced ration of calcium and phosphorus.
  2. Orchard Hay- is another common variety of hay. Timothy grass is the most expensive Orchard hay is lower in cost. It is still a good hay, but not as nutritious as its Timothy grass cousin. It offers many nutrients, and protein in the range of 7.00% to 11.00%.
  3. Coastal Hay or Bermuda Grass Hay- this hay is very common in the coastal regions of the United States. This hay is grown in areas, where other types cannot. While this hay is much more affordable, it is also a colic risk. It has been known to cause problems with blockages in horses. At Natural Equestrians, we recommend using this type of hay with caution.
  4. Oat Hay- this variety of grass hay has been increasing in popularity in recent years. Much like its rolled oat cousin, oat hay has many of the same nutritional properties. It is a sweeter hay, which means that many horses will enjoy the taste. It is mostly found in the western portions of the United states. It is not as nutritious as Alfalfa or Timothy grass, but could be a good supplement hay.

First Prize Goes To- Choosing The Best Hay For Your Horse

There are so many possibilities when it comes to choosing the best hay for your horse. There is no one size fits all solution, but we have some tips to help make the process smoother…but, first we need to ask you some questions. It is time to put on your thinking cap.

What is your horses age? By and large young growing horses and senior horses benefit greatly from the use of Alfalfa hay. While this doesn’t need to be the sole source of forage, it is a great supplement. Timothy grass is another great type of fodder.

What is your horses activity level? A very active horse will most likely benefit from the more nutritious varieties of hay. These often include Alfalfa and Timothy grass. This will help your horse meet its nutritional requirements and maintain its weight. By feeding higher value foods your horse’s body condition and performance will improve.

Is your horse a hard or easy keeper? As the owner of a hard keeper you may want to look towards different varieties of Alfalfa. Its rich content may help support your precious pony’s nutritional needs. The easy keeper might benefit from other varieties of grass hay including Timothy grass, Orchard, or Oat Hay.

Hay also needs to be cut at the appropriate time. Your vet, farrier, and even fellow horse owners will know where the best hay can be found!

One thing all horse owners know is that the vet is your friend (even if your pocket book doesn’t think so)! A good piece of advice is to consult your veterinarian when creating the perfect diet for your horse!Types of Hay For Horses

Hay Is For Horses- No Matter The Kind

At Natural Equestrians, we truly hope that learning about the types of hay for horses has been a big help to you! There are so many things to consider when it comes to feeding our beloved friends.

One thing is for sure…hay is for horses! We know you will find the perfect variety for your horse.

We would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Happy Trails


(8) Comments

  1. What great information you have here! You know I would assume that for any sort or animal, that if your raising it to be the best that it can be then only the best sources or nutrition should be considered.

    You have presented that in such a detailed and thorough way! I did not even know that hay came in more that one variety!

    Thanks for such an awesome article!

    1. Steven, thank you for your reply! I am so glad you enjoyed our post on the different types of hay for horses. I agree, that is always important to consider quality nutrition sources for all animals!

  2. Wow, this is great information. I had no idea there where different hay and much less about their benefits. This is a great article and you provided great information. Horses are absolutely beautiful and I’m glad you can provide great information on feeding them what’s best. Thanks again

    1. Sandy, thank you for your reply! We are so glad you enjoyed reading our article! It is so important to feed our beloved equines good quality hay. We are glad to be a help!


  3. I wish there weren’t so many cheap brands out there, selling animal food filled with crap. But with that said, just like junk food, us humans have a choice what food we eat and what our animals eat. My sister owns a couple horses she’s had since high school. Do you happen to know any good brands that sell quality hay? Does the hay being local matter at all?

    1. Nate, you are right that it is so important to choose good quality brands and feed! Hay is typically grown locally, and sometimes by small farms.

      The best person to ask about finding quality hay in your area is your local vet or barn owner. They will have the inside knowledge.

      It is important to choose hay that has been harvested at the proper time, as this greatly enhances the quality.

      Sometimes local hay is not available, and then it would have to be shipped in from other areas. It truly depends on your location. Be sure to talk to your local vet.

      We hope this article will be a big help to your sister and her horses!

      Hope to hear from you again!

      Happy Trails

  4. Great article!! I adore horses and it’s awesome to know more about varieties and quality of the food we chose to feed them. Our standards are so high for ourselves it should be for our animals too! Thanks for the information, I look forward to learning more in your future posts 🙂

    1. Amber, we are so glad you stopped by Natural Equestrians! You are so right! We put some much time and energy into our own nutrition and health, and we should give our horses the very best! We hope to see you again soon!

      Happy Trails
      -Isabelle 😊

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