When it comes to finding the best hay to feed your horses, there are actually a select few choices for you to pick from. Generally speaking, however, hay will fall into one of two categories: legumes and grasses.
Legume hay has higher protein content, higher energy content and higher calcium levels than that of grass hay. Higher protein is especially important for young, growing horses and/or working or performance horses. With protein levels ranging anywhere from 15 to 21 percent in legume hay, horses are getting the nutrients they need to grow properly. However, it’s also important to understand that legume hay typically has more calories per pound than grass hay, so horses consuming these particular types will need to consume less to maintain their body weight.
Grass hay has its benefits, too. Lower in energy content and protein, grass hay is oftentimes preferred – especially for older horses as it is much easier on the kidneys and easier to chew and digest. Grass hay has high fiber content, which makes it a convenient solution to horse feeding as it satisfies their appetites without adding extra calories or protein. The lower nutritional values in grass hay is also a plus, not to mention, it’s less dusty than legume hay which makes it a smarter choice for horses that may have respiratory issues.
Every horse has different nutritional requirements. Age, activity level, breed and size all contribute to finding what hay is the best choice for your horse. Since there is no cut-and-dry answer to which hay is the ‘best’ generally speaking, it’s important to become familiar with your horse and your options to pinpoint the best choice specifically for you and your horse.