Unable to digest hay

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Unable to digest hay

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  • Horse cant digest fibre in hay
  • "unable to digest hay"

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    08-09-2010, 06:30 PM
Unable to digest hay

Has anyone ever had this problem with their horse or know anything about it?

This is not my horse but belongs to a friend. The horse is either unable to digest hay or it is very slow in doing so.......sometimes having it come back up the esophagus. At present is maintaining on beet pulp and alfalfa cubes and pasture grass but with winter coming in a few months the problem will get worse because she will be on hay rather than being out on grass.

Any help is much appreciated.
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    08-10-2010, 08:47 AM
I haven't heard of it before and it doesn't sound good. However, you mentioned that the horse can eat alfalfa cubes, so it sounds like maybe you could get by with alfalfa cubes and/or chopped hay. They feed out the same as hay pound for pound - some senior horses can only eat the chopped hay, cubes, or my horses' personal favorite - pelleted hay. It will be more expensive than regular hay, but it works just as well...
    08-10-2010, 09:23 AM
Thanks Dee

I found this on the internet:


It is a rare condition for sure.
    08-10-2010, 09:34 AM
Hanover, I've heard of horses who can't digest hay, but I've never heard of one who will cough it back up the esophagus.

Has the animal been diagnosed by a vet, or do the owners just think this is what's wrong? If she hasn't been seen by a vet, she needs to be.

The inability to get hay down the throat sounds to me like choke more than anything else. Since horses can't throw up, there's obviously an obstruction preventing the mare from actually swallowing the hay.

Regardless of the actual condition, if she's unable to eat hay her owner can buy hay pellets and soak them along with the beet pulp. As long as she's getting the roughage and nutrition she needs, it's fine if it's not in actual hay.

Many horses who no longer have teeth or who are IR can't eat hay, and they're maintained with soaked hay pellets and senior feed or beet pulp.
    08-10-2010, 10:17 AM
Yes, she has been seen by vet(s) and has been taken to a vet college and it is not choke.

The owner boards the horse and the problem will get worse in the winter when the horses are stalled overnight. Right now with the summer weather, she grazes in the field and tolerates the grass fairly well but it would be pretty hard on her to go through nights in the stall without something to chew on I would think. She would basically eat her feed and then be left with nothing.

I hope I am making sense here in what I am trying to say

I believe she is finishing up a course of anti-biotics without too much change seen.
    08-10-2010, 10:20 AM
I also forgot to mention that this is not an old horse. Probably around ten or perhaps younger and her owner is very conscientious in caring for her.
    08-10-2010, 10:25 AM
You're making perfect sense.

I understand that her owner is worried about her being stalled at night with nothing, but since the hay is obviously detrimental to her there isn't much else they can do.

Since the mare's on antibiotics do the vets think it's a temporary condition caused by a bacterial infection, or are they worried about any residual hay she might have had in her stomach causing issues?

Very interesting case, actually.
    08-10-2010, 10:48 AM
Re: Since the mare's on antibiotics do the vets think it's a temporary condition caused by a bacterial infection, or are they worried about any residual hay she might have had in her stomach causing issues?

I didn't think to ask such an obvious question but will do so when I next talk with my friend; however, from her (owner's) tone, I think it is not a temporary condition. Perhaps she is just unfortunate in owning one of those rare horses who has this perplexing problem for which there is no known cure as yet.

It would be nice if the people in the link that I posted were available to talk with to see how they fared.

Thanks so much for your interest. This friend has helped me over the years. She took me on as an "old" person who wanted to learn to ride and was very patient with me .... seeing me through numerous trials. She is much like a daughter to me and it is sad to have this happen to her and her equine partner.
    08-10-2010, 10:55 AM
I'm sorry your friend is going through this with her horse. It's tough when an animal's hurting, because we can only do so much.

The antibiotics do have me curious, though. Since they're used for bacterial infections, I'm wondering just why the vets thought they were indicated in this scenario.

Being unable to digest hay is troublesome, but since there are other alternatives her owner can give her in order to keep her healthy and in a good weight, she should be able to live a good, long life.

She'll think she's being abused though, not being able to have hay anymore!
    09-04-2010, 04:54 PM
If she decided to feed un-soaked hay pellets, she could get a programmable deer feeder and rig it to dump into this horses feed bucket. That way this horse could get small meals of hay pellets throughout the night. I know on some of those automatic feeders you can program how often they dispense and how much (lbs wise). They usually broadcast the feed in them, but I'm sure someone could engineer a way to make it fall into a bucket with some pipes or something.

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