All Things Horse

Forty-seven Years Of Horse Experience – At Your Service!

What Is The Best Hay You Can Feed Your Horse?

Tip #7

Now that is a loaded question! 


Professionally seeded winter hay is planted with timothy for the great height of the individual plant and for the length of time it keeps it’s seed heads and with red clover for the size of the plant  and it’s bulk.  Over time, it can become weeded with a mixture of grasses including rye, brome, fescue, orchard grasses and others, depending of the region.  With a mixture of timothy and clover, a hay farmer can get more bales from his field.  But is this hay the best hay for your horse?

For many years now, the quality of the hay on the Magdalen Islands has been questioned.  People who have the money swear by importing hay from the mainland or from PEI, is the best thing they can do for their horses.  Because there is a lot of spare money on the islands and only about 200 horses, the hay farmers of the islands are having difficulty selling their hay. 

When the vet visited just before my young Sammy died (See first post) her only real advice was to give Sammy the best hay I had available and I got the feeling that she disdained the Magdalen Islands bales, which in my mind was the best I had.


I receive my hay from two different sources, both from the Islands. I get large 800 lb bales from Amherst Islands, which is mostly timothy and clover, although there is the Canadian thistle in some of the bales.  Occasionally I receive a bale of orchard grass from him.

The second source is from Fatima, on Grindstone Island. This source bales his hay in 40 lbs bales.  I also believe he adds mineral salt to condition his bales while he is in the baling process, probably as a preservative. This farmer cuts only pasture hay or summer hay as some people might choose to call it.  Pasture hay could have any and all of perhaps a hundred different types of plants, some of which could possibly be toxic to a horse.  

So I did a study on the value of the plants in pasture hay vs plants in winter hay. The results were quite astounding.  Here on the islands there are 249 different species of medicinal quality plants, the greatest majority of which grow in the pastures and are plants which the horses eat during the summer. 

Timothy hay on the other hand, though nutritious enough, has no medicinal qualities and clover, which has many medicinal qualities can contribute to colic, if ingested in high enough quantities which could be considered toxic in special cases. It is wise to watch the ratio when planting and while feeding.

The islands has very few toxic plants, all of which grow elsewhere and not in the pastures, excluding occasional magic mushrooms, which don’t become toxic until long have the hay season is finished. I mention them because some farmers spread excess barn manure on their fields. The farmers of my fields do follow this practice.

Some of the grasses included in pasture hay can be…, depending on the region:

couch grass & rhizomes (Willow’s favorite) – unproven herbal soothness on the urinary tract.

dog rose – heals wounds; high in vitamin C

orchard grass – nutricious;

dandelions- promotes bowel regularity; aids in digestive ailments for liver and gallbladder

caraway – calms intestinal gases; 

fescue – nutricious;

wild pea – nutricious in small quantities; legume;

clovers – recommended for colds and congestion; remedy for athletes foot.

Common Valerian – sedative; antispasodic action; relieves migranes, insomnia, digestive problems caused by nervous tension; can irritate stomach acid;

Wild Strawberry – tonic; remedy for diarrhea and sore throats; laxative; (it must be a corrective agent since it remedies both diarrhea and is a laxative);

Lovage – relieves gas pains; diuretic;

Wood Cudweed – natural lithium aids behavioural anomallies; anti-infection; eliminates some parascites;

yarrow – all-heal plant; pain killer; sooths everything from urinary tract to head colds; anti-inflammatory agent;

Shephard’s Purse – vitamins A,C &K (coagulation of blood);diuretic for infections of urine tract; fights fever; relieves rheuatism and irritated skin surfaces;

thistles – antibiotic properties

Stinkweed – natural sulfur, vitamins B2 and C; relieves arthritis and rheumatism; eases breathing; eliminates abdominal gas; heals pulmonary congestion and relieves back pain;

willows – derivative of asprin; pain killer; (Copper woud all but kill for sweet willow, I think)


So,  what is the best hay to feed your horse? I don’t know for sure! That is like asking what food is good for humans.  If the hay has been mowed and cured properly for the particular field and region, then it is probably all good.  But I do know that there are plants in the medicinal range that sooth upset stomachs, help the liver purify the toxins, cleanse the kidneys, are known for sending cancer patients into remission, boost the immune system, increase the metabolism rate, etc. I think I’d prefer to feed my horses a good range of grasses so that they get all kinds of vitamins, minerals, proteins and all the other stuff the body needs to remain healthy.

Note: The farmer in Fatima adds salt to his hay while baling I believe. When we were speaking of the medicinal qualities he brought up the salt in his hay. I didn’t, at the time think too much of it because living on the Magdalen Islands, salt is present everywhere including the air we breathe.

Note 2: I do notice that my horses all drink twice the amount of water when I give them his hay. I don’t see this as a problem unless one of my animals develops high blood pressure or something similar. But I do consider the extra water very beneficial to diluting and draining away any and all toxins that are in their bodies.

During the winter, I have the greatest amount of trouble getting my horses to drink enough water.   The vet says to give the horses 5 gallons of water per day per horse at least.  I’ve always tried for ten gallons before I was happy.   During the summer, my horses drink approximately 15 gallons each per day.  I monitor their water closely and make certain it is of the highest quality.

Water makes the horse look fatter by filling him out in the hip or loin region of his body. More on water and it’s benefits in another post.

One last note : The hay here on the islands is guaranteed not to have chemical sprays that drifted or seeped in from the potato or veggie field next door, nor atmospheric drifting pesticides that are widely used to keep the bug population down on the mainland. We don’t use any kinds of sprays anywhere on the islands. In saying that, how many horse owners in North America can honestly say that?

February 23, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful…-

Necessity is the Mother of Invention – Plato.

Hot Water Bottles – Tip #2

Not so awful anymore since the really cold snap broke this morning. It was a sunny day and I removed all the blankets from the beasties. I think they appreciated it. A little vitamin D from the sun won’t hurt this time of the year. The record lows have taken me back almost a year, to that sad time my dear young Sammy died. I wrote about it in the first post, here on this weblog.

I guess it would be inevitable that I would think about that tragic time since Sammy died on the coldest day of 2008. It was on a cold morning, the last Friday in February, at 5am that she went down. She and the other horses were in the greenhouse and it wasn’t a bad day weather-wise. The other horses never liked Sammy and wouldn’t allow her to be a part of the herd. They accepted that the greenhouse was her area and they were visitors there but they didn’t much like her being around them. (More on this in another post later)

At 5 am, there was a holy ruckus in the greenhouse. I jumped out of bed and Cleigh jumped away from his computer and we both ran for the doors, me for the porch door and Cleigh for the living-room door. When I tried to open the door, the horses were scrambling, stampeding,  all three of them to get out of the greenhouse all at the same time through a 40 inch wide door opening. I couldn’t get out for them. In the meantime, Cleigh was having the time of his life getting the living room door open. The door was at the other end of the greenhouse and Sammy was laying down but squished up against the door that opened outwards.

The only thing possible was that she fell against the wall and door.  The other horses finally got out without tearing the wall off the greenhouse somehow and Cleigh and I were finally able to get out and inspect what had happened. Sammy was quiet but she was laying too close to the foundation and her head was turn up and in toward her body in an uncomfortable looking position, so Cleigh and I grabbed her by the halter and moved her around. Not an easy feat, I can tell you.

Sometime later in the day she went into a grand mal seizure.  I can’t say the exact time because I was upset.  After the seizure, I took her vitals and all was normal except her temperature was about two degrees too low.  I called the veterinarian and she told me I had to get the body temperature up.  She suggested I allow the horses in to help warm the air but they didn’t like Sammy and I couldn’t let them near her.  Their dislike was bad enough that I feared they would purposely trample her.

The temperature outside Sam's Pridewas dropping off fast and with it my filly’s temperature was going too. I had two small heating pads, one used microwave and the other hot water, but they just weren’t enough. We rigged two high powered workshop lamps close to Sammy that gave off a lot of heat and the greenhouse warmed up, but her temperature was still down in spite of two heavy winter horse blankets and lots of hay around her and the ground was warm.

I was at my wits end when it came to me.   Cleigh like his bottles of Coke Cola and I had about a dozen two-liter empty bottles.  I wasn’t long filling them with hot water from the tap.  I literally wrapped Sammy in hot water.  I wrapped each individual bottle with a towel and placed them around her body, under the winter blankets.

The reason why I’m writing this is that the hot water bottles worked and brought her temperature back to normal.  I guess it doesn’t matter that she died less then twenty-four hours later. The fact remains that the bottles did what I wanted them to do, and if anyone reading this finds that their horse or any living creature is cold, put a plastic bottle of hot water near them, making certain not to scald the skin.

January 18, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment