I've never fed them soaked, including the 5 years that I worked at my vet's farm and fed her 30+ horses unsoaked cubes everyday. Actually I never knew anyone was that gung-ho about soaking until I threads about it on COTH.
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I would be very nervous to feed them dry. Even if the horse chewed them well, the cubes will attract moisture, and I would fear the moisture would come from my horse's gut. By soaking them, you add water to your horse's diet. Feeding them dry would just make me flinch a little (chocking hazard aside) Just my 2 cents, I'm sure there are plenty of valid opinions on this topic
For what it's worth, I do both. When it's cold and my girls have been working hard I feed them soaked in warm water, just to get the extra fluids into them. Otherwise, in their paddock (mud lot) I give them dry ones in their amazing graze dispenser. I do break up the huge ones by hand when I fill it, but they seem to have no issues with the dry chunks. Both are former starvation cases, and both bolt down grain and hay. The dispenser, along with their smal hole hay nets in their stalls both seem to slow them down well.
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Just a few months ago, a friend's barn fed her horse unsoaked cubes. The horse was out in a paddock and the cube got stuck in his throat..he went berserk and collapsed to ground which dislodged the cube.
I feed them to my OTTB, because he really put weight on quickly with them. I soak about a coffee can and a half with water to the top of those small feed buckets overnight add Cool Calories, and then refill and all day, etc. I break up any that haven't completely softened. I would never risk just that one time of one getting stuck...makes me too nervous. JMO
Rolling the dice and not worth it! Soak them or don't feed them at all. Just not worth the chance of a dead horse.
I agree completely! It's not worth the risk, especially if they're just feeding them as "treats". Having had a choke-prone horse in the past, I wouldn't even take a chance. Choke is really bad to deal with long-term.
It's never any problem feeding unsoaked hay cubes....until SOMETHING happens. I would never feed them unsoaked for that reason. I've heard of horses having problems and just don't want to take the chance. If you are only feeding hay cubes and no beet pulp it only takes a few minutes to soak them until they fall apart but since I feed beet pulp with the hay cubes I soak for a minimum of 4 hours.
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FWIW: I agree with the majority that soaking is definitely preferable. In a perfect world...well, in a perfect world all horses would be on large rangy pastures with good forage, but not too much!, and no mud Anyway, yes there is a risk of choke with cubes. The choke cases I've seen (4) were with enthusiastic eaters in tall grass. I've worked at a barn that fed only dry cubes 2x/day at ~5:30am and ~1:30pm for decades and no choke. Although several of the horses "soak" themselves by rolling a cube around in their waterer first.
I don't think the OPs barn manager is way outside the norm here or being negligent. But I would ask that my horse get watered down cubes and I would leave the filled buckets outside his stall to facilitate that. I think this would mitigate the risks enough w/o complicating things too much. Depends on the cubes, but that should begin to soften them right away w/o a need to sit n' soak.
We recently moved to a barn that feeds them unsealed. I talked to my vet who said it wasn't ideal but that some types were harder and not as safe to feed. She suggested getting a sample, seeing how easy it was to break them apart with our hands, how long it took them to separate when soaked, to talk to other people who had been at the barn awhile and to ask about the manufacturer. We did all that and had the vet take a look at them. One trainer at barn said no problems in the 20 years she'd been there. BO said her supplier wasn't the same as at a barn that has had problems.
New barn is such an improvement over the old in so many ways that I am willing to feed these cubes. So my horses are eating a mix of cubes and hay.
In addition to the possible choking issues I am old enough to remember the salmonella in the cubes in SoCal that killed a few horses.
Hay cubes aren't all the same. Some are larger, some are smaller, so have binding agents, and some don't.
Around here, they don't seem to sell the ones with binding agents, so they aren't that hard to break, and I am not sure they would be much of a choking hazard for the average horse. The onese with binding agents would seem to be more of a risk. I used to board a horse that could only get cubes, and I fed them "dry".
If you just want your horse's hay cubes soaked, tell the BO your horse has choked before, and needs them soaked or somesuch, but this is something that you should have brought up before you moved, as it is a special need that you have outside of what the barn offers.
As a new boarder moving into an established routine, it would be wise to be careful as to how you discuss this. Implying that their practices are unsafe, and trying to get them to change their routine on a larger scale may not go well.
I agree with "better safe than sorry." Soak those bad boys.
I fed my horse cubes without soaking them for over a year, nearly every day. And then one day like any of the others, I fed my mare her cubes and she choked. If you ever see a horse choke, it's something you never want to have to see again.
I soaked the cubes every day since for about a month and then I switched to pellets.