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Horses won't eat hay...ready to pull my hair out

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  • Horses won't eat hay...ready to pull my hair out

    I thought I did a good thing. I bought beautiful, dark green, soft, 2nd cutting orchard grass. I got 3 bales to "test" on my super picky horses, and they ate every last scrap. So I bought about 200 bales, which combined with my first cutting hay (from another hay guy) was enough to get my 4 through the winter/spring.

    But now my horses are only eating half the bales. Some bales they eat everything, other bales they won't touch. I can't see any difference between the two! Nothing stemmy, moldy, weedy, smelling weird, etc, etc. It is driving me CRAZY. I've been opening a bale, bringing a flake out, and seeing if my guys will eat it. If they do, I use the bale, if not, well, I've been throwing the bales in a corner.

    So what do I do, try to make them eat it? Return it to my hay guy? Use it as bedding? (no Im not kidding).
    come what may

    Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013

  • #2
    You are engaging in "hay wars" with your horses.

    Give them only 1/2 flake, and make them eat ALL of it or no more.

    Don't you have the written and ever changing rules of: hay wars?

    I am currently engaged in hay wars. Got one horse who tosses all her thicker stemmed hay out to eat the tender orchard. So I have matched her, and downed her to a few flakes for all day. She will clean up the hay or get less.

    The other horse learned her habit. And she is a superior hay eater.

    Also part of the rules you can not give them tons and tons of grain so they are not hungry for hay. This is a huge faux paus of hay wars.

    There are also dog food wars too. Same principles pretty much. "Eat this or starve" whereas when you do not eat your plain dog food I save $ and time.

    Got to out smart our little darlings. No horse or dog goes hungry here btw. Both horses are on full pasture. My current dogs do not ever participate in dog food wars. They eat all - and fast. (toy manchester terriers)


    • #3
      Maybe the horses know something you don't know. Could there be a problem with the hay?


      • #4
        I noticed the same thing when feeding a few bales of gorgeous orchard a few weeks ago.... the only thing I could figure out was that it was cut much longer than most other orchard I have gotten. Beutiful, green, sweet smelling, awesome hay.....doesn't it drive you crazy?!
        "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you..."


        • #5
          I've had it too. I just tie it back up and donate it. Mine aren't too picky and when they turn their noses up, I just believe them that there's something wrong.


          • #6
            Originally posted by SAcres View Post
            I thought I did a good thing. I bought beautiful, dark green, soft, 2nd cutting orchard grass. I got 3 bales to "test" on my super picky horses, and they ate every last scrap. So I bought about 200 bales, which combined with my first cutting hay (from another hay guy) was enough to get my 4 through the winter/spring.

            But now my horses are only eating half the bales. Some bales they eat everything, other bales they won't touch. I can't see any difference between the two! Nothing stemmy, moldy, weedy, smelling weird, etc, etc. It is driving me CRAZY. I've been opening a bale, bringing a flake out, and seeing if my guys will eat it. If they do, I use the bale, if not, well, I've been throwing the bales in a corner.

            So what do I do, try to make them eat it? Return it to my hay guy? Use it as bedding? (no Im not kidding).
            they are not eating the second cutting Orchardgrass as well? depending on many things the second cutting of a pure orchardgrass can be less exciting as you are now looking at something cut in the heat of the summer which may or may not have brown stripe and will probably have a much lower moisture and protein and overall quality based on RFV....in short not as yummy to them no matter what your eyes tell you...have you tested it ? for us, hays under 100 RFV are on the line of "yum" and "meh" to them

            I would simply leave it for them over night,stop letting them run the show there at your place

            Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
            I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


            • #7
              if you dont see or smell mold, and the hay doesn't have spiky thistles or something, then it's time to say "Tough noogies, this is the hay you're getting."


              • #8
                I've had that happen a few times. Once in a while there was just *no way* to get the horses to eat it, no matter what. That gets chucked, I figure there's something going on in it.

                However, most of the time it's a finicky pain in the ass thing. I fix that by mixing it with the other cutting of hay. Takes a few minutes, but better than throwing expensive hay out.

                For loose hay, I'd bring out 2 flakes and then holding one flake per hand, I'd shake them together hard to break them up and make sure the wisps were all well mixed. After a short while the horses get sick and tired of trying to pick through...or they like the taste better mixed.

                But I usually feed in SMHNs and just shove a flake of each type of hay in the net, then get my arms in the and mix them all around and stuff the mixture in tight so it's near impossible to be picky when pulling wisps through the net. (I hang my nets to fill them, makes it easier)
                You jump in the saddle,
                Hold onto the bridle!
                Jump in the line!


                • #9
                  Guys.. hay can be treated with fertilizer any time during the year. There is miscommunication between the one spreading the fertilizer and the one cutting the hay ALL the time. Trust me.

                  If your horse says "Nope!", especially a Hoover-type?
                  Listen to him.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by LauraKY View Post
                    I've had it too. I just tie it back up and donate it. Mine aren't too picky and when they turn their noses up, I just believe them that there's something wrong.
                    Lol I don't think you meant it this way but when I read your comment I take it to mean when your horses refuse hay you take it to mean there is something wrong with it so you then turn around and donate it to other horses.


                    • #11
                      I had to get tough with mine ... they were turning their noses up collectively at everything (and I have some gorgeous hay). I was way beyond over-haying them. I think I was throwing the better part of 1/2 a bale a day in the manure pit. None of them have a rib showing, so now I'm letting them tough it out. They get their hay in the morning and when they finish it - if they finish it - they get more. Lots less waste and nobody has lost a pound. : )
                      Last edited by bathsheba8542; Jan. 3, 2013, 09:41 AM.


                      • #12
                        Went through this this fall. They had older first cut hay that I though was "meh" and bought lovely second cut, which they liked at first, then no. Left piles of it. Not dusty, smelly, really looked like great hay. I was going to have it checked (at the vets,can take them a sample and they assess it) but my vet happened to be there and looked at it.I am usually a very sharp mold spotter but had missed this tiny little specks along the sides of the grass blades. She pointed them out to me- hay was riddled with it. The hay seller was great, came and took that hay back for his cows and gave me more of the first cut, which the horses actually liked a lot.

                        Just saying, I agree with get it checked. Mine are pretty much hoovers so when they turn up their noses, I am suspicious!


                        • #13
                          My horses usually eat any hay put in front of them. I've been getting beautiful round bales of orchard/timothy mix- when I run out/in between rounds I have some 2nd cut decent mixed hay- they don't like it. They will eat enough to be full and walk away, alot of it is wasted. If your horses aren't eating it, it's wasting money- I'd sell it and get a different hay. I would try portioning out first, a flake here, a flake there and see if they eat it better when it's not a buffet in front of them. If not, it would go down the road. JMO


                          • #14
                            You said horses, plural, so this may not be relevant - but when one of mine went off hay, it was because he had a tooth that was bothering him.


                            • #15
                              My horse can sense mold long before I can...maybe what others have remarked of there is no other explanation.
                              Appy Trails,
                              Kathy, Cadet & CCS Silinde
                              member VADANoVA www.vadanova.org


                              • #16
                                I'm pretty sensitive to mold in hay because of allergies, so I'll find an off bale before anyone else, and I'm careful to check over what I'm throwing out to avoid the odd dead animal or baled bottle...

                                My boys will try and pull the "not good enough" card on me occasionally--particularly if there have been a few really alfalfa-y bales in the stack and we hit a rather grassy one...

                                Then I get the sighs, and the doleful expressions...

                                Then they get the one flake at a time until it's all eaten treatment.

                                As an old farmer friend of mine said to me, "they'll eat it before they eat their feet."


                                • #17
                                  That is the problem when you must buy hay from different sources. It can and does taste different and for some that takes getting used to. Unless your horses have health issues ( mental or physical) I doubt they will starve themselves when any edible hay is put before them. Give them what they will eat and if they are hungry they will eat it.

                                  My guys just finished the last of their alfalfa and I switched them to grass only. That is like going from dark chocolate to milk chocolate( in my mind). They looked at me like??? Rooted around in it and by mid day it was all gone. They have cleaned up every morsel since.


                                  • #18
                                    Ah yes, I too play that game with HRH...

                                    An easy solution : get a Shetland pony and turn him loose like a Roomba to clean everything up before your next feeding.
                                    "When life gives you scurvy, make lemonade."


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Hmm, the shetland is a tempting idea. I have a QH who has a thing for ponies.

                                      My horses range from easy keeper hoover types to super picky TBs. Usually when they don't like a bale even the Morgan (who eats anything) will turn his nose up at it.

                                      Now it is entirely possible my horses have me whipped and are making me find their absolute favorite bales, but I've never had them this bad before. *Yes* I know my babies are spoiled rotten, and I'm ok with that, as long as they eat most of their hay. I did give them a bale they previously turned their noses up at today and everyone seemed to eat that, so I guess I might be in a hay war. It wouldn't surprise me, I'm big on "free choice, as much as you can eat", which is a recipe for picky horses.

                                      I will give the hay a good close look though to check for mold. It is pretty dry, but I'll check anyway!

                                      Thanks everyone!
                                      come what may

                                      Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013


                                      • #20
                                        If a hoover type is turning up their nose, I'd be concerned that there's something going on with the hay given that it's all pretty similar otherwise.

                                        I mean if you were switching back and forth between a stemmy, crappy grass and luxuriously leafy alfalfa and they turned their nose up at the crap? Okay, that's one thing. But it doesn't sound like there's much difference between these bales.

                                        But if you're doing free choice and they're just leaving everything but the leaves? Hay war. Have fun with that! LOL
                                        A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                                        Might be a reason, never an excuse...