Soak Your Cubes (& Pellets)
If you feed your horse alfalfa (or hay) cubes (or pellets) you've made a wonderful diet decision for him! Now, are you soaking that feed? Yes? Great! No need to read on if you don't want to; or definitely do if you'd like a reminder of why you're you're soaking. If the answer is "no" though, please do take a minute to read over what we think are some very compelling reasons to get to soaking...
Dry cubes can cause a sore mouth and gums.
Being compressed, cubes are pretty hard to chew, even for young horses with strong teeth, and older horses may give up on chewing them altogether as it gets more and more uncomfortable. Then, there are two outcomes, refusal to eat and swallowing the cubes whole. Obviously, neither is ideal, and in both cases, proper digestion is compromised. The horses who are able to chew the dry cubes still have to work extra hard to do so, and may suffer TMJ stress, as well as abrasions on sensitive gums.
Even the cleanest cubes contain dust,
simply because they're made of alfalfa chaff (finely chopped forage). Horses bolting hard to chew feed are likely to inhale this dust, causing respiratory distress such as coughing, heaves, and wheezing.
Cubes and pellets are moisture robbing feeds.
They want to soak up water, and will do so at the first chance they get. You don't want this to happen in your horse's gut. As soon as the dry feed reaches the gut, it will soak up as much water as it can from its environment. But your horse needs that moister to keep his gut fill moving smoothly. Simply, and scarily put, moisture robbing dry cubes and pellets can easily lead to impaction, and therefore colic.
Dry cubes & pellets can cause choke.
This last reason is certainly not the least important. Dry cubes and pellets moisture robbery may not wait until the gut. Often times, the first opportunity to soak up moisture is in the esophagus. The feed will grow in size fairly rapidly and can easily get stuck. Best case scenario, you're standing right there and can massage the bulk down the throat, and your horse won't sustain too much scarring. Likely though, a vet call will be in order; and the scarring left on the esophageal tissue will increase the risk of choke in the future.
So, have I convinced you to soak your horse's cubes or pellets? I hope so. It only takes some hot water, a few extra minutes, and some time to sit and soak (maybe while you do other chores?) but will make a world of difference for your horse's health and happiness.
Please feel free to come on in to speak with us about feeding alfalfa cubes or pellets. You're very likely to catch myself or Nathan for a chat any day we're open.
About Lara: On top of her years of experience in horse husbandry, from managing small private facilities to large breeding and competition operations, Lara is currently studying Equine Nutrition through the University of Edinburgh.
About Nathan: In addition to owning Divide Feed, Nathan owns and operates a private ranch, where he cares for his own horses, as well as Lara’s. Over the years he’s developed and implemented an innovative free feeding system called The Hay House and is a constant student of equine nutritional needs.
Together, Nathan & Lara work hard to put their combined knowledge into practice with their own herd through continued research, education, and application. They’ve created a feeding program (the Divide Feeding Program) that not only keeps their horses healthy, but that they can pass on to all of the amazing customers at Divide Feed.