What can I do about my horse’s messy hay dunking habit?
I often call these horses “dunkers” - as they take some hay and dunk it in their water source before eating it. This often creates a sticky dirty mess in your water buckets or automatic waterers, not to mention the slobbery grossness on the ground under your water source. It's not necessarily a bad habit, in fact it can make hay more digestable and you horse has a better chance of staying well hydrated. But, it's seriously messy and potentially slimy.
How convenient for your horse - a designated hay dunking bucket next to his hay. Easier to rinse this than most watering systems.
In case you have tried to discourage this by putting his hay far away from his water, he may also decide to outsmart you by dragging his hay over to his water bucket, creating mess and waste. But for me, any horse that wants to dunk his hay should be allowed to! That water is great for hydration and digestion!
Here are a few things that you can do to make this easier for you to clean up:
- Consider doing the soaking/dunking for your horse before you feed him his hay. This can be a super easy task, but it still takes time and you will need to figure out a hay soaking system. (Ideas here!)
- Give your horse a dedicated dunking bucket close to his hay pile. Keep his drinking source as far away as possible, so he’s not tempted to shuffle his hay over there. Because you will likely need to change his dunking bucket at least once daily, use a regular bucket and not an automatic waterer or trough. Muck tubs work well, although I prefer to remove the rope handles so a horse doesn't get a lower jaw or hoof stuck.
This hay dunking horse has his hay pre-soaked. Most is drained out before it's hung, but the clear mat below makes for easy clean up and no wet shavings.
- Keep shavings pulled away from any area that your horse is dunking. A mat is ideal here, to keep the water/chewed hay/slobber drippy mess from creating mud on a packed dirt floor or paddock footing. You may also find that dropped wet hay bits create quite the nasty stink after a few days.
- Consider using a slow feeder or hay net in conjunction with a designated dunking bucket. This may limit how much hay your horse can grab, dunk, and slobber around, which may reduce the mess. It will also keep him happily munching for a long time!
What ideas do you have to make a your dunker's area cleaner?