What should I do if I find my escaped horse has busted into the hay barn and eaten a bunch of hay?
It’s one thing for your horse to go for the grain - so tasty! And also super dangerous! (More on that here....) A horse gorging on hay should be handled the same way. The hay buffet presented by a storage area stacked with hay is a temptation most horses can’t avoid. The problem can be compounded by a few things - volume that your horse has helped himself to, and the type of hay that he has eaten.
Some farms and barns take great care to make the feed room off limits to even the craftiest of horses, but sometimes hay storage is not as easy to secure. And, some barns store more than one type of hay - either because the horses get a custom blend, or there are some horses that don’t eat certain types of hay for whatever reason. They could be allergic, they could have medical conditions that do best on certain types of hay, they could be on a diet, you name it.
So - your master escape artist gorged himself on hay - and some of it may be the type he’s not used to. What to do right away:
- Call the Veterinarian. Even if the type of hay eaten is not a problem, the volume eaten may be a problem. I have yet to meet a horse that gets “full”. Your Veterinarian may advise you to skip his morning feed of rations, grains, and supplements. Your Veterinarian may want to give some meds, or perhaps a charcoal treatment or gastric lavage to help with possible horrible reactions.
- Pop your horse back into his home and make sure he has access to plenty of fresh and clean water. You may want to entice him a bit to drink. There are lots of ways to do this, some ideas are outlined here in this riveting article.
- His hydration levels should also be monitored, so frequent gum checks during the day, and monitor his water intake as best you can. Gums should be slippery - not sticky or dry. Hydration details are here!
- Take your horse’s vital signs. Temp, pulse, respiration. Keep checking them a few times during the day. Also check his gut sounds several times a day. The gut sounds can be really important during the colic watch.
- Also be on poop and pee watch - taking note of volume, frequency, normalcy.
- Be on colic and laminitis alert. It’s always a great idea to proactively ice your horse’s feet whenever there is a digestive upset to help ward off laminitis. This article here can give you some ideas on what to watch for. Also be sure to check your horse’s digital pulses throughout the day. You can find video of that technique here.
The horse that gets into piles and piles of hay is at risk of laminitis and colic and also just generally feeling bad.
And one final note here - this seems like a huge and time consuming list to undertake - but really it’s NOT. It takes only a few moments to take a temp, check on digital pulses, and look around your horse for his poops and urine. You may want to also take this opportunity to hang out at the barn all day to monitor him. This is a treat - not a chore! This will also give you some time to start figuring out how to keep him in his house….