About 75% of a horse’s diet should be made up of hay. As such, it’s important that the hay you offer your horse is fresh and loaded with all the nutrients that your horse requires for peak health. Grain should only be supplemental; most of the nutrients your horse consumes will come from hay and forage.
Hay comes in many forms. There are different types of hay, such as Bermuda, Alfalfa, and Timothy. Plus, you can get hay in bales, bags, or even as pellets that are perfect for aging horses that might have a hard time chewing their standard forage.
With so many options, it can be difficult to decide on the perfect hay for your horse, especially if you’re newer to the equine world. In this article, we hope to simplify things a bit by comparing five of the best hays for your horse and writing reviews of each so you can decide for yourself which choice is the best for you and your horse.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites
|Best Overall||Ametza Premium Compressed Bermuda Hay||
|Best Value||Ametza Alfalfa Bermuda Blend Hay Replacer Pellets||
|Premium Choice||Crypto Aero Wild Forage||
|Grandpa’s Best Orchard Grass Bale||
|Grandpa's Best Timothy Hay||
The 5 Best Hay for Horses – Reviews 2022
1. Ametza Premium Compressed Bermuda Hay – Best Overall
Bright green and crisp, the Ametza Premium Compressed Bermuda Hay is our top choice for horses. You can see and smell the quality as soon as you open the bag that each bale is housed in. Since it’s compressed, the bag holding a 50-pound bale is smaller than you might expect. Oh, and did we mention that the bag is reusable? How’s that for eco-friendly!
This bale is comprised entirely of Bermuda hay, which is more digestible than alfalfa hay, and part of the reason that it’s at the top of our list. Bermuda hay is a great source of both calcium and vitamin A, and you’ll find no blister beetles anywhere in these bales.
With 39% crude fiber and 8% protein, this hay provides exactly the nutrients your horse needs. It’s all-natural and free of preservatives or fillers. However, out of several bales, we did get one that wasn’t quite as fresh as the others. It had turned a bit brown and didn’t smell fresh, though we think it was more of a fluke than a regular occurrence.
2. Ametza Alfalfa Bermuda Blend Hay Replacer Pellets – Best Value
With the Ametza Alfalfa Bermuda Blend Hay Replacer Pellets, you’ll be giving your horse more than just a single type of hay. Instead, this is a blend of both Alfalfa and Bermuda hays, offering your horse added nutrition and flavor. Plus, it’s reasonably priced for the large 50-pound volume, which is why we think it’s possible the best hay for horses for the money.
Hay can be messy and dusty, breaking apart and becoming difficult to feed. However, this blend comes in pellet form, making it easy to offer to your horse and just as easy for them to eat. Even aging horses that have a hard time foraging will do well with this blend as you can soak the pellets in water to soften them for horses with dental problems.
Overall, we really like this affordable hay pellet blend. But it’s not perfect. On the ingredients list, we weren’t thrilled to see corn distillers dried grains; a cheap filler and not the best for horses, but it also helps to keep the cost low.
3. Crypto Aero Wild Forage – Premium Choice
It’s pretty pricey compared to other forage options for your horse, but the Crypto Aero Wild Forage offers excellent equine nutrition that we recommend for just about any horse. It’s far more than just hay, though there are several types of hay included, such as Timothy and Alfalfa. Offering vast nutritional benefits beyond just hay, you’ll also find rose hips, papaya, peas, spirulina, and green cabbage in this blend.
Despite the inclusion of several health-boosting vegetables and fruits, the ingredients list for this forage mix is quite short, so you know it’s not loaded with fillers and cheap by-products. Instead, every ingredient has a point, adding to the diverse assortment of vitamins and minerals found in this forage formula.
With just 6.5% non-structured carbohydrates, this forage is safe for any horse, even those with metabolic conditions. It also contains 33% fiber, optimized to aid your horse’s digestive health. To that end, you’ll also find fenugreek and organic yeast, plus L-glutamine from green cabbage that can help to build and repair the intestinal lining.
4. Grandpa’s Best Orchard Grass Bale
Grandpa’s Best Orchard Grass Bale has some great properties for horses, but this isn’t the feed we’d choose for our equine friends. It is quite high in fiber at 32%, which will help keep your horse’s digestive system functioning properly. Furthermore, this hay is free of preservatives, so it’s healthy and natural for your horse.
Orchard grass is a sweet grass, and in our experience, horses love the taste. However, it’s also pretty expensive. This is made even worse by the fact that Grandpa’s Best Orchard Grass only comes in small bales. If it came in larger bales, it might be a better choice for horses who have to eat considerable amounts each day.
While we have no major concerns with this hay overall, we weren’t thrilled with the weight that arrived. After weighing it, we realized that the bale we were sent was noticeably lighter than it should have been, robbing us of hay we paid for. Considering the already pricey nature of this hay, we think it’s best to skip it in favor of something available in bulk that actually provides the amount of feed you’re paying for.
5. Grandpa’s Best Timothy Hay
Of all the hays you could offer your horse, Timothy hay is the easiest to digest, making it perfect for horses with stomach or digestive problems. This hay is completely natural and preservative-free. As such, it’s nutritious and safe for horses. Additionally, this hay promotes a shiny coat and healthy weight, keeping your horse looking and feeling its best.
Despite the few positives associated with Grandpa’s Best Timothy Hay, it’s far from our favorite. We found that the freshness was hit or miss at best. Some bales were green and relatively fresh, while others were brown and had signs of mold. This hay was also extremely dusty compared to other hays we tested.
The biggest problem with using this hay to feed horses is the small quantity it comes in. You can only get this hay in mini bales, making it a poor choice for horses that will consume an entire bale each day. Plus, the pricing is prohibitively expensive. While it may be great hay for small animals, Grandpa’s Best Timothy Hay isn’t an option we’d pick for horses unless there were no alternatives available.
- You may also like: Feeding Horses: How Much, and How Often? [Feeding Chart & Guide]
Feeding your horse forage can be ultra-simple or entirely too complicated. On one hand, you can simply let your horse graze in the pasture to consume all the forage it needs. But this requires ample grazing space and the right types of grass in your grazing area. Most horses will rely on baled hay for a majority of their feeding. This brings in many options, as there’s more than one form of hay.
So, which one should you be purchasing for your horses? If you’re still unsure, then this buyer’s guide is for you. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll feel confident picking a forage for your horse that you can be certain will meet all of its needs.
Finding the Right Feeder Hay for Horses
One of the most confusing aspects of choosing hay for your horse is determining how to compare each of the different feeds. What should you be looking for and how do you tell apart different products? In this section, we’re going to discuss the most important differences between different types of hay so that you can make a more educated decision regarding your horse’s nutrition.
Types of Hay
One of the biggest decisions you have to make regarding your horse’s feed is what type of hay you wish to provide. Each type of hay offers different nutrition for your horse. Granted, your horse can be healthy on any of these hays, though some provide more calories, more fiber, more protein, etc.
Hay comes in two main forms. Some hays are in the legume family, others are grasses. Alfalfa is one of the most common legume hays. As such, it has a much higher protein content than other types of hays, ranging from 15%-21%, depending on when it was cut. For comparison, most grass hays are 10% or less protein. Also, alfalfa hay provides more calories per pound, so your horse won’t need to eat as much. On the other hand, if your horse consumes lots of alfalfa hay, it could lead to weight gain.
Alfalfa hay is readily available in most places. In fact, it’s the only forage sold in every US state. Horses also tend to love alfalfa since it’s one of the sweeter hays. Plus, it has more calcium than other hays, so it’s a great choice for most horses.
While less nutritious than alfalfa hay, compared to other grass hays, Timothy hay offers more nutrients. It’s also easier to digest, consisting of 30% crude fiber, making it ideal for horses with sensitive digestion. That said, Timothy hay tends to be one of the more expensive options, so it’s not always price-effective.
Bermuda grass is one of the more affordable hay options for your horse. On the downside, Bermuda grass of lower quality could cause impaction in horses. This type of hay is higher in calcium than timothy hay, though it contains less fiber. Otherwise, it offers similar nutrition to Timothy hay.
The nutrient profile of most hay varies greatly depending on when it was harvested. Orchard grass tends to be less affected by harvest time and is, therefore, more affordable in most cases. It’s got more phosphorous than either Bermuda or Timothy hay, and offers 30% fiber for smooth digestion.
An average horse that weighs about 1000 pounds will consume 15-20 pounds of hay each day. With large bales weighing around 50 pounds, you can easily expect to go through two or more bales each week. But if you purchase smaller bales, you could be going through a bale each day. Bales of 20 pounds or less will disappear in a single day’s feeding with just one horse. So, double-check before clicking purchase that the hay you’re choosing comes in bales that are appropriately sized for equestrian use.
Hay is a plant that must be harvested. As such, it’s subject to the same issues as other plants that must be harvested, stored, and transported. Hay can grow mold or fungus. It can turn brown, and become brittle, dry, and dusty. When it’s not fresh, hay can become a health concern for your horses. While it’s hard to ensure that your hay comes fresh, you must do your best to find a brand of hay that always arrives in great condition so it’s safe for your horses.
We don’t generally recommend price shopping for your horse’s feed. At the same time, some feeds are overpriced compared to others. Once you find several hays you’re happy with, compare their pricing and make sure that none of them are vastly over or underpriced. For the most part, whenever hay is too cheap or too expensive, there’s some other underlying reason that should be investigated. You don’t want to purchase affordable hay just to find out that it comes in tiny bales or never arrives fresh.
Hay is the main food that horses eat, and about ¾ of their diet should consist of hay and forage. Naturally, that’s quite a lot of food for an animal that weighs 1000 pounds or more. In fact, the average horse will consume 15-20 pounds of hay each day! So, it pays to pick the right hay product and ensure that your horse is getting all the nutrition it needs from the hay you offer.
Our top choice for most horses is the Premium Compressed Bermuda Hay Bale Horse Forage from Ametza. It’s an all-natural feed made entirely of compressed Bermuda hay, which is more easily digestible than alfalfa and offers plenty of calcium and vitamin A. It’s completely free of blister beetles and even comes in a reusable bag.
We think the best value is to be found in the Ametza Alfalfa-Bermuda Blend Hay Replacer Pellets. They’re priced reasonably and offer a convenient, easy-to-feed forage replacement for any horse. They can even be soaked to make the pellets easy to eat for senior horses, and the blend in these pellets offers more versatile nutrition than hay alone.