Considerations for the use of restricted, soaked grass hay diets to promote weight loss in the management of equine metabolic syndrome and obesity

Caroline McG Argo, Alexandra H A Dugdale, Catherine M McGowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


The addition of hay soaking to current nutritional advice for weight loss management for equine obesity lacks clinical evidence. Twelve overweight/obese horses and ponies were used to test the hypothesis that feeding soaked hay at 1.25% of body mass (BM) daily as dry matter (DM) before soaking would elicit weight losses within the target 0.5-1.0% of BM weekly. Six animals were used to evaluate the impact of nutrient-leaching on the digestibility and daily intakes of dietary energy and nutrients. Soaked hay DM was corrected in accordance with the 'insoluble' ADF content of fresh and soaked hays. The ADF-based method was validated using a test-soaking protocol. Animals fed soaked hay for 6 weeks lost 0.98 ± 0.10% of BM weekly. The most weight loss sensitive animal lost ~2% of BM weekly. Soaking hay did not alter DM gross energy concentrations, incurred losses of water soluble carbohydrates (WSC) and ash and increased acid detergent fibre (ADF) concentrations. Digestibilities of GE, DM, ash and WSC were unaltered but soaking increased uncorrected values for crude protein (+12%) and ADF (+13.5%) digestibility. Corrected DM provision was only 1% of BM daily, providing 64% of maintenance DE requirements, a 23.5% increase in the intended magnitude of energy restriction. Hay soaking leached nutrients, reduced DM and DE provision and was associated with accelerated weight losses over those expected had fresh-hay been fed to the same level. The ADF-based method will allow the predictive evaluation of individual hays to direct feeding management and prevent inadvertently severe DM and energy restriction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-7
Number of pages8
JournalVeterinary Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPrint publication - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Animal Feed/analysis
  • Animals
  • Caloric Restriction/veterinary
  • Diet/veterinary
  • Horse Diseases/diet therapy
  • Horses
  • Metabolic Syndrome/diet therapy
  • Obesity/diet therapy
  • Poaceae
  • Water
  • Weight Loss/physiology


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