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Hey, know your hay!

There are two types of hay available to horse owners, seed hay and meadow hay.   Of these two types, different farms will have different swards (the type of grasses used) and also where the hay has been grown will have an effect on the type of grasses in the sward.  I have known some racehorse owners and trainers import the best quality seed hay from as far afield as Canada or the USA,

Seed Hay.

Timothy grass


Seed hay is a sward that is intentionally sown for a hay crop.  Usually, these crops have grasses like timothy and ryegrass in their sward.  The grasses will have good nutrients and will have a sward that is beneficial for horses. Perennial ryegrasses are used throughout the United States as turf grasses and as high-quality pasture grasses for livestock. Despite its agricultural uses, perennial ryegrass isn’t related the rye plant that produces cereal grain.




The other grass that can be found in a seed hay is cock’s foot.  Its correct name is  Dactylis species are perennial grasses, forming dense tussocks growing to 15–140 centimeters tall, with leaves 20–50 cm long and up to 1.5 cm broad, and distinctive tufted triangular flowerheads comprising a panicle 10–15 cm long, turning pale grey-brown at seed maturity. The spikelets are 5–9 mm long, typically containing two to five flowers. The stems have a flattened base, which distinguishes them from many other kinds of grass.


Cocksfoot grasses.


Above are just three of the main types of grasses that can be found in seed hay, each farmer will have his own mix of seeds and as we said above will sew the crop for horses.


Seed hay.



Meadow Hay.

Meadow hay is just that, it is a hay that is cut from a permanent meadow or a seed hay crop which has been sewn for three years in the same field and herbs and different types of grasses have started to come into the sward.

Meadow hay tends to be a softer hay and has finer grasses in it.  You can see below it is usually slightly greener in appearance and will have a greater mixture to it.


Meadow Hay.

You can still get some timothy, rye and cocksfoot grasses in the meadow hay, but there will not be such a greater amount of them.  You will also have the natural herbs from the pasture.

The types of grasses you may find a meadow foxtail, crested dog tail, meadow fescue and red fescue.  These grasses will not have so much feed value in them but would be a good source of hay for horses and ponies that are good-doers.

Meadow Foxtail grasses are a common plant is found on grasslands, especially on neutral soils. It is found on moist, fertile soils, but avoids waterlogged, light or dry soils. The species forms dense swards leading to low botanical diversity.


Meadow Foxtail Grass.


The crested dog tail grass is a short-lived perennial grass in the family Poaceae, characterised by a seed head that is flat on one side. It typically grows in species-rich grassland. It thrives in a variety of soil types but avoids the acid and calcareous extremes of pH, and prefers well-drained soils.


Crested Dogs tail grass.


The grasses in meadow have tended to give meadow hay it’s softer feel and look.  It does look more palatable, but different horses like different types of hay, what is important is that you have the correct feed value that you need for your type of horse.  Meadow hay as we have said above is usually good for good doers, cobs, and ponies.  Whereas competition horses tend to have seed hay.

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Thank you.




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