Hay Strikes

So… this year my boys have been ultra picky about their hay. Some of their nose turning, I’ve agreed with, but some of they hay has been perfectly fine and I’m at my wits end. I switched to straight timothy this summer which worked fairly well… then got some 2nd cutting mix which they absolutely love. This is the first time I ever purchased 2nd cutting for them.

For winter, I’ve always put them in paddocks with round bales as my other paddocks don’t have a good winter water setup and I can’t keep the water from freezing. Round bales have always worked. I got one and they were happy with that, then got the second one and now my one horse is really turning his nose up to it and is scavenging everything else on the two paddocks he has access to. They are basically close to dirt lots. The pony will eat some of the round bale…

I’m not sure what to do… I’m leaving town for the holiday and the round bale was supposed to cover them. I’ve tried holding out and not giving them anything else, but I don’t want them to not have anything so I’ve been throwing a few flakes in with the round bale to get them going to the hayhut.

The only thing I can think of is that my horse doesn’t really trust the hay hut as it did blow over in their paddock… but that doesn’t totally make sense either as when I put squares in with the round bale, they will eat that. Its not like I can really return the round bale.

So frustrated… any thoughts on what I can do? At this point, I’m half tempted to just tell my farm sitter to throw a bale of the good stuff in every day with round bale. The horse and pony can go through a bale to a bale and a half of squares on this lot (if not a little more), so not sure if just a bale is sufficient for each day.

The only other thought I can think of is try to pull out a bunch of the round bale outside the hay hut to see if that helps find some better hay inside.

Would love to hear what you have done in the past…I’m a big hay feeder and this really bothers me. At first I thought maybe I’m just seeing them not eating it because I’m home more, but I really think they are ignoring the round bale…

Hmmm…is it cold out? Mine are primarily easy keepers and mostly get coarser first cutting with a flake of “dessert” second cutting. They will frequently leave the first cutting during the day while they scratch around for grass, but if it’s freezing temps they usually eat most of the hay. So you might not see them eat the round bale at night?

If they’re not in danger of being underweight and you’re only gone this week I wouldn’t worry about your sitter dumping a lot of square bales at them. Unless they are sick, they will eat when they get hungry. Giving them a couple flakes of square to keep something in their stomach should be fine up prevent ulcers.

Edit; I do think it’s worth pulling a bunch out in case there’s something like a dead animal that’s rolled up in there and is turning them off. I have found snakes, rabbits, and even a fawn leg in bales before!

So I don’t know where you live but we had a weird summer for hay. So a lot of farmers had to bale in non-ideal situations. When they do, they sometimes spray the hay with chemicals so they can bale at a higher moisture content that ideal. They use propionic acid which some horses absolutely hate. Mine will not touch hay sprayed with it. It will look fine, smell fine, but the horses just know.

Some also use acetic acid, which I think smells quite gross but the horses eat it happily, so I think that’s why some farmers have been switching over to that.

I’d also be worried your round bale has something decaying in it that they can smell but you can’t (yet)


I pulled a whole bunch of the round bale out. I fed the 4 flakes of squares around 5pm and i just noticed that they are scavenging for grass. They are getting something out there better than the round bale.

Well… I closed the gate to the other paddock and pulled some of the hay out. Took a peak early this morning and saw eyes around the hay hut so assuming they are eating. There must be some mighty tasty scraps of grass left in the other paddock that they are wanting. over the round bale. I guess I’ll open it back up today if they are indeed eating it… at least then they will have access to their stalls for run in shelter. Horses!

For what it’s worth, I’m in the middle of a very odd hay strike. We aren’t even having a bad hay year in these parts, either.

The horses moved to our new farm a month ago. They are confined to a ~1 acre paddock at the moment because the larger pasture fence needs to be repaired and the materials are backordered. With 3 equines on 1 acre in the fall, it didn’t take long for the grass to be gone.

I bought a load of very nice orchard grass- soft, good smelling, weed and mold free. The kind of hay they usually inhale. They refused to touch it for over a week, now will only half-heartedly nibble at it.

So yesterday, I got a load of average quality Timothy: clean, but a little stemmier than I would prefer. They won’t touch that, either.

Now the first few days they were here, I treated them with some gawd awful expensive western alfalfa in their stalls and they ate that like candy. So I know it’s not a teeth/chewing issue. At first I thought they might be holding out for more of that, but the alfalfa has been long gone for weeks now.

I am going to try a round of ulcer treatment and see if that helps, because I truly don’t know what else the problem may be. As I said above, we haven’t had the growing issues other areas have experienced this year, so I don’t think it’s weird chemicals. But who knows. Hay strikes are not uncommon with my girls, but they usually don’t hold out this long when there is nothing else to eat.

Well I always advocate for the horses. They KNOW when hay is crap and we don’t.
Here in Florida we get hay every week from different sources even if at the same feed store.
Usually the western alfalfa is well eaten. Timothy is iffy. Orchard is iffy.
More hay farmers are treating the hay w/ driers/chemicals. Even if we can’t smell it, horses do.
Listen to your horses. They know.

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That’s what I would do, or I would worry the whole time I was gone. You can reevaluate when you return. Though if they haven’t started eating it by now I doubt they will.

I’ve had the same issue with roundbales before. In one case, I tried the tough love thing for weeks but eventually caved because my horses were barely touching it and were losing weight, in January. Mine was in a net so I dragged/rolled it onto a landscaping trailer and drove it over to a rescue for some cute Highland cattle. It’s such a hassle to dispose of that much hay if you get a lemon that I’ve stopped buying roundbales altogether. It sucks because they’re much more economical, but I don’t want to starve my horses to save money.


I have one horse here that was getting thin on the timothy hay I feed, so I separated him and started giving him Alfalfa cubes as well…and he ate those and ignored the timothy. They I got some alfalfa hay, and he started eating that, and ignoring the cubes. Then I put him out with a grass mix round bale, and he went for that, and ignored the flakes of alfalfa. I think he is part cat.

Are your horses thin? If not, they may be satisfying their need to forage by looking for the best stuff, and not really be feeling the need to eat more. I would throw them some squares while you are away, but I would consider the round bale to be a free choice option, and only give them 0.5% of their weight in “good” hay.

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No my guys are both in great weight. My horses was a little chunky at his vaccination appointment, but with winter setting in vet wasn’t worried about his weight. He is now eating the round bale which is good. I think he just was finding better stuff in the other paddock that I thought was crap. lol… I’m an overfeeder of hay so when they don’t eat it I worry.

Mine are on strike tonight too .I found a few bales of western timothy from last year. It doesn’t smell musty but it sure doesn’t smell great either so I have been soaking the flakes before I give it to them. OMG - they act like it is Horsie crack. Nicker, nicker, nicker.

I unloaded 20 bales of Tennessee orchard grass hay - second cutting. Soft, green, smells wonderful - no preservatives. Well they don’t like that hay. Pony pulled some from his haynet and threw it on the ground and peed next to it. He keeps looking at me begging for hay.

Sorry. That is all you get. I am going to the house, get cleaned up and go to bed. Eat it or go hungry. I don’t care. Sheesh!

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I don’t disagree with this and used to live by it. But over the years, I’ve also witnessed how ridiculous my girls can be. For example, boycotting new hay for a few days, then suddenly eating it with gusto. Or me buying a second type of hay only for them to decide they prefer the first type, which they previously found inedible. The real kicker was when I boarded at a partial care barn where I supplied my own hay. I would buy a load of hay and all 3 of mine would refuse to touch it for a few days, yet every other horse on the property would eat it readily. :woman_facepalming:

I don’t know why my horses do it, but they do it at some point almost every hay-feeding season. :woman_shrugging: Interstingly, for the past 3 years I was caring for my landlord’s animals, too, and they never refused hay.


Well. well. well. They got hungry the next day and that hay is perfectly acceptable. They have not had any more of the timothy crack either to skew their taste buds. If the hay had been full of weeds or smelled bad I would have not fed it. It just wasn’t filet mignon like Western timothy.


we switched to TEFF hay that is said to be coming from New Mexico… everything eats it as is the preferred choice of all the horses, ponies, miniatures and goats …completely weed free which is a real concern for us as we are still fighting the weeds that were introduced from some round bails that we had gotten during one of the droughts

Our supplier at first was getting it for us and another client… which amounted to about an 18 wheeler every six months … then others started using it then they were bring in a truck load every three months… to now they said they are selling a truck load in about two weeks

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I think many times people have issues when they have to change hay types or have hay from a different source over and over. Doesn’t mean the hay isn’t good, sometimes it is hard for them to get past the different taste.