World #5-ranked eventer Tom McEwen figures he may be one of the earliest believers in the benefits of Haygain Steamed Hay. A member of Great Britain's gold-winning World Equestrian Games team in 2018 and will be heading off to Tokyo at the end of the month, Tom recalls Steamed Hay "making immediate sense to me" when it was first introduced. That was back in 2009, after years of product development and testing conducted in conjunction with the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester.
Photo: Tilly Berendt
"It is much more practical than dunking hay and it made a lot more sense than stewing hay and letting it sit in that same water," Tom recalls. Indeed, soaking hay can reduce respirable dust, but it comes with unhealthy consequences. Even a 10-minute soak can increase the bacterial load in hay by 150%. A 1992 study found that post-soak liquid is highly pollutant: it has nine times the biological oxygen demand of raw sewage.
Tom didn't know this scientifically proven stuff about Haygain Hay Steaming at the time, and he didn't need it to be convinced. He was based with Sir Mark Todd when Haygain was introduced. Seeing the living legend Olympic champion horseman embrace the idea was all the corroboration needed for Tom to trust his gut instincts on how the new product could help his horses.
From Haylage To Hay
The timing was perfect because it coincided with Tom switching his horses to hay, from haylage. Hay's nutritional profile is often preferable to haylage, but the downside is dust and inconsistent hygienic quality. Haygain Hay Steaming reduces up to 99% of the dust, mould and other allergens in hay, so that worry went out the window.
Early this year, Tom's team finally retired their original steamers and replaced them with new full-bale and travel-size models. At home at their Gatcombe Park Stables yard, the HG 2000 runs nearly all day.
"We steam as a preventative measure," Tom explains. "Along with having great airflow in the barn and giving our horses plenty of time outdoors, I think the Haygain Steamed Hay seriously helps them. It's especially important because they do such strenuous activity. At shows, of course, and all the training at home. The more you can keep them healthy and keep their endurance up, the better."
"We get very good quality hay," Tom continues. "It's very clean hay -- second-cut seeded hay -- from a local farmer. I'm sure you could feed it as it is. Haygain, for us, is really about peace of mind: knowing that we are surpassing the requirements for our horses."
He's especially happy about having an easily portable model, the HG 600, for the first time. Before that, they had steamed hay at home and bagged it to take to competitions. Or, Tom says with a laugh, "We begged, borrowed or stole" the use of friends' Haygain units while on the road
Easy On The Road
He admits he was worried about traveling with the equipment. "I thought it might be a pain, but it's so easy to use. It has wheels and the square size fits in very well."
For their part, the approximately 20 horses in Tom's yard enjoy their daily Haygain Steamed Hay. That includes Tom's Olympic prospect Toledo de Kerser, his partner in his first CCI5* win, at Pau, France, in 2019, and in WEG team gold and an individual 12th in 2018. Fresh from winning the CCI4*-S at Bitcon in early June, Tom and Toledo are poised to be top contenders next month in Tokyo.
However that pans out, it's clear the 30-year-old horseman's ascent in the sport is just getting started. And that the benefits of Haygain Steamed Hay will continue to manifest in his horses' performances and overall well-being.