Put simply, slow feeding horses is giving them access to forage 24 hours a day. Grazing horses on pasture is the ultimate slow feeding system, however, not all horses can cope with constant access to pasture, and not all properties have healthy pasture to offer them.
So, developing a system of making hay available 24/7 for horses that don’t or can’t have access to grass is the ideal solution to giving them a closer to natural way of eating.
The horse’s system is designed to have food move through it continuously, and without that they are subject to burning gastric acid and insulin spikes if ‘meal’ fed deprived of food for any longer than a couple of hours.
What does a horse eat after it finishes the bucket feed or loose hay within an hour or so? Its not a healthy way for a horse to live and can result in gut ulcers, eating dung or bedding if stabled, chewing wood/trees or eating poisonous plants they would normally avoid.
The ideal solution for healthy movement and feeding is to combine a ‘Paddock Paradise’ track system with slowfeeder haynets placed around the track or away from the water to increase the movement that is sacrificed by standing in front of a single hayfeeder.
Slow Feeder Haynets
Is there a better way to offer hay to horses? There are dozens, as it turns out, each with its own advantages. In most parts of the world, pasture is, at best, a seasonal thing. For a good chunk of the year, most of us who are feeding horses have to replace green grass with the dried variety.
Slow feeder haynets are an ideal way to provide hay in an economical way.
Top 5 Reasons to Use a Slowfeeder haynet
- Stops hay wastage from trampling, manure etc.
- Slows down consumption so the hay last 2-3 times longer and replicates grazing.
- Small net holes means you can fasten the net low (provided your horse is barefoot or the net is inside a container) for a natural grazing position.
- A full bale net gives your horse hay 24/7, saving you time on feeding.
- Hay in the gut 24/7 avoids gut ulcers and colic incidents.
Here are my ten tips to using Slow Feeder Haynets:
Help your horses get used to them by putting half their ration in the net to start with and give the rest loose so they are not super hungry while they’re working it out (which doesn’t take long!).
- Keep it filled 24/7 – It will only take a few days for them to get used to ‘grazing’ their hay instead of gorging.
- Fill the net by standing the bale up and pulling the net down over it while the strings are still attached – with a small net, you can put one on each end of the bale then cut the strings in the middle. Its easy then to wheel it out on a trolley.
- Tie the draw string several times so there’s no room to fit a hoof through the loop.
- By securing the net inside a box or a large truck tyre, you eliminate the pawing that can possibly wreck the net and it stops mud and manure ruining the hay.
- Keep the net low to the ground so the feeding position is natural and the horse’s teeth are not worn abnormally (as when fed up high).
- Use a clip to fasten the net in place – much faster than tying and un-tying it.
- Spread the horse’s ration (approx. 1.5-2% of their bodyweight) between several nets that are placed in various parts of the paddock or on the track to encourage movement otherwise they stand around all day eating!
- Have the water as far from the hay as possible (unless they are ill) to encourage movement.
- Use your net to soak hay in – it keeps it together nicely and if you have a pulley above (wet hay is quite heavy), you can hang it up to drain.
More slowfeeding news and tips below:
“The haynets are already in use, and I’m really pleased with them. Lady has easily adapted, and actually seems to be enjoying them. (and I’m loving the fact she can no longer gobble her hay up in minutes!)” Sarah B. NZ
“I LOVE the slow feeder haynets. My horse suffers from choke, we don’t know what causes it as we’ve tried every trick in the book to prevent it. The vet said he could simply have a small oesophagus and the food balls up and causes the choke. Anyhow the slow feeder haynet IS PERFECT for him….plus it keeps both of them busy for ages.” Brenda D.
Cara-Lynne from WA shares her hay feeding solution which is working well with the addition of the SlowFeeder haynets.
For safety you need to buy rag wall tyres. Cut, or ask the supplier to cut the top rim out so that the lip is only a few inches wide (hence why you want rag wall tyres and not steel belted). This helps keep hay in when not using the nets but the lip isn’t big enough for equines to get their head stuck.
We have screwed a short bolt into the thick wall of the tyre to tie the net in. We also have the tyres on rubber sheeting to reduce them picking up sand or gravel when eating the “spills”. Our property is all pea gravel. We have found these tyres successful in feeding our small donkeys, Clydesdale and quarter horse all together without an issue. We got the tyres free of charge from a second hand tyre dealer and paid him $20 to cut the rims out. A bargain price as the cutting would be a difficult job.
www.slowfeeding.info gives a comprehensive overview of what works and what doesn’t with slow feeding systems. Good Lind (site owner) says:
“I have been experimenting with Slow Feeders for some 13 years but the first 9 or so nothing really worked. Today, however, I believe we have come quite far and discovered miracles I absolutely did not expect when I started out.”
TheHorse.com gives the low down on choosing hay feeders. Read the whole article here – www.thehorse.com/ViewArticle.aspx?ID=15459
Buy the best Australian made Slowfeeder Haynets from the Natural Horse World Store.