While doing a spot of web surfing, I found the site of Swedish hoof trimmer, Ove Lind who has put together an interesting selection of hay feeding options to enable 24/7 hay and to reduce gorging and wastage.
He says “I have found that as long as there is a limited supply of hay the horses tend to eat faster.”
We will have to start feeding our horses again tomorrow even though we are in the middle of the grazing season and there is tons of grass out in the pasture. The heat has increased the number of mosquitos so much that our horses hardly leave their shelter during the whole day and when they come out they eat much to fast. So I filled one of their feeders and put it inside their shelter for them to eat while they are hiding in the darkness from the mosquitos”.
This is just one of many times throughout the year when horses need to have hay provided in a small area. For me, the motivation was to make the job of putting hay out daily for 10 horses much quicker and have less waste when it was wet and muddy.
For the first part of winter I was feeding our 5 times a day – in meal sized portions so the horses ate it all and didn’t tread the hay into the mud or mess in it.
Then it got hard to find areas where there was no manure or mud, so I had to come up with some other options.
The first idea came when I decided I had to reduce the number of times I fed them and this resulted in these hay baskets made from plastic fence trellis.
I could fit two meals in each one, they were safe, allowed the seeds to drop on the ground to regrow grass, and the horses didn’t scatter or waste any hay. Most importantly, the small 50 x 50mm holes slowed down their intake to match a more natural grazing pattern. It took them twice as long to eat their hay and they all adapted well, learning to stand on the basket with one foot so the hay came out easier without lifting up the basket.
But when the mud and manure took over the pasture, I decided to change back to my hay feeder boxes which I’d previously used but had abandoned due to the arguments and lack of sharing it caused.
The two horses lowest in the hierarchy always seemed to miss out so I had to find another solution.
Large barriers worked out to solve the issue perfectly. I drove two steel posts in, slid some large diameter PVC pipe I had over them to protect the horses and discourage them from rubbing on them (they have plenty of trees for that), and then tied a portable fence panel across to make two sides to the feeder.
I’ve since swapped the portable panels for shade cloth so I can use them elsewhere and that works just as well.
Inside the hay feeders, I have heavy duty mesh (the kind they use for making gates) clipped to the base with old rug clips on some baling string, so they can be easily removed for filling the hay, and to stop the horses tossing them out. The holes could be smaller but it works ok at the moment, keeping most of the hay in the feeders rather than being tossed out as they search for the tastiest morsels (which always seem to be at the bottom!).
Before next winter, I’ll add some gravel around the feeders to help with the mud/slipping when it’s really wet and this will also give them a dry standing space.
While researching hay feeders, I came across some interesting examples where feeding systems have been automated – some are very sophisticated and would definitely save time, giving you more opportunity to ride and maintain your horses. Have look at this site for some interesting ideas.