Thursday, October 11, 2012

Slow Feed Hay Nets and Other Mysteries

Every time I feed Grace I am reminded of why I own only one horse. She most defiantly eats better than I do! At this time her daily diet consists of 2 feedings of the best Eastern Washington orchard grass hay I can find, which is now mixed with the same quality alfalfa/orchard grass mix. 3 pounds of rolled ration twice a day, Miracle Clay, Dynamite vitamins, Dynamite Free and Easy, Chia Seed and Organic Black Strap Molasses to mix it all together. I will soon be adding papaya powder to this mixture for digestive health. This diet keeps Grace fat, slick and shiny while being ridden 6 days a week and showing at least once a month. There is one big issue I've been facing for at least the last 6 months; Princess Grace won't clean up her hay. 

At one point I was feeding Grace 6 flakes of hay a day. She has experienced ulcer flare ups in the past and my idea was to keep hay in front of her all the time.  Again - I feed the best hay I can find, I don't mind feeding extra as long as it doesn't go to waste, but I found I was adding more and more of it to the manure pile before it went through the horse. I had a ton of 1st cutting that has some stem to it so I thought that was the issue, but then the 2nd cutting with the soft beautiful grass arrived and she was leaving even more of that behind. I cut her back to 4 flakes a day (2 flakes twice a day) and she was still leaving perfectly good clean hay behind. I found that if I took away all of the left over hay Grace was better about cleaning up the new meal I put in front of her. This works for a feeding and then she starts leaving hay behind again. It was killing me to fill a wheelbarrow with perfectly good hay that any other horse would eat and dump it into the manure pile. Sarah suggested that I start feeding Grace out of one of those slow feed hay bags. I filled one and hung it on the trailer at a day long horse show; Grace wouldn’t touch it so I shelved that idea. This weekend the ½ ton of orchard/alfalfa arrived. Grace is currently inhaling the one flax of alfalfa mix but she then leaves most of the flake of orchard grass behind. Again – BEAUTIFUL hay – I would eat it! I have to believe that if there was another horse to compete with for food; this would not be an issue. Grace is still fat, shiny and happy but I only see dollar signs in the manure pile. I also want to get this under control before the rain returns and makes a mess of things.
Last night I pulled the slow feed hay net back out and filled it with 3 flakes of the orchard grass hay. Before hanging it up I pulled hay through the small openings so Grace would get the idea. I fed her flake of alfalfa mix on the floor of the shelter and then hung the hay net in the corner. I prefer to have my horse eat with her head down, but I am at the end of my rope with the hay waste. I left her for the night convinced that she would be starving in the morning with a full hay bag hanging in front of her. I also had the creeping thought in the back of my mind that she would somehow hang herself up in the hay net event though I knew I hung it safely.

When I went up to the pasture to feed this morning I caught sight of the hay net in the glow of my head lamp, it was still hanging. From a distance I could tell the shape of it had change, it was longer and narrower! On closer inspection Grace had not only eaten from the hay net, she had eaten about 2/3rds of the hay in it! I searched the ground under the hay net – no hay on the ground; she had also eaten all of the alfalfa mix from the night before. I have no idea why Grace prefers to eat her hay in the bag, but I was really surprised by how much more she consumed in one feeding. I plan to get a second slow feed bag so I can have her morning hay ready to go the night before. I don't even want to think about how much hay I could have saved if I had just listened to Sarah the first time. Sigh...


  1. I dont want to get a slow feed net, but Wes and I have been talking for MONTHS about building a slow feed box, which I think has just turned into my Christmas present request. Among the obvious positive reasons, another reason is that the BO feeds at such varying times, usually 9 am and between 2-5pm!! It drives me nuts to know that half the night is spent without food (if not more) and there is a shorter space between morning and afternoon feeding. Thats why our plan is the box, which will work when he comes home too. Im just too scared about the nets, and with the box its still on the ground. I have been searching online for the perfect design but have just come up with one on my own. :)

  2. I bought a slow feeder bag and I worry about my filly getting caught in it. My Barn Owner hates them and will not use it for the night feeding. I don't think that it slowed down how fast my filly eats her hay though. Nina if you do make a box I want to see pictures!

  3. I feed in just a slow feed net. My horses are out to pasture for 9 hours and in the rest of the time. I have one horse that flings it around with his head then eats what falls out on the ground, another grabs the net and shakes his food loose and my mare just pulls out the bits of hay and eats what comes out off the ground. I love my nets. I can fill them with grass hay and hide the flake of alfalfa in it and it lasts them most the night. Another friend has a slow feeder box. Its 4ftX2ft( I think) she has the box and made a lid for it. Then bought some 2inX2in square grating for it. Her horses never make a mess and her hay actually goes a lot farther since they have learned to self regulate. They have food in front of them whenever they are in. If I knew my horses wouldn't kill themselves by jumping in the box I would make one. I'm okay with the nets for now