Feeding Horses with a Hay Net

May 19, 2015 (published)

Horses evolved to eat small meals throughout the day while they grazed small amount of grass. In fact, most horses have been shown to graze about 15 hours out of a 24-hour day. So you can see why horses develop problems when we put them in box stalls and feed them twice a day, because instead of eating 15 hours per day, they eat for two. This change certainly affects their digestion as this is unnatural for horses and can lead to colic and stomach ulcers. Although all horses would be healthier out on pasture, the reality is that this is not possible for many horse owners. Because of this, it would be a good idea to feed horses that are stalled in a manner to make them eat smaller amounts of hay slower to mimic grazing of horses on pasture.

One option to accomplish this goal could to feed hay in a net, The University of Minnesota recently published a study to determine the effect of the hay net design on the amount and rate of hay consumed by a horse. They fed horses hay in three nets that had different size holes: large six-inch holes, medium one-and-¾-inch holes, and small one-inch holes. Results indicated horses eating hay from the six-inch nets did not eat any longer than horses fed without a hay net. However, horses eating hay out of nets with medium and small openings in the nets ate significantly slower and therefore ate longer than horses without nets. These results indicate that horses fed hay out of nets with openings of one to one 1 to one-and-¾-inch holes in diameter ate slower and ate smaller amounts longer than horses eating without a hay net or a net with large holes. So if you have a horse that is stalled most of the day, feeding in a hay net with small holes may be healthier for your horse.

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