Put simply, slow feeding is giving horses
access to forage 24 hours a day. Grazing horses on pasture is
the ultimate slow feeding system, however, not all horses can
cope with large amounts of 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 hayfeeder.
Below are some ideas and tips for slowfeeder haynets and other
hayfeeding systems are detailed on the Feeding
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
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.
are my ten tips to using Slow Feeder Haynets:
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
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
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.
"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.”
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
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.
is a USA site that has some good info on slow feeding and shows
the haynets in action.
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."
see why some people prefer to use round bales as they are cheaper
than the equivalent in small squares, and it means less hay handling
on a daily basis. The down side to large rounds is the wastage as
horses can really make a mess of a bale that is not contained. Even
in a bale feeder they toss it out and trample some.
Of course there's also the usual manure removal but in a concentrated
area - its faster to pick up.
Happily sharing hay that stays dry under the tarp.
With the round bale Slowfeeder net there was minimal waste (I peeled
off the wet mouldy section where it had been sitting on the ground
= to 1 chaff bag full) and it lasted exactly seven days with four
horses relying on it as their main food source (minimal pasture).
Normally they would consume 14 small square bales (in slowfeeder nets)
in a week which at $3.50 a bale (cost price) = $49. The round bales
cost me $40 including transport.
The only downside I can see is that if it rains, the bale needs to
have a cover although some horses will eat wet hay so long as it doesn't
go mouldy. So I designed a dome cover that was easy to make from readily
found materials (all were on hand at our place) easy to erect, light
to move and so far hasn't blown away (a dome shape is the strongest
my round bale up on a wooden pallet then put the dome up around it
as its easier to roll the bale into place without the posts in the
materials used for the frame were 4 metal cross sections that were
off an old tent marquee.
Then I cut 4 x 1.6m lengths of 2" poly pipe to make the sides
and 2 x 2.6m lengths of 1" poly pipe to make the roof arches.
4 short 30cm lengths of 2" pipe made up the 'legs' that go down
over the steel posts to hold the whole structure up.
get a 3 x 3m (ours was 3 x 4m) tarp and tie it on before you lift
the whole thing up onto the steel posts that you've banged in next
to the dome 'legs'.
tied the fence panels to the steel posts and secured the dome to the
fence panels in case the wind got under it, which it shouldn't as
being a dome, the wind should actually press it down.
When the bale is eaten to a point that is easy to lift, you can pull
the net up and fasten it to the roof arches in the centre.
As the hay is reduced further, tie a string around the net to keep
it accessible for the horses. I also tied the net to the pallet so
'nosy' horses wouldn't push it off.
also need to secure the end of the fence panels so itching horses
don't push them around.
The information contained within this website is soley the expressed views
and opinions of the author, unless otherwise stated, and the author accepts
no responsability for the way this information is used by viewers. The
information is provided to help PREVENT problems, not to replace veterinary
Natural Horse World
Wattle Lea Lane, Golden Valley. Tasmania, 7304. Australia.