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Natural Horse World



What is Slow Feeding?

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 Articles page.

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
  1. Stops hay wastage from trampling, manure etc.
  2. Slows down consumption so the hay last 2-3 times longer and replicates grazing.
  3. 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.
  4. A full bale net gives your horse hay 24/7, saving you time on feeding.
  5. Hay in the gut 24/7 avoids gut ulcers and colic incidents.

    Here are my ten tips to using Slow Feeder Haynets:
  1. 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!).

  2. Keep it filled 24/7 - It will only take a few days for them to get used to ‘grazing’ their hay instead of gorging.

  3. 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.

  4. Tie the draw string several times so there's no room to fit a hoof through the loop.

  5. 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.

  6. 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).

  7. Use a clip to fasten the net in place - much faster than tying and un-tying it.

  8. 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!

  9. Have the water as far from the hay as possible (unless they are ill) to encourage movement.

  10. 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.

  11. More slowfeeding news and tips here

    "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.hoofcareunltd.com is a USA site that has some good info on slow feeding and shows the haynets in action.

    www.slowfeeding.com 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 -

    Buy Slowfeeder Haynets from the Natural Horse World Store.

Round Bale Slowfeeder Nets

I can 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 against wind)!

I set 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 way.

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.

Then 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'.

I then 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.

Photo: 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.

You may also need to secure the end of the fence panels so itching horses don't push them around.

The Round Bale nets are now available for $99 + shipping by email order as we will need measurements for your size round bales to get the best fit.
Click here to go to the Natural Horse World Store to buy Slowfeed Haysaver Nets.

More slowfeeding news and tips here

This video shows how the horses chomp their way through all that hay while sharing space happily while feeling safe in their own sections.


More slowfeeding news and tips here


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Disclaimer: 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 advice.


Cynthia Cooper -
Natural Horse World

46 Wattle Lea Lane, Golden Valley. Tasmania, 7304. Australia.

Ph. 0419 372279

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