All About Hay Nets Podcast Episode 21
Hello to all of you internet equestrians! If you found this podcast by accident, welcome! And to all of you who look forward to every Monday when a new podcast episode comes out, welcome back! I’m not sure how the weather is where you are, but here, overnight, we had our first measurable snow. And as I’m recording this, it continues to snow.
My horses are tucked into their open stalls right now. They both have their heavy blankets on, the tank heater is plugged in, and hopefully they have enough hay to keep them busy throughout this cold, cold day.
I was able to get my ride in yesterday, thankfully. And Frisby was much more responsive, because of the spurs. And while I don’t really enjoy wearing spurs, I did, and it made a huge improvement in his momentum to go forward.
And another thing that happened was, he didn’t cough as I was out riding him. And over the week, he hasn’t had any respiratory issues. I think this may be in part to the anti-histal I began feeding him again, but I think a big reason is something different that I started doing earlier this week.
I have switched to feeding their hay using hay nets, and I really think this has made the biggest difference in his respiratory health.
What Is A Hay Net
For those of you who don’t use a hay net to feed your horses, I’ sure you have seen the older styles. You know, the ones with the huge openings that are like 4” across. However, like everything else horse related, there have been some big improvements in hay nets, and that’s what I wanted to talk to you about today.
There are so many types of hay nets available now. You can get slow feeders, with openings that are 1”, or you can get them with openings that are 2-2 1/2”. Right now, this is what I have for my horses.
And what a hay net is, is a bag made of poly string that holds the hay you feed your horse. And the top of the bag expands via rings, at least the hay nets that I have do this, and this allows me to fill the hay net with 3 or 4 flakes of hay. Then I simply tie up the hay net, and my horses can eat their meal from the bag.
Benefit Of Using A Hay Net
The hay net also keeps the hay up off the ground, as well as slows your horse down when he is eating. I talked about this last week, when I first introduced my horses to hay nets. And to give you an idea of what it did for their feedings, it turned dinner time, from when I gave them their dinner from about an hour of eating into 3 hours giving them the same amount of hay.
It also helps to decrease the amount of waste that goes along with feeding hay, especially when the weather turns sloppy. If they hay is up off the ground, there is less hay to fall onto the ground and get trampled into the mud. And that is what these hay nets do. They slow the eating process down, and in turn, decreases the amount of waste that goes along with feeding horses.
Hay Nets Come In All Sizes
Thanks to the innovation of some equestrians, and horse lovers, there are all kinds of hay nets. You can find them that are small or large, and like I mentioned before, they have different sizes of openings. I found by accident it is better to start with the openings a little bit larger, and then as your horse becomes accustom to eating from the hay net, you can gradually work down to the 1” size hay net openings. I would not recommend starting with the 1” hay net in the beginning, because your horse may get frustrated with not being able to get at his meal. If this is something you would like to consider trying, start with the 2 – 2 ½” size openings to make it a little less stressful on your horse.
They also make no knot hay nets. And if your horse has a sensitive muzzle, this might be a good option for you. And a no knot hay net is exactly what it sounds like, no knots. You see traditional hay nets are knotted poly cordage. And the knots may irritate your horse. The no knot style is still a poly cord, but it is woven in a way there are no knots, which means the net is softer against your horses skin.
You can find the hay nets that you hang, or toss on the ground, and when full it looks like a pillow. Or there are styles that wrap around an entire bag of hay, or ones that look like a hammock that you hang on a wall or fence.
And just like coming in all sizes, they also come in varied price ranges. You can find them online for around $5.00 all the way up to $75.00, depending on the size of the hay net and what it is made from.
How Do You Use A Hay Net?
If you have never used a hay net before but are thinking about it let me share my experience with you.
I decided to start using hay nets for my horses because I wanted to slow them down on eating their meals. I wanted to try to mimic what it would be like if they had pastures to graze on as nature intended.
I did a lot of research on hay nets before I found one to try out. I read all the reviews, and finally decided on The Shires Slow Feed Hay net. Partly because it had good reviews, and partly because I thought Dover’s saddlery might have a couple in stock that I could buy and try right away. They cost $15.99 a piece, and I started with buying one for each horse. I mean, I had no idea if this would even work, so I didn’t want to buy multiples of these hay nets if they didn’t work, right?
So I bought the hay nets and happily rushed home to try them out. I tried finding videos on YouTube to help guide me to the process of using hay nets for my horses. And while there are some videos available, none of them really covered all my questions. So that means I will be making a video to share with others of my experiences on using hay nets or getting started with hay nets.
How To Fill A Hay Net
I figured out the easiest way to fill these nets is to use something to put the bag in, and then fill it up. Using an old trash can, and after I tied a quick knot in the end of the long piece of poly rope, so the bag wouldn’t completely come apart, and then I put the bag into the trash can. It is easier if you fold the top down over the outside of the trash can, and this helps to keep the bag fully open and in place, so it is easier to fill it.
Then I sectioned off the hay to fill the net and broke up the hay as I put it into the hay net. I found it is easier to break up the hay as you go. Shaking out each flake of hay as it’s put it into the net makes it easier. This way I’m not just trying to shove a square flake of hay into a round container. Does that make sense?
Hanging The Hay Net
Once the net is full, I gather the long poly rope ends and shake the bag in the trash can. This helps to compact and gather the hay more closely into the net. Then I tie one quick knot, which ends up at the gathered rings of the net, and then I take it out to the horses.
I put the net into the horse’s pen, and then I wrap the ends of the poly rope around a post, and bring the ends out and secure it in place on the post. I tie knot after knot into the end of the rope on the outside of the post. When I am in a hurry, like every morning, I tie about 5 or 6 knots into the end of the poly rope. It keeps it secure on the post, and the horses can’t knock it to the ground, or untie the net.
This works great on warmer days, or when it is dry. But what about when it is raining or snowing? I found a solution for that as well. Riding Warehouse sells wall brackets that allow you to tie the hay net into a stall. And they are affordable at $6.00 for the tie up.
This way I can put the hay net inside their stall and keep them busy eating and out of the rain or snow.
The first time I gave them the hay net, I didn’t hang it up. I saw a video on YouTube where the lady tied the net shut and put it on the ground for her horses to eat. It seemed like a good idea because I was concerned with tying up the net, and then a horse getting caught in it. I tend to have a very vivid imagination, so I can play out some crazy scenarios in my head. And with Ethan, if there is a way he can hurt himself, he will.
And while putting the nets on the ground worked, and kept the horses moving and eating like they would if they were grazing, Frisby knocked his net close to Ethan’s pen. So when I went out in the morning to check on them, Ethan had both empty nets in his pen. I am not sure how much hay Frisby actually got. Which is why I decided it would be best to tie up the nets.
And the first time I tied them up, I went out and checked on the horses every 20 minutes to make sure they weren’t caught up in the nets. And my fears were unfounded. They were both fine. And I started feeding them from the nets on a weekend, so I would be able to monitor them all day and night long before I would be away for an extended period of time.
Two Nets Are Better Than One
And I quickly found out it would be easier if I had multiple hay nets. This way while they have one in their stall, or paddock, I would have an extra one to fill and have ready to go, especially on the mornings when I have to go to work. And it makes it easier, and is more efficient to always have a back up hay net full and ready to go. I decided to do this because it does take longer to get feed ready when you are using a hay net. It takes me about 10 extra minutes to prepare the horses’ meals when using hay nets. And I don’t know about you, but I tend to run late in the mornings, so having a net prepared a head of time is a time saver for me.
It’s also a good idea to have a spare net or two just in case one gets destroyed. That way you are always prepared with an extra net, just in case.
Health Benefits Of Using A Hay Net
One of the main reasons I switched to hay nets is all of the health benefits associated with it. Firstly, it keeps the horses eating slower, and longer. They can’t just bury their muzzles into a pile of hay and stand there until it is all gone. And my horses can do this in record time. The hay net slows them down, and they are forced to eat slower. And by eating slower, their digestive system can work more like it was intended to, S-L-O-W-E-R!
When horses eat slower, like they are grazing, they have less health problems. There is a decreased risk of gastric ulcers, and decreased risk of colic. Both of which I want to avoid at all costs. I have had to deal with colic in the past. It scary, and I don’t like it. I don’t ever want to go through that again with any horse.
The hay nets also keep your horse busy.
And it is really entertaining to watch your horse figuring out the hay net. At first, they can get a little frustrated, but horses are smart, and hungry. They will catch on, I promise! And if your horse is anything like mine, even if it takes a few days to learn how to eat from the hay net, they won’t starve to death!
By giving them something to do throughout their day, and turning feeding time into a 3 hour process instead of 45 minutes to an hour, they don’t get bored. This style of feeding keeps them busy and not bored. A bored horse can be a destructive horse. I have found that even in only a week, my horses attitudes are quieter. They are not as bossy at feeding time, and they focus their energy on getting the hay out of the net. I love this!
Better For GI Health
And another benefit is that if your horse is eating all the time, slowly as nature intended, you don’t have to wait to ride them for a set amount of time after they have eaten. No more waiting for 2 hours to ride after their last meal. They eat slowly, and are actually happier to work, or even stand tied. They aren’t focused on hunger, or anticipating their next meal so they can focus on their job.
Respiratory problems also seem to diminish when your horse is fed from a hay net. I know this is partially due to shaking out the hay before feeding it. But by putting it into the bag, you are forced to shake out the hay, which helps to loosen any dust that might be in your hay. I have noticed a huge improvement with Frisby especially. Before I started feeding him with a hay net, Frisby had respiratory issues. I could hear him breathing, and he would cough when I started working him. Not anymore. Frisby is breathing better, and easier and no more coughing.
Even Ethan seems to have an easier time breathing. When I would feed him from the ground, he would constantly be blowing forcefully out his nose. I think it became a habit for him. But after just one week of eating from a hay net, this has drastically improved.
Hay Net Precautions
But when it comes to horses, you have to consider the potential risks of anything you do, this includes using a hay net. If your horse is shod (wearing shoes) you will want to be careful, because they can get their hoof caught in the net. I am not sure if I would use the hay net of my horses were shod. Both of mu horses are barefoot, so the risk of them getting a hoof caught up in the tiny openings of the net is pretty minimal.
Also consider where you are hanging the net. You don’t want your horse to inadvertently get caught up in the net. I hang my nets about 3 feet from the ground. It’s high enough that they can’t catch a hoof, but low enough that they are still keeping their heads lower to eat.
If your horse is wearing a blanket, you will want to make sure they can’t get caught in the hay nets as well. I am not sure what I am going to do about this quite yet, but I think I am going to use some vet wrap over their blanket connectors, so they don’t get a blanket keeper hooked onto the hay nets. See, vet wrap has many uses!
Hay Nets – A Better Way To Feed Your Horse
While there are some risks to be aware of when using a hay net for feeding your horse, I feel that the benefits far outweigh the risks. And with a little bit of effort on your part, you can make it safe to feed your horse with a hay net.
So if you have never thought about feeding your horse with a hay net, I think it is a feeding practice well worth considering, especially if you want to save your hay, and keep your horse as healthy as you can.
I have provided some links to different types of hay nets that you can purchase, and yes, these are affiliate links. Meaning if you make a purchase from one of these links, I receive a small commission for that company. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it helps me to continue doing what I do on my blog, podcast and YouTube channel.
And I have also created a couple of videos showing you the hay nets I have, and how to fill them easily. You can check them out by visiting my YouTube channel, The Budget Equestrian.
Thank you so much for taking some time to listen to this podcast! And if you could take a few minutes and go on over to iTunes to leave a review, I would really appreciate it. Did you know that when you leave a review of the podcast, Apple puts it out in front of more people? And I think there are a lot of horse owners who might like to have an equestrian style podcast to listen to when they are doing barn chores, riding, or even driving a tractor around. There aren’t very many equestrian themed podcasts out there, so if you like what I am sharing, why not share it with your equestrian friends? I would love it if you did!