What do I need to know about picking a hay net?
Choices, choices, choices…
Most hay nets are used in one of two ways - as a slow feeder or as a way to pass the time in the horse trailer. And you have about a dozen styles to choose from. But basically, you have the small hole and the large hole in the traditional net. Traditional nets cinch up and can fit several flakes of hay. The small hole varieties are designed to be slow feeders, while the much bigger hole varieties (like the one pictured below) are designed more for large bites and not so slow feeding. These also seem to spill much more onto the floor of your trailer or your horse’s stall.
Huge openings = fast eating and lots of dropped hay.
They are also made from nylon (usually) and also a thick cotton variety. You can even make your own from hay strings/bailing twine. I seem to have better luck with the thick cotton variety, but I can’t seem to find one of those in a slow feeder small holed type. My nylon ones tend to fray easily, thus creating a definite tangled up situation if it should snap.
This cotton hay net has gigantic, mess inducing holes. But I like the cotton! Great for longer stemmed hays like timothy.
Hay bags are another option, they are typically more on the slow feeder side, and are flat so a flake of hay slides in. Colors, patterns, you name it.
A few smart words about hay nets and how to use them safely.
- Hang them high enough so that your horse’s hoof won’t get caught. Ever.
- Hang them low enough so that your horse doesn’t need to crank his neck to get a bite.
- When you cinch up the hay net, the strings must be out of the way of your horse when you hang the bag. You will probably be making a hundred or so slip knots to tie up the bag. Good for building awesome arms.
- For the bag styles, you can clip them up with a double sided snap.
- Inspect your hay net often for frays and other signs your hay net will break.
- For easy loading of hay into a hay net, stuff a feed bag with your hay flakes and then put the hay net over your feed bag. Flip and remove the feed bag!
- Stuff a hay net and then drop it into a muck tub, fill with water, and wait for easy hay soaking. After your hay is soaked, hang to drip out the excess.
- Make sure your horse is naked in a stall with a hay net. If he must be wearing a halter, make sure any clips on his halter face towards him to reduce the chance of him getting stuck on the net.
- If you are transitioning to using a hay net as a slow feeder, make the transition over days or a week or so. This may help reduce any frustration he may feel with the new routine.
- Make sure his head and neck are not getting out of whack. Horses are designed to eat from the ground, and sometimes they need some massage/chiro/vet care if you notice them moving or feeling differently.
What are your words of wisdom about horse and hay nets?