Last Updated on February 28, 2023
Horses are grazing animals, adapted to eat slowly and steadily throughout the day. Using one of the best slow feeders for horses will keep your horse healthy and happy, and reduce the risk of many common diseases and disorders of horses.
The best slow feeders for horses allow horses to take their time eating their hay, stretching their rations out over many hours. Given the opportunity, many horses will eat their hay too fast and then are left for several hours without anything to eat. Eating regularly throughout the day will help prevent ulcers, colic, behavioral problems, stall vices, gorging, choking, cribbing, and even laminitis.
The Best Slow Feeders for Horses: What to Consider
When selecting a slow feeder for horses, you need to consider where you are going to keep it and what size you will need. Slow feeders are available in different sizes and types, including ones that hold a few flakes, a square bale, or a round bale.
If you plan on putting it in a horse’s stall, most people choose to use a slow feeder hay box, which sits permanently in a corner of the stall. Before buying this type of slow feeder for horses, you have to figure out where you are going to keep it and if there is enough room in the stall. Ideally, it should be positioned within four inches of the ground, however, if your horse is wearing shoes, you may have to hang it higher to reduce the risk of your horse getting their shoe caught in it.
If a slow feeder hay box is too bulky for your horse’s stall, the next option is an ultra slow feeder hay net such as a 1-inch hay net. These look just like a standard hay net, except the holes in the mesh are much smaller, making it harder for the horse to pull hay out of the net. The advantage of this type of slow feeder is that they are less bulky and are not permanently fixed in place.
If you are planning on putting slow feeders in your horse’s pasture, you ideally want to have one slow feeder per horse, with one additional one. This helps to prevent bullying and ensures that all horses have access to hay at all times. In an established herd, a large round bale slow feeder can be a good option, as long as you don’t have a dominant horse that chases meeker horses away.
What Are The Benefits of Slow Feeders For Horses?
Slow feeders do exactly what the name suggests – they allow horses to eat at a healthy pace, slower than when given a standard hay net or loose hay. Most of them work by reducing the size of the holes in the feeder, making it harder for horses to pull out a large mouthful at a time.
But why is this so important? Well, in the wild, a horse would typically graze for 16 hours a day, constantly nibbling on poor-quality grass and shrub. This means a constant, slow supply of food is entering the digestive system, known as trickle feeding.
In domesticated horses, we have made life much easier for them, by providing an all-you-can-eat buffet of their daily rations. However, the instinct of most horses is to eat this food as quickly as possible, and studies have shown that horses with access to loose hay will eat 3.3lb per hour. Using a small-holed hay net reduces this to 1.9lb per hour.
Say for example that your horse’s daily hay ration was 16 lbs – if fed loose hay, your horse would spend less than 5 hours eating. Using a slow feeder can increase this eating period to 8.5 hours or more.
Using a slow feeder helps horses maintain a healthy digestive system, alleviates boredom, and can also help with weight management. For overweight horses, slow feeders help slow down food intake, regulate their metabolism, reduce spikes in insulin, and lower their stress. Even underweight horses can benefit from slow feeders, by increasing digestion and absorption of nutrients and calories.
If you have horses with digestive or behavioral problems, a slow feeder can be very beneficial. The slow intake of hay throughout the day mimics horses’ natural grazing patterns. The continuous intake of hay can promote gut health and keep a horse from picking up bad habits.
Slow feeders can even work in pastures if there are multiple sets out for horses. They can decrease food aggression in horses and lessen the amount of wasted hay. Horses that eat out of slow feeders also tend to be more relaxed.
Key features of slow feeders
Most slow feeders are similar to hay nets, but with smaller holes. However, slow feeders are also available in hard forms, such as a barrel, tubs, or boxes. Hard slow feeders often have a movable grid on top that allows the horse to take small bites of hay.
When buying a slow feeder, look for a slow feeder that fits your needs. If you are planning on using it in a trailer or a stall with a horse with shoes, you need one you can hang easily. If you are planning to use it out in the pasture, you will need a larger one that can be kept on the ground, unless you have a convenient place to hang it.
How to use a slow feeder
Before using a slow feeder, ensure you have an appropriate place to keep it. If hanging it in a horse’s stall, make sure you have a sturdy place to hang it that can hold the weight of the slow feeder.
Make sure you get a slow feeder that is made from sturdy material and be sure there are no ways your horse can get tangled up in it. Depending on where you are going to put it, you need to be sure that you will have room for your slow feeder.
When buying a slow feeder, take into account where you are going to use it most. If you plan to use one for traveling and shows, you ideally want a smaller one that is easy to travel with.
You may have to fill your slow feeder a couple of times a day, so get one you are comfortable using. Some close by knots, drawstrings, ropes, or Velcro. Find something that is easy for you to fill, tie, and hang if necessary.
Top 7 Best Slow Feeders for Horses
If you’re planning on buying a new slow feeder for your horse, we’ve got some of the best on the market for you right here!
The Derby Originals Supreme Patented Four-Sided Slow Feed Horse Hay Bag is made from durable nylon and features sturdy straps and hardware, making it a great hanging slow feeder. It allows the horse to eat from four sides, making it more comfortable for the horse to use and creating better airflow that helps prevent the buildup of dust. It is great for your horse’s stall, pasture, or trailer.
This slow feeder for horses holds 2-3 flakes of hay and is designed to last much longer than a traditional hay net. They come with three different size holes, and the 2×2″ option is a good choice to slow the greediest horse down.
- Made from durable material
- The four-sided design prevents waste, and dust build-up and is more comfortable for the horse
- It is easy to fill and hang
- The Velcro strap doesn’t always hold up well, so it is important to use the hooks
- May not hold enough hay for larger horses
The Weaver Leather Slow Feed Hay Net is the best slow feeder hay net for horses on the market. This is a simple yet effective slow feeder, designed like a traditional hay net but with smaller holes that slow your horse’s eating down. It can easily be hung, making it great for stalls, trailers, or pastures.
- Great for travel
- Simple to use and can be hung wherever you need it
- Made from durable material
- It is on the smaller side
- Can be messy to fill
This is a great option if you like to feed large round bales of hay in the paddock or barn, but don’t want to invest in installing a fixed slow feeder for horses. This giant net will encase a large round bale of hay, giving several horses access at the same time. It not only slows down the rate at which they eat the hay but also reduces wastage and mess.
- Made from reinforced polyethylene net with 1.5″ holes to slow down feeding
- Several horses can eat together at the same time
- Reduces wastage and mess
- The base of the bale is sitting on the ground so can get wet and dirty
- Not suitable for horses wearing shoes
We love the innovative design of this hay net bag, which features dual fastenings which prevent it from sagging on the floor when empty. The small mesh size will slow down even the greediest of eaters, and the generous size means you can supply your horse with enough hay to last throughout the day. This design also lends itself well for use in multiple situations, including in the stall or barn, in a trailer, or out in the paddock.
- The large design can hold a lot of hay
- They are easy to use
- You can use them for stalls, trailers, or pasture
- The large size can make it difficult to hang
- Some reviewers report that the fastening strings are inadequate and need to be replaced
The Shires Greedy Feeder Hay Net is made from high-quality material that is tough and durable. The simple design of a traditional hay net makes it easy to fill and hang. Its small holes, only 1.25 inches, make your hungry horse slow down its eating, helping to maintain a healthy digestive system.
- The large design can hold a lot of hay
- Easy to fill and use
- Versatile – can be used for stalls, trailers, or pasture
- Some people have received different sizes of the net when they ordered
- Need to be hung from a height to prevent it from sagging on the floor when empty
The makers of the Freedom Feeder Full Day Slow Horse Feeder Mesh Net wanted to develop a product that took the stress and worry out of mealtimes for horses, by providing constant access to hay. This net can hold up to 30lb of hay, meaning it can contain a full day’s ration for most horses. It comes in three mesh sizes, with the 1″ openings most suitable for greedy feeders.
- Can hold a full day’s ration of hay
- Dual carabiners make it easy to hang
- Ideal for providing larger amounts of hay for horses out at pasture
- Full net can be difficult to hang with just one person
- Some reviewers noted that it can be flipped up and over a fence so needs an extra tie to secure it in place
The Partrade Trading Corporation Ultra Slow Feeder Hay Net is made from durable material and features an easy-fill design that can hold several flakes of hay. It is designed like a traditional hay net, making it easy to use wherever you need it. It has one-inch by one-inch openings to slow down even the quickest of eaters.
- Durable and easy to fill
- Can be used in stalls, trailers, and pastures
- Holds several flakes
- Some horses get frustrated by how small the holes are
Summary – The Best Slow Feeders for Horses
All of these slow feeders are great at helping horses slow down their eating and maintain a healthy digestive system while minimizing waste. Using a slow feeder can be very beneficial to horses, as they must have access to hay throughout the day. For many horse owners, the Derby Originals Supreme Patented Four-Sided Slow Feed Horse Hay Bag is the best choice for a slow feeder, thanks to its unique four-sided design which allows your horse to eat comfortably and slowly throughout the day.
The Derby four-sided feeder is not only easy to fill and hang but also allows for better airflow, keeping dust from gathering, unlike other slow feeders. Its four-sided design is different than that of the Weaver, Partrade, and Shires slow feeder, making it easier to fill. You can also use the Derby four-sided slow feeder in stalls, pastures, or trailers.
It is designed so that more than one horse can eat from it at a time. This slow feeder is also available in different sizes and colors, allowing you to select one that is most fitting for your needs.
The woven nylon creates a durable build, making the Derby four-sided slow feeder hold up against determined horses. The heavy-duty hardware and straps make it easy to hang anywhere. This is a great slow feeder to keep your horse happy and healthy.
How do I make a horse slow feeder?
You can make a slow feeder out of a variety of materials, and the design can range from simple to complex. Some of the best slow feeders are made from plastic barrels, plastic drums, produce bins, or water and feed tubs for livestock. If you choose to use a trash can or a plastic barrel you will need to cut an opening for the hay to be eaten from.
The opening needs to be covered with some kind of material that will allow the horse to pull the hay through but not get the teeth attached to it or cause any oral damage. You can also fill up hay nets and put them into old water tubs or feed bins, tie them inside, or tie them to the fence around the horse’s pen. The netting makes the horse pull the hay out and works well for slow feeding.
When making a slow horse feeder, it is vital to ensure there are no sharp edges that your horse can injure itself on. Make sure the net is secured firmly in place and cannot get caught on your horse’s hooves or halter.
Are equine slow feeders bad for horses’ teeth?
If the slow feeder is made with the proper materials it will not hurt or damage the horse’s teeth, however, there are a few materials that are used when making slow feeders that can cause a significant amount of damage to the horse’s teeth.
Slow feeders that have metal grates may create some damage to the horse’s teeth and possibly other areas of the mouth, particularly if the horse has to push against it to access the hay.
Also, the height at which the slow feeder is placed can affect the way your horse’s teeth wear down. The most natural position for a horse to eat in is with the head lowered. Pulling and chewing hay from a raised slow feeder can cause uneven wearing of the teeth.
Are slow-feed hay nets good for horses?
Slow-feed hay nets look similar to regular hay nets but the mesh openings are much smaller, making it harder for the horse to pull hay out. These smaller openings are perfect for trickle feeding and are a great way to give your horse a more natural way to eat.
These nets are ideal for owners who want to give their horses the most natural feeding option available for them. The slow feeding method is great for horse health as the horse will not go for long periods without food. Long fasting periods can cause problems in horses such as gastric ulcers. Slow feeding also helps keep the horse from getting bored throughout the day and can help prevent vices such as cribbing, stall weaving, and pacing.
How do you hang a slow-feed hay net?
There are a few different ideas on how and where to hang a slow feed hay net – some say they should not be tied any higher than four feet off the ground. The lower the net can be placed the better it is for the horse, as it mimics the natural head-down grazing. However, it is vital to ensure that the horse cannot get tangled in the net.
Nets can be tied in multiple locations along your horse’s pasture or paddock fence, this will encourage them to move from place to place just as they would if they were grazing naturally. Nets can also be hung inside of a stall or outside in a stall run, sometimes a free-standing post with a swivel attachment on top is the preferred choice.
You can also opt to not hang the nets at all. You can clip them into feeders that are on the ground, mimicking the natural grazing action of the horse.
How many hay nets should a horse have a day?
The number of slow-feed hay nets your horse should have in a day will vary based on two factors. Firstly, how much hay your horse should be eating in one day, and secondly, how much hay can be held in your slow feed hay net?
The amount of hay your horse needs may change due to dietary needs, physical activity, and seasonal changes. You may need to increase or decrease the amount of hay and the number of hay nets that are being used throughout the year, depending on your horse’s needs.
The aim when feeding hay is for your horse to eat it slowly over as many hours of the day as possible. So, if your horse needs 18 lbs of hay per day, split this into at least two portions and feed it in a slow feeder net. This will help to mimic the natural feeding behavior of a wild horse, which will graze for up to 16 hours per day.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.