Since horses are grazing animals, they are designed to eat all throughout the day. Having access to grass or hay is important to a healthy diet. This post includes some of the best slow feeders for horses to keep them happy and healthy.
Slow feeders allow horses to take their time eating their hay. Some horses eat their hay too fast and then are left going several hours without anything to eat. Eating regularly throughout the day will help prevent ulcers, colic, behavioral problems, stall vices, gorging, choke, cribbing, and even laminitis.
How to Choose Slow Feeders for Horses, What You Have to Consider
When selecting your slow feeder, you need to consider where you are going to keep it and what size you will need. Slow feeders are available in different sizes, 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 you have to figure out where you are going to keep it. You want to make sure it is not made of a material that a horse may accidentally get caught in. Ideally, you want to keep it within four inches of the ground, however, if your horse is wearing shoes, you will likely have to hang it higher to avoid the risk they might get their shoe caught in it.
If you are planning on putting slow feeders in pasture, you ideally want to have one slow feeder per horse, with the addition of one extra as well. You can even get slow feeders for round bales, which can be helpful for pastures. Slow feeders are great for pastures during winter when there is little grass for the horses to graze on.
What are the Advantages/Benefits of Slow Feeders?
There are many ways a horse can benefit from using a slow feeder. Slow feeders allow horses to eat at a healthy pace, slower than a hay net or loose hay, as the holes in a slow feeder typically 1 ½-2 inches. Using a slow feeder helps horses maintain a healthy digestive system and can alleviate them from boredom.
Slow feeders also help with weight management. For overweight horses, slow feeders help them slow down their food intake, regulating their metabolism, spikes in insulin and lowering 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.
Things to Look for/Attributes that Differentiate Slow Feeders
Most commonly slow feeders are nets similar to hay nets, but with smaller holes. However, slow feeders are also available in hard forms, such as a barrel, tub, or box. Hard slow feeders have a movable grid on top that allows the horse to take small bites of hay.
When buying a slow feeder, you want to look for a slow feeder that fits your needs. If you are planning on using it in a trailer or in a stall with a horse with shoes, you want one you can hang. If you are planning to keep it out in the pasture, you will want a larger one that can be kept on the ground, unless you have a good place to hang it.
Prerequisites to Using a Slow Feeder
Before using a slow feeder, make sure 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 certain 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 the 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 Five Best Slow Feeders for Horses
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.
- Made from durable material
- The four-sided design prevents waste, 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
The Weaver Leather Slow Feed Hay Net is a simple yet effective slow feeder. It is designed like a traditional hay net but has smaller holes that slow your horse’s eating down. It can easily be hung, making it great for in stalls, trailers, or pasture.
- Great for travel
- Simple to use and can be hung wherever you need it
- Made from durable material
- It is on the smaller side
The Slow Feed Hay Bag with Newly Designed Super Tough Bottom by Derby Originals is made from hardy materials that allow for it to be hung up. It features a tough bottom that will hold up against quick eaters and allows for better airflow. It is easy to fill and can be used inside and outside.
- Easy to fill and hang
- Horses can eat out of the front and bottom
- It is designed to promote airflow, lessening the chances of dust building up
- The backside can tear easily
The Shires Greedy Feeder Hay Net is made from high-quality material that makes it tough. Its 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 it’s eating for a healthy digestive system.
- The large design can hold a lot of hay
- They are easy to use
- You can use them for stalls, trailers or pasture
- Some people have received different sizes of net when they ordered
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
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 it is important they have access to hay throughout the day. The Derby Originals Supreme Patented Four-Sided Slow Feed Horse Hay Bag is your best choice for a slow feeder, thanks to its unique four-sided design, that 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, allowing it to be easier to fill. You can also use the Derby four-sided slow feeder in stalls, pastures or trailers.
It is designed where 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 designs can range from very simple to complex, that part is all personal choice. Some of the best slow feeders are made from trash cans, plastic barrels/ drums or produce bins, or water or 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 and 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.
Are equine slow feeders bad for horse’s teeth?
If the slow feeder is made with the proper materials it will not hurt or damage the horse’s teeth. But 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 steel or metal grates or any other type of metal the horses would be biting at to pull hay through may create some damage to the horse’s teeth and possibly other areas of the mouth. So staying away from the steel and metal grates and any surfaces that are covered largely in steel or metal should be avoided to maintain your horse’s oral health.
Are slow-feed hay nets good for horses?
Slow feed hay nets look similar to regular hay nets but slow feed nets have a much smaller size than the opening in the net. The smaller opening is perfect for nibble-feeding. This type of net is a great way to give your horse a very 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 of time without food. The long fasting periods cause stomach upset along with gastric ulcers. Slow feeding also helps keep the horse from getting bored throughout the day and can help correct 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.
Nets can be tied in multiple locations along your horse’s pasture or paddock fence, the multiple locations 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 street or free-standing post with a swivel attachment on top is the preferred choice. You can also choose to not hang the nets at all. You can clip them into feeders that are on the ground, or if you choose can toss the hay net out on the ground allowing the horse to push wherever it would like it to be.
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 things. One, how much hay your horse needs to be eating in one day, and two, 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. So if you need to increase or decrease the amount of hay and the number of hay nets that are being used throughout the year, remember that is a usual thing that occurs among a large number of horse owners.