Horse Breeds at HorseChannel.com

How hay bags and slow feeders affect horses

Feeding hay with different methods had an impact on horses’ eating behavior, and their attitude toward humans.

By Leslie Potter | November 14, 2017

Printer Friendly
Horse Eating Hay

Winter is almost here, and that means that the grass in your horse’s pasture is almost gone, if not completely depleted already.

Most horses require supplemental forage for at least part of the year, and for most, that comes in the form of hay. Hay can be fed in round bales, delivered in piles in the field, or placed in a stack of a few flakes in the corner of the stall.

Some horse owners opt to use hay feeders, nets, or bags to serve hay to equine diners. There are some obvious advantages, such as keeping hay off the ground where it can get dirty or mixed in with bedding. Some horses waste a lot of hay if they move around in their stalls and a feeder can prevent that. For horses on restricted diets or who are on stall rest, using a slow feeder can make a meal last longer, thereby reducing boredom.

Researchers in France looked at how using slow feeders and hay bags affected horses compared with feeding them hay loose on the ground. Their subjects were 38 horses observed in their own stalls.

Throughout the study, the horses were observed in three different feeding situations: hay on the ground (their usual feeding arrangement); hay bags hung on the stall wall; and hay in a slow feeder in the corner of the stall. All of the horses were observed in each of the three situations, administered in random order for three weeks at a time.

Both types of hay containers increased the amount of time horses spent eating their hay compared with receiving it on the ground, suggesting that they are a good way to prolong feeding time in stabled horses. However, the hay bag was also associated with an increase in what the researchers call "frustration behaviors.”

On the other hand, when horses were fed using the slow feeders, they showed a decrease in undesirable behaviors, such as stable vices. They also displayed increased friendliness toward humans.

"Hay-bags” and "Slow feeders”: Testing their impact on horse behaviour and welfare
Rochais, C et al. Applied Animal Behaviour Science
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.09.019


Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky. She just bought a small-hole hay net and she'll let you know how it works out. www.lesliepotterphoto.com

Printer Friendly

 Give us your opinion on
How hay bags and slow feeders affect horses

Submit a Comment   Join Club
Earn 1,000 points! What's this?
Reader Comments

JOYCE    REVA, VA

12/7/2017 4:17:58 PM

What do you consider a "slow feeder"?

Melissa Auman    Tehachapi, CA

11/23/2017 7:28:25 AM

As CEO of Freedom Feeder slow feed nets, I want to thank you for posting this article. Since 2007, I have witnessed horses using our slow feed nets drastically change their demeanor in some manner because the small mesh so beautifully mimics natural grazing. They actually opt to eat from the nets vs any loose hay on the ground because is it more instinctual for them to have hay available 24/7 and to take small bites. The more people we can reach about using slow feed systems, the happier and healthier our horses will be.

View Current Comments


Top Products
Close X