Have you ever wondered about the best way to feed your horse hay in his stall? The topic is surrounded by many opinions. Familiarizing yourself with the pros and cons of the hay feeding options can allow you to select the method that’s best for your horse.
Ground feeding is preferred by many owners because it allows horses to eat in the most natural position. Feeding hay from the ground mimics grazing and allows the horse’s respiratory system to work naturally, and a horse does not have to use his neck and back muscles to feed from the ground as he would need to pull hay from a feeder.
The cons of ground feeding include the fact that it’s easy for messy horses to scatter their hay all over their stalls, and much hay may be wasted in the process. Stall cleaning is also made more difficult. Feeding hay from the ground can make horses more likely to digest dirt and sand, especially if stalls are not matted.
Feeding hay from a hay net or hay rack mounted on the wall is another option with different pros and cons. Feeding hay from a higher position means that less hay is wasted. It takes a horse more time to eat hay out of a net or rack, so a horse is more likely to have hay overnight, which is a benefit for his digestive system. In larger barns, hay racks or nets make it easier to quickly walk down an aisle and tell at a glance that all horses are well supplied with hay.
Hay fed from a mounted rack or net requires a horse to feed from an unnatural position with his head raised. This can stress and strain his neck and back muscles, but it’s also problematic to a horse’s respiratory system, as a horse needs to lower his head to clear his esophagus. Additionally, bits of hay and dust have the potential to fall into a horse’s eyes, where they can cause irritation. Hay nets can also be time-consuming to fill and retie.
If you choose to feed from a hay net, be sure that it is properly tied at a height great enough so that it will not droop down when emptied. Improperly tied hay nets can be dangerous, as they may fall down too low where a horse could catch a leg in them.
In selecting a wall-mount hay rack, choose one with bars which are spaced closely enough together to prevent the possibility of a hoof being caught in the rack. Hay racks need to be secured high enough on a wall so that a horse cannot get his leg caught.
Manger feeding is an option which combines some benefits of both ground and rack feeding. Mangers keep hay well contained, meaning less is wasted or spread around the stall. They’re easily accessed and quick to refill. Mangers allow your horse to eat in a more natural position, and some feeders, such as Classic Equine Equipment’s corner manger kit, allows your horse to eat with his head down in a fully natural position. Mangers can also be placed in the corners of stalls to minimize the amount of space they take up.