Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Slow Feeder Options

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Presented by:  Larissa W. Cox, M.Sc. Applied Equine Science

Last week, I discussed the benefits of slow feeders as a feeding option for your horses.  Basically, slow feeders are a means to restrict yet offer free-choice forage for your horse.  There are several ways to accomplish this.

One inexpensive way to accomplish restricted, free-choice forage, is by way of the hay net variety.  Basically, this is your typical hay net, with the difference being it has rather small holes.  Horses tend to use more effort to pull hay out from between the net’s holes, which results in them spending more time eating.  Unfortunately, recently there have been reports that horses have been injuring their teeth and gums eating hay from hay nets.  If you do buy a slow-feed hay net, take care to monitor your horse and watch for gum injuries.

gum

Another option is one that can be made fairly quickly at home.  It is a large wooden box with a grate to hold down the hay.  The idea is that horses have to pick carefully at the hay to get it out, only removing small mouthfuls at a time.  This means less waste and more time spent eating.

box

The cost of constructing this box, is around $200.  Make sure that your wood frame is very well bolted together and that the grate is free-floating above the hay.  While this box works well restricting hay consumption for most horses, my horse Rio discovered that he could flip the grate for full access feeding.  The grate was then loosely fastened to the side box, still he was able to flip the grate.  I then added another grate as Rio was going through hay like no tomorrow actually gaining quite a bit of weight.  Unfortunately, this system did not work for Rio.  Again, monitor hay consumption to ensure that the slow feeder you do choose works for your horse, as each horse is very much the individual.

Another method is to use a food grade, plastic barrel.  While it is easy to fill, there have been reports that horses can remove the lid.  One would have to securely fasten the lid to prevent the horse from eating hay through the top of the barrel.

barrel

Scientific research has shown us that smaller, more frequent meals are healthier for our horses, resulting in increased chewing time and increased salivation resulting in fewer overall health issues.  Recently, there have been products on the market that provide regular feeding, both hay and grain, automatically!  In upcoming Tack and Talk issues, I will be reviewing these products.  So…stay tuned for more options on Slow Feeding your horse!

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