As a horse owner, I have found that hay nets are a wise option for feeding and encouraging more natural eating habits. Let me walk you through the many benefits this type of stable products offers.
Horses are natural foragers. When in the wild, they can spend a lot of time (around 14 hours a day) eating and their digestive tract is designed accordingly. Consequently, for maintaining the healthy digestive tract of the horse, frequent and small meals are the best option. While eating, horses continually secret hydrochloric acid inside their stomachs. Saliva from chewing contains bicarbonate that buffers the acids. So, a constant source of food (like a hay net) that requires a lot of chewing will consequently increase the production of saliva, which helps in the reduction of the risk of gastric ulcers. Moreover, the small openings of the hay net provide constant but restricted access to food – this concept is closely mimicking how horses eat in the wild.
What I particularly find interesting is that out of the many stable products that are needed for smooth operation of the entire barn, the hay net is the one that reduces waste, and provides enormous health benefits for my horse at the same time. Besides being beneficial for the horse’s digestive system, the process of slow feeding is also beneficial for both over and underweight horses. Slow feeding prevents gorging and it will take the horse significantly longer time to eat the same amount of hay. And as for underweight horses, proper digestion is easier to achieve when the hay is eaten slowly. By improving digestion, the horse will increase the absorption of calories and nutrients that promote weight gain.
Now, let’s move on to which type is the best. First, you will need to consider how often you plan to change the net. If you want to fill the net to last for the most part of the day and only want to refill at breakfast and dinner, then you should get a larger capacity hay net. Second, you need to think about durability. Hay nets can be made of many different materials. From nylon, polyester to a poly/cotton blends. Out of all these, the most recommended type when it comes to sturdiness are the ones made of nylon or in some cases, polyester.
And lastly, I have found that slow feeding hay nets are also a great solution for boredom. Namely, while you are transporting your horse, it is a good idea to include a hay net in the trailer where the animal is carried in so it has something to do until you get to the destination.