Here are some of the most commonly asked questions I get regarding feeding with hay nets:
- Do I hang my nets to keep the horses from eating off the ground and keep the nets clean?
I do not hang my nets as I feel horses need to eat from ground level. They way they are designed, their teeth work best when their heads are down.
The horse’s body has evolved to work most efficiently when eating at ground height. When a horse puts it’s head down to eat the lower jaw drops forward and then when the horse lifts it’s head to chew the jaw slides back. This forward and backward motion helps to grind the teeth and keep them at the optimum length.
This does not occur when the horse is fed with it’s head off the ground from a hay net or rack. This is why it is important to provide food at ground level.
Their noses drain correctly and they don’t get hay bits, dust and leaves in their eyes, ears and noses when fed at ground level. Horses are not giraffes so they are not designed to graze from tree tops, which is essentially what you are asking them to do if you hang the nets. They will tip their heads, while pulling hay from the net, at an unnatural angle which really effects their poll, TMJ, neck and shoulders.
Horses were made to eat from the ground. They are used to eating off the dirt. If you have sand then you need to put something down like a rubber mat so when they are eating from the ground they aren’t ingesting sand. But horses are used to nosing about in the dirt, browsing for the good bits. They don’t mind it at all!
I do have to tie my nets to posts because of my horse track. The exterior fence is a field fence, but the interior fence is just a single strand of hot wire. It is very easy for them to roll the nets under the hot wire and then not be able to reach it. Before when I just had the big dry lot, I allowed them to roll the hay nets all over the place. It encouraged movement as well as allowing them to eat from ground level. Don’t be afraid to let your nets get dirty!
- What size hole should I get?
I’m feeding miniature horses so I like the 1″ holes. That size will slow the minis down and allow them to graze at a flake of hay for several hours. I do have one net that has 1 1/4″ holes but they have that one figured out. It’s usually the first one empty when I do use it! The Hay Chix website does explain what size hole is best for your horse. Do be aware that smart horses figure nets out quickly and you may have to transition to the smaller hole net quite quickly.
I have 6 different nets. 4 of them are small bale nets, one is a micro mini net and one is a half bale net. Because I have had to limit the amount of hay everyone is getting due to Sky’s weight, I tie a knot in the bottom of the small bale nets to make them smaller so I can put just 1 or two flakes in them. I only have the one half bale net or I would just use that size. But I like the option of being able to feed an entire bale, if I have to be gone overnight for instance, so I like the small bale nets.
- Are they easy to fill?
I find the nets very easy to fill. The only time I have trouble with them is when they are frozen. Then I can’t get them open enough to stuff the hay in. Sometimes the tie ropes are frozen into the ice around the bottom of the T-Posts as well so then I have to either wait for a sunny day or take a bucket of hot water out and pour over them so I can get them out of the ice. If they are wet I find them just as easy to fill as when they are dry. When the wind is howling I have to use the nets or my hay just blows away before the ponies can eat it!
- Do they hold up?
Short answer. Yes. I have had a few of my nets for 5 years and they still look new! I have one that is fraying a bit at the seam, but it’s still works and is holding up. My ponies are not easy on the nets as some have assumed. They paw them aggressively, they bite them and shake them. They used to carry them around when I didn’t have them tied. Zorro likes to stand on them while he is eating. So no they are not gentle with them or easy on them.
A couple years ago I had a Hay Pillow. Aside from hay getting stuck in the zipper, then the zipper freezing in the winter, then the zipper pull breaking, my big horse used it just fine. He wasn’t easy on nets either and would often be seen walking around with the Hay Pillow in his mouth. BUT the very first time Sky used the Hay Pillow she chewed a hole through the netting in about 15 minutes, then proceeded to shred it all over the pen. The zipper was definitely broken then! In my experience the Hay Chix nets hold up very well.
Over on the right hand side of this page there is a graphic you can click on to save 20% on your Hay Chix order! If you are in the Bozeman Montana area, Bridger Feeds sells the Hay Chix nets and you’ll save the shipping price.
Even though I can’t free feed hay right now due to Sky’s weight and allowing them to forage a bit more this winter, I still like using my nets to slow them down. I feed one flake per horse in the morning, three different nets, then 2 flakes per horse in the evening again in the hay nets. Everyone is looking very good and since I’ve started Sky on Chaste Berry Powder she has lost one more hole on the harness girth 🙂 I think her weight gain was stress related but I don’t discount that she may have had hormone issues as well!