Feeding time has always presented challenges to horse owners, even more so when adverse weather conditions complicate matters. Finding a way to provide clean hay at times is enough to give us a collective eye twitch. There are hay racks, boxes, and a variety of hay nets in all sorts of sizes to help us make sure our horses get the cleanest hay possible without wasting much if any.
When the ground conditions are right, I love to put piles of hay spread out over a wide area for my geldings to browse from. Unfortunately, living in coastal GA, we are often faced with heavy downpours and deep mud. Hay nets have been my solution, and as an added benefit, they are a bit of an entertainment device for the horses.
Picking out the perfect net took some consideration. I was familiar with the standard net, with the wider openings that offered easy access to the hay. This was the hay bag we started with, but we soon saw some drawbacks for our situation. My geldings are both somewhat messy and seemed to have fun pulling the hay from the bag, dropping it, and walking what they had dropped into the dirt. The other concern was for Tater, who tended to get a little excited about his food, and I did wonder if he would paw at the hay bag and wind up getting a leg stuck. (Thankfully, Tater kept all his hooves and legs where they belong and this was never an issue with him.)
The amount of wasted hay had me doing some research, and we next purchased a net with much smaller holes. The 2-inch diameter holes not only cut the waste down drastically, but any worry over Tater’s shenanigans completely eliminated. The boys also had to work a bit harder to get their prize, which occupied them and slowed down their eating a bit. It was a win-win all around!
My next challenge was devising a method for filling the nets. I confess, it took me a bit to think outside the box on this one, and I did wind up being very frustrated before creativity struck. I took a hard look at what was on hand and available for use to hold the net open while I dropped in the hay. Muck buckets worked perfectly. By placing the bottom of the net inside the muck bucket, I could then spread open the top, draping the edges of the net over the rim of the bucket, and proceed to fill to the required level. At that point, it was easy to locate and grab the cord to pull the net closed, and voila, one filled hay delivery device.
By tying a simple knot, the net stayed closed easily. The extra length of cord was simply run to the other end of the net and tied off there. On days when the ground is dry and conditions are right, I will toss the filled nets in the paddock, and let the boys move them around through the day. During stormy weather or extremely muddy conditions, simply adding a couple of snaps makes for easy hanging, keeps the hay clean and dry, and prevents a lost net in the deep mud.
Thanks to creative horse folks, we have a nice variety to choose from for hay nets. Various sizes, shapes, colors, and materials make customizing feeding hay a breeze. Overall, my horses are happy and entertained, and I am happier seeing them consume the hay and not just grind it into the ground.