Winter is almost here, and that means that the grass in your horse’s pasture is almost gone, if not completely depleted already.
Some horse owners opt to use hay feeders, nets, or bags to serve hay to equine diners. There are some obvious advantages, such as keeping hay off the ground where it can get dirty or mixed in with bedding. Some horses waste a lot of hay if they move around in their stalls and a feeder can prevent that. For horses on restricted diets or who are on stall rest, using a slow feeder can make a meal last longer, thereby reducing boredom.
Researchers in France looked at how using slow feeders and hay bags affected horses compared with feeding them hay loose on the ground. Their subjects were 38 horses observed in their own stalls.
Throughout the study, the horses were observed in three different feeding situations: hay on the ground (their usual feeding arrangement); hay bags hung on the stall wall; and hay in a slow feeder in the corner of the stall. All of the horses were observed in each of the three situations, administered in random order for three weeks at a time.
Both types of hay containers increased the amount of time horses spent eating their hay compared with receiving it on the ground, suggesting that they are a good way to prolong feeding time in stabled horses. However, the hay bag was also associated with an increase in what the researchers call “frustration behaviors.”
On the other hand, when horses were fed using the slow feeders, they showed a decrease in undesirable behaviors, such as stable vices. They also displayed increased friendliness toward humans.
“Hay-bags” and “Slow feeders”: Testing their impact on horse behaviour and welfare
Rochais, C et al. Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky. She just bought a small-hole hay net and she’ll let you know how it works out. www.lesliepotterphoto.com