When horses are grazing naturally in a field, they tend to eat slowly. The basic design of their digestive system is best served by slow and steady eating. Stabled horses tend to eat hay rapidly because they become bored. Slow feeders are available in many styles depending on individual needs. With a slow feeder, a horse must work harder than in the pasture for its hay. Not only is this better for the horse's health but it also keeps the horse from developing destructive habits while enclosed in a stall.
A hay net is the simplest and most economical tool for slow-feeding horses. A hay net is a mesh net-like bag with 1-inch openings. Horses pick and nibble at the hay through the small holes. Although these feeders are available at any equine supply store, making one is easy using a hockey net or similar mesh fabric. Fold the fabric over and sew it together, leaving an opening for the hay. Tie the opening of the feeding bag with a string.
A hay box is a wooden box with a metal grate on top. The wooden box is typically built to accommodate one or more hay bales. A metal grate with 2-inch opening rests on top of the hay bale. A horse nibbles at the hay through the openings in the grate. As the hay bale gets smaller, the grate lowers so the horse can get the last of the hay, ensuring that no hay goes to waste. Because a hay box is on the ground, it allows a horse to eat in its natural eating position. Most hay boxes are handmade to suit individual needs.
A bag feeder is a sack with an opening at the bottom that hangs from a fence or stall wall. The bag has small openings in the front that allows the horse to eat hay from inside the bag. A hay bag can usually accommodate a lot of hay, limiting the times needed to refill it. Companies that carry equine products sell hay bags in many different styles. Although buying a hay bag may be easy, you can save money and make your own from a feed bag.
A bucket hay feeder is a slow hay feeder similar to the design of the box feeder. This kind of feeder is made from a 5-gallon bucket and lid. The lid has a few large holes in the lid, which allow the horses to feed. The bucket feeder ensures that no hay goes to waste; however, it has to be refilled often because it holds a small amount of hay. Bucket feeders are generally handmade.