My adorable little pony has a gift for inhaling her hay like a little vacuum cleaner. I was thinking of trying a slow feeder to make it last longer. However, I am concerned about safety, etc. Any recommendations? Thanks!
In loving memory of Chutney (1977 - 2008)
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Despite being a pain, the plain slow feed hay nets work great for my mare. They are inexpensive and work.
Agreed, except for the part about them being a pain! I can load a haynet in about twenty seconds, it takes another forty seconds to get it into the stall and tied up, so it shouldn't be too onerous unless you have twenty or thirty haynets to fill.
The important thing is to be sure that you've tied the nets correctly; that is, securely AND by both the top. First pull the cord tight and fasten it a little bit over the level of your pony's withers. Then run the rest of the cord through the bottom of the haynet - trough the bottom ring of the haynet, or through the mesh at the bottom of the net if there is no ring - and bring it back up to the top and tie it again. That way, even when your pony has hoovered all of her hay and the hay net is empty, it can't sag to the point where she might catch a hoof in it. This is important even if she's barefoot; even more important if she's shod.
Oh, and just in case it's helpful, there are two items I invariably use to make the filling of haynets easy and fast: a clean muck bucket (I drop the haynet into it, open it wide and fold the top edge over the top of the muck bucket) and a nifty gizmo called a "stable hand" (Schneiders carries them) that's basically just a wide, flat, flexible piece of soft plastic-like material with cutouts for your hands.
1. Roll it into a tube, and the hand cutouts will line up for your convenience.
2. Holding it by the cutouts, drop it into the haynet and let go - it will expand and give you a smooth surface along most of the inside of the haynet.
3. Take your hay - however many flakes you choose to give your pony - and drop them into the bucket. They'll slide along the "stable hand".
4. Pull out the "stable hand" - it will come away very easily - and there you are: all you need to do now is unfold the edges of the haynet (assuming they are still folded over the edge of the muck bucket) and pull your cord - the haynet will close and you'll be able to lift it out of the bucket. No fuss, and your clothing won't even be covered in bits of hay (although THAT will happen when you tie the haynet in the stall.) AND all the little bits of hay that tend to scatter when you're filling haynets will stay in the bottom of the bucket, ensuring a lovely treat for your pony whenever you choose to give it to her.
One final thought: If your pony hasn't eaten from a haynet before, fill it loosely the first time or two, because a tightly-packed haynet can be very frustrating for an animal that hasn't figured out how it works. Less hay, packed more loosely, will make it easier for her to learn how to eat from the haynet (it's a lot like grazing, actually), and after that you'll be able to stuff it more tightly.
Try VTO saddlery (that's where I got mine, and you can get the 30 or 40" size. And Dover carries them, and Chicks and etc etc. Also www.tackwholesale.com has them, and other kinds as well. You definitely need a bucket to fill them easily.
I hang mine from the worthess hay racks we have, or tie up the excess rope and toss them on the ground (if the horses are barefoot).
ETA: These slowed mine WAY down initially, but they get better at it pretty quickly. They still take longer to eat from these and they reduce waste, but if you want to slow the pony down even more you might have to spend more on something like Cinch Chix nets that have even smaller holes. They are spendy but people like them. I'd try the cheapies first though.
Last edited by cloudy18; Nov. 15, 2012 at 09:06 PM.
Reason: Added info
If you feed small bales (approx 45lbs), an even easier way to fill hay nets is like this...
1. w/o removing the strings from the bale, stand the bale up on it's end vertically.
2. slide/shimmy open end of hay net down over top of bale
3. lay bale back down
4. cut strings, leaving the desired # of flakes in the net
5. done with 1st net
take remainder of bale, stand back up on end vertically, slide next empty hay net down over bale.
fortunately, I'm now feeding 800lbs square bales, and am required to do the whole "shake & stuff" method (utilizing the muck tub as others have mentioned). I say "fortunately", because it means no more loading & unloading hundreds of small bales from the truck. Instead I just stand back and watch hubby spear that sucker with the skid steer fork & slide it into the hay shed.
For my miniatures I like the Busy Buffet Snackers. They are not very big, so perfect for the pet sitter to help not over feed the fatties. They are spendy, but I have been using mine for 4 years and they are barely worn. One of my little darlings chews though small hole hay nets making them large hole fast feeders. No problems chewing the Busy Bags.