I have a small-hole hay net I use periodically.....but found out my boarding stable has started using it full-time when feeding my horse...and it is being hung high..above her head so that she has to stretch up to eat. She is fed all her meals this way. I know little about this kind of thing but doesn't seem natural to me.
I was told the hay nets are being used to slow down fast eaters, like my horse. Seems a few others have this set up too.
The BM won't allow the nets hung lower due to safety concerns. So..I'm thinking of just telling them to ditch the net and just let my horse eat fast off the ground like she has with no issues for the past ten years (excuse the sarcasm).
Thoughts? Should I be concerned or just let it go. I don't want to complain because it is a great barn otherwise.
If you can get your BM to allow your horse to eat off the ground in a natural position, that would be best. When horses do this their lower jaw slides back and the create more salivia. When they eat above the ground their lower jaw does not slide back thus creating 3/4 less salivia. More salivia = less chance for ulcers since salivia nutrlizes the acid in their stomach.
This is a situation where there are good reasons for everyone's positions -- yes, it is best for horses to eat off the ground, but it is also best for horses to always have forage in front of them (and if your horse is a fast eater, that implies she inhales the hay and then goes some time with no food to nibble). And it is true that you don't want a horse tangled in a hay net and also that you don't want the hay high up.
So how else can you accomplish all the above objectives? First of all, if it is a small hole hay net she can't get a hoof stuck in there. Is your horse shod? Does she wear a blanket? If no, then I'd argue that lowering the bag would be safe. I do think that the barn is right to insist on some slowing mechanism, or they will waste a lot of hay (or your horse will not have enough to continually nibble).
If your horse wears blankets then how about asking if you can install a hay rack in the stall? One that is lower than the current hay bag. Perhaps you can make one if a concern is that your horse will get too fat (make it harder to eat). (Otherwise, I've found that standard hay racks keep they hay from being wasted by getting strewn everywhere and pooped/peed on).
Is there any way to add extra safety features so that it can be hung lower? I know FF added the clips on both corners so that if a hoof gets put over, the net should break at the clip, saving the horse and the net.
My horse has shoes...and his net is pretty darn low.
I use a lot of Nibble Nets. They are hung so the top is at about wither height. So far, so good. I have one idiot mare who, if she were going to get stuck in it, she would have done it already (she routinely puts her feet in her feed bucket...did I mention she's an idiot?). I would ask them to lower it or consider a Freedom Feeder like reay posted (which, btw, the more I look at the more I like), Nibble Net, or some other easy to use, easy to hang, safe slow feeder.
for those that say hay nets hung low are safe - how do you put the hay in? there must be a huge "opening" for hay and that opening is just the place a horse will stick its foot.
would i use one? it depends on the horse... if i had a horse that would calmly deal with the possibility of a foot being stuck - they sure, but if i had a horse that would freak then no.
there *are* other types of feeders that slow horses down and that are safer....
The FF has a large envelope like opening at the top, that is kept closed by 2-3 clips. I clip it very far over (usually towards the back) to seal it completely shut after hay is inserted, for 2 reasons:
1) keeps horse from cheating and putting head in the top of the net
2) keeps extremeties from getting stuck in there
One of mine has had some neck problems and my vet recommends he not be fed other than off the ground, so that's how we do it for him. At shows I do use nets to keep the stall neater but I hang it so it's about lower chest height.
At home I use small hole nets to keep the horses from inhaling their hay, and I hang them at upper chest height. Even when empty the nets don't hang down far enough for any but the most creative horse to get tangled, and I use a breakaway tie so it would just pop off if something got tangled like a blanket clip or something.
I've had a net come down once or twice (the brass snap broke on both occasions) and it just laid there on the ground in spite of being trampled and thrown around as the horses finished eating.
I hang mine about chest height or so, using the small hole nets. All my horses wear shoes in front but I haven't been concerned about the nets getting caught as they are higher than pawing level and the holes are quite small. I tie up the closing rope in such a way that there are no big loops. I have one horse that regularly gets his net down unless you hang it "just so" and it gets dirty and trampled but not caught on him.
I was really paranoid about using the nets at first, but got started when I needed to slow down my IR horse, and it made it easier to do the weighing and soaking of his meals. Now I'm careful but not too worried. I don't like them hung high, however and would rather go net less than have them high.
Occasionally if my horse is in the inner stalls of our barn, say waiting on the farrier or vet, (stalls are double, one opening inside the barn, the other off the back of the stall opens to the pasture), they have hay racks up high in the stall, and then a wooden feed box trough thing. My horse likes to take a bit of hay from the rack, then put it in the box and eat it, and repeat. The little low box is great.
I make hay "pillows". I take the string out of the loops which close the net, and then use a large locking (threaded) carabiner type qick link instead of the original string. You end up with a hay pillow that cannot catch a hoof. The horse eats from ground level, which is better for them.
I would not use it with shod horses, of course...I would not suggest using hinged type metal closure that cannot be threaded shut: a horse could catch a lip on it and rip themselves up.
I put my small hole hay nets on the ground with them tied in a way that a foot can't get caught. And if they do (happened once in 5 years, caught on a shoe from pawing), they walk around the stall with a hay net that is not attached to anything else (like the wall) to cause a big issue. It's been a win-win for my horse and the barn staff (easier than hanging).
I hang mine so it's sitting on the floor (I have the FF), and never had an issue with my gelding. He doesn't have top teeth in front, so I actually leave the top open for him, he's messy if his hay ISN'T in a bag. The gelding next to him used to work it through a crack in the wall, and he never got caught either. Not to say it couldn't happen, but it seems with small-hole hay nets it doesn't happen very often. I guess it just depends on if your horse is an idiot or not