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Creative Slow (Hay) Feeding

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  • Creative Slow (Hay) Feeding

    My morganXhaflinger has officially outsmarted his slow feed system and is downing 75-85lbs of hay in just over 2 days when it used to take him 3.5 to 4.

    He is insulin resistant, but is on low sugar (6.5% NSC this load) timothy/alfalfa/brome hay and in a combination of high frequency/low impact work (8 or 9, 45-60min walk/trot therapeutic riding lessons per week) and mid frequency/moderate impact work (4 to 6, 1hr w/t/c/poles ring rides and/or 2.5hr w/t trail/hill rides per week) with one day off completely (no class/ride/lunge, he might go out in the outdoor with a friend for an hour but isn't expected to move). His blood tests the last 2 years have come back with insulin and blood glucose levels well within the normal range, so diet and exercise are working to keep the IR at bay, though he's still a bit chunkier than would be ideal (barn vet would like 125lbs off him, my vet says 75lbs would be more reasonable). He gets a low NSC ration balancer designed for our area, 1/2 cup flax (for the omega 3s to help with his sweet itch), natural vitamin E, selenium, and antihistamines, split into 2 feeds at 8am and 8pm daily. Blood mineral panel is all within normal range on this diet. Thyroid is normal as of his April 2019 test.

    He has been on a slow feed system comprised of a full bale inside a bale bag with half inch holes, inside another net with half inch holes, and the baling twine uncut (there is no way for the twine to be pulled out of the nets - I have tried MANY times. I have to flip the nets inside out to wrestle the twine out when it is time to switch bales) for a couple years now, and it was great at keeping food in front of him 24/7 and a 75-85lb bale was lasting between 3.5 days (in the winter) and 4.25 days (in warmer weather), which the vet says is right where it should be for him.

    But in recent weeks he has suddenly started managing to go through a bale in 2.25 to 2.5 days, which is WAY too fast. Even adding a 1 inch hole net between the two half inch hole nets didn't slow him any. So I am now having to look at completely revamping his hay feed system.

    in the past when he was on this same hay (same supplier, same field, same cut, tested every load, NSC between 6.5 and 8% each time) and getting individual feeds in slow feed nets (4 feeds daily in half inch hole nets - day bag size of the bale bags he has now), he had chronic juicy farts. Vet then suggested to find a way to slow feed 24/7 to see if that helped and it was night and day. We did try to treat for ulcers with the gastroguard protocol and saw no changes until we switched to the bale bag system.

    So now I need to find a way of keeping food in front of him 24/7, but prevent him from hoovering an entire bale in 48hrs. I tried multi-bagging day bag size nets and he emptied that in under an hour. After a day of trying him on individual feeds the juicy farts came back and he was visibly unhappy.

    I need to find a new solution and I'm out of ideas. This is the lowest NSC hay available to me. The next lowest is 17%NSC tinothy/orchard mix. Local grass hay that is "low sugar" is in the low to mid 20s. Regular local grass hay is in the high 20s. Best we can do is that this year we are going with 1st and 2nd cut instead of 3rd cut, so the alfalfa content should be lower with the new load. But I'm stuck with the 3rd cut for a couple months til we get a new load in.

    He is 16 now so we will be testing for cushings this fall as his age and IR make him more likely to develop it, as per the vet.

    Thanks for any insight you can offer!
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  • #2
    Is there some way you can soak and drain his hay to remove more sugar? However, given your system of hay wrangling that might be difficult, as the result will be very heavy. Also a full soaked bale that you want to last over a couple of days may sour in hot weather. You might have to put less soaked hay in the feed system more often.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      I'm not sure if soaking is an option or not. It won't be at the place we are spending our summer vacation (July and August), but I can ask about whether or not it is possible when we return to the therapeutic riding facility in September.

      The issue I see at the therapy barn is that the setup doesn't really work well for hanging wet hay up. There is no way to hang the hay in the walkouts where neighboring horses can't reach it, and inside the stalls the water will just drain into the aisle, making it a slipping hazard for the constant flow of volunteers and riders. The stalls are modular, with the softstall style air mattresses in them that slant towards the edges of the stall. The waterers are in the back left corner of each stall, and the door between the stall and paddock opens into the stall to the right on the back wall. The only place to really hang a hay net (most of the horses have hay hoop type systems with slow feed day bags) is the front wall, which is solid on the bottom and bars up top. The swing-out mangers and auto waters in the front and back left corners, respectively, leave not a lot of space for maneuvering on the left side of the stall if a hay net were hung there, which is a safety issue for volunteers who have to tack horses up in their stalls.

      The doors to the paddocks are right in the middle of the back wall, so there are only a few feet between doorframe and fence, so nowhere to hang a net on the paddock side of the wall without the neighboring horse getting to it. Maybe I could ask about having him in the end spot so he only has a neighbor on one side, and then hang it on the other side, but the head instructor/barn manager finally figured out a good order for the herd, and will likely be reluctant to mix it up again.
      Curious about Trans* issues? Feel free to ask!
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      • #4
        The smart ones are the worst. I am not sure anything will work except a muzzle, and you'll probably have to experiment a bit with the nets until you figure out how he can eat just well enough.

        Comment


        • #5
          A muzzle + netting does seem like a good next step. They can be spendy, but maybe someone nearby has one you can borrow?

          A net + a portagrazer could also be worth a shot, but again...a spendy trial.

          Comment


          • #6
            @Ceylon Star what brand of nets are you using? I haven't been able to find nets with 1/2" holes, only 1".

            I've found I can't keep hay in front of my IR Haflinger mare 24 hrs a day. She gets a weighed amount daily that's divided into multiple nets that I hang around the perimeter of her dry lot. She spends the day walking from net to net eating.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by Garythesquirrel View Post
              @Ceylon Star what brand of nets are you using? I haven't been able to find nets with 1/2" holes, only 1".

              I've found I can't keep hay in front of my IR Haflinger mare 24 hrs a day. She gets a weighed amount daily that's divided into multiple nets that I hang around the perimeter of her dry lot. She spends the day walking from net to net eating.
              Purely Ponies, a Canadian company.

              I can't hang multiple nets, or nets in the paddock. It simply isn't possible where we are.
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              • #8
                Is there any chance that the small hole bale bags or nets that are being used are older and maybe just have been stretched out?

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by freshman View Post
                  Is there any chance that the small hole bale bags or nets that are being used are older and maybe just have been stretched out?
                  They were bought new around Christmas and are holding shape better than the ones they were bought to replace. The 2 half inch hole nets measure a little smaller than their stated half inch size and are definitely the smallest holes I can find, and the 1 inch hole one measures just under an inch still. I've now tried putting the 1 inch net under both half inch nets, between the half inch nets, and on top of the half inch nets and there has been no difference between the three.

                  Today we tried doubling up 2 half inch hole "mini" nets that we had set aside as spares for when the other horses' nets on their hay hoops need replacing, and giving him 10lbs at dinner feed (more than normal but he had been out since breakfast so missed lunch due to our tryibg to figure out what the heck to try) and it was gone in half an hour, which is mind boggling. The hay is fairly stalky due to being a 3rd cut alfalfa mix. It should take more time/effort to chew compared to leafier hay. But he went through his 10lbs (about 2 flakes) 50% faster than our most gluttonous fjord ate his 6lb flake of straight 17.5%NSC timothy.

                  My usual vet is stumped, and the barn's vet says simply to feed individual meals and let him go without between feeds, but she wasn't involved in his care prior to him being on the bale system so didn't get to experience the joys of the nonstop runny bum.
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                  • #10
                    Java!! Stop being a brat! Lol

                    What about is current system in a wooden box with a mesh of some sort.

                    So something like this.

                    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=l7Ws8--3IOU

                    P.
                    A Wandering Albertan - NEW Africa travel blog!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Wow! My fjord bows down to the determination shown by your hungry needy pony! lol

                      He can plow through a 1.5 inch net like no one's business but the 1 inch still slows him down enough for now.

                      I hope you find something that works for him.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I wonder if the canvas mesh of a nibble net would work? Something a little different.

                        What's along the back side of his paddock? Hanging his nets on the wrong side of the fence could also slow him down.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                          I wonder if the canvas mesh of a nibble net would work? Something a little different.

                          What's along the back side of his paddock? Hanging his nets on the wrong side of the fence could also slow him down.
                          Back side of the paddock has a gate in the middle of it, with only a few feet on either side. The fencing is heavy duty pipe panel cemented into the ground with about 8 inches between rails, with matchibg gates that are snug within the fence when latched, unlike what happens with typical lighter weight pipe gates hung between posts. So I could theoretically ask if we could hang his net on the back gate if possible?

                          I'll see if I can get a hold of a nibble net type net to try too. I've seen them do some damage to horses' gums before, but he doesn't rub his teeth on the net to get the hay out - he uses his bizarrely dexterous, borderline opposable, lips so may not have that issue.
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                          • #14
                            I'd totally try hanging his regular net set up on the off side of the gate, nearish to the hinge side, to see if that slows him down at all, at least until you figure something else out. Sometimes my horses flip their nets over the fence, and they can certainly still eat, but it really does slow them down to reach through the rails and have the net move away...there is certainly no pinning the net against a solid surface to dig in!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Off i go to buy a smaller hay net.... I have a mare that is similar. She has a tremendous appetite and has learned to pick one spot on the hay net and chew the strings until she has a good sized hole. Then she can gorge.

                              I want one of these, but i can't find any with smaller openings. Those larger openings aren't going to work for me.

                              https://www.statelinetack.com/item/t..._-4hoCqB7w_wcB

                              What about something like this?
                              https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dTHVhGb4QJ8

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Jumping in for a question... I have one using the Derby Originals 2" opening hay bag. Love the bag but she is getting through hay quickly. They're easy to open, load, and hang, and I just found a 1.5" from Smartpak. Will the size really make a difference or would I need to drop down to a 1" net to see a slowdown?
                                "I'd rather have a horse. A horse is at least human, for god's sake." - J.D. Salinger

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                                • #17
                                  Any way that you can hang the net overhead so it swings and he can’t press it against wall or post for eating leverage?
                                  Hindsight bad, foresight good.

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                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    Originally posted by Badger View Post
                                    Any way that you can hang the net overhead so it swings and he can’t press it against wall or post for eating leverage?
                                    I can do it for the 2 months of summer that we are at a different barn, but once we are back at the therapeutic facility I won't be able to due to the safety issue it poses to our volunteers, unfortunately.
                                    Curious about Trans* issues? Feel free to ask!
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