We horse owners love our horses! Loving them means we want to give them the best and healthiest life possible for the 25-35 years they spend under our care. According to the University of Minnesota, using a slow feeding hay net is one of the best things we can do to ensure our equines are healthy; both physically and mentally.
When thinking about a horse’s diet, it’s important to keep their natural eating habits in mind. In the wild, equines roam around, grazing and foraging all day. The reason they’ve evolved to become akin to this eating habit is to maintain their own gut health. Domestication of Equines has interrupted these natural, healthy eating behaviours. We will explain this in further detail below.
Physical benefits of a slow feeding hay net
Good Gut Health:
Due to their 16-20 hour a day grazing habits, equine stomachs have evolved to be in a state of constant production of stomach acid, in order to digest the forage that they graze on all day. Due to this surplus of acid, Equine stomachs empty in as little as 15-20 minutes. A stomach full of acid, with no food to digest, leads to illnesses such as Colic and Ulcers. Placing a bare biscuit of hay on the paddock for your horse, will inevitably lead to gorging and thus to these illnesses. Using a slow feeding hay net, on the other hand, mimics natural equine grazing behaviour. Ensuring slow, sustained eating, less build-up of stomach acid and a happy horse that is kept busy all day.
Keeping an Equine chewing on hay all day, with a hay net, ensures a constant production of saliva in the mouth. Equine saliva is an alkaline substance. Thus, helping to neutralise excess stomach acid that leads to Colic and Stomach Ulcers.
Fun fact: In the wild, a horse produces around 19 litres of saliva per day!
Gorging on hay too quickly, leads to larger particle sizes of hay entering the stomach. These larger particles of hay absorb more of the alkaline horse saliva, which leads to an imbalance in the saliva to acid ratio in your horse’s stomach.
Mental benefits of Slow Feeding:
As we’ve mentioned before, domestication has disrupted the natural, all-day grazing behaviour of Equines. In the wild, Equines spend their days roaming around constantly grazing on forage. In the absence of this activity, horses very easily become bored, which leads to emotional distress and consequentially, behaviours that are detrimental to their health.
How to spot emotional distress in stable horses:
Weaving is a tragic sight to see and sadly one of the most common displays of emotional distress in a horse. As seen in the video below, the horse shifts its weight from one hind leg to another, while performing a swinging motion with its head and neck. Why is this behaviour so detrimental to our horse’s health? Aside from the clear display of emotional distress, it places significant stress on a horse’s joints and can solely put a premature end to a sporting horse’s career, due to tendonitis and joint pain. Additionally, weaving can impart permanent damage on to our horses by causing them to have an unnatural walk.
Unfortunately, weaving is the most harmful to the horse's health. Why? Because the horse, constantly shifting from one leg to another, doing a swinging motion with his head and neck, thus heavily loading his front legs. In result, they undergo a premature "outwear". The horse abrades the front hooves much heavier, which may cause unnatural walk. Additionally, he is susceptible to joint and tendon afflictions, which might quickly make his sport career impossible.
Cribbing, also known as “windsucking” is another behaviour that a horse uses to cope with emotional distress caused by boredom. As seen in the video below, the horse grips a horizontal, solid surface with its upper incisors, presses down, arches its neck and pulls back.
Keeping your Equine busy all day, with slow feeding, alleviates this boredom and thus eliminates these behaviours by replacing them with a more natural, healthy alternative activity.
Taking care of a beautiful horse can be a daunting and stressful task! We find ourselves constantly asking: “Am I doing enough?” “Am I feeding the right amount?” We’re here to help! A horse should eat approximately 1.5 to 2.5% of its bodyweight. For example, a 500kg horse should be eating 10-12kg of hay per day. While we all want to give our horse’s the best; this can get expensive! Especially considering all the wastage that can occur, and not to mention the price hikes during drought times. Enter Aussie Grazers slow feeding hay nets and hay weighers! By using one of our slow feeder hay nets and weighers, you will have peace-of-mind knowing your horse’s needs are well taken care of and a lot less of your hay is being wasted.