CLIENT QUESTION: Let’s talk slow feed hay nets. It seems to be the latest and greatest toy for the equine community. What are the pros and cons medically/nutritionally to feeding with a slow feed hay net?
ANSWER: Slow feed hay nets are a great way for horse owners to help their horses maintain healthy digestion and mental stimulation. These nets are designed to slow the eating process and have several advantages over free feeding. Most importantly, extending the eating time promotes saliva production. Saliva is a buffer that helps protect a horse from ulcers, colic, and other stomach issues. They can also help reduce boredom or stall vices arising from too much time on their hands.
However, there are some disadvantages to using slow feed hay nets. For example, because they are often hung high, they can aggravate respiratory conditions like asthma. Inherently horses are built to graze with their heads down. The “head down” posture allows dust and irritants to be coughed out more readily. A “head up” position traps irritants. Therefore, hang a hay net low, but not so low a foot could become entrapped. Furthermore, horses may accidentally bite off a piece of the net and swallow it as they chew away. We have an enterolith, collected during a colic surgery, with a hay net embedded in the middle.
Other refinements in slow feeders can offer the same benefits while addressing the negatives of hay nets. Slow feed hay balls and pillows; each extends eating time, keeps the horse’s neck and head in their natural grazing position, and provides mental stimulation.
To conclude, slow feeding hay effectively supports digestion and gut health and provides mental stimulus. #slowfeeding #haybags #horseguthealth #midriversequine #wearelistening