’ve been running my farm full of horses and hay and stuff for fifteen years. Yet it was only last week that I discovered that Big Zip was finishing his entire night’s allotment of hay in just over an hour. That's nearly half a bale of hay, mind you, in 75 minutes! In my defense, my horses aren’t in overnight very often. The weather has to be truly threatening or disaster has to be in the offing, so I haven’t had many occasions when this might have come to my attention. To boot, even when they’re in, I rarely have a reason to return to the barn an hour after tucking them in. I hope those excuses work for you, because they’re all I’ve got.
Also in service to honesty, I must confess that, were it not for the return of the Ironic Mare to the herd last week, I might never have tipped to this issue. But on her first two nights of bored confinement while she was being reintroduced to the herd, her angst and general pissiness caused her to do wheelies all night long, grinding four nice-sized flakes of second cutting into the bedding in such a way as to require the entire stall to be sifted with a pitchfork in the morning. So I had reason to seek better feeding methods. That a hot, stormy day happened to fly by requiring me to leave the stall fans on until after sundown was the good fortune that sent me out to the barn after night feeding.
There. Now you know everything.
Moving on, my first thought on the second morning when I had to devote nearly a half-hour to sorting out Dolly's bedding was to go online and search "hay feeders and bags". I've got an abundance of hay nets of the traditional type. This is one of them:
|Pinky's traditional hay net--|
Note the traditional pile of hay underneath it
which he pulled out through the holes.
This one is the "large" net from one of the catalogs, and it has served well enough for the past year to keep Pinky from doing the same thing Dolly did. It's a pain in the rear to load, but still a time-saver over the sifting process.
I was totally astounded to learn that since the last time I bought hay nets for the trailer, a whole bunch of new products appeared. I don't consider hay racks. I've already got a horse with pasture heaves, so the idea of horses eating with their heads raised and hay dust drifting into their noses leaves me cold. Hung low enough to prevent that tends (unless you go high-end) to allow hooves to get caught during an itchy midnight roll. So I'm not going to test them. You're on your own for those and all the trendy and very expensive alternatives geared to rationing hay while allowing ease of loading.
A few clicks later, I'd ordered two top-load hay bags with small openings (they come with small or large). They arrived a couple of days later, and they have proved to be incredibly easy to use. Not only do they load in a snap, but the horses have been unable to pull out more hay than they need to eat at one time so there's no mess on the floor, and no mess carrying the loaded bags from the hay stall.
This is the product, filled with a full night's hay ration:
|Cool hay bag! The mesh bottom allows dust and fines to fall through|
and the small access holes keep Zip busy. No access from the top means
there's a bit of a learning curve, which is good as it keeps him occupied.
There are two down sides to the hay bag, however. One is the price. I couldn't find a version under $30. I was okay with that since I'm sure more than $30 worth of hay was being tossed after a night of equine revelry. But if you're going to fill a barn with these, the total is a little prohibitive. I can't speak to durability yet.
The second bummer is that Pokey managed to spin hers around so the openings were facing the wall. I'll need to find a way to secure them to that doesn't happen.
While I was waiting for my online order to arrive, I headed to the local tack shop to see what they might have. They did, indeed, carry the canvas bags, so if I buy another, I'll buy it there. But they also had a good compromise in the Slow Feed Small Hole Hay Net below.
|Just like the big holes, only smaller|
Not only has this bag kept Dolly and Leo from partying their hay into the bedding, it's easy to load because it's stiffer than the regular, big-hole style. I have no problem cramming the bag full, and the small holes also keep the hay from falling out along the way from the hay stall. The price is perfect. At $9.95 (less online, but add shipping and it all evens out), these nets should last a long time and it's reasonable to have one for every stall and every trailer space and the fence and....wherever!
One caveat: This comes in two styles, and I got one of each. The one with the metal rings at the top of the web is easier to load and probably sturdier to hang as whatever hook you're using won't tear through the mesh as easily. But the nylon is very heavy-gauge, so the difference may be moot. The price is the same, so you decide for yourself.
As for stall-cleaning, it's taken me on average 90 minutes to do six or seven stalls. With Dolly's return, the total went up to two hours. With the hay bags and small-hole nets in place, we're down to 45 minutes start to finish including refilling the bags. That is a worthy improvement!
Quick Update on Aspire 4-in-1 Equine Shampoo
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I had tested some all-natural products from the Aspire line and was thrilled at how white a single sudsing with the shampoo had gotten Zip's "chrome". Well, over the weekend I gave Leo his first bath of the season and discovered that this product works wonders as a sheath cleaner. Leo is a great one for dangling his maleness in the sand of the riding ring where he likes to stretch out for a good roll, so he's always about as crusty as he can get. Getting all that out of all the nooks and crannies has defied most cleaning products. This shampoo made quick work of it, rinsed clean easily, and he had not one objection to its use.
Great product! I highly recommend it.