If you want your horse to graze in a more economical manner, hay nets (or 'haynets' or 'hay bags') are a great way to make sure they have constant access but cannot overfeed. Horses' digestive systems are designed to process food constantly, so it's important to ensure they have a constant, steady supply of food to avoid digestive issues.
If you don't have access to pasture or your horse cannot cope with large amounts of grass, a full hay net is the perfect solution. This constant supply of food alleviates boredom and stops your horse chewing on trees or their bedding when they are stabled.
A considerable advantage of a hay net is that it stops excessive wastage. When hay hits the floor, it can get trampled or mixed in with manure, meaning it's got to be chucked away.
And, as mentioned, a hay net is a natural way for your horse to graze, slowing down their rate of consumption to mimic that of being out to pasture. This also makes it more economical for you, as the hay can last two to three times longer in a hay net.
Consuming hay in this manner keeps your horse's gut working and therefore reduces the chances of them having gastric issues and colic.
Some designs are referred to as a 'trickle net' and feature much smaller holes so that your horse cannot get out too much hay at once. These are great if you are trying to reduce your horse's weight but want to continue to offer them food, 24/7. Be prepared for him to be a bit grumpy with this at first!
Some designs can hold an entire bale of hay which is fantastic if your horses are going to be sharing.
Getting your horse used to a hay net
Some horses can get pretty peeved at the idea of a hay net so it's sensible to introduce the idea slowly. To start, try dividing their ration in two and placing half in the net, and half loose. They'll soon figure out how to use their hay net but providing some loose hay ensures they don't get too hungry in the process.
When installing the net, keep it close to the floor as this is the position at which your horse will be used to grazing. And while you're shopping for a hay net, pick up a clip too so that you can secure the net without having to tie and untie it each time.
Finally, if you want to keep your horse moving, try placing small amounts of hay in several bags and away from their water supply so that they aren't tempted to stay in one place all day long!
Hay nets are very affordable and you can get basic designs in an array of colours for between £5-£10. They also come in a variety of sizes. Trickle feed hay nets are slightly more expensive at around £15.
Some hay nets come with clip for easy fastening but you can buy these separately for about £5.