The Hoover and the Hay Net

Suellen writes . . .

I have heard the phrase “eats like a horse” plenty of times in my life, but I’m not sure I really grasped the significance of the phrase until I met Monarch’s Reign. This is a horse who can really, really eat. He may never have conquered racing, but he has definitely conquered the feed bucket.

I would put it down to the fact that he’s still young and growing — you know, like a teenage boy — but there are other horses his age in the barn, and none of them even come close to Monarch in the eating department. And talk about loving his food! The horses get fed at 4 pm, and if Monarch is in his stall he will stand with his butt facing the door, and his head poised over his feed bucket, for close to an hour before feeding time. And he gets fed THREE TIMES A DAY! So it’s not like he’s underfed. He’s just food-obsessed.

Cleanup in Aisle Three!

The worst part of this has been how he eats his hay. All of the horses can get hay at the same time, and I can go check 30 minutes later, and every other horse in the barn will still have hay . . . but Monarch’s stall looks like it was vacuumed. There will not be a scrap of hay left. And if you go anywhere near the hay area, Monarch will be at his stall door, pawing and making little snorting noises to ask for more hay. In fact, shortly after Monarch came to B&B, we nicknamed him “The Hoover” because of the way he could completely clean up his hay in a matter of minutes.

This, I decided a while back, cannot be good for him. As he gets older, those calories are going to start adding up, and I don’t want to end up having to either starve him or deal with a seriously overweight horse! I happened to be talking to a friend one day who also has a food-obsessed Thoroughbred, and she suggested a hay net, the kind with small holes in it. Usually, the horses get their hay thrown on the floor of their stalls, partly because they LOVE to push it out into the hallway and eat together in a sort of horse picnic. But I thought, “Why not try a hay net?” They are cheap — around $10 — and I figured the worst thing that could happen would be that he’d either hate it, or eat it. So I went down to Dover and bought one.

Well, let me tell you . . . the difference has been amazing! Monarch LOVES his hay net, and he’s much happier now because he nearly always has hay in his stall. He doesn’t even eat all of it, but it seems to just give him a nice secure feeling to know that it’s there whenever he wants a snack. No more pawing, snorting, begging . . . okay, well, he still does that for meals and treats, but at least not for hay!

In fact, the whole hay net experience has been so successful that E and B bought hay nets for nearly all of the other horses. They still get some hay thrown into their stalls, on the floor, so they can still have their horse picnics in the hall (we couldn’t take that away from them, they enjoy it so much), but the hay nets have, for the most part, been a big hit.

The Finer Points of Hay Netting

One thing we have learned through experience is that it’s very important how high the bag is hung, and how it hangs against the wall. For example, one time we got some of them too low, and the horses would not touch them until we moved them up higher. (Of course, it’s VERY important to make sure the hay net is high enough to keep the horse from getting his feet tangled up in it! These were not that low, but they were in some kind of “horse no-go zone” where the horses just would not eat from them.)

If you have a hungry hippo horse in your barn, like I do, try the small-mesh hay net! Not only will your horse stress less over his hay, but he’ll get more exercise pulling the hay out of the net. Monarch goes at his like a Rottweiler at a stuffed tiger!