Slow Feeder Shootout
Make Your Horse’s Mealtime Last Longer, Preventing Boredom or Worse.
Equines have evolved over millennia as wandering herbivores, slowly meandering and grabbing bites where they could. Modern horses and mules live much different lives than their ancestors. Those that have free access to all the hay they can eat often become obese. Many other equines get two feedings a day, often fortified with grain. With many hours often passing between feedings with nothing for the animals to eat it shouldn’t be a surprise that modern horses and mules frequently suffer from metabolic problems, gastrointestinal upsets, and sheer boredom which can lead to unwanted behavior.
Equine veterinarians and nutritionists have devised a better system that returns our animals to a more natural system that offers grain and forage over many hours, but restricts access to only a small amount at a time. Studies have shown that feeding in this manner can prevent the colics, gastric ulcers, obesity, and the stable vices that can spring from boredom.
There are a number of devices designed to decrease the speed and amount of hay consumption by your animals and TrailMeister has reviewed four of the best devices that we’ve found. All of these products operate on the same principle of blocking direct access to large amounts of feed at a time. These devices mimick natural feeding behavior by limiting the amount of hay that a horse can pull out at a time and keep the horse interested and occupied for long periods of time.
In our testing of Slow Feeders we looked at both various criteria that is important to horse and mule owners. These criteria included safety for the horse, ease of use, durability, and how long the feeder would restrict a given amount of hay.
The slow feeders that we examined in this test were Nag Bags by Natural Alternative Grazers, The NibbleNet by Thin Air Canvas, The Natural Feeder, and the Drury Healthy Horse Stall Master. All four of these feeders performed flawlessly and did a wonderful job of restricting the amount of hay the test horses could access at a given time.
Keep reading below the video for more information on these excellent products.
The NibbleNet is a baglike device that is made of heavy duty webbing and vinyl with three different size openings to tailor the amount of hay your horse has access to. Some of the features that we liked best about the NIbbleNet were the multiple straps that secure the bag. With these straps it’s easy to hang the bag from a stall wall, a trailer, or anything in between. The portable nature of the NibbleNet makes it perfect for use away from the barn. We could certainly see keeping a NibbleNet in the trailer for shows or camping.
Besides a nifty name the Nag Bags have a lot of benefits over the run of mill hay nets you might find in a tack store. These bags toughness is hidden in a very gentle and soft woven netting material. Woven material means that there are no Knots for a horse’s teeth to grab and tear. Soft means that the bag is easy on the sensitive muzzle of your favorite riding buddy. Combined the woven and soft material makes the Nag Bags a pleasure to use and handle. Being a net , albeit a premium net, the Nag Bag is very compact when not in use making it great for shows or camping away from the barn. An additional feature of the Nag Bag is their wonderful Easy Fill ring that creates a sturdy mount and stress free loading. With the Easy Fill you the bag is already open, just slide the hay flakes down the hole.
The Natural Feeder is an indoor or outdoor product that can hold a full bale of hay. It’s made from a heavy duty polyethylene material that won’t rust and holds up very well to the rough antics of horses and mules. The Natural Feeder allows equines to eat with their heads down in a natural position similar to how they would eat in the wild, while still keeping the hay off of the ground.
The Stall Master is heavy duty and rugged. Much like a designer set of built in book shelves the Stall is made to be assembled and built into your barn. Any open corner will serve to host the Stall Master and from our observations the Stall Master will add the structural integrity of your barn; it’s that strong. The heart of the Stall Master is an angled back plate that allows hay to slide down and forward as it is consumed. The Stall Master also boasts the ability to feed grain in a metered fashion. Just pour the grain over the hay and it will slowly work its way down along with the hay.
The TrailMeister verdict: So there you have it four excellent slow feeders all of which will keep your horses and mules from rushing through their daily rations. Slow feeding using these feeders ensures that your animals will be eating just a few strands of hay at a time and will chew every single strand of hay more thoroughly which properly prepares the food for their digestive system. Secondly, this slow or continuous feeding means you manage to balance your horse’s feed around the clock, mimicking nature’s way of providing a healthy pasture for your horse to graze upon.