Written by Stephanie Davis DVM
Most people are now very familiar with the idea of using a “slow feeder” to feed hay to our horses. We understand the importance of simulating the natural grazing pattern of the horse for gastrointestinal health and prevention of gastric ulcers. In the past, the only widely available products for slow feeding were hay nets. As a veterinarian, I have a love-hate relationship with hay nets. This is because the idea of slow feeding is correct, but I have seen too many serious injuries from hay nets placed too low and horses getting their legs caught up in them. To prevent distal limb injuries, it is recommended to hang the hay net high. However, this leads to a secondary problem where all the dust, mold spores, and particulate matter insult the breathing zone and make it more difficult for the horse to clear their airway as they are eating with their heads up instead of in a natural down position. Veterinary perspective aside, hay nets can be clumsy and time consuming to fill. Therefore, depending upon the management of a facility, hay nets can become impractical to use on a daily basis.
These factors that make hay nets potentially dangerous and frustrating were all considered in the development of the Haygain Forager. Outside of my veterinary practice, I also manage a small boarding facility (which include two of my own personal horses). I used to feed hay on the floor because of my fear of a hay net injury as well as the desire for them to eat in a natural position. However, I was spending and wasting a lot of money on hay that ended up covered in manure. I also spent more money on bedding that was thrown out with the messy hay. Regardless of cost, I also had horses that would consume all their hay in a few short hours leaving their stomachs empty for far too long before the next feeding.
Unwilling to use hay nets, I found the Forager to be the perfect solution for me. With safety in mind, I was originally concerned about the horses injuring themselves on the Forager. I have had one certain horse that has convinced me of its safety and did some serious quality control testing on the product. We finally caught him and watched as he would stick his foot in the forager to break apart the system and never had a single mark on him! It is somewhat amazing he never hurt himself, but also became frustrating that he wasn’t using the product properly.
Haygain responded with a new solution of attaching the regulator to the forager and he hasn’t broken it since. Because of this experience and the obvious benefits, I now have a forager in every stable. I also have Foragers out in the fields during the winter to avoid feeding poor quality round bales. We now have tidy stables and the horses have enough hay to last until the next feeding. This gives me confidence that I am taking care of their GI tract, airway, and saving money on hay costs. My staff also appreciate cleaner stables which helps them be more efficient with their work and focus more time on the horses themselves!
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