In conclusion, I would just like to say there are more and more resources online every day and new products too, so do your research and decide based on your curly horses what is products are best for them and for you.
I can't say enough about how this program has changed my life and the life of my horses. Reese in particular is so happy and so content. Even our time riding together is better, he is satisfied, focused and ready to work.
My husband loves the 'no waste!' We sometimes have hay that is a bit more stemming being a 1st cutting and if it wasn't for the hay nets, they would spread it all around, pick out what they want and leave the rest to be trampled on etc. Now they have no choice but to eat what is there and there is never a spec of hay laying around.
FINAL CAUTION: Be sure to read the webpage on "avoiding mistakes" before beginning. It has great info. Also read the comments below from other curly horse owners as they have additional experiences to share. I've already voiced my concern with the round bale straps or any straps that come with any hay net, but I would like to add that if you are feeding nets that are like pillows and roll on the ground, be sure you are feeding either in the winter with a snow base that is clean and not sandy, muddy etc., or in a clean pasture because they hay can easily get soiled with sand, manure and urine. I prefer to feed round bales here in the winter months only and go back to smaller nets that are secured to the fence for the other months. Also per advice on all nets, make sure the nets are high enough so the horse can not paw at them and don't use if your horse has shoes, cracks in hooves, wears blankets or anything like that to prevent tangling issues.
Comments and Tips from other Curly Horse Owners
By Adria of Green Mountain Curlies, Inc.
I have used two different nets from Nibble Nets. This: http://www.thinaircanvas.com/ nibble net/pages/standard-red- smallsquares-compareframe.htm is the one that we got last year, 1 for each horse times 2 (two feedings so we had the bags pack prior to needing them). We constructed platforms so we could hook the bags down at all four points. If you go here: http://www.imagequine.com/ clients/gmc11/ you'll see a couple of photos that Carien took of Beau & Babe eating from one. What we found was that the horses caused a lot of destruction doing it that way. The solid part of the bags is covered with a plastic type substance and the hoofs caused lots of cracking in that due to our extreme cold. That is only cosmetic, though. The other problem was that, over the whole season, four bags were ripped. Two through the canvas itself, so they are irreparable, and two separated the netting from the canvas. One Nibble Net repaired, the other one is downstairs as she no longer repairs them herself. I'm hopeful the local sewing place can fix it for me. This year we decided we would hang them, and (crossing fingers) so far no destruction. They can, though, and do quite often somehow unhook them and play with them on the ground. I have yet to figure out how they do it. I suspect they secretly have opposable thumbs on those hooves of theirs!
The second type of net I've used is this: http://www.thinaircanvas.com/ nibble net/pages/nibble-go- round-frame.htm with the 1-1/4 inch openings. We've only used them for Walker and Silken and only since November. The only complaint, so far, and this is minor, is if the rope you tie it up with gets wet and freezes it is very difficult to get undone. We use half-hitch ties, so it is much easier, but....I'm sure you can imagine the occasional difficulties. I have to say that I like these bags much better in many ways. Primarily because they have no canvas on them and they definitely make the horses take longer to get the hay out of them.
by Michelle Ives of Chestnut Hill Curlies
Horses are grazers, on that we all agree. The Mustangs roam the plains on sparse, dry native grasses, taking a step, a small nibble, another step, another small nibble. They cover miles each day nibbling away at what most humans consider to be low-quality feed. Mustangs manage very well in this manner, which is why they are a successful feral animal in North America. Mustangs are really no different from our domesticated horses. They are descended from the same horses that we are using in our favorite breeds today. Sure, they may have more "hybrid vigor" than our pampered show ponies, but their anatomy and physiology is the same. Put those horses into a relatively small property (most of us do not own an entire State for our horses to roam on), and feed them selectively bred high-sugar grass hay, and its no wonder we have horses who are insulin resistant, founder prone, white line disease, and other auto-immune diseases. They are eating FAR more sugars than their physiology was ever designed to handle. We know that horses need to have forage in front of them all day and night. Most of us know that a horse without forage is more prone to ulcers, not to mention stereotypical behaviors like cribbing (which, incidentally, is a symptom of equine gastric ulcers), but also weaving, pawing, wood-chewing, and just causing general mayhem out of boredom or hunger. We also know that a horse with hay in front of them is a horse that is toasty warm in winter, but a horse that runs out of hay during the coldest weather, is a horse that will be found shivering in the morning.
So what do we do? Either risk fat horses with laminitis, or feed them less and our horses are in pain from gastric ulcers. It seems as if we have to choose the lesser of the evils. But some innovative horse owners have created some great Slow Feeding products, designed to slow down how fast horses consume their hay.
Have you ever planned your entire day around having to deliver hay 5 times a day to your horses in cold weather, trudging outside in blizzard conditions or sub-zero temperatures at midnight to throw that last pile of hay before bed? Slow Hay Feeders have solved that problem. These products are designed to slow down how fast a horse consumes their hay. Rather than taking big mouthfuls of hay and devouring a 12 hour ration in a couple of hours, they can only nibble at a few strands at a time, mimicking how they would be picking at dry grasses on the prairie. Not only do they slow down the amount of time that it takes to consume a few flakes of hay, a side-effect of their use is to reduce waste considerably. The horses no longer use their pile of hay as a bed or bathroom, it doesn't get blown away in the wind, or trampled into the mud. Personally, I have also noticed my horses needing less dental work since using the hay feeders. The horses use their incisors to bite at the hay from the bag like they would grazing, rather than picking up big mouthfuls with their lips only if the hay is left on the ground.
Types of Feeders
There are as many types of feeders as there are types of horseowners! I have seen some very innovative designs on the 'net. Many owners have created their own systems, using anything from wooden boxes of many different designs, to barrels cut in half, with mesh grids on top usually made of some kind of wire grid system that settles down on top of he hay as it is eaten. These are a great, inexpensive way to slow down your horses feeding. My concern would be the horses teeth wearing from the constant biting at the metal grate to get at the hay bits sticking out. Some of these, also, require the horse to put its entire head into a box or barrel as it gets low, which is a risk of respiratory problems, and others are designed with the grid on the side and the hay inserted at an angle so it slides forward as its eaten to the front of the box. The photos I have seen of horse seating this way, show the horses head and neck twisted at an unnatural angle to get at the hay.
I have seen people use the old-fashioned "cheapie" hay nets, sometimes doubling the nets to make the holes smaller. These nets usually don't last long, the horses often break and tear at the netting easily, and they also can be an entanglement hazard as the net drops down and becomes loose. Some other innovative folks have built big systems of soccer nets or badmitton nets strung between trees and filled with hay.
The nets that I prefer are called Nibble Nets. They are made with a thick, vinyl backing used to make patio furniture, boat covers, hot air balloons, etc. The vinyl stays soft and supple even in sub-zero temperatures. The front of the bag is made of a heavy nylon strapping, sewn in a grid leaving square openings of 2", 1.5" or 1.25", depending on how nimble your horses lips are! The bags are not inexpensive, but I have had my bags in use for almost 4 years now, used 24/7/365, and only have they just started to have a small bit of stitching start to come out. These bags have been outside in over 100 degree temps down to -10F, in snow, rain, and ice, hurricanes, mud, many feet of snow, etc., and I have never had a problem with them, other than finding them under the snow! My Curlies have routinely picked them up, flipped them, dragged them and trampled them, and they are still going strong. These bags have paid for themselves many times over just in hay saved, not to mention my time.
I no longer have to feed my horses 5 times a day in the winter. I fill bags in the morning, and I fill bags in the evening, and my horses are always satisfied by the next feeding. It always bothered me to see my horses frantically digging for their next meal, milling about and chasing each other around for that first bite of hay. That no longer happens! Sometimes they don't even bother to head out to the fresh hay, because they just aren't hungry. And I'm feeding less hay than I was before using the nets. I built feeders out of sturdy pallets that I cut in half, screwed a piece of plywood to the top, and installed 4 eye bolts. I snap all 4 corners of the Nibble Net down onto the pallet, and I can easily move their feeding station around, inside in bad weather, outside in good weather. And they eat with their heads down, which is better for their teeth, necks, and respiratory system.
They do learn to pull hay out of the nets pretty fast. Some faster than others, and I always take time to teach them how to eat from the nets at first, leaving some hay out so they don't go hungry while they figure it out. But they have all figured it out with no problems. My cleanup is easier, the time I spend feeding them is minimized, and most importantly, their stresses around feeding no longer exist!
To see pictures, click here
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