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Best Hay Nets for Horses in 2023: Equine Feeding Solutions

Last updated: September 15, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

My son noticed that I use a hay net when feeding some of our horses but not others. He asked me why the difference in treatment. The reason that we treat our horses differently depends is because of their individual needs, which include how we feed them hay.

Hay nets are an essential tool for any horse owner. They help slow down the eating process and allow horses to eat correctly. Using a hay net has many benefits, including improved digestion and reduced waste. In addition, using a hay net helps keep hay clean.

When it comes to hay nets, there are various options available to you. So much so that you may find it challenging to decide on the best one for your horse. From my personal experience and by talking to fellow horse owners, we came up with a list of seven of our top picks.

Picture of a horse eating hay from a net.
Hay nets in our barn.

Why Use Hay Nets?

If you’ve ever been to a horse farm, you might have noticed that not all hay ends up in a horse’s mouth. A significant amount often finds its way to the ground, trampled under hooves or blown away by the wind. This not only leads to a waste of money but can also present some health challenges for our equine friends. So, why should you consider using hay nets? Let’s dive into some straightforward reasons.

  1. Prevent Hay Wastage: It’s not just about the money; it’s also about the environment. Hay production takes time, resources, and land. When a chunk of the hay you buy ends up on the ground rather than in your horse, it’s like throwing away both your money and nature’s hard work. Hay nets hold the hay securely, making sure every bit of it is accessible to the horse and reducing the amount that goes to waste.
  2. Promote Slow Feeding and Better Digestion: Horses, by nature, graze slowly throughout the day. When hay is dumped in a pile, some horses might eat too quickly, leading to digestive problems. Hay nets mimic the natural grazing behavior by allowing horses to eat slowly and steadily, leading to better digestion and a happier, healthier horse.
  3. Reduce the Risk of Ingesting Foreign Materials: When hay is on the ground, it’s easier for it to mix with dirt, rocks, and other unwanted materials. A horse munching away might unintentionally pick up these foreign materials, which can be harmful. With hay nets, the hay is elevated, reducing the chance of these unwanted extras ending up in your horse’s meal.
  4. Maintain a Cleaner Feeding Area: Let’s face it, a tidy stall or feeding area is not only pleasant to look at but also safer for both horses and their caretakers. Loose hay can be slippery underfoot, posing a tripping hazard. With hay nets, the feeding area remains cleaner and more organized, making daily chores a bit easier.

Hay nets are more than just a tool; they’re a solution. They ensure that your horse gets the nutrition they need while keeping their environment clean and safe. So, the next time you feed your horse, consider a hay net – it’s a small change with big benefits.

Check Out: Best Hay for Horses – Complete Guide

Top Hay Nets for Horses

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#1. Winner – Weaver Leather Slow Feeder 36-Inch Black Hay Net

We first bought a few of the Weaver hay nets because it was highly recommended by some trainers we knew. It considerably slowed down our horse’s eating and is made of durable material. 

The holes of the Weaver Leather hay net are small, and this helps in two ways: 

  1. Our horses can only get a small amount of hay out of the net with each bite. This not only slows his eating and helps digestion but also reduces boredom.
  2. It also greatly reduced hay wastage. I’m sure I saved quite a lot of money on hay thanks to this slow feeder net.

 I could also easily fit the net over large bundles of hay, so it was super easy to use.

Here are its features:

Physical features

  • 36-inch rope net
  • The squares or holes are 2 inches x 2 inches. To help you get an idea, you can fit a tiny golf ball through the holes.
  • Continuous tissues without any sewing at the bottom
  • The empty bags measure between 3.5 and 4 feet long without including the rope 

Benefits

  • Perfect for horses that gobble up hay in no time
  • Ideal to carry to shows 
  • Holes do not expand or get bigger
  • It holds up well to horses that chew everything.

Drawbacks

  • No clips or hooks are provided for hanging them up. (See the tip below).

Expert Tips

I simply bought some hooks for hanging this hay net.

How it compares

These are excellent hay nets for horses, and they easily hold three flakes of hay for twice-daily feeding. The price is affordable, too, in case you want to buy multiple nets. You won’t be disappointed!

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#2. Best Overall: Tough-1 Slow Feeder Hay Nets

I bought these larger hay net bags for a show. They made it very convenient to carry hay, and I was able to keep my expensive Alfalfa hay together and clean on the go. They also held the optimum quantity for my larger horses. Moreover, their small holes reduced hay wastage.

Physical features

  • Made with sturdy Challenger poly cord 
  • 42-inch length with 2 x 2 inches holes.

Benefits

  • Sturdy
  • Durable
  • Value for money
  • They easily hold around 25 lb. of hay.

Drawbacks

The hanging string is flimsy. (See tip below)

Expert Tips

  • I replaced the hanging string with a sturdier nylon rope. It allows me to easily tie the bags to a tree branch.

How it compares

Tough-1 hay nets are a must-have for your horses for winters until the grass comes in and also for taking along on travels. It takes my horses 4-5 hours to finish 4-inch flakes of hay from these nets.

Without the nets, they would gobble the same amount of hay in less than an hour. Priced at just over $10, these hay nets are an absolute value for money as you will save a lot on hay. 

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#3. Best Heavy-Duty Hay Net- TEKE General 40-inch Net

My daughter needed some heavy-duty nets for her horses. I gave her these TEKE 40-inch nets because they’re advertised to hold up to 6.5 kg or 14.3 lb. of hay. They certainly lived up to the promise!

Note: This hay net has 2″ holes, which is good for most horses because it allows them to pull out hay without too much difficulty. This is a nice net but costs a little more. Currently, they sell for four dollars more than the Tough One net.

Physical Features

  • Heavy-duty nets are made of strong poly hay cords.
  • It easily holds up to 2.5 to 3 flakes of hay
  • 14.3 lb. capacity
  • 40-inch length with 2-inch holes.

Benefits

  • Last for several months
  • Sturdy and well-made

Drawbacks

There are no clips or hooks provided for hanging.

Expert Tips

Use the knot on the end to create a slip knot for hanging.

How it compares

Many hay nets for horses wear down after 6-9 months of use. With TEKE nets, you won’t have to worry about that. They last for several years and easily hold 2.5 to 3 flakes of hay.

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#4. Best Hay Net for Round Bales: Tough-1 Round Bale Net

I don’t use round bales for my horses, but one of my friends does. The biggest problem with large quantities of round bales of hay is that they tend to waste a lot of hay. To solve this problem, he began using hay nets.

He tried some other round bale nets, but they stretched out over time, defeating their purpose. With Tough-1 hay nets for round bales, he eliminated both of these issues.

 Here are some of the benefits my friend pointed out about the Tough-1 net:

  • It has fixed openings devoid of any knots. Unlike other brands, Tough-1 round bale hay net did not stretch out and retained its shape for months.
  • The price was nearly $100 less than other hay nets for round bales.
  • He could keep my hay bales clean and fresh. The net prevented dust and debris and kept the hay fresher.

Physical features

  • 2 1/2″ X 2 ½ square openings
  • It easily fits in 4 x 5 bales with plenty of room left over
  • Made with durable black poly cord.

Benefits

  • Sturdy
  • Reduce hay wastage
  • Slow down, speedy eaters
  • Perfect for round bales.

Drawbacks

  • The holes are slightly bigger than usual. It may not be suitable for all horses, especially the small ones.

Expert Tips

I suggest not using this net around small horses/ ponies. Their legs could get tangled in the net.

How it compares

Most brands of hay nets for round bales cost more than $150. Tough-1 Round Bale hay net is a good choice if you want to save money. It can reduce hay wastage while also slowing down a fast eater. The price is under $100.

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#5. Best Hay Net for Square Bales: Texas Hay Net Slow Feed

Texas Hay Net is made using sturdy nylon. It is perfect if you want to cover an entire bale and works well to slow consumption by fast-eating horses. It also has a tinier hole size than most hay nets available in the market. It is an excellent choice for the communal feeding of several horses.

Physical features

  • Made with American nylon mesh
  • Wide mouth for easy installation
  • Superior, seamless construction
  • Drawstring closure
  • It fits bales of 36”x18”x18.”
  • Hole-size is just 1.5 inches

Benefits

  • It keeps hay fresh longer
  • Perfect for square flakes
  • It slows down speedy eaters
  • Easy to install
  • Easy to repair
  • Long-lasting – Lasts for 2-4 years

Drawbacks

The tie-string isn’t looped through the holes. The hay expands after its string is removed, making it challenging to accommodate all of the hay.

How it compares

Price-wise, this hay net is almost four times costlier than our winning entry. However, if you have square bales, then this is the best choice. It also lasts long, so it offers value for money.

#6. Best Hay Net for Small Horses/Pony: Lami-Cell Small Feeder Hay Net

The problem with many inexpensive hay nets is that they are quickly destroyed, but not these. If you are looking for a durable, no-frills, small feeder hay net, and you’re on a budget, especially for a small horse or a pony, then the Lami-Cell is a good choice.

Physical features

  • 2-inch x 2-inch holes
  • Hold 3-4 flakes of hay easily

Benefits

  • Ideal size for a small horse
  • Encourages slow feeding rate.
  • Affordable and value for money

Drawbacks

  • Opening the net for adding hay could be slightly tricky.

How it compares

Ideal size for small horses; the price is affordable, too, compared to our winning entry.

#7. Best Travel Feeder Hay Nets – Majestic Ally 2-Pc Nylon Hanging Hay Nets

Majestic Ally slow feeder hay nets are great to take on travels. They are made from durable nylon and are large-sized with wide openings, making them easy to use. Amazon customers rate this hay net 4.4 out of 5 stars.

Physical features

  • Small square 2 x 2-inch holes
  • Sturdy nylon construction
  • 7 color choices

Benefits

  • Durable and heavy-duty
  • Twin pack – ideal for multiple horses
  • Great for travels.

Drawbacks

The drawstring comes unwoven from the net while putting in the hay.

Expert tip

If you find it difficult to put the hay in, simply open the top all the way and fold it down halfway, add in the hay flakes, roll it back, and pull the string tight. 

How it compares

You get two sturdy and durable hay nets for around $10! Majestic Ally hay nets are great for travel and a must-have for shows.

Also Read: What Horses Need in their Stables

Picture of our horse next to a small hay net hung outside his stall.
Our horse with a small hay net hung outside his stall.

Factors to Consider Before Buying a Hay Net

Purchasing a hay net might seem like a straightforward task at first glance. However, like with any product catering to the well-being of our animals, there are certain factors to consider. Choosing the right hay net ensures not only the longevity of the product but also the safety and health of the horse. Here’s a simple guide on what to keep in mind:

  1. Material and Durability: The material of the hay net plays a vital role in its lifespan. Look for nets made of strong, high-quality materials like nylon or polyethylene. These materials are not only tough against the elements but can also withstand the pulls and tugs of hungry horses. Remember, a more durable material may be a bit pricier, but it’ll save you money in the long run by not needing frequent replacements.
  2. Hole Size and Its Implications for Feeding Speed: Hay net hole sizes can vary. Smaller holes mean that horses take longer to eat, simulating natural grazing patterns and aiding digestion. Larger holes can speed up feeding, which might be beneficial in certain circumstances but could also encourage horses to eat too quickly. Think about your horse’s eating habits and what you aim to achieve with the net before making a choice.
  3. Ease of Filling and Installation: While we want the best for our horses, we also need to think of our convenience. Some hay nets can be a tad tricky to fill, especially when you’re in a hurry. Look for designs that are easy to open and load up. Similarly, installation should be simple and adaptable to different settings, whether you’re hanging it in a barn, stable, or out in a pasture.
  4. Capacity (How Much Hay It Can Hold): Depending on the size of your horse and how often you feed it, the capacity of the hay net will be crucial. Larger nets are suitable for bigger breeds or if you feed less frequently, while smaller nets might be ideal for ponies or more frequent feeding schedules.
  5. Safety Features: The safety of your horse should be a paramount concern. Ensure that the hay net doesn’t have parts that a horse can get tangled in, especially if they’re curious or boisterous. Some nets come with safety releases that can detach if a horse gets too entangled, preventing potential injuries.

In essence, while a hay net might appear as a simple tool, it’s crucial to delve a little deeper to find the perfect fit for both you and your horse. By considering the above factors, you’ll make a purchase that promotes healthy feeding habits, is durable, and ensures your horse’s safety. Happy shopping!

Picture of a horse eating from a hay net.
Two-Year-old Thoroughbred

Tips for Using Hay Nets

So, you’ve decided to invest in a hay net. Great choice! But just buying one isn’t the end of the journey. To maximize the benefits and ensure the safety of your horse, here are some simple yet crucial tips for using hay nets:

Proper Installation to Prevent Accidents

  • Always hang the hay net at a height that’s suitable for your horse – not too low that they might get their feet tangled and not so high that it strains their neck.
  • Securely fasten the hay net using safe, durable knots. Avoid leaving long, dangling ropes or ties which a horse could potentially get caught in.
  • Ensure that the hay net is hung in an area free of sharp objects or edges to prevent it from tearing or the horse from getting injured.

Monitoring Hay Consumption Rates:

Regularly check how fast your horse is consuming the hay. If they finish too quickly, consider a net with smaller holes. Conversely, if they seem frustrated or are not eating enough, you might need larger openings.

Observe your horse for signs of digestive distress or changes in weight, as this can indicate whether they’re eating too fast or too slow.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance:

  • Remove leftover hay from the net before refilling. This helps prevent mold and ensures your horse always has fresh hay.
  • Periodically inspect the hay net for signs of wear and tear. Replace it immediately if you notice any significant damage.
  • Clean the net regularly using mild soap and water to remove dirt and dust. Ensure it’s thoroughly dried before refilling to prevent mold growth.

Transitioning Horses to a New Feeding System:

  • Introducing a horse to a hay net might require a little patience. Start by placing some hay on the ground and some in the net. This helps the horse get accustomed to the new feeding style.
  • Monitor your horse during the first few days to ensure they’re comfortable and can access the hay without any issues.
  • If your horse seems overly frustrated or has difficulty adjusting, consider starting with a net with larger holes and gradually transitioning to smaller ones.

Using a hay net can be a fantastic way to promote healthy eating habits, minimize wastage, and keep feeding areas clean. However, the benefits are maximized only when it’s used correctly. By following these simple tips, you’ll ensure a happy, healthy feeding experience for your beloved equine friend.

Alternatives to Hay Nets

While hay nets offer a convenient and efficient method of feeding your horses, they’re not the only game in town. There are several other effective tools and methods that horse owners can consider. Let’s take a look at some popular alternatives:

  1. Ground Feeders:
    • Description: These are usually flat-bottomed troughs or tubs designed to hold hay off the actual ground, reducing the risk of your horse ingesting sand or other debris.
    • Pros: Ground feeders can mimic the natural grazing position of the horse, which can be beneficial for their neck and back posture. They also help in minimizing hay wastage.
    • Cons: If not properly designed, ground feeders can still lead to a faster consumption rate. There’s also the potential for horses to tip them over.
  2. Hay Racks:
    • Description: These are traditionally wall-mounted units that hold hay above the ground. They can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, metal, or plastic.
    • Pros: Hay racks keep hay clean and elevated, reducing the risk of contamination. They can be more durable than nets, especially when made of sturdy materials.
    • Cons: If positioned too high, they might cause the horse to eat with its head elevated, which isn’t the natural grazing position and can lead to respiratory issues. There’s also a potential risk of injury if the horse gets its leg or head stuck.
  3. Automatic Hay Dispensers:
    • Description: These are technologically advanced feeders that dispense hay at set intervals, ensuring that horses have a constant supply of fresh hay throughout the day.
    • Pros: They provide controlled feeding, which is great for horses with specific dietary needs. This also ensures that hay remains fresh, as it’s protected from the elements until dispensed.
    • Cons: These dispensers can be on the pricier side due to their technology. Maintenance might require a bit more technical know-how compared to simpler feeding methods. Power sources and potential mechanical failures are also factors to consider.

The best feeding method often depends on the specific needs of your horse, the available budget, and the desired level of maintenance. Whether you opt for hay nets, ground feeders, hay racks, or automatic dispensers, the main goal remains the same: providing a clean, consistent, and healthy supply of hay for your horses.

Types of Hay Nets for Horses

Hanging hay nets

As the name indicates, you can hang these hay nets on a wall hook, a post, or a tree branch, and it allows you to feed your horse while it is tied up. They help keep the hay off the ground and maintain its freshness. Hanging hay nets typically hold between 3 to 4 flakes of hay.

Hay nets for communal feeding

Larger hay nets help you enclose hay bales you place on the ground for multiple livestock to feed. You can have horses and donkeys and even feed goats with hay nets. They are massive in size but offer the same benefits as the smaller/hanging hay nets. 

Feeding Hay and Your Horse’s Neck Health

One common issue among horse owners is whether hay nets are bad for a horse’s neck. Naturally, horses graze with their heads down. This poses the question: Is feeding from an elevated hay net unhealthy for them?

Several equine specialists do caution that improperly hung hay nets can cause undue strain on the horse’s neck. However, the solution lies in how the hay net is positioned. By adjusting the height, you can find a comfortable and safe level for your equine friend.

Ideally, a hay net should be suspended about 4 to 5 feet from the ground. This height ensures the horse’s head remains in a more natural, neutral stance, thus minimizing potential neck stress.

Still, if you’re concerned about the impact on your horse’s neck, consider using hay nets sporadically rather than as a primary feeding method. This provides a balanced approach, reaping the benefits of hay nets while prioritizing your horse’s comfort and well-being.

Below is a YouTube video with helpful tips on how to fill a hay net.

YouTube video

Key Takeaways

Hay nets are invaluable tools for horse owners, offering a plethora of advantages. They promote healthier digestion by regulating the pace of consumption, which can proactively mitigate risks of colic, digestive complications, and feeding-induced stress in horses.

Furthermore, hay nets ensure the hay remains uncontaminated, fresh, and elevated from the ground, effectively minimizing waste. They’re also exceptionally convenient for transporting hay during shows and travels.

For those seeking a recommendation, the Weaver Leather Horse hay net stands out. It’s cost-effective, robust, and can comfortably accommodate three flakes of hay, making it a top choice for many.

Choosing the right feeding solution for our equine companions is a vital decision impacting their health and well-being. Every horse has unique needs and preferences. Whether you opt for hay nets, ground feeders, or automated dispensers, it’s essential to observe and understand what works best for your horse.

FAQs

Are horse hay nets bad for horses’ teeth?

Horse hay nets are not bad for their teeth as long as they are not made of steel, wire, or metal parts.

How to clean horse hay nets?

To clean a hay net, remove any leftover hay from the net and soak the hay net in a solution of warm water, dishwashing soap, and vinegar for a minimum of 4 to 6 hours. Rinse it under running water. It would help if you did this each month.