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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 includes 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 deciding 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.
The list also includes pros and cons and tips for using them. I’m sure it will help you make an informed choice if you’re in the market for horse hay nets.
In this guide, we cover:
- What are hay nets for horses?
- 7 Best hay nets for horses in 2022
- Tips for choosing the best ones.
- And more…
What Are Hay Nets for Horses?
Horse hay nets have been around for a long time. You use them to slow-feed horses that gulp down hay too fast. The nets have tiny holes that dispense small amounts of hay, slowing down a horse’s eating speed.
Hay nets are also helpful for feeding horses that you tie up for grooming, training, or tacking; they can be attached to a post, a fence, or a wall using hooks, clips, or knots.
The most significant advantage of hay nets for horses is reduced hay wastage. Hay nets prevent the expensive hay from getting mixed with the bedding. They also keep hay fresh and dirt-free.
Here are my top 7 picks in hay nets for horses.
Do Check Out: Best Hay for Horses – Complete Guide
7 Best Hay Nets for Horses – 2022 Top Picks
#1. Winner – Weaver Leather Slow Feeder 36-Inch Black Hay Net
I chose this for my horse Tucker because it was highly recommended by friends. It considerably slowed down his fast eating.
The holes of the Weaver Leather hay net are small, and this helps in two ways:
- Tucker took his time to really chew the little hay he would get out of it. This helped improve his digestive health.
- 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:
- 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
- Perfect for horses that gobble up hay in no time
- Ideal to carry to shows
- Holes do not expand or get bigger
- Holds up well to horses that chew everything.
- No clips or hooks are provided for hanging them up. (See the tip below).
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!
#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 14-15 hh Arabian geldings. Moreover, their small holes reduced hay wastage.
- Made with sturdy Challenger poly cord
- 42-inch length with 2 x 2 inches holes.
- Value for money
- They easily hold around 25 lb. of hay.
The hanging string is flimsy. (See tip below)
- 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.
#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!
- Heavy-duty nets made of strong poly hay cord.
- Easily holds up to 2.5 to 3 flakes of hay
- 14.3 lb. capacity
- 40-inch length with 2-inch holes.
- Last for several months
- Sturdy and well-made
There are no clips or hooks provided for hanging.
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.
#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 compared to 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.
- 2 1/2″ X 2 ½ square openings
- Easily fits in 4 x 5 bales with plenty of room left over
- Made with durable black poly cord.
- Reduce hay wastage
- Slow down speedy eaters
- Perfect for round bales.
- The holes are slightly bigger than usual. May not be suitable for all horses especially the small ones.
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.
#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 it 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.
- Made with American nylon mesh
- Wide mouth for easy installation
- Superior seamless construction
- Drawstring closure
- Fits bales of 36”x18”x18″
- Hole-size is just 1.5 inches
- Keeps hay fresh longer
- Perfect for square flakes
- Slows down speedy eaters
- Easy to install
- Easy to repair
- Long-lasting – Lasts for 2-4 years
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.
- 2-inch x 2-inch holes
- Hold 3-4 flakes of hay easily
- Ideal size for a small horse
- Encourages slow feeding rate.
- Affordable and value for money
- Opening the net for adding hay could be slightly tricky.
How it compares
Ideal size for small horses; 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 a wide opening, making them easy to use. Amazon customers rate this hay net 4.4 out of 5 stars.
- Small square 2 x 2-inch holes
- Sturdy nylon construction
- 7 color choices
- Durable and heavy-duty
- Twin pack – ideal for multiple horses
- Great for travels.
The drawstring comes unwoven from the net while putting in the hay.
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
Benefits of Hay Nets – Why do You Need One?
Hay nets are beneficial for the following reasons:
#1. Slow down speedy eaters
Does your horse suffer from indigestion, colic, or feeding anxiety?
Does it gulp down the hay too fast?
In the wild, horses graze slowly on pastures, which is essential to prevent these gastric issues. With a hay net, you can considerably slow down your horse’s eating speed.
Hay nets have small holes which dispense hay in small quantities, which closely mimics the natural feeding pattern of horses in the wild.
Most horses will take 4-5 hours to eat the same quantity of hay through a hay net that they would otherwise gulp down in an hour, which is highly beneficial for their digestive health.
#2. Minimize hay wastage
Another benefit of hay nets is that it keeps the hay together. It prevents hay from spilling in the stalls and getting mixed with dirt and the stall bedding.
Horse hay is not cheap, especially Alfalfa, which we typically feed our horses in training. You will save a lot of money by investing in sturdy hay nets. No more wasted hay!
Moreover, your horse will need fewer vet visits with improved digestion. Your horse will also be happier and healthier eating clean and fresh hay and not dirty hay off the ground.
#3. Convenient for travel
If you take your horses to shows often, hay nets are a must-have. They keep hay clean and fresh longer and make it easier to carry around.
Hay nets even make it super convenient to feed your horse. You can hang them up on walls using hooks so your horse can continue eating while you groom or tack it.
Tips to Choose Hay Net
Here are some factors to consider when selecting hay net:
Size is the most important aspect of hay net selection. Choose a net that will help you store adequate hay for your horse. If you have multiple horses, select the largest size available or bring along nets for each horse.
The ideal hay net size is 42-inch length with 2 x 2-inch holes. This lets you easily feed 14-15hh size horses 2-3 times a day. This net size can fit in 3-4 flakes of hay.
The hole size of the net is critical too. Most hay net hole sizes are 2-inch x 2-inch, although some slow feeder hay nets have holes as small as 1.5-inch x 1.5-inch. You even have 1-inch holes. However, small-sized holes could frustrate some horses, so select the size according to your horse’s feeding habits, temperament, feeding setup, and mainly your horse’s size.
According to the experts at Texas Hay Nets, the following guidelines can help you select the correct size of hay net:
- Mini horses do well with slow feeder nets of 1-inch holes. This is due to their propensity to gain weight.
- Horses with laid-back personalities do well with 1.75” to 2-inch hole size.
- For horses that abuse and destroy all nets, select a net with larger hole size and also a heavy-gauge material.
Most hay net bags are made of poly cord or nylon. Look for a durable net with seamless construction so your horses won’t get into trouble pulling on the seams. Select a sturdier material like a heavy-gauge net if your horse abuses nets. Avoid nets with steel or metal as they could damage your horse’s teeth.
The shape of your hay bale is also a factor to consider when selecting a hay net. You get special hay nets for round and square bales. They make installation of hay easier thanks to their conveniently wider openings. Choose the net according to the bales you buy.
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, donkeys, and even feed goats with hay nets. They are massive in size but offer the same benefits as the smaller/hanging hay nets.
Are hay nets bad for a horse’s neck?
What’s best for a horse to feed hay on the ground or from a hanging net? One of the arguments I often hear is that horses naturally graze with the heads lowered, and a raised hay net hurts their neck.
And some equine experts agree that hanging hay nets puts undue pressure on a horse’s neck. However, you can adjust the distance from the ground to a comfortable height for your horse.
An optimum size to hang horse hay net off the ground is about 4 to 5 feet above the ground. This will keep your horse’s head in a neutral position and minimize the strain.
If you still believe that it is bad for your horse’s neck, opt to feed this way once in a while instead of regularly.
Are horse hay nets bad for horse’s teeth?
Horse hay nets are not bad for their teeth as long as the nets 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.
Hay nets have multiple benefits. They improve your horse’s digestion by slowing down its speedy eating. With regular use, horse hay nets could prevent colic, digestive issues, and feeding anxiety in horses.
Hay nets also keep hay clean, fresh, and off the ground. They prevent hay wastage and are perfect for carrying hay during shows and road trips.
I recommend the Weaver Leather Horse hay net as it is pocket-friendly, sturdy, and easily holds three flakes of hay.
Do check out my other recommendations as well.